Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011: A Year of Author Visits, Teen Participation & An Awesome Summer

As a teen librarian, I am always planning things anywhere from 4-6 months in advance. This past year was no exception. There was little or no break in between programs. One flowed into the other. It's no surprise then that I ran myself into the ground, and forgot to take care of me in the process.

Luckily, this year was also the year of HELP. In a teen librarian's world, there's usually just you. That's it. A singular person as a department. I have been the one who ordered the books, planned the programs, went on outreach to high schools, planned summer reading club, sat on half a dozen committees, and...it's exhausting. But this year, I had help.

Our teen council grew exponentially through word-of-mouth and visits to high schools. I received three more applications at our Gaming Marathon on Friday night. Three in one night because a council member referred his friends. Our council is entering its 4th year, which is crazy for me. I can't believe it's been going for this long.

The first couple of years we had a steady number of teens between 5 and 10. Now we average between 18 and 25 a meeting. And they're AWESOME teens. They help setup, run the events, and clean up at the end. They plan programs from the brainstorming stage to picking out decorations to taking the photographs at the events.

These teens are the most hands-on teens I have ever had the pleasure to work with. They make my life easier, and it shows everyone else (staff, parents, other teens) that they are responsible, hard-working, and take initiative. For a solitary librarian, it's possibly the best thing.

In addition to our teen council, I turned one of our library assistants to the YA side. She graduated this past year with her MLS and wanted to gain more programming experience. With her help, we hosted 10 teen summer reading club programs at our library location. Including four events with two YA authors. It was a first for our library. We feed off of one another's enthusiasm--and have a tendency to escalate our ideas. We've already booked two for summer 2012.

So here's a breakdown of this past year's highlights:

  • 51 Total Programs

  • Summer Reading Club - 4th year of separate teen club, 440 teen participants, and almost 9,900 hours read in 10 weeks

  • Teen Council participated in community input meeting for the new library's design. They convinced the architects to have a Teen Focus Group. The result was a complete redesign of the planned teen area--relocating it to its own larger, enclosed space. Can't wait to see it built!

  • 2 Gaming Marathons including intro of Kinect Gaming (*down from 2010)

  • 12 movie days including 3 marathons (Teen Tech Week: Mix & Mash, Twisted Tales, Martial Arts)

  • 6 author events including two "teens only" parties, three evening author visits & book signings, and one Skype visit

  • 1 annual Holiday Gift Wrapping program with greater numbers than the two previous years. Our teen council wrapped over 150 presents in 5 hours for the public. I received numerous compliments from attendees!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Woes of a Life Divided

For the past two years, I have been writing reviews for my library's teen review blog. I love sharing book reviews. Obviously, since I did it for two years HERE. But there's no escaping work when I'm over THERE. And I desperately need a break, a respite from work every now and then....

So I need a space of my own. I'm going to continue posting reviews over at teenscene as well as on my personal blog. I'll use this space to continue posting updates on teen programs and upcoming news in the YA world. It's a little insane to try to keep up with everything, but I'll give it a shot!

SO HEY, THANKS FOR STICKING AROUND. We'll give this one another whirl!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My 50 Book Challenge for 2009

Okay, so at the very beginning of this year I challenged myself (and my fellow nerdfighters!) to read 50 books for 2009. While this may seem like an easy task for a librarian, let me assure you that we do NOT have the luxury of reading all the time. Le sigh. With a little help from Shelfari, I've been keeping track of what I read (for the most part...), so let's see how I did. And remember I still 10 days to go!

1. Kiss of Life by Dan Waters
2. Chalice by Robin McKinley (goodness this one took forever)
3. Need by Carrie Jones
4. Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter (met her!)
5. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
6. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
7. Evermore by Alyson Noel
8. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
9. Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
10. FADE by Lisa McMann
11. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Darkside by Beth Fantaskey
12. Swoon by Nina Malkin
13. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
14. Envy by Anna Godbersen
15. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (met her too!)
16. Everyone Worth Knowing by Laura Weisberger (don't judge me--I was on vacation)
17. Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot (more vacation reading)
18. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
19. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
20. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (beach reading)
21. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
22. Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti
23. Shoe Addicts Anonymous by Elizabeth M. Harbinson
24. Secrets of a Shoe Addict by Elizabeth M. Harbinson
25. Being Nikki by Meg Cabot
26. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
27. Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
28. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (THE BEST!)
29. Diary of a Witness by Catherine Ryan Hyde
30. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica George Day
31. Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd
32. Wicked by Sara Shepard
33. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
34. Skinned by Robin Wasserman
35. Crashed by Robin Wasserman
36. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
37. Vacations from Hell anthology
38. Killer by Sara Shepard
39. The Treasure Map of Boys of e. lockhart
40. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
41. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
42. The Immortal Realm by Frewin Jones
43. Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey
44. Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison
45. Fire by Kristin Cashore
46. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (yes, I reread it)
47. Splendor by Anna Godbersen (still reading)
48. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (still reading)
49. The Maze Runner by James Dashner (just started)
50. Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves (a copy is being brought to me tomorrow!)

And if I can finish all those (assuming I didn't leave any off the list), I will have exactly 50 books! I'll give an update along with my Top Ten Books of 2009 on January 1st. So stay tuned :-) I just received a whole new box of ARCs to rifle thru and read, so I'll have plenty of reviews for the New Year & my next challenge.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

The undead can really screw up your senior year . . .

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©. Armed with new-found confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

From the description, I thought this would be another Twilight wannabe, but Fantaskey as put her own spin on the vampire trend. In the middle of rural Pennsylvania, Jessica lives with her adoptive parents and is starting out her senior year. The last thing she suspected was for her past to track her down.

Lucius shows up determined to fulfill the pact his and Jessica's real parents signed--their betrothal to one another. But first he has to convince Jessica that vampires are more than just a myth--that they are real. As much as Jessica tries to deny her birthright and her fanged fiancee, she slowly discovers that there is no avoiding the inevitable. But is it too late? Has she lost Lucius to the dark side and the school's head cheerleader?

Jessica remains determined to win him back and stop their families' clans from going to war. She ditches her role as an average high school student and embraces her position as a vampire princess. Overall, this was a nice twist on the vampire legend. Fantaskey dismisses many of the stereotypes associated with the dark ones and develops her own brand of vampire. She also shows it's not easy being a vampire--especially for a teenager.

Reading Rating:
This is another quick-paced book. If you enjoyed Twilight or like paranormal romance, you will devour this one in a couple of hours.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead. Though I could not feel paper between my fingers, smell ink, or taste the tip of a pencil, I could see and hear the world with all the clarity of the Living. They, on the other hand, did not see me as a shadow or a floating vapor. To the Quick, I was empty air.

Or so I thought.

In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them. For the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen–terrified, but intrigued–is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.

Whitcomb shifts the focus to the more paranormal aspects of her characters' story. Told from the perspective of a ghost, Helen's distinct voice is refreshing and intriguing. She is forced to remain tied to a human host following them throughout their lives. Only in their deaths can she move on to another host.

Even though the humans are a large part of her existence, Helen goes unnoticed. She reads books over their shoulders, whispers suggestions as they dream, and haunts their daily lives. Until one day after 130 lonely years, Helen can feel the eyes of a boy on her. Both terrified and excited, she discovers the true nature of this once unremarkable teenager. Everything changes for Helen and challenges everything she thought she knew about life, death, and most of all love.

Reading Rating:
Once again, I just flew this one. It was a powerful story, and I never knew where it would take me next. Just one note, I would recommend this for more mature readers due to sexual content. If you enjoy paranormal romance, be on the lookout for her newest novel, The Fetch.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

By Motoko Rich

Among the vampires, dragons and dystopian futuristic societies that dominate young adult reading lists, a debut novel about teenage suicide has become a stealthy hit with surprising staying power.

“Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher, is made up of the transcripts of audiotapes that 16-year-old Hannah Baker recorded before committing suicide, interspersed with the reactions of a high school classmate who listens to them. Each tape reveals an anecdote about another classmate whose actions the girl blames for her death.

Since it was first published in October 2007 by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Group U.S.A., the novel has sold 158,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales. Unlike most books, which are customarily released in paperback about a year after hardcover publication, “Thirteen Reasons Why” has remained in hardcover, with word of mouth and the author’s appearances fueling sales.

“Death and dying has always been a popular theme for kids,” said Josalyn Moran, vice president for children’s books at Barnes & Noble. “Kids like to read about situations that are worse than theirs and figure out that ‘O.K., my life isn’t so bad.’ ”

The book enjoyed a short run on The New York Times’s children’s chapter books best-seller list last spring. Last fall the publisher released a revised hardcover edition that included a new Q. and A. with Mr. Asher.

Razorbill also commissioned the flagship New York office of Grey, an advertising agency, to develop a YouTube campaign featuring videos of a cassette recorder playing Hannah’s tapes, as read by the actress Olivia Thirlby, who played the title character’s best friend in “Juno.”

“Thirteen Reasons Why” re-entered the chapter-book best-seller list in November at No. 10. When next Sunday’s list is published, it will rise to No. 3.

“It was not a book where a whole house runs out and pushes like crazy, and you have to have success right away, because you spent all this money,” said Benjamin Shrank, publisher of Razorbill. The company paid Mr. Asher a low six-figure advance for two books.

With its thrillerlike pacing and scenes of sexual coercion and teenage backbiting, the novel appeals to young readers, who say the book also gives them insight into peers who might consider suicide. “I think the whole message of the book is to be careful what you do to people, because you never know what they’re going through,” said Christian Harvey, a 15-year-old sophomore at Port Charlotte High School in Port Charlotte, Fla. “You can really hurt somebody, even with the littlest thing.”

Ms. Harvey, who bought the book with a gift card last year, said she stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish it and immediately recommended it to friends. The school’s book group read the novel in October, and when Mr. Asher visited Port Charlotte in February, about 35 students bought a copy.

“Thirteen Reasons Why” was partly inspired by a relative of Mr. Asher’s who had tried to commit suicide. The idea of using tape recordings, he said, came from a visit to a casino in Las Vegas, where Mr. Asher used a recorded audio guide on a tour of an exhibition about King Tutankhamen of Egypt.

Something about listening to a disembodied voice made Mr. Asher, now 33, think, “This would be a really cool format for a book that I had never seen.”

At the time Mr. Asher, who had dropped out of college to pursue a writing career, was trying to sell comedic picture and chapter books for younger children. Before he sold “Thirteen Reasons” to Razorbill, he said, he submitted a total of 11 manuscripts to publishers. All were rejected.

He was working as an assistant children’s librarian and as a bookseller at a local store in Sheridan, Wyo., six years ago when he started reading a lot of young adult fiction. One day, he said, the idea for “Thirteen Reasons” just hit him, and he wrote what eventually became the first 10 pages that night.

The eerie, sardonic voice of Hannah, the suicide victim, came easily. The character of Clay Jensen, the boy whose reactions to the tapes provide another thread through the novel, was based on Mr. Asher’s own high school memories.

Booksellers have embraced the novel from the beginning. “I’ve read a lot of titles that are pretty dark,” said Kris Vreeland, the children’s book buyer at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif. “But not something that was specifically that kind of a format and never anything that really dealt with suicide from the perspective of the person who has committed suicide.” Ms. Vreeland said the store had sold more than 250 copies.

Mr. Asher was planning to write a lighthearted high school romance as his follow-up to “Thirteen Reasons,” but the intense feedback from readers, he said, caused him to abandon that manuscript halfway through. “I didn’t want them to be let down by my next book,” he said. Now he is working on a novel that “will go into the complications of high school relationships.”

That’s enough for fans like Gabrielle Dupuy, a 17-year-old junior at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla., who heard Mr. Asher speak at her school. “As soon as he told us he was working on another book,” Ms. Dupuy said, “I was like, ‘Can I preorder it now?’ ”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

Think of this book as a combination of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" and "I Am Legend" rolled all into one. Mary's world is one of a tiny village surround by the Forest of Hands and Teeth. All around her are the truths instilled in her by the Sisterhood and the Guardians. But what are they hiding? Is there more left of the world than Mary's tiny village? She has spent her whole life living on her mother's stories about the ocean and buildings taller than the sky.

But when the Unconsecrated turn on her village, Mary is forced to face the horrors that lie beyond the fence. Does the path lead anywhere? Or is theirs the only village left in the world? It is up to Mary to find out what the Sisterhood has been hiding from them for so long. Her only problem is that she is running out of time.

Ryan has created a dystopian society that believes they are the only humans left. This book pushes your boundaries and makes you questions the truths in your own world. It's not just another zombie book, but rather creates its own society with strict values. It continually makes you ask yourself, "What if...?"

Reading Rating:
Fast-paced read with plenty of violence and horror. There was constant action and terror, but the ending was less hopeful than I would have liked. Definitely not a happily ever after.