Thursday, April 27, 2017

What we're reading: The asteroid is coming!

Reviewed by Anarda, teen librarian   

Before the asteroid, the teens in We All Looked Up, by Tommy Wallach, fell into the typical tropes of high school:
  • Simple-minded star athlete with beautiful, popular but shallow girlfriend
  • Slacker dude who hangs out with a crazy druggie/dealer friend
  • Athlete's sister, girlfriend of the druggie
  • Artsy girl labeled as a slut
  • Type A girl with super-strict parents (who is the only African American character in this otherwise white world)
But after they learned it was coming, and discovered the earth just might be in its path, well...what do you do when you know your life may end in eight weeks?

I followed the various collisions of these teens as they scrambled to make sense (or nonsense) of their lives, each in their own alternating chapters, and it works for the most part--the tropes evolve. I thought the story sagged a bit two-thirds of the way through, and a couple of the teens did not seem to expand much from their original conceptions, while the adults were barely present, mostly cardboard cutouts too easy to knock down. The ending, however, was good--not too American, which was a surprise.

My recommendation is that you also read Tommy Wallach's Thanks For The Trouble, a wonderful bookend to the question he asks in this book. It's a fine meditation on why life is worth living, and when it can stop being worth living. The title comes from a Leonard Cohen song, "Famous Blue Raincoat," and the idea that someone took the trouble to end someone else's pain, a stranger's no less, is inspiring.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Teen review: Library of Souls

Library of Souls
(Book #3 in Miss Peregrine series)

by Ransom Riggs
464 pages
Appropriate for ages 11 up

Reviewed by M.S. (11th Grade)

In the final installment of the Miss Peregrine series, Jacob and Emma have to travel through London as well as through various time loops in order to find their friends, who were taken by wights. They discover new types of peculiars and enemies, some of whom they have to work with in order to save their friends, who are trapped in the headquarters of the wights. While fighting their enemies, Jacob and Emma discover the horrors that await their friends and realize they are in a race against time.

Library of Souls is not as action-packed as Hollow City was; the plot focuses a lot more on the characters and their relationships. The book is still stressful and filled with adventure, which I really enjoyed because it never got boring. I enjoyed this book both the most and the least out of the entire series. I loved how it was written and how most of the book was about the characters and their own battles, but disliked that this was the final book. I grew attached to the characters because they were so complex and relatable. I applaud Ransom Riggs for writing such an enjoyable series that had a perfect and unexpected ending. I highly recommend reading this book, and I would rate it 5 out of 5.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What we're reading: Teens' Top Ten nominees

Every year about this time, a list of books is published by YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association). They are the nominees to become this past year's "Teens' Top Ten." These books are nominated by book club teens from 15 schools and public libraries around the country; the list is out from April until August, to give other teens ample opportunity to read the 25 or 26 (this year there are 26) nominated books to see which ones they like best, and then from August 15 until Teen Read Week in October, teens can go online to the TTT page on the YALSA website to pick their top three. From these votes, the ballot of 25 is winnowed down to 10 winners, which are announced during Teen Read Week.

Every year, we at Burbank Public Library make sure that we have copies of all the nominees for you to check out, and we publish a handy ballot so you can keep track of which books you read and what you thought of them, so that voting in August is easy. The ballots usually come out at the beginning of the Teen Summer Reading Program in early June.

I decided to get a jump on things by reading a few of these books now, and I just finished one called Love & Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch.

The story parallels other YA books about teens who are sent away to boarding school for their senior year, or sent away for the summer, or sent anywhere they aren't particularly interested in going. In this case, though, there is a tragic reason for Lina to be sent to Tuscany this summer: Her mother, Hadley, just died of pancreatic cancer at a young age, and Hadley's dying wish was for Lina to get to know her father, who lives in Italy. This is news to Lina; it's always been just she and her mom, and her father was never discussed. But during Hadley's last weeks in the hospital, all she wanted to do was to tell Lina stories about her college years, which she spent in Florence, and the best friend, Howard, with whom she spent them. It isn't until after she's dead that Lina's grandmother reveals that this Howard guy is Lina's father.

So now Lina is off to visit him; but there is some understandable resentment, since all she can think about is, where the heck was he for the past 16 years, and why is she just finding out about him now? When she arrives at his house (which is located inside the boundaries of the American graveyard for the armed forces in Italy, where Howard acts as a sort of historian/caretaker), his co-worker presents her with a journal that her mother sent over, a journal that Hadley kept during her college years, and with its help and that of a cute and friendly half-American half-Italian boy next door, Lina begins to make sense of just what led to her conception.

While I started out thinking the author was being quirky just for the sake of being quirky (although I have to admit I have fantasized about living in a little house inside a graveyard--there's one in the Hollywood Forever cemetery they use to store tools, but I always thought it would make a cool secret retreat), and found the protagonist initially just too TOO sulky teenage girl, the book quickly grew on me. I empathized with the degree of her grief over her mother, liked the device of the diary, loved all the details about Florence, hoped Howard would finally get something out of life that he wanted, and tolerated the little romance. The romance was probably the thing that put me off the most, simply because it was sooooo insta-love (c'mon, she knows him for five days?!),'s Florence, there's gelato and pastry and pasta and statues and art and cathedrals, so who could help it, right?

I think teens who enjoyed Stephanie Perkins's book, Anna and the French Kiss, would love this, as would fans of Maureen Johnson's Little Blue Envelopes series, and the book is written in a manner that is entirely appropriate for middle-schoolers, although older teens will enjoy it too.

Next I'm going to try The Diabolic, by S. J. Kincaid, a book set in the future when people have moved outward across the universe to other worlds, and have created creatures from human DNA who are programmed to be the world's most loyal bodyguards. Diabolics are not considered human; but when one is required to masquerade as her mistress, and begins to experience feelings she shouldn't be able to have, she starts to wonder whether that's true...

Look for the Teens' Top Ten ballot starting June 5 at the library!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Teen review: Hollow City

Hollow City
(Book #2 of Miss Peregrine series)
by Ransom Riggs
396 pages
Appropriate for ages 11 up

Reviewed by M.S., grade 11

Jacob Portman and his peculiar friends have escaped the clutches of their enemies, the hollowgasts and wights, and headed  for London in order to find a peculiar person who can help their caretaker,  who is trapped in the form of a bird. On their journey, they discover other groups of peculiars who assist them, and they also learn how dangerous the hollowgasts  and wights have become. While trying to protect each other and dodging death,  the group of peculiars face difficult tasks while Jacob discovers his new abilities and learns that he may lose his girlfriend, Emma, another peculiar.

Hollow City is definitely the most action-packed and stressful book of the Miss Peregrine series. With new surprises and battles to face, this book kept me entertained for the three days I spent reading it. Once again there is a plot twist, but it is even bigger than the one in the previous book. Hollow City was written beautifully and sets up the third book,  Library of Souls, perfectly. Be sure to have tissues when you read this; ­­you may need them! I highly recommend reading this book,  and I would rate it
5 out of 5.

Editor's note: These books are also available as e-books, audio books, and as graphic novels!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Teen Review: Peculiar Children!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs
Fantasy, adventure
352 pages
First of a trilogy
Appropriate for ages 12+ (brief cursing)

Reviewed by M.S., grade 11

Jacob Portman is a simple teenager with rich parents living in Florida. Jacob decides to travel to an island off the coast of Wales where his grandfather grew up, in order to find out more about him and the people with whom he lived. Jacob discovers the home his grandfather lived in had been destroyed, and also that the people he lived with were children with peculiar abilities. By chance, Jacob is able to find these children and discover that they are much more dangerous than they seem.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the first novel of a trilogy and one of the best books I read in 2016 (and I read more than a dozen). It depicts life as a teenager and takes readers on an exciting journey full of action, young love, and a plot twist that caused me to put the book down for an hour to process it. The characters are incredibly complex, to the point where you can relate to nearly all of them because they are so realistic and multi­dimensional.

I highly recommend reading this book, and I would rate it a 5 out of 5.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

6+7 Book Club Report for April

For April's meeting of the 6+7 Book Club, 14 of us discussed Among the Hidden, the first book in a seven-book series called "Shadow Children," by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

The story is about a future dystopia in which food is scarce and a totalitarian government has put into place a population law that allows families to have only two children. The protagonist of the first book is a third child who was conceived by a farmer and his wife shortly after the law was enacted; they really wanted more children and figured the law would be a passing thing, but it turned out not to be, so their third son, Luke, has been a complete secret from the world since birth.

As the story begins, the forest around Luke's family's farm is being chopped down to make way for a massive real estate development of luxury homes designed for the "barons" (the upper class elite), so Luke's few freedoms (working in the fields or hanging out in the barn or the yard) have been further curtailed to the point where he is a prisoner in his own home, hardly daring to poke his nose out of his attic bedroom. And then one day, while looking at the neighborhood through a conveniently placed vent in the attic, Luke sees a shadowy form moving around in the house next door when he knows for a fact that none of the four family members are home, and he discovers that he's not the only shadow child in the neighborhood.

The reaction to this book was distinctly mixed. There was one absolute fan, a majority in the middle of the pack, and three who disliked the book. The fans liked the premise, and thought the characters were approachable and sympathetic, while the others felt the book was too short, and felt more like a chapter in a larger work than a book that could stand on its own, even as a part of a series. A few people stated their intention to continue reading the series, but over all, it wasn't one of the club's favorites, and got a fairly low rating of 6.25 out of 10.

Next month's book, for our last meeting of the school year, is The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman; although I wouldn't dare to anticipate reactions, I'd say that a book whose opening line is "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife" is bound to be popular!

Since we didn't need to spend time choosing a new book (we choose September's book at a special August meeting), we went around the circle and book-talked all the books we are reading. What an eclectic group of readers we have! Soon they will get the chance to book-talk at Book Café, during the teen summer reading program on June 6!

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 9.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Guest review: Caraval

by Stephanie Garber
407 pages
Fantasy fiction
First book in a series
Reading level: high school

Reviewed by Farah, one of our "Millennial" friends, and a member of the Genre X book club

Caraval is a tale of two sisters, Scarlett and Donatella, who escape their cruel father when they enter the dangerous games of Caraval. Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance in which the audience participates, are over. However, this year Scarlett finally receives an invitation; but this is soon followed by the revelation of secrets about the true nature of Caraval, whose sole target this year is her sister Tella!

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game.

First of all, what attracted me to the book was its stunning cover, which is smooth to the touch and renders the title as part of a star, like Caraval should be. Cover aside, you’d want what followed to be just as attractive, and it was, with an elaborate design, a map, and various letters. 

I was impressed by this book. It had a unique style, concept and execution, all of which kept me hooked until the end. Although it’s not (specifically) a competition, it plays a game with the reader, and the writing paired with the characters combine to create a thrilling and exciting ride. What I loved about it is that there’s growth in this book. There’s no sort of “learning before the character” types of situations, because we learn WITH Scarlett, and become engulfed in the action of it, which keeps the reader on her/his toes. This novel kept me guessing, like any show you’d watch on TV. Stephanie Garber did an amazing job, by never letting us know for sure what will happen next. This novel was magical and written somewhat like a fairy tale, which I adored. There is romance in this novel,but it wasn't overbearing or the sole focus of the story. It was sweet, yet we always focused on the plot.

This novel is part of a series. This one was published this year, but I do recommend to read the next ones in the series. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed in it if you loved this one. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Calling High School Age Writers!

The Northridge Review is a literary and arts journal, produced by students in the creative writing program at California State University Northridge.

Founded in 1962 as a campus publication of student work, Northridge Review now seeks to broaden its scope and join the larger literary community by moving to an online format and publishing exceptional student work alongside established and emerging writers from across the globe.

The journal encourages submissions of timely, provocative, and innovative Prose, Poetry, Drama, and Art that pushes boundaries in subversive, disruptive, or other challenging ways.

For details or to submit your work, visit:

Submissions for the Fall 2017 online issue will close April 19, 2017.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April 10-12 Book Club Report

It's hard to believe it's April already! There were 17 at our next-to-last book club meeting of the school year, ready to discuss Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The consensus on this book was that it was such a roller coaster ride that you could hate it after 40 pages, love it after a couple hundred more, hate it again, and end up with it being practically your favorite book ever. Only one person disliked the book throughout; everyone enjoyed the unusual format in which the book was presented; and the final rating was an 8.25 out of 10.

Next month, for our last book of the year, we will read the oft-nominated and finally selected I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson. For those who missed book club last night, copies await you at the circulation desk.

Since we didn't need to nominate, discuss, or vote on books last night, we spent our last half hour of club playing around with making Bookface photos. If you don't know what that is, go to our Facebook page to see a few that we made and also a bunch of quite elaborate ones contrived by the staff of a bookstore in France. We're posting ours for National Library Week, which starts April 9; if you would like to join in the hilarity, make one yourself and email it to!

The next meeting of the 10-12 Book Club is May 2.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Teen review: Historical fiction

A Faraway Island
by Annika Thor
Realistic (historical) fiction for middle school students
Not part of a series

Reviewed by Ruthi, 8th Grade (from New Jersey!)

Two Jewish sisters, Stephie (12) and Nellie (8) Steiner, have to face a hard obstacle: They have to try to escape their hometown, Vienna, so they can be free from the Nazis. Both girls take a train to Sweden, only to realize that they will be separated and live with different host families. Nellie quickly fits into her new home, but Stephie has a hard time doing so. They both wonder if everything will work out for them, especially because they were supposed to meet their parents a while ago. Once the family met up, they would move to least, this was the plan.

Over all, I think this book was captivating. It drew me in, and the author’s writing style was unique but enjoyable. I liked the book because it was realistic fiction, and the cover was one of the main reasons why I picked it. All the colors were neutral, and they blended together very well. The two girls on the cover seemed thoughtful, and it made me wonder what they were thinking. Also, the clothing they are wearing tells us a lot about them.

This book is not part of a series, but I wouldn’t mind reading a sequel! I would rate this book a 4 out of 5. It got a little confusing at some points, but was a good read.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

8+9 Book Club Report

For this club meeting, we read Crash, by Lisa McMann, the first book in a trilogy called "Visions." Seventeen of our 22 members were in attendance to discuss it, and the room was pretty polarized, for and against. Some liked the main character but disliked her love interest, while for others it was the exact opposite. Everyone found the parents--particularly the father of Jules and the grandfather of Sawyer--problematical. Several people expressed love for the sibling relationships between Jules and her brother Trey and sister Rowan. Pretty much everyone (even the people who loved the book) considered the ending weak, which it was, because it leads to the next book! Those who like to read sequels were okay with that, while those who are stand-alone people were incensed. Several people had already read the next book or all three, and all of us who had agreed that the second and third book were vastly better, mostly because you had all the information and so the mysteries weren't so frustrating, although just as suspenseful. When we rated it, we had 14 who voted 7 out of 10 or above, and five who voted below that, including two measly twos! Our final, averaged rating was 7.35.

For those who are curious, here is my review of the series.

Next month's book is Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige. (Isn't the cover art brilliant on that book?)

We all came prepared to nominate and discuss books for May, but when the club found out that we already had multiple copies of the second book in The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and were willing, just this once, to let them read a sequel, it was nearly unanimous (sorry, George) that that's what we'd read, so Killer Instinct is our pick for May.

This club meets next on April 25th.

Monday, March 27, 2017

What we're reading: New realistic fiction

The Sun Is Also A Star
by Nicola Yoon
Realistic fiction for high school students
348 pages

Reviewed by Anarda, teen librarian

Natasha, an undocumented Jamaican girl, is brilliant and beautiful. She is also, along with her family, about 12 hours away from being deported to Jamaica, and the quest to stay in this country is all she cares about at the moment. She doesn't have time to think about anything as trivial as a cute boy.

David, a Korean-American boy, is on his way to an interview that may lock in an early acceptance to Yale to study to be a doctor (something that is very important to his immigrant parents but much less so to him). He is more naive than Natasha, and somewhat less of a brainiac (but still both gorgeous and well-spoken), so he is connected to his heart in a way Natasha simply can't afford in these troubled times. 

They meet in a New York City record store, and spend a day together that will change both of them.

What a wonderfully surprising book. The two protagonists are memorable, able to listen to each other and to grow in compassion and understanding, able to learn from each other and consider alternatives. And of course there is a strong mutual attraction, but there is so much more at stake in this budding relationship, so the teen lust seems funny, endearing, and plausible. 
The immigrant experience that Yoon capably explores feels completely authentic. A satisfying read that will appeal to teens who love relationship stories.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What we're reading...dealing with strong emotions

The Sharp Time
by Mary O'Connell
Realistic fiction for high school students
228 pages

Reviewed by Anarda, teen librarian

Sandinista Jones is grieving, and she's angry. Still suffering from losing her single mother in an accident a few months earlier, Sandinista walked out of her Algebra 2 class last Friday, infuriated and humiliated by the bullying tactics of her math teacher, Catherine Bennett. 
Monday morning finds the 18-year-old in front of her favorite vintage shop, Pale Circus, ready to beg for a job and vowing never to return to high school.

Surprisingly, the owner does hire her, and for the next week Sandinista has a foot in two worlds. She's finding unexpected understanding in her new relationships with the denizens of the various shops on this slightly rough block (including the owner of an erotic bakery and a gunship owner), down the street from a contemplative monastery from which sandal-clad monks emerge to slip and slide on the icy sidewalks. She finds an especially kindred spirit in her co-worker, college student Bradley, who not only shares sharp (and funny!) observations with her, but listens with a generous (if slightly stoned) heart. 

But there is silence from her high school administration over the cruelty of her teacher; silence, too from her one-time friends who she has alienated in her rage; and Sandinista is indulging in increasingly elaborate revenge fantasies of destroying Mrs. Bennett. She carries the pink and cream pistol the neighborhood gun shop owner handed to her on her first day of work, and starts to drive by her algebra teacher's home. For the rest of the week, we see her grow more and more convinced that something must be done to stop Catherine Bennett from torturing another teen, a "slow" girl, weak in ways Ms. Bennett knows how to abuse.

Funny, irreverent, and with an edge of nail-biting anxiety for this witty, troubled young woman on the verge of a mistake that will truly destroy her life, this is a book I can recommend to those seeking a fresh look into grief and helplessness.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

6+7 Book Club Report

The 6+7 Book Club meeting Tuesday night featured a lively and enthusiastic discussion of Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson. The consensus was that everyone (except maybe one?) enjoyed it more than The Rithmatists, another book by Sanderson that we had previously read, and some liked it so much that they had already gone on to read the two other books in the trilogy. We finished up our discussion by going around the room and naming the super power that each of us would like to have, if we were Epics, with some interesting and creative results! The rating for the book was 8.65.

Next month's book has been on our list for a while, but some have already expressed disappointment with the size of the book (small/thin); we will have to see if Margaret Peterson Haddix can win them over in 150-some pages of Among the Hidden.

We had a pretty long list of things to consider when choosing our book for May, but after a couple of run-offs we finally settled on The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, a particular favorite of Anarda's, and an award winner!

Other books we considered:

Two Summers, by Amy Friedman
The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann
Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld
A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett

This club meets next on April 11.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

10-12 Book Club Report

Last Tuesday, 19 members of the 10-12 Book Club met to discuss Side Effects May Vary, by Julie Murphy, and it was quite the discussion!

This book has been on our "we're considering" list for some months now; we were all intrigued by its description, and finally picked it for this month's read. The way the book is described, Alice gets leukemia, decides hey, if I'm on my way out, no more "miss nice guy," and gets revenge on a bunch of people for a bunch of stuff they did to her before she was sick. And then, surprise! she goes into remission. Now what?

It sounded like a humorous treatment of a not-so-humorous subject, and like kind of a fun read. But in reality, the book is quite different. As she goes through chemotherapy with ever-worsening results, Alice's best friend Harvey, who has wanted more than friendship from her for years, is her constant support and companion. Before all of this happened, Alice had a boyfriend, and she had a friend from ballet class (really more of a competitor), and the two of them did Alice wrong, together and separately. Now, before she goes, Alice wants revenge, and Harvey helps her get it. Then, after going into remission, she has to face the wrath of these two people, plus she also has to figure out what to do about Harvey, because although he expects that their relationship will continue, Alice isn't so sure.

In other words, it turns out to be a lot more about Harvey and Alice than about the supposedly humorous tone set by the book's description...and Alice turns out to be not a very nice person. Out of the 19 members at book club, 18 of them really disliked Alice, and either felt sorry for or lost all respect for Harvey as the book went forward. The pranks were kind of awesome, but there were only a couple, and they were not the primary focus of the book.

Ratings were predictably harsh, and ranged from a high of 7 out of 10 to a low of 1, with the final rating being 5.75. It might be that if members had had a more realistic expectation of what the book was actually about from the beginning, some might have enjoyed it more; but most felt duped, which added to the negative effect. Blurb writers, take note!

Next month's book is Illuminae, the hefty science fiction thriller cobbled together from memos, emails, classified documents, interviews, and all kinds of tech stuff, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

For our final book club meeting in May (last meeting of the school year, and then on to teen summer reading!), we will (finally! yay!) read I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson.

Other books we considered, in order of preference, were:

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Conjured, by Sarah Beth Durst
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
The Boy Most Likely To, by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Enclave, by Anne Aguirre
Bumped, by Megan McCaffery

This club meets next on April 4.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lagging sequels

Some books get lost in the shuffle because the author, for whatever reason, waited a long time to write the sequel, and by the time he or she did, readers had moved on. Some extreme examples of this would be Nancy Farmer's sequel to her dystopian novel, House of the Scorpion; there was an 11-year gap between that and The Lord of Opium, her follow-up book about Matthew Alarcon. Another example would be the books that came after The Giver, by Lois Lowry: there was a seven-year gap between books one and two; "only" four years between books two and three (Gathering Blue and Messenger); but then she waited another eight years before finishing up the series with book number four, Son!

And of course there is one of my favorites, the obscure (in America) dystopian series Obernewtyn, by Isobelle Carmody, that has either eight or 11 books in it depending on whether you read it in Australia or here; she began writing the first book while in college (in 1987) and still hasn't quite finished! (They're awesome, by the way.)

I reread one such book a couple of weeks ago; I had included one of Maggie Stiefvater's "Wolves of Mercy Falls" series (Shiver) in a paranormal fiction list for my students in library school to read, and in order to discuss it with them, I needed to refresh my memory, since I last read it five years ago. And of course, having read book one, I wanted to keep reading! I made sure to remind those who expressed a similar desire to finish the series that there is indeed a fourth book, because after Stiefvater wrote Shiver, Linger, and Forever, she took a three-year "break" to write The Scorpio Races and two books in the "Raven Cycle" (The Raven Boys, and The Dream Thieves) before returning to the Mercy Falls characters in 2014.

Sinner is something of a departure from the series; in fact, some readers describe it as a "standalone companion" rather than a sequel. Although the two main characters of Sinner appeared extensively in the three previous books, now they have (each independently) relocated away from the others, and this is solely their story.

Isabel Culpeper was presumably hauled off to California by her parents, who stated their intention in book #3 to get far away from the town where their son died and back to their west coast lifestyle; but now her parents are divorcing, and Isabel feels likewise divorced from reality. She's trying to build a life for herself, working in an exclusive clothing boutique and still shutting down her feelings, but then one day Cole St. Clair, the former rock star (and part-time wolf), shows up in her shop and tells her he's there for her. She doesn't even know how to describe the hopeful feelings this engenders, but in short order she finds out that this statement may not be entirely true; Cole has also come to California because he has agreed to be the subject of a reality show that documents his every move, as a vehicle to get his musical career back on track. The people who make this show specialize in focusing their cameras on those who already have a tendency to self-destruct, and when Isabel finds out Cole has signed on for this, she wants nothing to do with it--or him. But somehow, Cole is as irresistible as ever, and he's also determined to be the one "celebrity" who proves the show wrong.

Isabel and Cole's on-again off-again relationship is fascinating to watch--these are some great, dynamic characters Stiefvater has written. The situations created by the people who are filming Cole, too, are so realistic that I almost expected to be able to go to and see the show, streaming live! Los Angeles, good and bad--the Hollywood hype rife with social climbers and wannabes, set next to the beautiful weather and more relaxed lifestyle--is likewise almost a character. This book, although containing paranormal elements, reads a lot more like reality than like fantasy. If you have read the trilogy and always wondered what happened to Cole and Isabel, you owe it to yourself to go back and check this one out, especially if you are a hardcore Stiefvater fan!

We own copies of this book in the young adult section at all three Burbank Public Library locations, and also carry it as an audio book for those who prefer to listen.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

February Book Club Report

As mentioned in my review of Every Day, by David Levithan a few posts back, the 10-12 Book Club read that book for the month of February, and 17 of us discussed it three weeks ago.

Next month's book is Side Effects May Vary, by Julie Murphy, a sad tale of a girl at death's door who decides to say exactly what she wants to everyone she knows, and then, surprisingly, recovers, and has to deal with the fallout.

And for April's book, the club chose the sci fi thriller Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

Other books the club considered:

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Bumped, by Megan McCaffery
The Boy Most Likely To, by Huntley Fitzpatrick
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
I'll Meet You There, by Heather Demetrios

This club meets next Tuesday, March 7.

Fourteen members of the 6+7 Book Club met two weeks ago to discuss The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson. They read this the month after the 8+9 Club did, but were not nearly as impressed by it, and much more puzzled or annoyed by some of its questions and inconsistencies. The votes ranged from a 10 down to a 2, and the final rating was 6.85, a far cry from the other club's rating of 9, and only a few were excited for the sequel, also in contrast to the other club.

Next month, this club will read and discuss Steelheart, also by Brandon Sanderson--we hope they like this one better!

For the month of April, the club chose Among the Hidden, a dystopian novel by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Other books we considered, in descending order:

Rules, by Cynthia Lord
Wishing Day, by Lauren Myracle
A Mango Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass
Eragon, by Christopher Paolini
Star Girl, by Jerry Spinelli

Two books to hold for future (they don't come out soon enough in paperback):
The Warden's Daughter, by Jerry Spinelli
Magnus Chase, by Rick Riordan

This club meets next on Tuesday, March 14.

The 8+9 Book Club, with 16 in attendance, met this past week to discuss Jackaby, by William Ritter. Most enjoyed this paranormal mystery set in 1892 New England (except for Megan, who moaned "NOT another mystery..."), although some thought the bad guy was too easy to guess, while others thought Jackaby was a little snooty about being the only one to possess his special powers. But everyone liked Abigail, plus the hint of a love interest with the mysterious police officer Charlie Case, and quite a few intend to go check out the sequels. The final rating was 7.3.

Next month, this club will read and discuss Crash, by Lisa McMann, also the first book in a trilogy, and also kind of a mystery, although there's a lot more interpersonal stuff in this one (and it's about contemporary teenagers).

For April's selection, the club was going to go old school with And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie, but we can't get the book in sufficient quantity for the right price, so we will instead read Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige. There was a long list of books from which it was chosen, and we had two runoff votes! The other books, in descending order, were:

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
The Reformed Vampire Support Group, by Catherine Jinks
Trouble Is A Friend of Mine, by Stephanie Tromly
Beka Cooper: Terrier, by Tamora Pierce
How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon
Sabriel, by Garth Nix
The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle
The Wonder of All Things, by Jason Mott
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro
Throne of Glass, by Sarah Maas

This club meets again on Tuesday, March 28.

Friday, March 3, 2017

What we're reading: Entertaining nonfiction!

I am not a reader of nonfiction. Give me a good novel, and I'm up all night; present me with nonfiction and I nod off within a few pages (or sentences!).

I know, however, that there are people out there, including teens, who prefer their stories unadorned, who want "just the facts, ma'am" (although that Dragnet reference to Joe Friday trying to get his suspects to just tell him what happened will probably go over the heads of all teens and most adults!). A good fantasy novel gives these readers a pain behind their eyes. They are eager to find out everything there is to know about astronomy, or the physics of flight, or the science behind, I don't know, surfing? and they don't want any distracting make-believe to get in their way.

Some nonfiction books have appeared, in the past six years or so, that will perhaps be attractive to both the fiction junky and the nonfiction purist; one of the slightly unflattering-to-nonfiction names by which they are being called is "readable nonfiction."

One of the encouragements for authors to write more of this kind of book is the prize established by YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association), which is the division of the American Library Association devoted to teens. YALSA's Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, established in 2010, honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 – Oct. 31 publishing year, and announces an annual winner with a shortlist of up to five titles. This award honors those books that rise to the top in their ability to best communicate their subject factually and truthfully while making that subject interesting and engaging to teen readers.

This past year, the graphic novel March, Volume 3, by Congressman John Lewis, won the prize. The trilogy is a first-hand account of his lifelong struggle for human and civil rights, culminating in the famous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. The fact that a graphic novel could win not just this prize but also the Coretta Scott King Award and the National Book Award tells you just how powerful this nonfiction trilogy must be.

This is just the latest in a trend, though, to take moments in history with which we all think we are completely familiar and turn them into powerful and exciting narratives. One book I recently read that does this is Chasing Lincoln's Killer, by James L. Swanson.

This book is based on a collection of archival material, trial manuscripts, interviews with relatives of the conspirators to murder Lincoln, and interviews with those who hunted them down. Rather than the static picture that begins and ends with John Wilkes Booth shooting President Lincoln, then standing on the stage to shout "Sic semper tyrannis! The South is avenged!" before fleeing the theater, this book gives details about the various plots beforehand (including one that never worked out, to kidnap Lincoln and hold him for ransom), the organization and planning of the entire evening's events (which were supposed to include the deaths of Vice President Johnson and Secretary of State Seward as well), the exact details of the assassination, and the fast-paced 12-day pursuit of John Wilkes Booth from D.C. into Maryland and Virginia.

Nothing here has been fictionalized--all has been gleaned from original sources such as letters, trial transcripts, newspapers, broadsides, and other documents of the time. But all of it has been crafted into an exciting narrative that makes you want to read on, as if it were a story in a novel.

I was impressed by this book. Everything about it was done right: the presentation (interesting layouts, fonts, and color choices), the archival materials (lots of great photos, drawings, etchings, posters, etc. to illustrate the text), and the "story." From the planning to the co-conspirators to the act itself to the manhunt afterwards, this was a narrative rather than a dry recitation of facts about the assassination of Lincoln, and included interesting facts like what John Wilkes Booth was carrying in his pockets, the background of those who sheltered him and why they did it (gladly or reluctantly), and so on. If history was always presented this way, many more people would be fans.

If you are one or the other--a nonfiction enthusiast or someone who can't stand it but has to read some for school--take a look at all the winners of the YALSA award for the past six years here. Burbank Public Library owns many of these titles, and we'd be glad to help you locate them, check them out, and perhaps truly appreciate reading nonfiction for the first time!

Here are some sample titles and subjects that may intrigue you:

Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin

Saturday, February 25, 2017

What we're reading: A haunting tale of addiction

I just finished reading Beneath A Meth Moon, by much-awarded author Jacqueline Woodson.

The book is about Laurel, age 15, who has just suffered a devastating tragedy. Hurricane warnings in Pass Christian, Mississippi, cause Laurel's father, a fisherman, to decide to evacuate his family; but Laurel's grandmother refuses to leave her home, and Laurel's mother decides that she must stay with her. Both of them reassure the rest of the family that if things start looking bad, they will leave the house and head for the town's Walmart store, so Laurel's dad reluctantly packs up her and her little brother and heads out to his sister's house, far inland. They speak on the phone with those they left behind a few times, and then the connection is lost as the hurricane moves in. Days later, when residents are finally allowed back into the towns damaged by the hurricane, Laurel and her family return to their home town to discover that their house has disappeared completely, and that the Walmart has been completely leveled.

Eventually, Laurel's dad finds employment further north in a small town in Iowa, and takes Laurel and her brother to make a brand-new start. Although Laurel hasn't recovered from her losses, she does manage to make a friend and even join the cheer squad at her new high school; but then T-Boom, one of the football players, takes a flattering interest in her, and her life changes at that moment. T-Boom asks her if she likes to party; she isn't quite clear on what he means by that, but says yes, and T-Boom offers her a little taste of something that will make her feel good. Indeed, it makes her feel so good--and relieves her lingering pain to such an extent--that soon it is all Laurel can think about. From that point on, Laurel's life is in a descending spiral of meth addiction (she calls the drug "the moon"), with no end in sight.

Although I expected this book to be dark (it is about a 15-year-old girl who is addicted to meth), I didn't entirely expect the lyrical (and disjointed) way it is told. The book gives the reader an inside view of the experience, from top to rock bottom, and although it's told from Laurel's viewpoint, also paints a picture of how others in her life are affected. This book could have been a standard cautionary tale--a scare tactic--but instead Woodson's language sparely and beautifully carries you through one girl's experience and makes it feel both personal and universal.

It's a short book (170 pages) but a powerful one, with a message that's there but that doesn't hit you over the head. It is emotional, realistic, but also hopeful. And the way Woodson deals with the contents, I wouldn't hesitate to hand this book to a middle-schooler to read, even though much older teens would appreciate it as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Book Cabaret in photos!

Go to our Facebook page if you want to see some photos from last week's Book Cabaret, at which our teens read excerpts or dialogues from their favorite books! (Here are sisters Shushan and Nune, reading a dialogue from Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What we're reading...for book club

I thought it was interesting that the month after we read Lock In, by John Scalzi, in which people are using other people's bodies to get around, the 10-12 Book Club then chose Every Day, by David Levithan, as its next month's read. The plot of that book is that a person called "A" wakes up every day in a new body. The character is genderless, because one day the body might be a guy, the next day a girl. The body is always age-appropriate, though--this has been happening as long as "A" can remember, but when "A" was five years old, the daily jump was into other five-year-olds, while now that "A" is 16, all the bodies are correspondingly the same age. There are also other parameters than age, such as distance/proximity, that create some interesting challenges.

It's a strange existence, to say the least, and some conversation goes into talking about how "A" gradually figures out what's happening as he grows older--at first, it seemed like "A" stayed the same, while all the other personnel changed daily; parents would say to "A" (only those parents thought, of course, that they were talking to their own child, not realizing that "A" was in control of the body), "Oh, tomorrow we will do such and such," and "A" would cry and say "But you won't be here tomorrow." It took "A" a little time and some growing up before the realization struck that all those people would be "there" tomorrow, and only "A" would not.

The book opens when "A" is 16, and after a long life of waking up in new bodies, suddenly something has changed. "A" woke up this morning in the body of Justin, a rather hulking specimen of teenage boy, and when "Justin" gets to school, his girlfriend, Rhiannon, is there waiting. Justin (the real Justin) isn't very nice to Rhiannon--"A" can both pick up old memories and also sense this from her tentative manner around him. "A" decides, at first somewhat arbitrarily (being in a giddy mood today and not wanting to be as careful as usual) that "Justin" is going to give Rhiannon a good day. So they cut school, and go to the beach, and have what turns out to be a dream day for both of them. "A" wishes, more strongly than has ever happened before, to stay in this body and in this relationship with another person for whom "A" believes "A" could come to care. But, inevitably, the next morning comes and "A" wakes up as someone else.

Instead of going passively into that good night, though, "A" decides rebelliously that this is the moment to be a little selfish, to pursue the relationship that beckons, so "A" uses the next body to seek out Rhiannon, and the next, until finally "A" decides to disclose that all these people who have been running into Rhiannon and initiating some kind of contact are the same person inside, even if they look completely different on the outside. Rhiannon's reaction leads to the rest of the story.

I really enjoyed the multiple directions this book explored. I liked that it persisted with the lack of traditional gender roles--sometimes "A" was a girl with a boyfriend, sometimes a boy with a girlfriend, but also a boy with a boyfriend and a girl with a girlfriend. The descriptions of being inside uncomfortable "hosts"--a drug addict, a clinically depressed person--were powerful and interesting, and made the reader almost able to feel those things in first person. The idea of loving someone for their insides and not their outsides, or completely regardless of their outsides, was a challenging one, not just for Rhiannon but for the reader. And the ethics that "A" must confront each day--do I mess with this person's life so that it goes off on a tangent the person never intended? or do I continue to be careful and quiet and follow the inclinations of the host? are addressed when "A" encounters someone who seems to be like "A" but is taking a different, selfish path.

There is a companion book, called Another Day, that is the exact same story, but from Rhiannon's viewpoint, that sounds intriguing; and Levithan will release an actual sequel, called Someday, that continues with "A"'s existence, "someday" in 2018.

I should add that reactions were mixed but mostly positive in book club--we always rate the book from 1-10, and this one had a high rating of 10 and a low rating of 4, with an average rating of 7.75, which is quite respectable!

Monday, February 13, 2017

This week at the library...for teens!

On Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Buena Vista Branch, we hope teens in grades 6-12 will join us for a fun and festive evening, at

Teens have selected readings from their favorite books, and will "perform" them for the other teens present. Some are reading alone, while others have developed dialogues from their books, and we will have a variety of books represented.

The general format will be like Book Café--we will have cappuccino and cookies, do a little socializing, and then settle in to give our Cabaret performers our rapt attention!

If you are a teen who would like to share a passage from a book you love, please contact Melissa by emailing Include your name, contact information, and the book from which you will read.

Otherwise, just come and be their audience! (If we run out of readings, we will fill out the evening with book-talking, so if you're reading something you want to talk about, bring your book along and do that!)

We hope to see you Thursday night for some cappuccino and cabaret!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What we're reading: A middle school gem

Joan Bauer has written more than a dozen teen novels (between 1992 and now), and they are "feel-good" books (some call them "soft" or "gentle" reads) filled with humor, warmth, and good plots, perfect for middle-schoolers (and the rest of us who enjoy those elements too!). Most of them feature strong, independent, and funny female protagonists, but three of the 12, including her latest book, Soar (2016) have guys as their star players.

I just finished reading and enjoying her book Rules of the Road:

Jenna Boller, 16, is an enthusiastic shoe salesperson at the local branch of Gladstone Shoes. She has a boss who is committed to quality and good customer service, and as her mentor, his training has convinced her that Gladstone's is the place to go (and to work) if you want the best at decent prices.

One day, the "big boss," Mrs. Gladstone, the CEO and one of the two founders of the company, comes into the store for a surprise visit. She is impressed with Jenna's alacrity with the customers, and decides to hire Jenna to drive her from Chicago to Texas (with many stops along the way to pay similar visits to her shoe store branches), where she has a stockholder's meeting.

Jenna has all but decided to say no--why would she want to spend her entire summer chauffeuring an old woman around, when she can work her job, hang with her best friend, and spend more time with her family? But then Jenna's alcoholic father arrives in town and starts embarrassing her by showing up at her job, calling her in the middle of the night, and otherwise behaving badly, so Jenna decides Mrs. Gladstone's offer is an opportune one, if it will get her out of town and away from this situation. The two take off on a road trip in Mrs. Gladstone's cadillac that will have life-changing results for all involved.

I enjoyed this book. I particularly liked it for its portrayal of strong women: Mrs. Gladstone is determined to prevail against those who wish to undermine her company; Jenna's mother has coped with her absent ex's alcoholism and works hard as an ER nurse to support her two girls; and Jenna herself, though in some ways self-doubting, steps up to do the right thing in almost every circumstance in which she is placed. Yes, the story may be a little idealistic in these respects, but it's nice to read something idealistic now and then! I did think that Bauer's treatment of Mrs. Gladstone's son was a bit cardboard-like (one-dimensional and cliched), but aside from that, no complaints.

The book addresses some serious subjects (corporate and personal greed, alcoholism, and Alzheimer's disease) thoroughly, but with wit and humor, and some emotion, too. I would hand this to most middle school girls and many boys, with the expectation that they would enjoy it as well.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Blind Date with a Book!

In case you haven't discovered it for yourself, BLIND DATE WITH A BOOK is back! There is a display on a cart in the central aisle at Buena Vista Branch, and another by the entrance to the teen section at the Central Library.

Anarda's at BV is a mix of teen and adult, so she has labeled them for "maturity level." Mine are mostly teen books, or adult books that might appeal to teens, although a lot of adults have been checking them out!

Look for the colorful Valentine-paper-wrapped books and borrow one, sight unseen, to have YOUR blind date with a book. Commit to reading it, even if it's not your usual kind of book--you never know when you will discover a new "relationship" (with reading) by putting yourself out there, right?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What we're reading: Adult sci-fi that will appeal to teens

Last month, for 10-12 Book Club, we read John Scalzi's book Lock In. It's basically a murder mystery that takes place in the future, when people who have been "locked in" their minds by a virus have figured out how to use robots (more commonly) or other people's bodies (less commonly) to get around and have a life. The complication is that if someone kills someone, was it the actual person, or someone else using his or her body? It's a fun, lively read with lots of twists that we mostly all appreciated. That led me to seek out other books by Scalzi. I wanted to read the one for which he is best known--Old Man's War--mostly because it is the beginning of a multi-book series, and I was in the mood to get dug into something substantial--but it was checked out, so I went with Fuzzy Nation, because I liked the title!

In the future (sort of like now), large corporations have discovered valuable minerals on other planets, and have staked claims to mine them. The one wrinkle in the process to derive permission to exploit a planet for its resources is, there must be no sentient species living on that planet--no beings with feelings, responsiveness, and demonstrable consciousness. In other words, no people.

Jack Holloway works as an independent contractor for one such company, ZaraCorp, on the planet Zarathustra. After a dispute over an accidental cliff collapse that Jack caused, the company fires him, after which he promptly discovers and lays claim to a seam of a valuable mineral (exposed by the accidental explosion). Now Jack has negotiating power, and he plans to use it to make his fortune. He retains the rights to the seam of sunstone, but cuts ZaraCorp in as partners to extract the mineral, since he is primarily a prospector and surveyor, and they have the heavy equipment.

Then a great big wrench gets thrown into the works for Jack AND the company: A small, furry, bi-pedal creature that vaguely resembles a cat walking on its hind legs shows up at Jack's house in the "outback," followed (after the original one makes friends with Jack and his dog, Carl) by its likewise appealing family. At first, Jack assumes they're just friendly animals, but it gradually dawns on him that they may be the people of this planet. He also realizes that, given the available wealth on Zarathustra, ZaraCorp is a real threat to his new fuzzy friends.

This book was both fun and thought-provoking, the best combination in science fiction. I liked Scalzi's use of a slightly scoundrel-y anti-hero as his protagonist--it keeps you guessing about whether he will, in the end, choose to do the right thing or not. The parallels that can be drawn to the depletion of Earth's resources today make for interesting reading--the question of who owns the land, the rights, the planet, and how this will be determined and whether people will respect that and who will keep them honest...look to the Dakota pipeline project and then project that to a planet 23 lightyears from here with an active strip-mining industry vs. a species that resembles a bunch of cats. One hopes for a happier ending than that which befell our Native Americans the first time around...

This review is my ongoing attempt to let teenagers know that science fiction is a great transitional genre from teen to adult books, since it has a lot of the same elements that make teen books appealing--humor, speculation, interesting relationships between people and other people and between people and their environments. Fuzzy Nation is a fun one--check it out!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Teen review: Not a romance!

How to Say Goodbye in Robot
by Natalie Standiford
Realistic fiction
Not part of a series
276 pages
Reading level: Mature high school students

Reviewed by Aaron Yang, grade 11

Beatrice moves to Baltimore, Maryland, after her father changes jobs. There, she meets Jonah, AKA Ghost Boy, who is a ghost-like kid, bullied throughout his entire life. She meets him during Assembly and they create a peculiar friendship, that has its ups and downs. Although Beatrice assumes Jonah is a weird type of person, as so many people tell her, she realizes that deep down, he is actually a really great guy to hang out with.

I love the way the author wrote the novel in a fascinating fashion. I am addicted to this type of novel and wished there was a sequel to this book because it left me hanging throughout the entirety of the novel. The writing style made me kept reading until the end. It's amazing to learn the lives of these two totally different teens, who have different perspectives about society. I would seriously recommend this book to fans of relationships, robots, and realistic fiction. I would give this book 5 stars out of 5, since I could not put it down until the end. Also, I would suggest that you not judge a book by its cover, because the cover of this novel looked really dull to me, but the story inside is really worth the time to read.

Editor's note: I made a point (in the headline) of saying that this book is NOT a romance, because the poor ratings it receives from some people is because that is what they are expecting, and then they are disappointed. This is a story of an unusual friendship that stays a friendship, but it's quirky and sad and interesting--give it a try! (And P.S., agreed about the cover--the book isn't set in the past, as far as I can tell, so why use a phone receiver on the cover that most teens would never have used? Weird.)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Teen review: Edgy fiction

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
Realistic Fiction
288 pages
Not part of a series
Appropriate for ages 15+, mature content

Reviewed by M.S. (11th Grade)

Clay Jensen finds a package with no return address on his doorstep after school one day. Upon opening it, he finds seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide weeks before. On each side of all the tapes, Hannah lists a person whose actions led her to kill herself, one of those people being Clay. In fear of having a second set of the tapes released by an anonymous person Hannah gave them to, the 13 people must pass them onto each other until the tapes reach the final person.

Thirteen Reasons Why is an incredibly emotional and poetic book that I could only handle in small doses. I had to force myself to finish this beautifully written novel because the stress it imposed on me was too much to handle at times. After reading it, I have found myself appreciating my friends and family even more because of the emotional trip I took while reading this book. I strongly advise everyone to read this, even though it pulls at your heartstrings and is depressing.

I would rate this novel four stars. (It would be a five, but it caused too much emotional exhaustion!)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Coming up at the library!

We have TWO ACTIVITIES for teens coming up in the next two weeks, and we really hope to see you here.

Next Wednesday night, February 8, at the Buena Vista Branch at 7:00 p.m., we're having a SHELF-TALKER WORKSHOPTeens, adults, and children (ages 6 & up) are invited to help us paper the shelves with love notes to books! Stop in and create a shelf-talker about the book you love.

Write a (short) summary of what the book is about, and why you adore it. We will have pre-printed forms for those who only want to write about it, with "The Book I Love" and some hearts on it. But if you like, you can choose a blank form for yours, and then embellish the shelf-talker with drawings, a border, some fancy lettering, or just a few hearts—your choice.

Afterward, we will hang all the shelf-talkers throughout the library with the books they recommend, in preparation for VALENTINE’S DAY, so other people will know to love those books, too!

All materials will be provided.

Then, Thursday night, February 16, also at the Buena Vista Branch at 7:00 p.m.,  we will host

This evening will feature TEENS sharing staged readings from their favorite books! 

Applaud for the BOOKS YOU LOVE or learn about some new reads, while you enjoy coffee-house treats! This program is for teens in grades 6-12 only!

TEENS who would like to participate please email by February 9 with your name, contact info, and the book from which you would like to read. We hope to have lots of participants for this! (You don't have to email if you're just planning to attend, only if you want to read. All teens are welcome!)

It's a February of book love at Burbank Public Library!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Award-winning Teen Fiction Post #9

Here is the last story from our top nine writers in the POV Story Writing Contest. Vana is 12 years old and is in 7th grade.

by Vana Matevosian

Hello, my name is Superman! Just kidding, my name is Jude Marley and I am in 8th grade. Yay, we are finally seniors, sort of, and the second semester is almost over and I can't wait to graduate and be done with school, boring, boring school. Summer break, here I come. My geometry teacher, Mrs. Joy, who, let's face it, is not so joyful. Actually despises all of her students. For example, my friends and I were talking in class and she gave us all detention for one whole month. She is crazy. I wonder how many cats she has at hear house, because she sure does smell like kitty litter. Anyway, my friends are planning on doing a senior prank on her.

"Hey, Jude!" called my friend Sebastian, "you want to come over to my house after school?"

"Sure," I replied. "Did you figure out the, you know..."

"Oh, that, yah, I know exactly what I am doing. You want to help?" Sebastian offered.

"No, thanks, I got enough things to worry about, like my sister, other than help you with something that will get me in trouble," I said, not wanting to get involved.

My little sister is only four, but she is battling cancer. I really hope they find a cure that will work; they tried everything, but nothing seems to work. She basically lives in a hospital bed. I visit her as often as I can. Oh, no! I promised her I would be there today.

"Hey, Sebastian, I can't make it today," I stated.

"Why not? Do you think I'm a troublemaker or something?" he asked.

"I promised my sister I would be there for her, she is going through surgery and she wanted to know that I was there to make her feel better," I said, thinking I had won this argument.

"Doesn't she have her little teddy bear to keep her company?" he answered rudely.

"You making fun of my sister?" I said angrily.

"Maybe I am."

"You take that back right now!" I shouted. By now, a whole circle of people had surrounded us and they were all screaming, "Fight! Fight! Fight!"

"One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war!" stated Sebastian. You would think that we are too old for this, but it's the only way to fight without getting in serious trouble.

"You're on!" I screamed. We fought and we fought and I am not so proud to say that I lost. But when I went to the hospital, it was totally worth it. My parents told me that she refused to start the surgery until I got there. I really hope it works this time. We were going to spend a long night in the waiting room.

The next day, Mrs. Joy assigned us 50 math problems as our homework, and made us write down notes all period long. When lunch came, Sebastian didn't show up at the table where all of our friends usually sit. They were all talking about something, but stopped when I got there.

"What are you guys talking about?" I asked.

"Nothing," they replied.

I quietly ate my lunch, then left. Tomorrow was the day that Sebastian told me he was going to do the prank on Mrs. Joy. I kind of hope he gets in trouble for it. One of my friends told me that the trap was set. I couldn't wait until math class.

When I walked into Mrs. Joy's class, every object in the room had the name "Jude" written on it. I can't believe he framed me!

"Is there something you would like to explain, young man?" asked Mrs. Joy.

"No, because I didn't do it!" I replied.

"Then why does everything have your name written on it?" asked Mrs. Joy.

"If I did pull a prank, why would I write my name on everything? Then I would get caught!" I said.

"I will hold you back one more year if I have to," said Mrs. Joy.

"It was Sebastian, okay? He told me he was going to pull a prank on you, and he did!" I said, stating the truth.

"And why would I believe you?" asked Mrs. Joy.

"Because I am telling the truth," I replied.

"You and Sebastian go to the principal's office--I am sure he will take care of you two!" and with that we were off on the long, shameful walk down the seemingly never-ending hallway to the principal's office.

"Mr. Wellington, I promise I didn't do it," I said. "It was all Sebastian."

"Don't listen to him, it was all Jude," lied Sebastian.

"Calm down, Jude. You're a good kid and I believe you." He turned to Sebastian. "Why did you do such a thing as frame your friend for something he didn't do, Sebastian?" asked Mr. Wellington.

"We got in an argument about...wait, I don't even remember!" exclaimed Sebastian.

"You don't remember how you insulted my little sister?" I asked in disbelief.

"Okay, I'm sorry, I didn't think she was that big of a deal to you," answered Sebastian.

"She is a big deal to me, and if you realize that, you can be my friend again," I stated.

"Fine, let's be friends again. Want to go play basketball?" he asked.

"Sure," I replied. We went to the basketball courts and Sebastian's brother, Ryan, was there.

"Do we have to play with your brother?" I asked. "He is the worst at basketball, he can't even make one out of five free throws," I said.

"Are you making fun of my brother?" Sebasian asked.

"Maybe," I replied.

The End?


Editor's note: Here are the two things I want to know: 1. What happened to the little sister? and 2. How did the boys get out of being punished by the principal? Maybe sometime Vana will write more.