THREE MONTHS OF READING YOUNG ADULT BOOKS
Books, movies, and music
I will never understand how libraries decide what makes a CD “young adult.” Perhaps it’s more “alternative” or not as easy to listen to as the “adult” music. I am a big fan of borrowing music from the public library and recently discovered that all the GOOD music is in the basement, in the young adult section. I was even more pleased to discover a Cardigan’s album that I had lent to a friend years ago, but never got back.
CD: Strawberry Jam by Animal Collective
Animal Collective (Musical Group). (2007). Strawberry jam. Brooklyn, NY: Domino.
Animal Collective is described on their Wikipedia page as being a “neo-psychedelic band originally from Baltimore, Maryland, currently based in New York City.” They are a four-piece that has been making music together since they were 15-years old. Their first album was released in 2000, and Strawberry Jam was released in 2007, before their latest album Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009).
I’m a big fan of their latest release, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and have heard a couple more of their albums. I find their album Here Comes the Indian, particularly difficult to listen to. However, the sound in Strawberry Jam is pared down, and I didn’t have to skip over any of the songs. It’s difficult to do school work that requires concentration while listening to some of it, but it’s an intriguing soundscape and full of captivating songs and sounds.
While I was doing some background research about the band, I found this great online forum where fans have posted questions to the band. If you’re a big Animal Collective fan, it would fun to read some of the responses. It’s especially interesting to here about how they got started, and what influences their music.
CD: Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins
Shins (Musical group). (2003). Chutes too narrow. Seattle, WA: Sub Pop.
The Shins are four-piece band signed to Sub Pop records that formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1997, but are now based in Portland, Oregon. Their music is described to be in the genres of pop, alternative rock, indie rock, and folk. I first heard the Shins when the movie Garden State came out. Natalie Portman is listening to the song New Slang from their first album, Oh, Inverted World, while waiting in the doctor’s office. The Shins Wikipedia page calls them one of the definitive indie-rock bands of the early 2000s and one of the genre’s leading younger bands. In 2008 the band left Sub Pop to join the singer and songwriter, James Mercer’s own music label, Aural Apothecary.
This is such a great album. It was released in 2003 as their second album. It’s easy to listen too with lots of catchy tunes. I’m listening to it right now, and tapping my foot away as if I’m on the drum kit. I was excited to find this album in the young adult section of the library. I was familiar with many songs on the album, but had never heard it all the way through. The Shins released one album after this, Wincing the Night Away, which is one of my favourite albums of all time. It was also a discovery I had found at the public library. They’re a great band!
TV SHOW: Fantasy
Adventure Time (2010- )
This is one of those things that went viral on the Internet before the Cartoon Network picked it up in 2010 for a full-length series. It started as a short produced for the Nickelodeon series Random! Cartoons. And random it is! The series features Finn, a twelve-year old human, and Jake, his 28-year old best-friend and adopted brother, who happens to also be a dog with the magical capability to stretch to massive (or tiny) proportions). They travel through the Land of Ooo, fighting evil, saving princesses, and exploring new and exciting places.
I warn you: this show is super addictive! Don’t start watching it if you have homework to do! But do watch it if you have plate of waffles in front of you in the morning. It’s great breakfast cartoon watching material since each episode is only 11 minutes long.
This show is so silly and random, using humour that will make kids, teens, and adults laugh aloud. It reminds me so much of the show Ren and Stimpy, which was popular when I was a teen.
Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2
Based on the book series by Ann Brashares
Ferrera, A., Tamblyn, A., & Kwapis, K. (2005). The sisterhood of the travelling pants. United States: Alcon Entertainment.
Ferrera, A., Tamblyn, A., & Kwapis, K. (2009). The sisterhood of the traveling pants 2. United States: Forever in Blue.
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants is a four-book series written by Ann Brashares. The series follows the lives of four best friends over the course of four summers between their sophomore year in high school and the summer after their first year of college. There were two movies made to capture the plotlines of the four books. The first movie was released in 2005 and the second in 2008. The movies star Alexis Bledal (Gilmore Girls) as Lena, Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia) as Tibby, America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) as Carmen, and Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) as Bridget.
The basic plotline is that the girls find a pair of jeans before they part their separate ways for the summer that magically fit all four of them perfectly (even though they are all different sizes). They decide to pass along the pants throughout the summer, and the films follow their lives as they grow into individuals but always remember how important they are to one another.
I read all four of these books in quick succession a few years ago and enjoyed them tremendously. I hadn’t yet watched the movies, and found that I enjoyed the movies as much as the novels. The casting was done well, but I felt like the character development was a bit weak. The wonderful characterization and relationship development that happens in the books doesn’t translate well into the movie. That being said, they were still lots of fun to watch.
These movies are teen chick flicks that are about best friends coming-of-age. There are lots of believable difficulties in the friendships, as well as moments of friendship support and love.
Girl With a Pearl Earring (2003)
Based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier
Screenplay adapted by Olivia Hetreed and directed by Peter Webber
Webber, P., Tucker, A., Firth, C., Johansson, S., Patterson, A., Chevalier, T., & Roadshow Entertainment (Firm). (2003). Girl with a pearl earring. United States: Roadshow Entertainment [distributor.
This film was adapted from the book of the same title by Tracy Chevalier. It is about the creation of the painting “Girl With A Pearl Earring” by 17th century Dutch master painter Johannes Vermeer (played by Colin Firth). Griet (played by Scarlett Johansson) is a servant working for the Vermeer family and slowly wins the trust of the painter, secretly helping him mix his paint colours and offering advice on his in-progress paintings. She poses for him as the girl with the pearl earring, which causes her to unjustly lose her position as the family’s servant.
This movie is visually stunning. In terms of characters, we never quite understand what is going on in Vermeer’s head, or what he wants from Griet. I found myself angry at the unjust way that she is treated within the household, but realize that in the 17th century, to befriend and trust a servant like Vermeer did would have been very scandalous. I liked Griet’s character because she is relatable. You can tell that she is sad to be working apart from her family, and as a servant she works 24 hours a day. The small joy she finds working with Vermeer is inspiring, and you feel happy for her that she is treated like a peer when in his company, even though she is so poorly treated by the rest of his family.
This beautiful film is a coming-of-age story with some art history thrown in.
Based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi
Written and directed by Marhane Satrapi
Robert, M.-A., Rigault, X., Satrapi, M., Paronnaud, V., Mastroianni, C., Deneuve, C., Darrieux, D., … Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (Firm). (2008). Persepolis. Culver City, Calif: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
This cartoon film tells the story about a young girl from Iran during the Islamic Revolution. She lives through the revolution, and watches as friends and family members are arrested, put in jail, assassinated, or killed in bombings. She is sent to boarding school in Europe, expanding her mind to the world around her, but also making her nostalgic for home and family.
Although done in a cartoon style, this is not a light movie. It’s about a serious subject, and the protagonist goes through depression, losing friends and family members, and developing a voice about the revolution in her country. She has a warm relationship with her grandmother, who tends to be her voice of reason, reminding her that life is hard, but not to take things too seriously. I especially enjoyed that relationship in the film.
This is not a film to watch when you’re in the mood for something light. I did that and spent the rest of the day a big grump.
This is a coming-of-age story that discusses world events and learning about other cultures.
Broken Pencil based out of Toronto
Gibb, L. (Ed.). (1995-). Broken Pencil. Toronto:
Broken Pencil calls itself “the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts.” It’s a magazine supported by the Canadian Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. It features artwork, short works of fiction, articles about independent arts and culture, and reviews of zines, music, and books. Broken Pencil is published four times annually and was founded in 1995. The current editor is Lindsay Gibb.
This is also a great alternative for teens looking for a smart magazine outside the realm of Seventeen. But beware, this isn’t a light, fluffy read. It’s a black and white magazine that contains mostly text in the form of articles, short stories and reviews. You won’t find any style advice here, but you will find articles about the health of the indie craft economy. The zine reviews are great. Most of the content is contributed by readers, giving teens a great opportunity to add their own voice. The best part of the issue I picked up (Issue 43) was the front cover image of a guy knitting. The online version is also full of the same content, available at http://brokenpencil.com/
Teen Voices based out of Boston
Moore, J. (Ed.). (1989-). Teen Voices. Boston: Teen Voices, Inc.
“Teen Voices magazine supports and educated teen girls to amplify their voices and create social change through media… Teen Voices is a forum for girls to share the realities of their lives and ways to create positive social change. It is written by girls all over the world and edited by Boston teens in out highly acclaimed journalism mentoring program” (from the description printed in the magazine). The magazine was founded in 1989 and is published biannually (April and November) with an online version that comes out monthly. It’s geared towards teen girls between the ages of 13 and 19. The current editor is Jennifer Moore.
This is a great magazine for teen girls, offering an alternative to the glossy Seventeen and Cosmo Girl. The ads are carefully chosen to not contain unrealistic images of women, the content is worthwhile, and it’s obvious that the young women that the magazine is geared towards are writing the articles. This magazine is trying to give a voice to real women and provide the readers with good media outside of celebrity life and gossip. The issues that I looked at contained articles about adoption, teen voices on TV, making college dreams a reality, and lots of book reviews. There’s also a great online version with articles, book reviews, poetry, and a great blog (http://www.teenvoices.com/).
BOOK: Mystery, Thriller or Suspense and Romance
Hush, hush byBecca Fitzpatrick (2009)
Fitzpatrick, B. (2009). Hush, hush. New York: Simon & Schuster.
High school student Nora tends to not date boys, and is very cautious in her relationships. When Nora is seated next to Patch in Biology, against her wishes, she finds herself both intrigued and repelled by his dark personality and the attention he gives her. Nora finds herself drawn to Patch, despite warnings from her best friend, the school counsellor, and her own instincts.
This book is very much in the vein of Twilight and has a super-natural quality to the story line. Nora is bullied by both male protagonists in the story and also has trouble listening to her instincts. Both of these qualities in the books turned me off. At the same time, being attracted to someone who intrigues you is relatable, and there is an underlying romantic feeling to the book, which compelled me to finish it (I can’t help it – I have a soft spot for unbelievable romantic stories). This book was a quick read, and a page-turner. There were definitely moments when I didn’t want to put it down.
This is the first is a series, and the second book, Crescendo, was just released. Fitzpatrick also wrote a book titled Fallen Angels. It appears as though this series will be made into film version.
This suspenseful book is plot-driven and fast paced with romantic undertone.
Here are some read-alikes recommended by NoveList database:
Trickster’s girl by Hilari Bell (2011)
The sweet far thing by Libba Bray (2007)
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (2005)
Sittenfeld, C. (2005). Prep. New York: Random House Books.
Lee Fiora decided at the age of 14 that attending a boarding school in New England would get her out of the predictability of her middle-class life in Indiana. She romanticised the sprawling grounds, the uniforms, and the relationships she would develop with the perfect-looking boys in khakis. In reality, she lost the person she once was and was replaced by a quiet girl who tried desperately not to draw attention to herself. This book is about her struggles going through high school without the comfort of home, trying to fit in with the rich kids, and trying to hide her true self.
This novel is captivating and relatable from a female point of view. There are many painfully awkward moments in the book when Lee is struggling with her teenage identity. I found myself unsatisfied in the end that she wasn’t able to overcome her awkwardness and enjoy her time in high school. I was able to see some of myself in her character, which made me somewhat uncomfortable in parts, but in the end made me realise that was what made it a successful book.
This book is written in narrative style from the perspective of the main character, Lee. The story line is character driven and the tone bittersweet. There is some sexual content, which should be noted when being considered as an addition to a young adult library collection. I would recommend the book for people who enjoy coming-of-age stories about teenaged girls, or stories about boarding school. This book has chick-lit appeal, but delves deeper into the psychology of being a teenager.
Here are some read-alikes recommended by NoveList database:
Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005)
The girl with golden shoes by Colin Channer (2007)
BOOK: Epistolary, Controversial/Challenged and an Award winner (YALSA)
The perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
Chbosky, S. (1999). The perks of being a wallflower. New York: Simon & Schuster.
In a series of letters to a stranger, Charlie speaks intimately about a year in his life. His letters are funny, touching, and speak so truly of being a 15-year old boy. Charlie is considered a weirdo by his peers and has no friends except his English teacher, who sees his potential and introduces him to classic books he would otherwise not know about. He then makes friends with Sam and Patrick, a brother and sister team two years older then him. He is taken into their world of good music, parties, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. They accept him for who he is and he becomes more comfortable with himself because of it.
I found this realistic-fiction book compelling and difficult to put down. I related so much with aspects of what Charlie was going through, and the activities that him and his friends partook in to pass the time. Charlie tells his story in a naïve and sincere way. He learns how to be a real friend and how to “participate,” even if he doesn’t want to.
This book is on the challenged/controversial list available through the ALA, but was also one of the recipients of the 2000 YALSA award. This book deals with issues of drug use, sex, sexual abuse, and homosexuality.
This is a character-driven coming-of-age story.
Here are some read-alikes recommended by NoveList database:
The catcher in the rye by J. D. Salinger (1951)
Rats saw God by Rob Thomas (1996)
BOOK: Classic and an Award winner (The Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature)
Lost in the barrens by Farley Mowat (1956)
Mowat, F. (1956). Lost in the barrens. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
In his sixteenth year, Jamie travels from his boarding school in Toronto to live with his uncle in the woods 700 miles north of Winnipeg. Their closest neighbours are a band of Cree natives 20 miles away, and Jamie’s best friend is Awasin, the 16-year-old son of the Cree Chief. The boys leave on an adventure to follow a group of Chipewyans north, and end up unexpectedly on a hunting trip in the barren lands. They find themselves alone as their canoe capsizes and boys are faced with a bitterly cold winter ahead and rudimentary tools scavenged from their wrecked canoe. This story is about their survival.
Wow! I can’t believe I’ve never picked up a Farley Mowat book before. I loved this book the whole way through and didn’t want the adventure to end. That being said, at the moment I’m really into books about making the most of what you’ve got. This book is full of descriptions of the barren landscape and the way these boys manage to survive with next to nothing. The story explains the way they find food, make fire, and build shelter.
This story is not very character driven but instead focuses on the tasks at hand. The story is fast-paced and hard to put down. You root for the boys the whole way through and never give up hope that they’ll find their way home. This would be a fantastic book for a reluctant reader. The language isn’t very difficult, and it paints a descriptive picture of this amazing northern adventure. This book is recommended for readers aged 9-12, but an older youth would also find this book appealing.
This is a fast-paced adventure/survival story about resourcefulness. It’s story driven and doesn’t focus on character development.
Here are some read-alikes recommended by NoveList database:
The wreckers by Iain Lawrence (1998)
The maestro by Time Wynne-Jones (1996)
BOOK: Graphic Novel
Regifters by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel (2007)
Carey, M., Liew, S. & Hampel, M. (2007). Re-gifters. New York: DC Comics.
Jen Dik Seong, or “Dixie” as her friends know her, is a teen living in LA’s Koreatown. She’s got a black belt in hapkido, a Korean martial art, but lately she’s not been on her game. She’s got a crush on fellow hapkido student and classmate Adam, and it’s ruining her concentration. In her attempts to win his attention, she spends her competition entry fee on a fancy gift for him. In turn he asks her for advice on asking out anther girl in their school. Dixie explodes with anger, but still obsesses over him. In the end she learns that you can meet the best guys in the most unexpected places, and to never give up who you are.
This is a wonderful story that reminds the reader to be true to yourself and that sometimes love finds you when you least expect it. Dixie has a fight with her best friend, disappoints her parents (and herself), and has her heart broken. All these things are easy to relate to. The illustrations are awesome and the dialog witty. The story is a page-turner and was a good choice for someone (like me) who is unfamiliar with the world of graphic novels and wants a gentle introduction. The plot, setting, and characters are well developed.
This is a fast-paced character driven graphic novel with great illustrations.
Here are some read-alike graphic novels recommended by Amazon:
Side-Scrollers by Matthew Loux (2006)
Lost at sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley (2005)
BOOK: Non-Fiction: Recreational
MTV Road Trips U.S.A. by John Vorwald, Maya Kroth, Valerie Willis, Ashley Marinaccio, et al. (2007)
Vorwald, J., Kroth, M., Willis, V., Marinaccio, A. Bramson, D., Yim, D.,…, Honachefsky, N. (2007). MTV Road Trips U.S.A. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing.
MTV Roadtrips U.S.A. has planned out 10 road trips across the country, each with its own theme. For example, Festival Season: hitting the music festivals from New York to Tennessee, and Paranormal Northeast: exploring New England’s haunted places. Each trip shows you places to eat, shop, sleep and party, with choices for every kind of budget. This guide includes lots of maps, history lessons, and lots more titbits of important information while you plan your cross-American road trip.
What did I think about this book?
Taking a road trip across the country with your friends has been a rite of passage for generations. I waited until my late twenties to do my first cross-Canada road trip, and it was the best trip of my life. It’s rare that you come across a travel book that is geared towards youth. I’m sure that many travel books claim that they’re aimed at youth, but this one talks the talk. Even just something as simple as page layout sets this travel book apart from the others. There are first hand accounts, photos, and lots of maps. Since I’m planning my second big road trip, this time across the states, it was important to find a resource that recommended the cool places to hang out. And also places that I can afford, coming out of a masters program with load of debt.
I realise that many young adults, especially those in high school, wouldn’t be in a position to take a big road trip. Travel books offer escape from the real world, even if you never intend on taking the trip. They inspire travel ideas and plant the seed. One unfortunate part about this book is that it’s coming up on 4 years old now, and MTV didn’t make a follow up. I would wary of taking suggestions for restaurant and hotel locations without calling first to make sure they still exist.
Here are some highlights from MTV Roadtrips U.S.A.:
- Top 10 things one should never do in a Vegas magic show (p. 564)
- Music playlists that accompany every stop on the trip
- MTV style short history lesson on each city
BOOK: Non-Fiction: Homework
Kiss my math: showing pre-algebra who’s boss by Danica McKellar (2008)
McKellar, D. (2008). Kiss my math: Showing pre-algebra who’s boss. New York: Hudson Street Press
Danica McKellar begins this book by telling a story about a friend who gave up her dreams of being a doctor because calculus was a required course for pre-med in college. She explains in the introduction what she means by “kiss my math.” It means: “Um, excuse me, I’m going to do whatever I want with my life, and I’m sure as heck not going to let a little math get in my way.’”
This book teaches pre-algebra in a fun way. It recommends that you have an understanding of the basics, but also works as a companion book to her previous one: Math Doesn’t Suck, which covers the first steps in pre-algebra. All the problems listed in the book have solutions in the back of the book, as well as fully worked out solutions on her website, kissmymath.com. You can use this book like a textbook, skipping to the chapters that apply to the problems at hand. There is also a helpful “Math Test Survival Guide” in the back of the book, walking you through things to do to help prepare you for the dreaded test. In true magazine format, the book also includes extras such as personality tests, quotes from teens and celebrities, and articles such as “What Guys Really Think…About Smart Girls.”
This book is written specifically for girls. I wonder what’s out there for boys having trouble with math? I took a quick look in the public library catalogue and didn’t find anything that looked nearly as much fun.
This book almost makes me want to go back to high school math class. I loved math in grade 12, but when I attempted calculus in my last year of high school (OAC, which doesn’t exist anymore) I dropped it two weeks in, afraid that I would fail if I stayed in the class. I wish I had thought to check the library for book like this. I might have stayed in math class…
BOOK: Urban Fiction
Drama High: Culture Clash by L. Divine (2010)
Divine, L. (2010). Drama high: Culture clash. New York: Dafina Books.
Jayd Jackson is a student who is very tuned-in to her history and community. She’s feeling fed up with the way her school is treating Cultural Awareness Day, so her and her friends create an African Student Union so the students of African decent can have a club to call their own and represent their culture. It doesn’t take long before some students with notorious bad attitudes try to defeat her plans. Like most high school girls, she’s also dealing with her group of friends, an ex-boyfriend, new crushes, and her family.
I had trouble finding an urban fiction novel in the public library that looked appealing. When I asked the library assistant which books were usually borrowed by the teens that frequent the library, she led me to the adult section and told me that the girls like their street fiction with lots of grit. I still decided to go with a young adult title and choose a book from the Drama High series. This book is also well used, so the teens must enjoy these books as well.
I liked the main character. Jayd has lots of personality and is the leader in her pack of friends. She’s a good student, but isn’t afraid to raise a little hell. Her family history is very interesting and I liked hearing about her “magical” Bayou grandmother and the Voodoo history in her family. I had a hard time with the slang and “teen” language used in the book. It seemed contrived, but to be fair, it might not seem that way for a reader who is still in high school.
This street fiction story is realistic and features a strong female main character.
BOOK: Non-Fiction: Recreational
She’s Shameless edited by Stacey May Fowles and Megan Griffith-Greene
Fowles, S. M. & Griffith-Greene, M. (Eds.). (2009). She’s Shameless: Women write about growing up, rocking out and fighting back. Toronto: Tightrope Books.
This non-fiction book features essays by dozens of woman who speak honestly and candidly about their teen experiences. The essays capture both positive and negative experiences the authors had with sex, friends, pop culture, school, and learning how to come into their own as an adult. Shameless is also a magazine that features “smart, sassy, honest and inclusive writing, reaching out to young female readers who are often ignored by mainstream: freethinkers, queer youth, young women of colour, punk rockers, feminists, intellectuals, artists, and activists.” (Shameless, 2011)
The stories in this book are great. They are often funny, and all are very touching and relatable. Both the book, and the magazine, Shameless, provide support for young women out there who are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to accomplish in their lives. The review in Broken Pencil puts it well: She’s Shameless takes “aim at the incredibly unrealistic demands put upon young girls and women by the likes of popular fashion and style magazines like Vogue, Seventeen and Elle” (2010). The goal of the book came across clearly in the writing, which was to help young women feel comfortable with their bodies, sexuality, gender, and general outlook.
This non-fiction book speaks candidly about the female teenage experience.
Broken Pencil. (n.d.) Book review: She’s shameless: Women write about growing up, rocking out and fighting back. Retrieved from http://www.brokenpencil.com/view.php?id=3468
Shameless. (2011). Shameless: Your regular dose of fresh feminism for girls and trans youth. Retrieved from http://www.shamelessmag.com/
LIBRARY WEBSITES FOR TEENS
Booked: Winnipeg Public Library
This is the teen website for the Winnipeg Public Library. Some of the features include “The mash Up,” a blog that allows teens to post poetry, reviews, photography, and art. The website also lists resources for homework and life, as well as reader’s advisory. The events are clearly explained, and there is a link to the Facebook page (which is “liked” by 151 people). The Facebook page is active with activity from the library.
Many teen library websites are too crowded and just plain ugly. This is one of the nicest Teen library sites that I’ve seen. It’s simply designed, things are easy to find, and it has many features to entice teens. The site features photos that change each time you visit the site, which is a nice way to keep the site dynamic.
Some of my favourite parts:
- The catalogue says “search the shelves”
- The Mash Up: such a great idea!
- The opinion poll
- Top ten lists
LIBRARY WEBSITES FOR TEENS
Central Rappahonnock Regional Library (Virginia)
This is the teen section of the Central Rappahonnock Regional Library in Virginia.
This is a dynamic site that has lots going on. The rotating image on the main page keeps the page interesting. I really like that the latest book picks for teens are right on the main page. Using cover art draws attention to them and makes me want to click to check them out. There’s a poll asking “what you’d rather be stuck in overnight” (I voted “a library”) and a place to “like” the Facebook page.
All the links on are the first page and include the library catalogue, a place to ask a librarian a question, homework help, and some teen contests.
Overall this is an attractive site with lots of offer teens, even if you don’t live in the library community. There are lots of book recommendations!