Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ready for Halloween

Tomorrow is October, so we in the Teen Department have been getting ready for Halloween. Today three very creative, enthusiastic, and ever so slightly "batty" volunteers decorated the blank back wall of our magazine room, and it looks awesome! Thank you to Anna, Sophie, and Ella! You guys rock!

Next week after Banned Books Week is finished, we'll be putting up a display of Scary Books. 

Stay tuned! There's lots of great things coming up in OPL Teen!

George, by Alex Gino (tween)

To the world, George, 10, appears to be a boy. But appearances are deceiving. George knows she's really (secretly) a girl named Melissa, and has known this for as long as she can remember. Lately, it's gotten harder and harder for George to keep this secret from her best friend and even her family. Then George finds the perfect way to introduce her true self to the people she cares about: By playing the part of Charlotte in her class production of Charlotte's Web. Despite not getting the part because the teacher "doesn't want to give the part of Charlotte to a boy," George comes up with a plan. And with the help of her best friend Kelly, that plan just might work. At least it will be a step in the right direction.

George is the first book middle school book I've encountered that has a transgender main character, and it is an awesome (Terrific! Radiant!) book! Author Alex Gino handles this very sensitive topic with the utmost care and respect. Characters are realistic and well-rounded. The ending seems a bit tidy, but it is a happy and hopeful one that will leave readers satisfied.

George, just out this month, will soon be available on our Tween shelf.

The Verdict:
George is a beautifully-written novel about family, friendship, acceptance, and not being afraid to be yourself. Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder will adore George! --AJB

Monday, September 28, 2015

Violent Ends: A Novel In Seventeen Points of View (various authors)

Kirby Matheson loved reading, played saxophone in the high school band, had friends, had a crush on a girl (and had a different girl have a crush on him). He was a smart, quiet, thoughtful, and seemingly ordinary kid who kept out of trouble. No one could have ever predicted what would come next.

On a seemingly ordinary fall day, Kirby Matheson marched into his school's gymnasium during a pep rally and fired a gun into the crowd. Six were killed and five others were injured before Kirby turned the gun on himself. Nothing could ever be the same again.

Violent Ends: A Novel In Seventeen Perspectives tells the story of that fateful day, but it also tells so much more. Seventeen different stories, seventeen different perspectives, seventeen seemingly-unrelated puzzle pieces that, when fitted together, paints a haunting picture of a very disturbed boy and what could have driven him to commit such a horrible crime. 

Some of the well-known YA authors contributing to this masterful novel are Neal Shusterman, Beth Revis, Kendare Blake, and Shaun David Hutchinson.

The Verdict: 
Haunting, deeply disturbing, and unforgettable. Give to fans of Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. --AJB

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead (Tween)

I have never read a book written by Rebecca Stead, but Goodbye Stranger was a fantastic surprise, so I am sure this won't be my last book from this author. The writing was simple but profound which is why I think it will appeal to a broad range of readers. The main character of the story is Bridge, who survived from being hit by a car as a child and now, in junior high, has an existential question hanging over her head; did I survive for a reason? That question is built upon as the stories start to take shape and each character has to make decisions about the type of person they are and the type of person they want to be. First romance, social media, and trusting your instincts all played a part in building the book's foundation. I enjoyed the theme of friendships in Goodbye Stranger. Tab, Bridge, and Em are supportive of each other, even if they don't always agree. I also love the fact that the adults were always in the background. They were there in the story and they were not absentee or negligent; they were an influential part in the lives of their kids and I felt their presence in the story, even if they weren't completely fleshed out as characters.

Every character is trying to figure out how to say goodbye to a situation, a friendship, an interaction, or just a way of doing things that isn't working. While the characters were young, I could still relate to everything they were going through, and I think you would be hard pressed to find any adult who couldn't relate this book to things they have experienced both in adolescence and their adult life.

There are two narratives happening and they eventually intersect, but until they do, the reader is treated to two very engaging and, at times, emotional stories. I really really loved the way I came to care about each person in this story and how they eventually found what they were looking for in order to say that special goodbye. I would definitely recommend this heart warming book to readers of all ages. *JK*

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman

Once upon a time, a magical sleeping sickness began to spread across the land. Foregoing her impending nuptials to a man she did not love, an unnamed Queen (who had overcome her own sleeping curse and was therefore immune to all magical sleeps) set out with three dwarf companions to attempt to break the curse and free the peoples of the land from their enchanted slumber.

Once upon a time a witch cursed a princess to prick her finger and sleep forever. A well-meaning fairy attempted to adjust the curse so the princess could be awakened by a kiss, but the witch intervened at the last moment and did something no one ever expected. Not even the princess herself. Now a lovely maiden sleeps--and the sleep spreads across the miles. The only one awake is an ancient crone who keeps watch. And the Queen and dwarves are awake too, of course.

No spoilers, but the ending will definitely surprise you.

Grand Master of Fantasy Neil Gaiman takes the time-honored tale of Sleeping Beauty and puts an entirely new twist on it with The Sleeper and the Spindle. Black and white illustrations by Chris Riddle enhance this lovely and incredibly creative retelling. Originally appearing in the short story collection Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales (2013), The Sleeper and the Spindle is now its own separate volume, which can currently be found on the New Book shelf.

The Verdict:
Slightly dark (but, really, what fairy tale isn't that way?), but absolutely gorgeous! Fans of Gaiman's work (and fans of fairy tale retellings in general) won't want to miss this! A masterpiece! --AJB

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Accident Season, by Moria Fowley-Doyle

To most people, October means colorful leaves, cozy things like hoodies and bonfires, and, of course, Halloween. To most people, October is fun. But not for Cara's family. Each year as October approaches, Cara, Sam, Alice, and their mother prepare themselves for the worst. Corners are padded, sharp objects are put away, and extra precaution is taken when driving (or even walking) anywhere. For Cara's family, October means The Accident Season. Some years this just means lots of minor cuts and bruises. Other years, when things are particularly bad, people actually die--like what happened with Cara's father. And this particular Accident Season is predicted to be the worst of them all. What is The Accident Season? Why has it plagued Cara and her family? And what does it have to do with Elise, the mysterious missing girl who seems to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time? To say anything more would mean spoilers. You'll just have to read The Accident Season for yourself.

Author Moria Fowley-Doyle's debut novel is perhaps one of the oddest things I've read this year. It is filled with mystery, intrigue, and atmosphere so thick it could be cut with a knife (if all the knives hadn's been hidden safely away, that is). It will have you watching your back, checking your phone's photo albums for hidden images you may have missed, and wondering what sort of secrets those around you are keeping (and if they know yours). And when all is finally revealed, you may still have questions. 

The Verdict:
A bit slow-going at first, but the mystery of what's going on will keep you turning the pages. A great book to read as October approaches. --AJB

Friday, September 18, 2015


Lately, Disney seems to have abandoned the animated films that put the company on the map (at least temporarily) in favor of live-action movies that retell some their most famous fairy tales. The latest in this lineup is Cinderella, staring Lily James as the title character, Cate Blanchett as Stepmother, and Richard Madden as The Prince. Having really enjoyed Maleficent, which put an entirely new and creative spin on the familiar tale of Sleeping Beauty, I was really looking forward to Cinderella. Hoping for another fresh twist on a somewhat tired old story, I was disappointed to find that this version stuck pretty faithfully to that of the original Disney cartoon...right down to the animated/computer generated mice friends who help Cinderella sew her dress.

James' Cinderella character is so Mary Sue-esque she's really sort of irritating, and there is no chemistry between her and Madden's cardboard Prince. Even Blanchett, who I've enjoyed in other films, fails to capture the true diabolicalness of the Evil Stepmother. The one bright spot in the film is the comic relief provided by Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger, who play the bumbling and overly-dramafied Stepsisters. I wish they'd been given more screen time.

The Verdict:
If you're looking for a truly awesome live-action retelling of Cinderella, skip this and try Ever After (1998), which actually does give the story a bit of a fresh twist, not to mention some actual relationship development between Danielle, the Cinderella character, and the Prince prior to the Big Ball Scene (none of this insta-love that is not at all believable).

According to IMDB, we can expect the next live action fairy tale to be Beauty and the Beast (2017) staring Emma Watson. Hopefully Disney does something creative with this one. --AJB

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

One, by Sarah Crossan

They've been together their whole life.
Is there a life for Grace and Tippi
apart from each other?
Grace and Tippi are as close as any twin sisters could be. Closer, in fact, seeing that they are, quite literally, joined at the hip.

Conjoined twins Grace and Tippi were not supposed to survive past their second year of life. But here they are, 16 years old and about to enter high school for the first time (before that, the girls were home schooled, but their parents can no longer continue teaching the girls). Naturally, there are the usual concerns about being forced to, daily, enter a place where there will likely be cliquish, shallow people who poke fun at anyone who look even a little bit different from the norm (Grace and Tippi look a lot different). But the sisters are soon making friends with people their own age for the first time. Grace even finds a bit of romance with a boy from her class. But just when all seems to be going well, the girls get sick. Really sick. The only way to save their lives is for them to undergo a very risky separation surgery. It's possible one or both of them won't survive, but if, by some miracle, they both make it, how will they survive without being constantly by each other's side? Will they be able to adjust to really having separate lives? The girls face a very important, life-altering decision. And they must make that decision NOW!

Typically I don't go for novels written in verse (the sole exception being Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's Star Wars trilogy because, come on!, it's Star Wars!), because I find them hard to follow and the stories and characters don't seem as deep and detailed. Particularly those written in free verse. 

But One by Sarah Crossan caught my attention. One, because the premise it sounded really unique. And two, because I'd recently read and loved Nicky Singer's Under Shifting Glass, a Tween novel about a young lady who has conjoined twin brothers. I was delighted to find that once I got past my "This Is A Novel In Verse" mental block (and it didn't take long to do so), the story flowed easily and beautifully. I'm very happy I gave this book a chance, because I ended up loving it.

One is a fantastic choice for older teens who loved Wonder, but are now looking for something similar but geared toward a bit older crowd.

The Verdict: Highly recommended! --AJB

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Azka-BANNED Books

Dennis the Dementor says:
"Read a 'Banned' Book!"
Banned Book Week 2015 doesn't begin until September 28, but we've started the observation early to call extra attention to all the amazing books that have been "banned" or "challenged" over the past several decades. Also, we kind of hope that if you know these books are "forbidden" in some way, you'll be more likely to read them just because you're rebellious in that way (we know we're rebellious in that way).

So stop by the Teen Area and check out the display Azka-BANNED Books (named so after one of our favorite "Banned" books, Harry Potter). Check out a book or two or ten. We promise there are some awesome books here! 

And while you're here, check out our Azka-BANNED Books Contest. For this, we've shredded a "Banned" Book, mixed the pieces together, and placed everything into a jar. To be eligable to win, you must correctly guess the book AND correctly say why it was "Banned" (disclaimer: The book that was shredded was already damagad and discarded from the collection, so no actual library books were harmed for the purpose of this contest). A winner will be drawn randomly from the correct answers. The Azka-BANNED Book Contest is open to teens 6th-12th grade. Winners will be announced Monday October 5, 2015.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

How To Build A Hovercraft, by Stephen Voltz & Fritz Grobe

By now you have, perhaps, guessed that we in the OPL Teen Department totally heart science-y things. We'll take the Mythbusters over crushworthy actors or popular boy bands any day of the week. Science is awesome!

So when I stumbled upon How To Build A Hovercraft by Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe (the original Diet Coke and Mentos guys) while straightening our New Book Shelves, I was ecstatic! Could this book be as great as that viral internet video they did? You bet! Not only does this awesome volume explain the how-to of, and the science behind, the now-famous Diet Coke and Mentos experiment, but it also has a wealth of sweet tricks you can try at home. No C-4 or blast shields required. Astound your friends (and frenemies) with optical illusions... Create a Slinky from Post-It notes... Build your own Airzooka (air cannon) with nothing more than a 5-gallon bucket (or supersize it with a garbage can)... Discover the paper airplane that flies forever... And, yes, build your own hover craft that really works

Yes! Try This At Home... BUT, as with any science experiments, please take proper safety precautions when testing out the experiments in How To Build A Hovercraft.  There are warnings (see the red boxes) with each experiment. Please take them seriously! We can't stress that enough!

The Verdict: Awesome! Awesome! AWESOME!! --AJB