Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My faves from 2015

Every year about this time, on the main library blog, we feature the "best of 2015" selections of various library staff members. I thought, therefore, that I would share my YA favorites from this year with you here, as well. I read 154 books this year, a good percentage of them YA, and I'd like to feature those I thought were interesting, different, and/or truly great. They weren't necessarily all written this year, but this is the year I discovered them. Here's my list, in no particular order:

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Not exactly a YA book, but definitely YA-friendly. We chose this for high school book club after multiple nominations, and honestly, I didn't expect to like it so much, but I couldn't put it down. Even not knowing anything useful about math or science didn't deter me--this book was amazing. The suspense level was through the roof (as any good survival story should be), the humor was the perfect leavening, the writing was smart and engrossing, and I was fascinated throughout. A giant step forward for true science-based fiction!

Canary, by Duane Swierczynski
Again, not specifically a YA book, but I contacted the nominating committee and proposed it for consideration for an Alex Award, because I could see high school book club being fascinated by it. It kind of reminded me of The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton, one of our faves. Multiple points of view done well, lots of twisty turns in the plot, and a stellar ending. Here's my complete review, on the main library blog.

The Truth Commission, by Susan Juby

This is a book about three students at a high school for artists in a small town in Canada, but the book is supposedly narrative nonfiction, written by one of them for her junior year "special project." So it's first person narrative with footnotes, many of them addressed to her English teacher, who is also (fortunately) the school counselor. Anyway, the three best friends conceive of a joint project they call The Truth Commission, in which they approach people and ask them bald-faced questions about things that are "known" about them without ever really being revealed or acknowledged by that person or by all those who gossip about them. The project is an initial (though risky) success, but when Normandy starts applying the truth-telling to her own family situation, things quickly get out of hand. Here is my full review, on the teen blog.

The Fixer, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The book is described as Scandal meets Veronica Mars. If you like(d) either one of those television shows, you will probably love this book, a tasty thriller. Here's my full review. This is the book that Ally Carter's All Fall Down wishes it was.

The Boy Most Likely To, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

An unconventional romance with a lot more than just heart (pardon the pun). My full review is here.

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, by A. S. King

King's books are not for everyone. They are, let's face it, pretty weird, and (from what I hear about the new one from Anarda) getting weirder. But I loved the quirky magical realism inherent in Glory's story. Here's more about this book.

I'll Meet You There, by Heather Demetrios

This book is about poverty and hardship, about war and consequences and heartache, and also about love. Read all about it here. One of my best-of-2015 books, regardless of whether it's YA or not!

I realize, looking at this list, that the majority (if not all) of these books are for 9th grade and up. So as not to neglect the middle-schoolers, here are some books from book club that I particularly liked:

The Chronicles of Kazam (The Last Dragonslayer, etc.), by Jasper Fforde
Variant, by Robison Wells
The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy

And from us at YAThink? to all of you...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Teen review: A classic

Editor's note: We don't usually feature books on this blog that teens are required to read for school, because we want this to be about books you read for fun! But "Anonymous, grade 12" swears that he picked up this book on his own, and he was quite enthusiastic about it, so we are publishing his review. Maybe it will inspire enjoyment in some of you who have to read it!

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is an American classic fiction novel at the high school reading level. This 193-page book dates back to the Roaring '20s, and follows the life of bonds salesman Nick Carraway. He decides to visit his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom Buchanan. He later meets Jay Gatsby, a self-made billionaire and World War I veteran who happens to be his next-door neighbor. Gatsby is known for throwing crazy parties at his mansion, to which he invites thousands of people, to a point where it can be compared to a bunch of kids running around at a fair. As Nick begins to know Gatsby, he begins to be exposed to the lush lifestyle of the rich and the stories of Gatsby. Nick falls in love with the way Gatsby lives and his views on life. He finds out that Gatsby and Daisy have been together before, and suggests to Gatsby that they get back together since Tom is already cheating on Daisy. Once they meet, their love for each other is reignited. The plot starts to thicken once Tom finds out about this affair. It leads to people yelling, arguing, and soon enough to a fight.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book because of the time period. Everybody who can afford it is having a good time and not worrying about anything. Nick is a very modest man who actually realizes the corruption in the lifestyle and is smart enough to get out of it. What I don’t like about this book are some of the characters like the Buchanans. They’re a reckless couple who, once they screw things up, just move away as far as possible from the situation. The thing about the rich people and especially Daisy is that they like all the nice things and think their lives are nothing without them. It mainly brought out feelings of happiness whenever I read this because of what Gatsby thought of Daisy and how he is so deeply in love with her. I would rate this book a 5 out of 5 because reading this was such a great experience breaking down the book and finding the little details in it. I would recommend this book to all my friends because it’s definitely something that you can’t go without reading.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Star Wars

If you think you need to watch all six of the previous movies before seeing the new's a thought.


Raj: “You know, I heard this way of watching the movies called the machete order, where you watch Episodes IV and V, then skip Episode I, watch II and III as a flashback, and then finish with VI.”

Howard: “Okay, so you’d lose most of Jar-Jar, all the trade route talk and the boring senate hearings, which are like watching C-SPAN with monsters.”

—The Big Bang Theory, “The Proton Transmogrification’, S7E22, May 1, 2014

As a Star Wars fan(atic), trust want to do this!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Karaoke Pix

The album of pictures from our big Karaoke Night are up on the Burbank Public Library Teen Page on Facebook. Check them out! We had one crazy night!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

From BPL Teen Librarians to you...

Remember that Burbank Public Library CLOSES EARLY (5:00 p.m.) at all branches on Thursday, December 24, and is closed on Friday for the holiday. The Central and Buena Vista branches reopen on Saturday, December 26, for regular hours (10-6 at Central, 10-5 at Buena Vista).

Have a lovely holiday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Teen Review: Mango Street

Reviewed by Criselin, grade 12

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, is about a young Latin girl, 12 years old, named Esperanza, who is growing up in Chicago with Chicanos and Puerto Ricans. Esperanza is writing the story of her experience when she moves to Chicago. Esperanza wishes for a home of her own, and she has big dreams for her future. She gives $5 to a girl to become her friend, she forces an old man to kiss her, she suffers from wearing high heels that don't fit on her feet, she cries for her loved ones who are gone, and she has embarrassing and unforgettable moments, while watching those around her suffer because they have no freedom to do what they want to do with their lives.

This book taught me that you don't need be shy to go school because you have old and ugly clothes, especially if you' re smart. It taught me that you shouldn't waste your life, because you have a chance to improve your future.

This book is a mixed emotion novel: sad and happy. It is inspiring, because it explains that there is a reason why each experience happens in our lives, and each experience will teach us a lesson. It also makes you realize what you need to change to be successful, and if one day you have to leave one place and move to another, each will be part of your life and your heart.

The book cover is so simple--I love the apartment on the cover, but it would be more attractive if the building had a lot of windows with people inside, all the characters standing and looking out. I think that would attract more readers.

I rate this book of 4 out of 5 because it has a lot to teach but is also entertaining.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Teen review: Horror

Reviewed by Mher Arutyunyan, grade 9

Salem’s Lot, written by acclaimed author Stephen King, is a stand-alone horror novel. It follows a writer named Ben Mears who is returning to his childhood town of Jerusalem’s Lot. Ben is writing about the Marsten House, located in Jerusalem’s Lot, where a hitman named Hubie Marsten once lived. Mears had a traumatic experience in the house, and is especially interested when it is purchased by Kurt Barlow, who he suspects may be more than he is letting on. So begins Mears’s story of death, bloodshed, and vampires.

I will forever remember the late nights I spent reading this horror masterpiece. Stephen King is a master of mood and tone. With Salem’s Lot, he creates a palpable sense of dread and I felt uneasy reading even the descriptions of characters and locations, especially the Marsten House. After the first chapter, I began to care about Mears. He proved to be an interesting albeit flawed character and I enjoyed seeing his arc unfold. Mears meets many colorful characters on the way to uncovering the secret of the Marsten House and the true identity of the enigmatic Kurt Barlow. However, the book never feels crowded, and all of the characters are interesting and feel like they have a purpose within the story. 
Salem’s Lot is, like many King novels, not for the faint of heart. Some of the images that King paints can be quite disturbing, and sometimes downright horrifying, including the typical blood and gore. As the true secret of Jerusalem’s Lot is revealed, and many characters meet their unfortunate and violent ends, I sometimes had to put the book down and take a break because of the intensity and anxiety that the book created. For this reason, I would recommend it to mature readers, preferably in grade 10 or higher. It earns a 5/5 from me.

Editor's note: The library offers this as a book and an e-book, and also has a movie (DVD) of this story.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Teen Review: Sci Fi Classic

Reviewed by Mher Arutyunyan, grade 9

Fahrenheit 451, written by acclaimed author Ray Bradbury, is a stand-alone, science fiction novel depicting a dystopian society in the near future where firemen start fires instead of putting them out. In this society, books have been outlawed. They have been replaced with meaningless forms of entertainment like “Fun Parks” and vapid television programs. The protagonist of the story, Guy Montag, is a taciturn fireman whose job revolves around finding households that contain books, and burning them to the ground. Montag loves his job, at times being unable to suppress the sick smile on his face. However, everything changes when he meets Clarisse, a teenaged neighbor who teaches him that life is more than television and work. Eventually, Montag decides to take home a book from one of the houses he is tasked with burning, and his life changes forever.

Fahrenheit 451 is considered to be an incredibly influential sci-fi classic, and for good reason. Montag is an interesting character, and so is the antagonist of the story, Captain Beatty, the cryptic and stone-faced employer of Montag. Bradbury manages to pack in loads of social commentary, which perfectly complements the subject matter of the tale. It really is hard to believe that Bradbury wrote this novel in the 1950s, as the messages and themes presented in Fahrenheit 451 are more relevant now than ever with the growing trend of political correctness and censorship. The story is thrilling and action-packed, especially in the second half where Montag faces the most difficult challenge in his life. Fahrenheit 451 is a cautionary tale, warning readers of the dangers of oversimplification and the negative effects of a totalitarian government. Some of the themes in Fahrenheit 451 may be hard for young readers to grasp. For this reason, I would recommend this novel to high school students. It is also a relatively short read, coming in at 159 pages. Fahrenheit 451 is an important novel, one that will be read and loved for many years to come. It earns a perfect 5/5.

Editor's note: Here are some of the covers within which this book has appeared over its history!

As befits a classic such as this one, the library offers it as a book, an audio book, an e-book, an e-audio book, in large print, in Spanish, and we also carry the authorized graphic novel version! And for those of you reading it for school (rather than for fun, as Mher did), we also have several books of commentary about the author, the book, and the theme of censorship. Look in our catalog!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Photography Contest

You teen photographers who want to enter the 2016 PHOTOGRAPHY CONTEST at the library, listen up! The contest is EARLIER this year, and the turn-in period only lasts for TWO WEEKS, so start thinking NOW about what you want to photograph, because you need to do so during your HOLIDAY BREAK!

Due dates are Saturday, January 2 through Saturday January 16!

HERE is the ENTRY FORM with the RULES and CATEGORIES. Read this carefully so you get everything right! No time for do-overs!
Burbank Public Library Teen Page's photo.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Karaoke is tonight!

Central Library
6:30 p.m.
TEENS ONLY (grades 6-12)

Time to SING!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Teen review: Dystopian science fiction

Reviewed by Mher Arutyunyan, grade 9

Ready Player One, written by Ernest Cline, is a stand-alone science fiction novel taking place in the near future (2044) where citizens rarely go outside and instead opt for a virtual reality called OASIS. Overpopulation has made the world an ugly place, so most people plug into OASIS and live their lives there. The users of OASIS are sent into a frenzy after the death of its creator, the mysterious James Halliday. Halliday is a man obsessed with the 1980s, and has created a challenge for the users of OASIS: Find his "Easter egg" in the game and you will inherit his fortune. The people involved in the ensuing race are called "gunters." One of these "gunters" is Wade Watts, a teenager who spends most of his time in OASIS. He and his friends are trying to beat the other gunters to the egg and hopefully inherit Halliday's fortune.

Ready Player One has garnered much attention since its 2011 release date. Much of this attention and praise has come from gamers and fans of the '80s. A film adaptation is also currently in development with Jurassic Park and Jaws director Steven Spielberg attached. The novel is filled with references to '80s culture, including John Hughes films, video games, and other icons of the time period.

The character of Wade is a bit underdeveloped, and therein lies the problem with Ready Player One. Its characters and plot don't feel deep. Sometimes I even felt carelessness about the fate of Wade's friends. I wish that more time had been spent developing the characters and the story. That said, the book is a joy to read. The 372 pages flew by. Some parts of the book may seem underdeveloped, but it's fun to read. The '80s references never seem forced, and they perfectly complement the story and OASIS. OASIS also feels like something that could exist, thanks to Cline's understanding of video games. Many teens have flocked to the book, especially after the announcement of the upcoming film. I would highly recommend Ready Player One, especially to high schoolers who are fans of video games and the time period of the '80s. Its characters may seem underdeveloped and the plot isn't too deep, but it's an entertaining and amusing book to read, and you'll be hooked as soon as Wade jacks into OASIS. It earns a 4/5 from me.

Editor's note: This book was also popular with our high school book club, which read it in 2013. Here is my own review of the book, which appeared on the library's main blog. The library offers this as a book, an audio book, and an e-book. (And I imagine we will have the movie, too, if it ever comes out!)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Karaoke is coming!

Your FINALS will be done...your HOLIDAYS will be starting...what better way to CELEBRATE than coming to the library with your friends for some KARAOKE?

Sing Out Loud Karaoke will be spinning the tunes again (they have laser lights too!), we will have refreshments, and it's at the Central Library this time, so we even have a stage! And if your first thought is "I can't sing" or "No way am I singing anywhere except in the shower!" then come to support your brave friends who are even now thinking about who they will get to sing "Put A Ring On It" with them after the sugar rush kicks in!

6:30 to 8:45 p.m.
Central Library
TEENS ONLY (grades 6-12)

See you there?!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Teen review: Paranormal abilities

The Girl Who Could Fly
by Victoria Forester

Reviewed by M.S., grade 10

The novel The Girl Who Could Fly was written by Victoria Forester and has a sequel which recently came out. This novel is 328 pages long and is fantasy fiction. I think that anyone ages 9+ can enjoy this book and understand its content.

Piper McCloud is a five-year-old girl living in Lowland Country with her parents on a farm. Ever since she was young, she had been able to hover a few feet off the ground. Her parents tried to keep her power a secret, but one day Piper exposes her ability, and word gets out. Piper is found by the government and sent to I.N.S.A.N.E., a school for children with extraordinary abilities like super strength, weather control, and telekinesis. Piper has the time of her life there, making friends and playing games...but she soon realizes things there are too good to be true and that she has been trapped in the most dangerous place she has ever been.

When first seeing this novel, I was intrigued by the cover illustration, which depicts an amazing chapter that blew my mind. While reading this, I realized that I closely related to the minor character, Daisy, who was an incredibly sweet girl who tried to help her friends in whatever way possible. This novel made me feel like I could pursue anything I wanted to and be able to help others. I laughed, cried, celebrated, and grieved while reading this book because it put me in the position of the characters.

Victoria created an amazing atmosphere, putting me in the story and taking me on a fantastic adventure. I have not read the sequel, The Boy Who Knew Everything, but I do plan to in the near future.

I would rate this novel a 5 for its incredible content and for the brilliance of Victoria’s imagination.

Editor's note: We have book one, but we don't yet have the sequel. However, after this review, it is on order!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Help for your finals!

For all of you with FINALS this week...or PAPERS that are due...don't forget about HELPNOW.

On our website ( under "RESEARCH," just click on the HELPNOW button. You can get help from a LIVE TUTOR (it's like instant messaging with someone who will help you with your homework!), or you can UPLOAD A PAPER to the WRITING LAB to get expert critique to improve your writing! (Allow 24 hours for this one to go and get back to you. So in other words, do NOT wait until the last minute, procrastinators!)

All of this is FREE, with your library card! Tutors from 1:00-10:00 p.m. daily, Writing Lab accessible 24/7!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Club Report

There were 16 in attendance at the December meeting of the 10-12 Book Club, at which we discussed The Martian, by Andy Weir. We have been wanting to read this book for a very long time, and fortunately the book lived up to its hype: Only one of the 16 didn't care for it, and everyone else was a fan. Those of us who know something about math and science enjoyed the intricate details, while those of us who know nothing about those subjects nonetheless loved the book for the story, the suspense, and the smart-mouthed protagonist. The rating was 8.5.

Unlike last month's meeting, when we were all practically unanimous about next month's book (Ketchup Clouds, by Annabel Pitcher), there were 12 books nominated this time, so we voted three times and then voted twice and then voted once! The one we ended up with was Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Other books we considered:

Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
All You Never Wanted, by Adele Griffin
The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Proxy, by Alex London
I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia
The Bride's Farewell, by Meg Rosoff
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,
by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Locked In, by John Scalzi
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

The club meets again on January 5, 2016.

The 6+7 Book Club was decimated by both illness and choir concerts this month, so only 12 were there to talk about Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz, the first in the Alex Rider series. We had two low ratings that pulled the average down a bit, but everyone else liked the book so much that it still ended up with an 8. Even though many of the events of the book were pronounced highly unlikely to completely ridiculous, most people were willing to go with it for the sake of the adventure, and several have already read a few of the sequels.

Because we had already chosen our book for next month (The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor), since the author is paying us a visit in February right after book club, we spent the time we would usually take to vote on a book to instead discuss some things we've been reading that we liked.

Here's the list:

The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
Ten, by Gretchen McNeil
A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
The Eighth Day, by Dianne K. Salerni

We will save these for future meetings. The club meets next on January 12.

The 8+9 Club also had some attrition due to choir and orchestra concerts ('tis the season), so we had only 10 club members to talk about Variant, by Robison Wells. It definitely seemed like there were more teens in the room, though, what with the lively discussion of this strange science fiction story! Everybody liked the twist, and the book was favorably compared to The Maze Runner, with a rating of 9 out of 10!

Next month we are reading Gone, by Michael Grant, and for February we chose Splintered, by A. G. Howard, to put this group in the Alice in Wonderland mood as well!

Other books we considered:

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle
Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
October Sky, by Homer Hickam
Far, Far Away, by Tom McNeal
The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson
Unwind, by Neal Shusterman
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

The club's January meeting is on Wednesday the 13th.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Teen review: The great detective

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Part 8 : The Adventure of the Speckled Band
by Arthur Conan Doyle

Reviewed by Criselin, grade 12

In this series about investigating crime, Sherlock Holmes is the detective, and Dr. Watson is his partner. In this book, Sherlock Holmes is trying to discover who murdered the sister of Helen Stoner.

This book is inspiring for someone who someday would like to become a detective. It entertained me a lot, especially because detectives are so amazing when they solve crimes. I love to read, even though English is not my first language, and I rate this book 4 out of 5 because once you start reading this book, you can't stop. The book inspired me to create my own version of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I recommend this book, and Arthur Conan Doyle has been added to my list of favorite authors.

The only thing I didn't like is the cover of the book. People say, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but in my opinion, the cover needs to be attractive to all readers, and I would like this cover to be more modern.

Editor's note: Criselin did not send me a picture of the cover, so I'm not sure which one it was that she disliked--this book has been released under numerous covers! Here is a more modern one that she (and you) might like...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Teen review: Fantasy series

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss
Fantasy series
High school level readers

Reviewed by Mher Arutyunyan, grade 9

The fantasy novel The Name of the Wind, written by Patrick Rothfuss, is the first installment in the ongoing Kingkiller Chronicles series. It follows a lowly bartender named Kvothe, who recounts his exciting life story to a chronicler. Kvothe’s story is rife with danger, magic, and love. He was born into a travelling caravan and lived a happy life until one fateful night when his parents were slaughtered, leaving him as the only survivor. This sends Kvothe on a journey to the University, a school specializing in the study of various types of magic, where he hopes to learn the art of sympathy. Sympathy is a form of magic that deals with the manipulation of energy. It is at this point Kvothe begins his journey to kill the Chandrian, the group of seven evil beings who murdered his family.

The Name of the Wind may at first seem like a daunting read. It is quite dense with fascinating lore, and is quite long, with a page count of 722. Its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, is even longer, with more than 1,000 pages! However, The Name of the Wind is an absolute masterpiece and a must-read for fans of fantasy. The world is fascinating and the characters have many layers to them, especially Kvothe. He is a proud, skillful boy whose magical ability surpasses his fellow students’. I found that the most enjoyable and memorable parts of the book took place at the University. At first, the University felt like a copy of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series. Thankfully, the University proved to be quite a unique place, filled with students from different walks of life, and intimidating and eccentric teachers.

The best way I can describe The Name of the Wind is Harry Potter combined with the "Song of Ice and Fire" novels by George R.R. Martin. The novel has more mature themes and situations than Harry Potter, and I would recommend it to high school students interested in fantasy. The system of magic in the series, sympathy, is very well developed and feels real. Rothfuss is excellent at explaining the fantasy world in which Kvothe lives, but he never over-explains things, like many fantasy writers. The concluding chapter of the Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy has not been released yet, meaning that readers will unfortunately have to wait a while to get a proper resolution.

The Wise Man’s Fear, the second in the series, didn’t quite live up to its predecessor. It felt a bit too long, and it got away from the University. It also focused too much on the worst character in the series (in my opinion), Denna. She is Kvothe’s love interest, but she doesn’t feel like a real person. She’s always distant and quite unlikeable, in fact. That said, The Name of the Wind is one of the best fantasy novels of the past decade, and it earns a 5/5 from me.

Editor's note: While you are waiting with Mher for book #3, you could read a novella by Rothfuss about one character from the series, the mysterious Auri. It's called  The Slow Regard of Silent Things. Check it out!

Saturday, December 5, 2015


We had an awesome time on Thursday at our Gingerbread House craft! Fifty-six teens showed up, divided into teams of four (or three or five) to build 14 houses, including the house from the movie UP, the bar from Hogsmeade, a steampunk creation, and a lot of other wonderful expressions of the basic house from the kit.

Whether it fell prey to an "earthquake," got eaten in the end, or went home to be someone's holiday centerpiece, the gingerbread houses were enjoyed by all! If you want to see the photos, they're all up over on Facebook.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Guest review: Magical realism

Reviewed by Anush B., reference librarian

In the small town of Bone Gap, Illinois, two brothers--Sean and Finn--take in a beautiful, mysterious Polish girl named Roza. Then, just as the brothers grow close to Roza, she is abducted, with only Finn as witness. Finn, nicknamed Spaceman and Sidetrack by the Rude boys, blames himself for not remembering what the abductor looked like. It seems to him like the whole town, including his brother, believes that Roza left them. But he alone is sure that Roza was abducted and did not just leave them, and it is up to him to find her if he ever hopes to get her back.

Bone Gap is a young adult novel that will appeal to older readers because of its beautiful, intricately nuanced story and lyrical writing. This is a book that will surprise its readers with its emotion and complexity. There's a bit of magical realism that enhances the story rather than taking center stage. What makes the story so beautiful is author Laura Ruby's masterful character development that makes us fall in love with the town of Bone Gap and all its wonderful, flawed inhabitants. There is, of course, beautiful, spacey Finn, who is wise beyond his years despite everyone's perception of him--or maybe because of it. There's his older brother, Sean, who is dependable and quiet. There's Petey, whom everyone considers strange and unattractive, and who spends most of her time with her bees. Then there's Roza, whose extraordinary beauty makes it difficult for her to find the thing she wants most (love and family), and makes her the victim of those who just want to possess her beauty with no regard for her as a person. This is a wonderful book about love, family, and acceptance that will capture readers' hearts, and I highly recommend it.

Bone Gap was longlisted for the National Book Award, Young People's Literature.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Teens! Come to a movie screening!

YOU are invited by SONY PICTURES to a special advance screening of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES just for teens on Thursday, December 10, at 6 p.m. 100 SEATS FOR TEENS at the AMC BURBANK 16 on Palm.

For a chance to attend, go to:

Download your tickets and BE IN LINE EARLY! Even if you have tickets, if the line gets too long you may not make it in.

Anarda and I will see you there!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What we're reading: Dumplin'

I can't decide whether Julie Murphy has done something brilliant here or not. Let me explain my confusion:

My initial reaction was that it was a pretty good book with the potential to be a lot more.

I loved the synopsis of the book: Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean (nickname Dumplin') Dickson is comfortable in her own skin until she starts to doubt herself after Private School Bo, a hot former jock, shows interest in her. So she decides to take her self-confidence back by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant.

Things are not quite this cut and dried, though, and it's the mixed messages that initially diluted the power of the book for me. But then I discussed it with Anarda and examined it with new eyes, which made me wonder if I was wrong about my assessment of "pretty good with potential," that maybe it was a lot better than that and I wasn't seeing it.

I read the book because I share a point of view with its protagonist: I'm fat. I would say I've been fat my whole life, but that's not true--but I thought I was fat my whole life, which has the same effect on the psyche--or maybe worse, I don't know.

I'm saying all of this because I was hoping this book would address that issue for teens. And it did...but not consistently, not thoroughly, and sometimes kind of confusingly for the reader.

The protagonist, Willowdean Dickson, starts out strong: She seems okay with herself just the way she is, and also copes well with having a long-time best friend who's taller, thinner, and prettier--and the best friend (Ellen) is the best kind, who loves you because you're you, not because of the way you look, or the social favors you can bestow, which is a big deal when you're in high school, where people can be superficial.

Will's mom is a former Miss Clover City (Texas) Bluebonnet beauty pageant winner, and has spent a part of every year since her win running the pageant for those who have come after her. Her nickname for Willowdean is Dumplin', a name Will has resignedly embraced up until now; but when her mom calls her that in front of the class clown, a relentlessly mean individual, Will starts to question whether her mom understands how hurtful her attitudes towards Will's appearance can be.

So far, so good. Complex relationships and feelings--I like it. But then romance gets thrown into the mix, and this is where things started to go sideways for me. Will works at a local fast food joint, and when a gorgeous prep school jock named Bo gets a job there and makes it clear he finds Willow as attractive as she finds him, it throws her for a loop. Rather than be delighted that her breathless crush is reciprocated, his touch instead sends her into a tailspin of doubt and self-loathing. While I get how this could happen, for me it tended to negate all the "I love myself the way I am" stuff that came before.

Then Will also attracts the attention of Mitch, a guy she knows from school, with whom she would probably have had a nice relationship if it weren't for her feelings for Bo. I felt like the author was trying to say that fat girls don't have to settle for the random nice guy, they can aspire to the hottie, and while this may be true, for a girl who is supposed to be sensitive to the feelings of others, Willowdean treats Mitch rather callously.

It seems like more than half of the book is taken up with angsty obsessing about boys and romance, which is not how the story was set up. Finally (finally!), in a desperate measure to get her mojo back, Will decides to enter the Miss Clover City Bluebonnet pageant. I felt like this happened way too late in the book; preparing for a pageant is not an overnight thing, and since it is billed in the description as THE event that turns things around, I was surprised by how late it was left and how casually it was treated. Also, Will's decision to compete serves as inspiration for three other "outsider" girls at her school to follow her lead, and although she eventually bonds with them, I also didn't like the degree to which the author let Will be catty about them before that. (Also, I would have liked the book better if there were more in it about them and less about the oh-so-divine Bo!)

At this juncture in my thinking about the book, however, Anarda gave my process a different spin. One of the things that many people (including me) complain about is that YA books can be so cliched, that situations and people are too simplistic, drawn in black and white, with stereotypes instead of real people as characters. Maybe, then, all the complaining I'm doing about Willowdean's flaws and imperfections is wrong: She is, after all, presented as a real person, and real people are sometimes mean and catty. Everybody, no matter how sensitive they are to their own situation, finds someone else to look down on sometimes. Just because you are a fat outsider, it doesn't guarantee that you will be a nice person through and through, just like all jocks aren't arrogant airhead jerks, as they are often portrayed. Maybe it's actually more valid for Willowdean to be problematic and flawed. Perhaps my reaction to the book has been conditioned by all those cliches that I say I dislike but which I have grown to accept as a baseline for this kind of story! Perhaps Murphy elected not to idealize her characters, and tried to write this as if she really was Dumplin' with all her flaws. light of all this, would I recommend the book? Yes. I was originally going to say that it could have been a better book...but looking at it from my new perspective, maybe I'm wrong. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had focused more on the pageant and less on the romance. But either way, applause to Julie Murphy for creating some complex and interesting characters, and for giving this seldom discussed topic the care and attention it deserves.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

This Thursday: Holiday Craft!

Join us from 3:30-5:30 p.m. (after school)  at Buena Vista Branch Library to construct a masterpiece made of cookies, candy, and goo! (icing)...


TEENS (grades 6-12), recruit your friends and sign up as a TEAM of 4-5 people! Each team will build a gingerbread house.

Think of a theme, and also come up with a team NAME! (So far we have SPICE GIRLS and FABULOUS GINGIES as two of the teams.)

We will take individual sign-ups as well, and then team you up, if you prefer.

At the end of the afternoon, a drawing will be held to see which lucky team member gets to take home each group’s masterpiece. (Or, you can vote to just deconstruct and eat it!)

To sign up: Email Tell us your name, your team name, and the first name of each of your team members!

It's going to be big messy fun--don't miss it! See you there?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Guest Review: Horror

The Nest
by Kenneth Oppel
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
244 pages
Stand-alone Horror
Ages 10 and up

Reviewed by Elizabeth B., Reference Librarian

The Nest is about a tween boy named Steve who is worried about his baby brother. His brother was born a few days ago with multiple health problems that cannot be fixed with surgery or medicine, and he will have to live with these health problems for the rest of his life. This will be a great emotional and financial burden for Steve’s family. Naturally, Steve wishes there was something he could do to help his little brother, but he is powerless.

Then, 10 days after his brother is born, and shortly after Steve gets stung by a strange wasp, he dreams about a mysterious figure who tells him that it can help his brother. At first Steve thinks it's just a wishful dream, but then he starts to see little clues in the world around him that suggests the figure is real and that it really can do something for his brother. After having multiple dreams about the figure, he finds out that all he has to do to help his brother is say “yes” in his dream. However, Steve begins to suspect that he may be saying “yes” to more than just saving his baby brother and that the figure may have more sinister intentions...

This is by far one of the creepiest books I have ever read. Not only is the story truly frightening, but the writing is hauntingly beautiful, and the stark and simple black and white illustrations by Jon Klassen add to the creepy tone of the book. What really unnerved me about the story was how it turned something simple (such as a wasp’s nest) into something much more sinister.

Another aspect of the book I really liked were the numerous plot twists for which Kenneth Oppel is known. He knows how to turn your expectations around and totally surprise you by going in an unlikely direction. I also appreciated the main character, Steve. I found myself identifying with his feeling of helplessness and his desire to do everything possible to help someone he cares about. One thing I did not like was the cover of the book. It does not catch your attention and is not an accurate reflection of the contents of the book. If I was not such a big fan of this author, I would never have picked up this book based on its forgettable cover.

I would rate this book a 5 out of 5, and would recommend it to readers of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, or any reader looking for an unexpected horror story that will haunt them long after they have read the last page. Be warned though—you will never look at a wasp’s nest the same way again!

Editor's note: This book is on order for the Children's section and should be here soon to creep you out!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What we're reading: End of a thrilling trilogy

I Am the Traitor is the third book in the "Boy Nobody" series by Allen Zadoff. Except that it's not called that anymore, now it's the "Unknown Assassin" series. Confused? We who buy books for the library were confused as well!

Zadoff initially released the first book as Boy Nobody, which we bought; but then he realized it would be a series, not a stand-alone. Since the sequel was to be I Am the Mission, his publisher talked him into a re-release of the first book, calling it I Am the Weapon, naming the third book I Am the Traitor, and changing all the covers to match. So we have both Boy Nobody and I Am the Weapon on the shelf, but it's the same book.


(My suspicion is that the publisher wanted to distance it from another YA book, called Nobody, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, which is also about a boy assassin, although with a slightly different twist! I reviewed that book here, but here's a tip: Her "Naturals" series and the new book The Fixer are both better than this early novel.)

I enjoyed Zadoff's series. I thought it was clever, interesting, and certainly action-packed, with the breathless fast pacing that appeals to both teens and adults. That kind of pacing is why James Patterson sells millions of books, despite his questionable writing skills. (Zadoff's are better, let me hasten to say!) We read the first book in 8+9 Book Club last year, and those who enjoyed it will want to round out their experience with this one.

In book three, we find out more about Boy Nobody, aka Zach, we get to connect again with Howard from Book Two (one of my favorite characters, because most real), and we meet a few new people while learning more about characters from previous books. There's a little romance, a lot of betrayal, and, of course, major action.
And there is a story arc and a satisfactory resolution to Zach's questions about his father and somewhat about The Program (although I, like others, would have appreciated an epilogue to know what happens to all those children!).

The emotion this series provokes most in me is to say, "it is what it is," because of what is not here. We never really learn much back story for Mother and Father, or what connection The Program has to the government, to other secret agencies--who knows it exists? Is it operating entirely on its own? That's hard to believe, given the public nature of many of its targets. Characterization is basic, and although what is there is nicely done, it's pretty scanty.

The whole point of this series is to keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing, and it does! But sooner or later you want to quit guessing and KNOW. Some things you do learn, many things you don't. So…I'd give this a 3.5, and say that I'm glad I followed through with the trilogy. I believe it will have many teen fans, but it's not a trilogy they will remember years later and say, Wow, those books changed things for me, or Gee, I think I'll reread that. It's sheer entertainment. And that's okay!