Introduction and Complete List of Materials (with links)

Welcome to my young adult materials blog!  I’ve compiled 50 various items that form a miniature collection meant to represent a larger collection intended for older teens.  My collection is made of thirty-five books, five movies, four databases, two apps, two music albums and two magazines.

Simply click “continue reading” to see my complete list of selections, listed in alphabetical order by title.  Enjoy!

Continue reading

Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy (app)

leo

Created by: Touch Press

Cost: $13.99

Designed for the iPad in 2012

Overview: From the Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, this app shares the complete collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings. The app is interactive, allowing the user to zoom in to the 268 drawings, decipher da Vinci’s notes, and discover hidden factoids about the artist and his work.  The app provides 3-D models of the drawings, as well as extensive text about many of the most significant drawings.  Additionally, there are expert interviews and a comprehensive search function.  These works, which were displayed in 2012 at Buckingham Palace, were undiscovered for 400 years.  Now, users can closely examine the pieces to get a clear understanding of their complexity and detail.   The images can be browsed by era, type and body part.

Critical analysis: Designed specifically for the iPad, this app is crisp and clear.  The sepia-toned pages are comfortable to view, and allow for extended study without eye strain.  Anyone who has see these images on paper will be amazed at the depth of detail that is available for close inspection.  The painstaking accuracy can be poured over to observe technique.  While the content can be a bit intimidating at first, especially for teen users, a little patience will pay off in the end.  While this app will not be ideal for all teen users, the content is so unique and well-presented that the kids that it does speak to will gain real insight into anatomical drawing and da Vinci’s vast and extraordinary talent. At $13.99, this is not an app that most teens would purchase, which makes it a perfect addition to a circulating iPad in a high school library.  This is truly a stunningly beautiful app!



User’s Annotation:  This beautiful app will engage the imagination of teen artists while teaching them about the history of a precious set of drawing and the master who drew them.

Interest Level: Grade 9 and up

Curriculum Ties: Art, History, Preservation

Challenge/Defense: Some users may consider a number of drawings too graphic.

If the app was challenged:

  1. I would ensure that I am familiar with the material, including any part that might cause concern to parents/patrons.
  2. I would actively listen to the concerns of the parent/patron in an effort to fully understand their point of view. I would ask clarifying questions and avoid any judgmental language.
  3. I would offer my reasons for including the material in a non-confrontational but matter-of-fact manner.
  4. I would offer a list of reviews and awards that informed my decision to add the material to the collection.
  5. I would draw the parent/patron’s attention to ALA’s Library Bill of Right.
  6. I would have handy for perusal my library’s collection policy.
  7. If the parent/patron wished to continue with the challenge, I would offer an official challenge form that would be submitted to the library’s (or school’s) board of directors.

 

London: A City Through Time (app)

london

Created by: Heuristic Media

Designed for the iPad in 2012

Cost: $13.99

Overview: The London: A City Through Time app offers an exhaustive  and celebratory look at London’s 2000 year history.  The app contains 6000 articles about London’s streets, museums, buildings an statues among other places and artifacts.  There are over 2000 prints and images as well as hundreds of maps spanning the history of the city.  There are 35 documentaries from the Pathe movie library.  The app also has interactive timelines and 360 degree spins and virtual tours.  Historians, poets, and infamous Londoners make up the text of the app.  The app can be explored through a number of avenues – Timeline, Browse on Map, Life in London, My London, Audio Tours, History on the Tube, Audio Visual History, browse by subject, and Notable Londoners.

Critical analysis:  This is a wonderful app that will engage and enlighten teen learners.  The video, image and sound quality are all excellent, so the user is never distracted from the content.  The newsreel clips and other primary documents are as entertaining as they are educational.  The user feels like part of the action since they are in control of the movement and scope of the app – users can place themselves in the context of the images, allowing a sense of awe and admiration for this beautiful city.  This app is appropriate for classroom use since the information is well-researched and easily accessible.  The app would also be a great addition for a circulating iPad in the library, where users can quietly explore this thorough and interesting look at London.

Interest Level: Grade 9 and up

Curriculum Ties: History, Art

Talking Points: History apps, Learning apps

User’s Annotation:  Anyone interested in London or simply learning about another place and time will love this stunning look at London’s 2000 year history. The collection of maps, images, videos and prints will offer something for every teen learner.

 

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

funhome

Bechdel, A. (2007). Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Reprint edition.). Boston: Mariner Books.

Plot Summary:   Alison Bechdel recounts her complicated relationship with her father in her graphic memoir, Fun Home. The book’s name refers to the family’s funeral home, which is featured throughout the book in Bechdel’s detailed and rich illustrations.  Visiting and revisiting narratives in order to get them right, Bechdel relives intimate family stories.  She peels away the mysterious layers of her father until she is able to understand his story.  Her father, emotionally cold and verbally abusive, was also a closeted homosexual who lived in fear of exposing his true self.  As Bechdel discovers her father’s story, she also reflects on her own coming-out process and the ways in which her father helped and hindered that experience.  Her father, when faced with the prospect of a divorce and an inevitable self-evaluation, stepped in front of a truck, ending his life.  Bechdel struggles to understand his apparent suicide and what, if any, part she played in his decision to cut his life short.  While her mother plays an important role in the story (a later book, Are You My Mother?, details Bechdel’s relationship with her mother), it is Bechdel’s fascinating and heartbreaking attempt to understand her tortured father that lies at the center of this emotionally charged memoir.

Critical Evaluation: Bechdel’s illustrations convey the tightly-wound nature of her childhood and her relationship with her father.  The heavily detailed and precise drawings add layers to the complicated dynamic of her family, while allowing the reader to pour over the nooks and crannies of Bechdel’s intricate portrayals.  Carefully recreating family photographs and pages of her childhood journal, Bechdel is able to infuse just enough of her own emotion to alter the relics into media that speaks volumes to her readers.  While Bechdel’s words run circles around her life story (referencing mythology, Camus and Sesame Street), her pictures provide a constant, reliable compass for the reader to follow.  Her minimal palette – generally line drawings with no color other than black – keep the reader focused on the faces and backdrops that make up Bechdel’s past.

Reader’s Annotation: Every family comes with its own share of dysfunction.   Alison Bechdel comes armed with a pen and the will to understand her family, and especially her father, in an effort to come to terms with her past.

Author Information:  Alison Bechdel is an internationally recognized cartoonist. For much of her thirty-year career she skulked on the cultural margins, writing, drawing, and self-syndicating the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. The generational chronicle, “one of the preeminent oeuvres in the comics genre, period,” (Ms.) ran regularly in over fifty LGBT publications in North America and the UK.

Bechdel gained wider recognition for her work with the publication in 2006 of her groundbreaking graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Fun Home was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, and in a great moment for graphic narrative, was named Best Book of 2006 by Time Magazine.

In her work, Bechdel is preoccupied with the overlap of the political and the personal spheres. Dykes to Watch Out For was an explicitly community-based and politically engaged project. But in her deeply intimate memoirs about her father’s life before the gay-rights movement and her mother’s life before the women’s movement, she turns a microscopic lens on the internal mechanisms of oppression and liberation.

Bechdel edited Best American Comics 2011. She has drawn comics for Slate, McSweeney’s, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times Book Review, and Granta. Her work is widely anthologized and translated.

Alison Bechdel – John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved August 8, 2014, from http://www.gf.org/fellows/17164-alison-bechdel

Genre: Graphic memoir

Curriculum Ties: LGBTQ issues, Family health, Emotional repression, Suicide

Booktalk Ideas:  Diversity, Fathers and Daughters

Reading Level/Interest Level: Crossover/Grades 10 and up

Challenge Issues and Plans:  This book contains reference to both lesbian and gay relationships, with one sexual encounter between Bechdel and her first girlfriend containing nudity.  Bechdel also references masturbation and her father’s apparent suicide.

  1. I would ensure that I am familiar with the material, including any part that might cause concern to parents/patrons.
  2. I would actively listen to the concerns of the parent/patron in an effort to fully understand their point of view. I would ask clarifying questions and avoid any judgmental language.
  3. I would offer my reasons for including the material in a non-confrontational but matter-of-fact manner.
  4. I would offer a list of reviews and awards that informed my decision to add the material to the collection.
  5. I would draw the parent/patron’s attention to ALA’s Library Bill of Right.
  6. I would have handy for perusal my library’s collection policy.
  7. If the parent/patron wished to continue with the challenge, I would offer an official challenge form that would be submitted to the library’s (or school’s) board of directors.

A Boy in Winter by Maxine Chernoff

boywinter

Chernoff, M. (1999). A Boy in Winter (1st edition.). New York: Crown.

 

Plot Summary:  Danny and his mother Nancy are finally on the road to happiness.  They have moved into a wonderful old house in a great neighborhood where they plan to live happily after.  When Eddie, the rambunctious next door neighbor, appears on their first day in the new house, Danny also gets a brand new best friend.  As the boys’ friendship grows in closeness, so does that of Nancy and Eddie’s father, Frank.  What began as a neighborly friendship has turned into a deep romantic fair.  One day, Eddie brings his father’s hunting bow over to show it off to Danny.  It one moment, life for Danny changes forever when he accidentally shoots and kills Eddie with the weapon.  As Chernoff allows the reader to see the event and everything that takes place afterward through the eyes of Nancy, Danny, and Frank, the full extent of the implications of one mistake are made terribly clear.

Critical Evaluation:  This book will allow teen readers to reflect on the reality behind stories that they see on the evening news.  While they are bombarded with reports of school shootings, domestic abuse and accidental deaths in the home, they are rarely privy to the impact of violence, whether intentional or not, in the lives of the families involved.  Taking the unusual path of exploring the inner-turmoil of the shooter, Chernoff forces the reader to consider every side of the story, and in turn encourages them to do the same when reading the sensationalized version of the news they are generally fed.  Chernoff reserves judgement, allowing the reader to take stock of their own preconceptions and prejudices.  Writing with clear compassion for her characters, Chernoff allows the raw emotion and pain of the story to leap off the page.  Her characters are written with such subtlety and care that the reader recognizes their soft and vulnerable inner-workings.  Teen readers will appreciate the lack of sentimentality and absence of preaching in Chernoff’s emotionally charged narrative.

Reader’s Annotation: When Danny accidentally shots his best friend Eddie with a hunting bow, his life is thrown into turmoil.  Struggling with feelings of guilt and confusion, Danny and his mother must learn how to forgive themselves and make sense of their new reality.

Author Information:  “Born and raised in Chicago, Maxine Chernoff earned a BA and an MA from the University of Illinois. Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Poetry in 2006, Chernoff, in an innovative, post-modern approach, often utilizes prose forms. Her collections of poetry include A Vegetable Emergency (1977); Utopia TV Store: prose poems (1979); New Faces of 1952 (1985), winner of the Carl Sandburg Award; Leap Year Day: New and Selected Poems (1990); and World: Poems 1991–2001 (2001).

Chernoff’s poems can be surreal, witty, and politically engaged. In a review of World for Jacket Magazine, Rachel Loden found that “wit cuts in and out of the melodic surge and flow” of the volume. Chernoff references Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz and employs epigraphs from Ralph Waldo Emerson in one section, prompting Loden to note “the impressionistic structures of these poems, their hops and skips across a rippling surface that suggests the freedoms and pleasures of hypertext.”

Chernoff has also written fiction, and her short story collection Signs of Devotion was a New York Times Notable Book in 1993. Her translations, with Paul Hoover, of the work of Friedrich Hölderlin won the PEN Center USA Translation Award.

She is an editor of the journal New American Writing and a professor at San Francisco State University.”

Maxine Chernoff : The Poetry Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2014, from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/maxine-chernoff


Genre: Realistic fiction

Curriculum Ties: Juvenile crime, Psychology, Grief

Booktalk Ideas:  What if this happened to you?, Guilty or Innocent, A mother’s love

Reading Level/Interest Level: Grade 10/Grades 9 and up

Challenge Issues and Plans:  This book references gun violence and an extra-marital affair. 

If this book was challenged in my library:

  1. I would ensure that I am familiar with the material, including any part that might cause concern to parents/patrons.
  2. I would actively listen to the concerns of the parent/patron in an effort to fully understand their point of view. I would ask clarifying questions and avoid any judgmental language.
  3. I would offer my reasons for including the material in a non-confrontational but matter-of-fact manner.
  4. I would offer a list of reviews and awards that informed my decision to add the material to the collection.
  5. I would draw the parent/patron’s attention to ALA’s Library Bill of Right.
  6. I would have handy for perusal my library’s collection policy.
  7. If the parent/patron wished to continue with the challenge, I would offer an official challenge form that would be submitted to the library’s (or school’s) board of directors.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

how-i-live-now

Rosoff, M. (2006). How I Live Now (Reprint edition.). New York: Wendy Lamb Books.


Plot Summary:  When Daisy is sent to England to live with her Aunt Penn and four cousins, she is unprepared for the drastic changes she is about to experience.  Upon meeting Edmond, her wild and unkempt cousin, and being whisked away to the funky family home in the English countryside, Daisy wonders how on earth she ended up there.  Aunt Penn is deeply ensconced in work relating to a potential country-wide crisis, and barely registers Daisy’s arrival.  When her aunt is called away to Oslo for continued peace-keeping work, Daisy is left alone in the big ramshackle house with her four cousins.  The next day a bomb detonates in central London, killing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people.  Alone, the cousins must plan for their survival.  In the midst of the catastrophic events taking place around them, Daisy and Edmond fall deeply and irrevocably in love, which is as earth-shattering to Daisy as the war erupting around them.  When Daisy and her little cousin Piper are separated from Edmond and his brothers by government officials, it becomes Daisy’s sole purpose in life to find her way back to him.

Critical Evaluation:  Rosoff’s slim but powerful novel is a lesson in how to do apocalyptic fiction right.  Her stark narrative allows the reader to inhabit Daisy’s world without dictating the reader’s emotional reaction to the text.  Teen readers will relish the all-out freedom that befalls the novel’s kids after Aunt Penn leaves for Oslo.  Rosoff brilliantly makes the war a subplot to the burgeoning love affair between Edmond and Daisy, though acknowledges that such a relationship would be impossible without something like an epic world event as the backdrop.  Rosoff explores themes of chosen family, home and autonomy.  Daisy’s journey from being rejected by her father to finding her true family in that rambling house in England, is one that will speak to teen readers who are in the process of finding the people with whom they belong.  The entire plot that makes up How I Live Now can be distilled into the teen experience – rejection, acceptance, love and survival against the odds.  Every young adult reader will place themselves in Daisy or Edmond’s shoes, wherein they can imagine being the hero in their own epic story of love and survival.  Rosoff gives her reader the ideal apocalyptic fantasy through which to live out their own frustrations and dreams.

Reader’s Annotation:  Daisy is sent away to live with her cousins, who are strangers to her, in a funky house in rural England.  To make matters more complicated, she is falling in love with her cousin and there’s a war on the horizon.   

Author Information:  “Meg Rosoff was born in 1956 in Boston.

She studied at Harvard University and left for England in 1977 to enter St Martin’s School of Art, later returning to finish her degree at Harvard. She worked in New York City for 10 years in publishing and advertising, before moving to England.

She wrote her first novel, How I Live Now, in 2004. It won several awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Whibread Children’s Book Award and the Orange First Novel Prize.

Her second novel, Just in Case (2006), about a hunted 15-year-old boy, won the 2007 Carnegie Medal and was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Booktrust Teenage Prize.

Her latest novel, What I Was (2007), is a love story and coming of age novel told by a 16-year-old boy expelled from two boarding schools and placed in a third. It was shortlisted for the 2008 Carnegie Medal and the 2007 Costa Children’s Book Award.

Meg Rosoff lives in North London. She is also the author of Meet Wild Boars (2005), a picture book, and co-author of a book of non-fiction, London Guide: Your Passport to Great Travel (1995).”

Meg Rosoff | British Council Literature. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2014, from http://literature.britishcouncil.org/meg-rosoff


Genre: Speculative fiction

Curriculum Ties: War, Survival, Interdependence

Booktalk Ideas:  World War III, Family ties, Love in uncertain times

Reading Level/Interest Level: Grade 8/Grades 8-12

Challenge Issues and Plans:  Some parents will object to Daisy entering into a romantic relationship with her biological cousin.  There is graphic violence, depictions of death and war, and sexual situations.

If this book was challenged:

  1. I would ensure that I am familiar with the material, including any part that might cause concern to parents/patrons.
  2. I would actively listen to the concerns of the parent/patron in an effort to fully understand their point of view. I would ask clarifying questions and avoid any judgmental language.
  3. I would offer my reasons for including the material in a non-confrontational but matter-of-fact manner.
  4. I would offer a list of reviews and awards that informed my decision to add the material to the collection.
  5. I would draw the parent/patron’s attention to ALA’s Library Bill of Right.
  6. I would have handy for perusal my library’s collection policy.
  7. If the parent/patron wished to continue with the challenge, I would offer an official challenge form that would be submitted to the library’s (or school’s) board of directors.

That Summer by Sarah Dessen

summer

Dessen, S. (2004). That Summer (11th printing edition.). New York: Speak.


Plot Summary:  The summer of Haven’s 15th year should be one filled with fun, relaxation and discovery. Instead, she finds herself being a part of her father’s wedding to the “weather pet”, preparing for her sister’s wedding to boring, reliable Louis, and working at Little Feet, a children’s shoe store at the mall. Haven wants everything to go back to the summer when she and her family and her sister’s boyfriend, Sumner, spent a week at the beach together. Sumner made her whole family happy and made Haven feel like she belonged. When Sumner reappears in Haven’s life she realizes that memories can be deceiving.

Critical Evaluation:  Dessen’s benign and weightless book is perfect for an afternoon at the beach, but little else. Asking nothing of the reader (and giving even less), this story relies on the reader hoping to find out a deep secret at novel’s end.  The “big” secret reveals little about the characters and amounts to nothing more than a teen dalliance. Dessen could have enriched this book significantly by investing time in developing her characters instead of creating a false build-up – Haven and Sumner, in particular, could have been fascinating character studies. Dessen creates just enough of a storyline and characters with just enough charm to keep the reader hanging on.  In later books, she clearly comes into her own (fleshing out characters and beefing up plot) and picks up where That Summer so disappointingly leaves off.  While it’s a fluffy read, it will still appeal to a great number of teen readers.  Particularly young readers and those who prefer very light romances will flock to this and many other Dessen-penned books.

Reader’s Annotation: Haven’s summer is starting out with a fizzle.  Her mall job and awkward family situation are making the summer of her 15th year a real bummer…until a boy from her past reappears.  Is Sumner the answer to Haven’s prayers, or are memories deceiving?

Author Information:  “Born June 6, 1970, in Evanston, IL; married; husband’s name Jay; children: Sasha Clementine. Home–Chapel Hill, NC. Web site–sarahdessen.com.

Dubbed “one of the hottest writers this side of J.K. Rowling,” by Newsweek Online contributor Jamie Reno, young adult author Sarah Dessen boasts sales pushing more than four-million copies. Reno described Dessen’s books as “stark but poignant,” dealing with topics including “divorce, intimate-partner violence, substance abuse, alienation and loneliness.” In short, Reno found Dessen “among the most celebrated authors of new teen fiction.” Her novels regularly make the best-seller lists and have won numerous young adult writing awards. Her novels Someone Like You and That Summer were adapted into the 2003 film How to Deal.”

Sarah Dessen. (2011). In Authors and Artists for Young Adults (Vol. 86). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/bic1/ReferenceDetailsPage

Genre:  Romance/Chick Lit

Curriculum Ties: Healthy relationships, Family dynamics, Blended families, Self-esteem (Health)

Booktalk Ideas:  Summer reads, Summer loving, Sisterhood

Reading Level/Interest Level: Grade 8/Grades 7-12

Challenge Issues and Plans:  This book has very little that might offend parents/patrons.  A scenario in which this book is challenged is hard to imagine.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

ten

McNeil, G. (2013). Ten (Reprint edition.). Balzer + Bray.


Plot Summary:  Meg and her best friend Minnie are expecting a wild weekend at the posh vacation home of a friend.  Henry Island is remote and there will be no parental supervision.  Both Meg and Minnie are in love with T.J., the handsome guy with a heart of gold.  Meg, sensible and loyal, has promised Minnie to stay clear of T.J.  Minnie has struggled with depression and emotional outbursts, and Meg will do anything to keep her happy and calm.  When all ten guests have arrived at the house, the beer flows and the party gets going.  When a mysterious DVD with a threatening message is played, the group decides to call it a night.  When Meg awakens to a creaking sound outside of her bedroom door, she can hardly prepare herself for the scene she discovers.  One of the party guests is hanging from the rafters, dead.  After that the teens begin dropping like flies…but who is behind the grizzly murders?  Meg and T.J are determined to unravel the mystery before it costs them their lives.

Critical Evaluation:  Ten is a scary though not terrifying thriller that will appeal to a wide range of teen readers.  McNeil builds a suspenseful and rich plot that does not rely on unbearable tension to captivate the reader.  The ten teens who make up the cast of characters in Ten will resonate with young readers, who will undoubtedly identify with Meg and T.J., the two most reasonable characters.  By allowing the reader to focus on the character nuances and relationship dynamics rather than overwhelming them with fear, McNeil lets the reader enjoy the fullness of the story.  There are flaws in the text; McNeil does not differentiate between her characters enough in the beginning of the book, so that when she brings them up later the reader might be confused.  By taking the reader out of the story to contend with character identity, McNeil interrupts  the flow of the narrative.    Ultimately, though, the power of the plot and the strength of the two lead characters are enough to make Ten a satisfying page-turner.  Meg and T.J., the ultimate heroes of the book, are level-headed and realistic, providing the voices of reason in an otherwise suspect world of teen angst and game-playing.  McNeil gives her teen readers a riveting thrill ride while keeping them safely in the shadows, watching from out of harm’s way.

Reader’s Annotation:  Ten teens visit a posh island home in the Puget Sound.  With no adult supervision it promises to be a fun weekend, despite the raging storms.  Little do they know that someone has very different plans for them all.

Author Information: “Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror POSSESS about a teen exorcist debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011. Her follow up TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Romantic Times Top Pick, a Booklist Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth, and was nominated for “Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel of 2012” by Romantic Times.

Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4’s Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. Gretchen blogs with The Enchanted Inkpot and is a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels.”

http://www.gretchenmcneil.com/index2.php?v=v1#!/ABOUT_ME

Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Horror

Curriculum Ties:  This is a fun and smart read, though not necessarily something with any curriculum ties.

Booktalk Ideas:  Who can you trust?, Teens behaving badly

Reading Level/Interest Level: Grade 6/Grades 9-12

Challenge Issues and Plans:  This book contains graphic descriptions of murder scenes, as well as some mild sexual content and references teen drinking.

If the book was challenged:

  1. I would ensure that I am familiar with the material, including any part that might cause concern to parents/patrons.
  2. I would actively listen to the concerns of the parent/patron in an effort to fully understand their point of view. I would ask clarifying questions and avoid any judgmental language.
  3. I would offer my reasons for including the material in a non-confrontational but matter-of-fact manner.
  4. I would offer a list of reviews and awards that informed my decision to add the material to the collection.
  5. I would draw the parent/patron’s attention to ALA’s Library Bill of Right.
  6. I would have handy for perusal my library’s collection policy.
  7. If the parent/patron wished to continue with the challenge, I would offer an official challenge form that would be submitted to the library’s (or school’s) board of directors.

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

boys

Vlahos, L. (2014). The Scar Boys. New York, NY: EgmontUSA.
 


Plot summary:  Like the popular book Wonder, the main character in Scar Boy goes through school with a disfigured face, in his case, because he was struck by lightning when tied to a large tree by bullies. When a popular new student befriends him, Harry, previously outcast, is cool by association.  They start a band together and then, when their bass player quits on short notice, a girl joins the band and everything changes. They get really good and take their band on the road for the summer.  When their van breaks down, and things get tough, friendships are tested and the band begins to break up. Their solution to several problems, which otherwise could have trapped them into inertia, sets them on the road to adulthood and helps them learn a lot about themselves and one another.
 


Critical Evaluation:  Every teen is scarred in some fashion.  Harry’s scars are physical and very visible, but teen readers will relate his scars to their own – their extra weight, acne, sexual identity, family secrets and loneliness.  Told in the form of a college admission’s essay, The Scar Boys is a well-crafted and unique look at coming-of-age.  Because we are only privy to Harry’s voice, we are given a limited but emotional and heartfelt glimpse into the time period between adolescence and  young adulthood.  Vlahos gives the reader a beautiful description of falling in love with music – creating it, performing it and listening to it – and the transformative power of that medium and the culture that surrounds it.  Every teen reader will connect with the feeling of being “other” and the desperate need to belong to something or someone.  For Harry, belonging comes in the form of being in a band with Johnny.  Even though Johnny is manipulative and controlling, sharp readers will see that Vlahos is exploring the myriad ways in which people cope with what life has handed them.  The Scar Boys offers a tender and honest look at the dynamics of friendship and self-acceptance through thorough and thoughtful character development and careful plot progression.

Reader’s Annotation:  Harry has a scarred face that is the first thing that everyone notices about him, and he expects that will always be his lot in life.  When Johnny, a cool new kid, befriends Harry and starts a band with him, Harry’s life might turn around after all.

Author Information:  Len Vlahos dropped out of NYU film school in the mid 80s to play guitar and write songs for Woofing Cookies.  The band broke up in 1987 and he followed his other passion, books. He has worked in the book industry ever since. And, of course, he writes.His first novel, THE SCAR BOYS, [was released on] January 21, 2014 from Egmont USA. It is, not surprisingly, a rock and roll coming of age story. No vampires or dystopian future, just a messed up boy and his guitar. (He has nothing against vampires or dystopian futures. He loved THE PASSAGE, The Hunger Games series, and THE ROAD.)  He has completed work on a second novel and am currently writing a third, and live in Connecticut with his super awesome wife Kristen, four-year-old son Charlie, and two-year-old son, Luke.
 Len Vlahos | Teenreads. (n.d.). Retrieved July 31, 2014, from http://www.teenreads.com/authors/len-vlahos
 

 

Genre:  Realistic fiction

Curriculum Ties:  Diversity, Music, Empathy, Independence

Booktalk Ideas:  I’m with the band, Bullying, Overcoming adversity

Reading Level/Interest Level: Grade 9/Grades 9-12

Challenge Issues and Plans:  This book contains swearing, mild drug use, teen drinking, some violence and non-graphic descriptions of sex.

If this book was challenged:

  1. I would ensure that I am familiar with the material, including any part that might cause concern to parents/patrons.
  2. I would actively listen to the concerns of the parent/patron in an effort to fully understand their point of view. I would ask clarifying questions and avoid any judgmental language.
  3. I would offer my reasons for including the material in a non-confrontational but matter-of-fact manner.
  4. I would offer a list of reviews and awards that informed my decision to add the material to the collection.
  5. I would draw the parent/patron’s attention to ALA’s Library Bill of Right.
  6. I would have handy for perusal my library’s collection policy.
  7. If the parent/patron wished to continue with the challenge, I would offer an official challenge form that would be submitted to the library’s (or school’s) board of directors.

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs

breakfast

Combs, S. (2014). Breakfast Served Anytime. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick.


Plot Summary:  Gloria is spending the summer before her senior at “Geek Camp”, a summer program for talented and gifted students.  While she is looking forward to her time away from home and the opportunity to meet new people, she is still reeling from the death of her grandmother and is sorely missing her best friend.  When she finds out that her class “Secrets of the Written Word” is an exercise in riddles, starting with finding the class and professor through a set of clues, she is intrigued and a little annoyed.  When a new cast of characters enters her life – a conservative roommate who supports mountaintop removal and a Mad Hatter obsessed cute boy – Gloria feels her world opening up in front of her.  Suddenly she feels that she has choices in life and that she can shape her own destiny….now she just needs to figure out what that looks like.

Critical Evaluation:  This book is a sweet and light young adult read which will fit nicely in a teen fiction collection.  So many books written for young adults are overwhelmingly dark, that it is nice to find a book that has a less oppressive narrative.  While Combs does tackle issues like environmentalism and racism, the true focus of the novel is friendship (even above romance).  Young adult readers who are fond of Sarah Dessen will like the easy, relaxed tone of Combs’ novel, and will appreciate her well-drawn and interesting characters.  While Combs’ portrayal of Gloria is somewhat uneven (and perhaps it will ring truer with teen readers) it is, nevertheless, carefully and sweetly written.  Certainly, people from Kentucky and surrounding areas will connect with Combs’ deep understanding of the place and its people.   This sincere and pleasant book will appeal to those who like character-driven books.

Reader’s Annotation:  Breakfast Served Anytime is a funny, fast-paced novel with wonderful characters.  Gloria, the main character, is off to a pre-college summer institute, leaving her best friend behind.  Gloria signs up for a mysterious class where each student must follow a series of intriguing clues that will tell them where the class will meet, who will teach it, and even what will be taught.  

Author Information: “Sarah Combs is an erstwhile high school Latin teacher and former librarian, but she still loves dead languages and books as much as ever. These days she leads writing workshops at a nonprofit literacy center in Lexington, Kentucky, where she lives with her husband and two young sons.”

onefourkidlit. (n.d.). Sarah Combs: BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIME. OneFour KidLit. Retrieved from http://onefourkidlit.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/sarah-combs-breakfast-served-anytime/

 

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties: Biology

Booktalk Ideas:  Summer camp, Friendship

Reading Level/Interest Level: Grade 7/Grades 9-12

Challenge Issues and Plans:  There is virtually nothing in this book that could be considered objectionable.  However, if a parent or patron did find something challenge worthy:

  1. I would ensure that I am familiar with the material, including any part that might cause concern to parents/patrons.
  2. I would actively listen to the concerns of the parent/patron in an effort to fully understand their point of view. I would ask clarifying questions and avoid any judgmental language.
  3. I would offer my reasons for including the material in a non-confrontational but matter-of-fact manner.
  4. I would offer a list of reviews and awards that informed my decision to add the material to the collection.
  5. I would draw the parent/patron’s attention to ALA’s Library Bill of Right.
  6. I would have handy for perusal my library’s collection policy.
  7. If the parent/patron wished to continue with the challenge, I would offer an official challenge form that would be submitted to the library’s (or school’s) board of directors.