Friday, August 31, 2012


Welcome to my blog, a project created for a class on Young Adult Materials (LIBR 265-10).

This project includes a range of enriching materials for young adults, including databases, books, audiobooks, videogames, music and periodicals. In doing my research, I spoke with teen librarians, teenagers, young adults, and teachers, and I consulted many periodicals and blogs. Also, I was able to use my experience as a young adult librarian and English teacher in order to tap into resources that could be fun and educational. The materials here are all teen-tested and they capture the full range of various teen interests and skill levels.

The books tap into a variety of genres, including non-fiction and fiction, fantasy and realistic novels, sci-fi and horror, action-oriented and ones that focus on philosophical musings and intellectual banter. There are true stories about serious problems and there are wildly conjured dream-stories. They really cover the entire spectrum. Although there are many fantastic books, graphic novels, games, and other materials that didn’t make it on the list, all of these would be wonderful resources in any public or school library that caters to older teens. Some of them are ground-breaking and some have been deemed the very best in their genre or format. 

Because some of these recommendations might be controversial, I have included ideas on how to deal with challenges that might arise. There are also booktalking ideas, the reading level (which is about vocabulary and syntax, not content) and interest level. I would not recommend these materials for children under the age of the posted interest level.

More recent posts will have a looser format since they are not being composed for an assignment.

I hope that you enjoy this blog! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

BLEACH by Tite Kubo

Kubo, Tite. Bleach. VIZ Media LLC, 2008. 191 pages. Tr. $19.99, ISBN: 978-1421525761

Plot: Ichigo Kurosaki, a.k.a. “Strawberry” for his naturally red hair, is just an average 16-year-old kid whose father runs a local clinic, except he can see ghosts. He sometimes avenges their deaths by going after their murderers. Rough and wild yet soft-hearted down deep, Ichigo lives with his father and siblings; his mother died years ago. One night, Ichigo spies a girl in his house wearing a kimono and carrying a long sword. No one else can see her because she is a soul reaper, a spirit who releases “Hollows” by killing them and setting their souls free. Hollows are hideous monsters, the deformed lost souls who attack ghosts and humans and devour them to become whole. Ichigo and the soul reaper/girl, Rukia Kuchiki, barely introduce themselves before Ichigo’s family is attacked, drawing him into a very dangerous world when Rukia tries to give him some of her powers and ends up giving him almost all of them. Now, killing the Hollows is his responsibility and Rukia acts as his guide.
            Ichigo saves a ghost child and the girl who has a crush on him from “Hollows,” and each battle becomes more and more emotionally complex, as he realizes that the Hollows are real people who have died and not just monsters.
Critical Evaluation: This collection of seven installments of the series is visually arresting and full of action. Kubo is a highly skilled artist, but he has some interesting quirks, such as an occasionally shifting visual style and post-modern comments on the form – such as the final page revealing a girl sitting in a chair, making a comment about waiting for a character, with an arrow and the words “how clich├ęd.” Also, Rukia bones up on human culture by reading a horror comic and Ichigo mocks her for it. These sly takes add a different dimension to the stories. The care and artistry that goes into each panel is obvious; Kubo plays with negative space and angles in very interesting ways. The characters have an ornery depth to them, with Ichigo’s tough exterior housing a good heart, Rukia is a tough warrior, and the back and forth banter between the two is always amusing. Ichigo hit gold with Bleach, and it’s not a surprise. The monsters are terrifying, the drawings are visceral yet elegant, and the story pits a prescient teen against some very powerful cosmic forces. Comic book and graphic novel fans will be hooked immediately, but this series might draw in first-time comic book readers and make them serious fans.

Reader’s Annotation: Ichigo sees ghosts all the time, but when he sees a gorgeous girl in a kimono wielding a long sword, he is drawn into a world of soul-eating monsters who attack humans and innocent ghosts alike. Will he take on the tasks put before him?

Author bio: Hiroshima native Noriaki “Tite” Kubo is one of the most famous manga artists in the world. He grew up in Hiroshima, Japan, reading Masami Kurumada’s “Saint Seiya” manga series and never looked back.
            His career began when he submitted his work to Shonen Jump in 1996. Initially, the editors passed on Bleach, but then they changed their minds and decided to publish it. Now, Kubo is an international manga star. He focuses on character when he is doing his work, and he lets that dictate the plot. When he made an appearance at the 2008 Comic-Con, he was treated like a celebrity.

Genre: Manga – comic book.

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
Focus on the artwork, perhaps use a visual to show the graphics. Do a projection; don’t try to use the book.
Discuss Ichigo’s confusion as he steps into a very important role that he never wanted to have. You can do a little teaser about the love triangle in the book, which is always fun! The “rival” girls are opposites: one is sweet and ditzy and has a serious crush on him, the other is serious and a killer and she’s always arguing or baiting Ichigo.
Focus on Ichigo’s character: tough yet sensitive, a monster-killer with morals that sometimes get in the way of his effectiveness.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14+
Challenge Issues: There is definitely the possibility of a challenge with these – it’s got profanity, sexual content, and violence.
You could talk about the deeper content of the book, which is about a moral code and a character compelled to help people and try to protect them. It was one of YALSA’s popular paperbacks for young adults in 2009 and the series has been positively reviewed in the School Library Journal.

Why Included: My manga-loving students consider it one of the very best and I loved the cover artwork.


Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of  a Childhood. Pantheon Books (2003). 160 pages. Tr. $13.95, ISBN978-0375714573

Plot: The first section describes the child Marji and her family, who are political and outspoken. She shows herself grappling with political ideas, trying to come up with her own conclusions, and she first decides that she is going to be a revolutionary and then she decides that she is going to support the king. When her grandmother visits, Marji learns about the hardships of the past and how her grandfather was imprisoned. There is an almost constant fear within the family that someone will be arrested for speaking out or not following the rules. Recently released political prisoners come to her house and she hears of the torture that they endured. She learns about her uncle’s own political imprisonment and is proud of him. When the Shah falls, she describes the treatment of the children of agents of the now-fallen government regime. As the goals of the new regime, and the even harsher actions of government agents, come to the forefront, Marji begins to wonder if her dreams will ever become a reality and her family is deeply concerned about the future of the country and their family.
Critical Evaluation: First rendered in French, Persepolis is a ground-breaking graphic novel. Told in an edgy, woodblock style with very harsh inky black and white, chunky illustrations, Satrapi manages to capture a very complicated world. She describes current and past political regimes, wars, and personal tragedies, all from the eyes of a young child. The unique perspective, having a child describe momentous national events in a very personal way, fills the story with a visceral urgency. The girl develops her sense of the world, her vision of her future, through turmoil. Every dream is either created or destroyed through the politics of the day. Because of this, Persepolis is a historical-minded memoir that merges the personal and the political in a way that creates instant access to the ideas and concepts that teenagers can understand and feel.

Reader’s Annotation: A young, headstrong girl builds her dreams and identity against the roiling turmoil of an Iran in war and political revolutions.

Author bio: Born in Iran, Marjane Satrapi now lives in France. Her family was political, with communist leanings, and life became very difficult for them as Iranian leaders became more fundamentalist and increasingly interested in stifling freedom and individual expression.
            As a teen, Satrapi moved to Vienna to escape the hostile, sometimes dangerous, environment. She creates autobiographical graphic novels, and children’s books. Her work has won many awards in France and Persepolis was a critical smash when it came out. The second book in that series also received very positive reviews. Satrapi speaks out about civil rights all over the world and is a controversial figure for her political views.

Genre: Graphic novel/memoir.

Curriculum Ties: History – Iran, Iran-Iraq war.

Booktalking Ideas: Focus on the girl and her personality – Marji is a fun, tough, headstrong child.
The beauty of this book is in its images. Project some choice panels to hook the crowd.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14+

Challenge Issues: This is a politically controversial book. Keep the collection policy on hand, making sure that it notes that the library stocks materials with a variety of different perspectives.

Why Included: Having a personal and political story told in graphic novel format makes it very accessible to teens. It has received many positive reviews.

ST. ELSEWHERE by Gnarls Barkley

Gnarls Barkley. (2006). St. Elsewhere (CD -- Music). New York: Downtown Records. $9.70

Description: The duo Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse put this record out in 2006 to almost unanimous critical acclaim. The record contains a wild mix of soul, funk, psychedelia, hip-hop, and electronica, and somehow they managed to put it all together with remarkable clarity of vision. The second track, "Crazy," became a hit song. Bumping with bass beats, swirling with soul, and pierced with Cee-Lo's wonderful high notes, it is an incredible song that defies strict categories. The other stand out track on this record is "Gone Daddy Gone," about a failed romance. Beat-heavy, this is song blends hip-hop with sly references to classic rockabilly. St. Elsewhere would be a great record for a limited collection because it will satisfy fans of many different genres -- lovers of hip-hop, soul, electronica, jazz, and pop will be entranced.

Artist bio: Gnarls Barkley comes from the union of two strong individuals. Cee-Lo Green is the rotund, sometimes foul-mouthed rapper from Atlanta’s Dirty South hip-hop subculture. Producer Brian Burton, known as Danger Mouse, made the famous “Grey Album” mashup, as well as for working with Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz and, more recently, Beck and Norah Jones.

The two met in Atlanta and began working together in 2003; their commercial high point was the once-inescapable single “Crazy.” Their major albums so far are “St. Elsewhere,” from 2006, and “The Odd Couple,” from 2008. The latter features a dark and highly praised song “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul.” Overall, the group brings soul music back to hip hop, and adds bits of experimentalism around the edges.

Genre: CD.

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Interest Age: 13 +

Challenge Issues: N/A

Why Included: The band is one of the best reviewed rap/soul outfits around.

THE ONLY PLACE by Best Coast

Best Coast (2012). The Only Place (CD). NewYork: Mexican Summer. $14.98

Description: The Los Angeles band Best Coast's second record creates a sound that merges fast-chugging dreamy pop with jangly country guitar. It's a winning combination on this work, an ode to the city where they live -- the key lyric in the title track is "Why would you live anywhere else?" The great thing about this record, aside from singer Bethany Cosentino's soft yet edgy vocalization, is the band's historical mindset. They dig up the musical archives here, blending Phil Spector's girl group pop with touches of indie country (hints of Wilco), classic rock (touches of Roy Orbison) and New York art-rock (Velvet Underground pulses throughout everything). It is both a great contemporary indie rock album and a historical journey that takes you through some of the best sounds of the past 70 years.

Artist bio: The group Best Coast was founded by Bethany Cosentino, a reclusive young woman who lives in Eagle Rock, a bohemian neighborhood in Los Angeles that is also very low key – some coffee shops, a small college, lots of car repair. Their music has some of the same low-key, retro, lived-in quality.
 Cosentino and her musical partner Bob Bruno started working together in 2009, after she relocated from New York. Though she’s often photographed in a Fleetwood Mac T-shirt, Cosentino’s most active musical influences for Best Coast seem to be Phil Spector’s girl groups. She seems to like putting a lot of reverb and echo on the guitars, the way surf bands and the Velvet Underground sometimes did. Their sound has gotten cleaner and less shaggy with time.

Genre: CD -- Indie Rock.

Curriculum Ties: N/A
Reading Level/Interest Age: All ages.
Challenge Issues: N/A

Why Included: This band has become one of the best reviewed indie rock groups over the past few years. Their historical mindset makes for rich listening.

GYM CANDY by Carl Deuker

Deuker, Carl. Gym Candy. Houghton Mifflin, 2007. 313 pages. Tr. $13.65, ISBN: 978-0-618-77713-6

Plot: Mick Johnson is the star running back on his high school football team. He is willing to do anything to up his game and make football his career. It’s no surprise, because Mick never really had a choice. He was weaned on the sport by his father, Mike, who was signed for the NFL yet never really played a game. Now, the father is a radio co-host who is mocked by his partner for being a “third-rounder.” Mike says that he was injured and that’s why he never made it in the pro league. However, Mick is a star and he’s determined to remain one. A trainer has been giving Mick supplements, but he slyly urges him to gain the edge that he needs by taking steroids. Mick is willing to do anything – his father, living vicariously through his son, is so invested in his game that Mick can’t lose, it’s just not an option. When he takes steroids, he gets the edge he desires, but he also acquires all of the famous (and not-so-famous) side effects, prompting a horrific downward spiral.

Critical Evaluation: Full of passion, drama, and great game action, this is one of the very best young adult sports problem novels around. Deuker writes with an intensity that brings readers right onto the playing field, into the gym room, into Mick’s world. The characterization is rich and complex, with Mick’s desire to please his father becoming palpable from the very first chapter. Deuker allows readers to be flies on the wall, unpacking the myriad complex pressures on driven athletes. If others have the edge, why shouldn’t you? If you don’t juice, you will lose, because everyone’s doing it. This is a ripped-from-the-headlines type story that will expose the truths of doping in sports. The plot is taut, the characters are well-developed, and the problem is everywhere.

Reader’s Annotation: Mick Johnson is a champion in the making and he’s willing to do anything to win, but what happens when he tries to gain an edge by doping?

Author bio: Carl Deuker grew up in Mountain View, California. When he was three years old, his salesman father died while travelling and his mother raised their two kids on her own. He played sports in high school and went to Berkeley on a scholarship. There, he majored in English literature and was swept up in the protest movements at the time.
            Deuker has been a journalist and a schoolteacher. His books, which use sports as a framework, tackle serious issues and difficult choices.
Genre: Realistic fiction, sports fiction.

Curriculum Ties: PE, Health

Booktalking Ideas: Focus on the issue of sports and doping; talk about the pressures that athletes face.
Talk about the father/son issues and the secret that Mike kept from Mick. How would it feel to find out that your Dad has been lying to you for years?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14 +

Challenge Issues: Drug addiction.
Response: This book does attack the issue of steroids and sports doping, but it tries to understand the problem. Keep the selection policy on hand. Keep positive reviews on hand, and perhaps even have a file with a couple of articles about high profile sports figures and doping that came from mainstream news sources so that you can discuss the fact that this problem is all around us.

Why Included: It discusses a serious problem and it is an especially good book for boys. It gets great reviews from teens.

BOY MEETS BOY by David Levithan

Levithan, David. Boy Meets Boy. Knopf, 2003. 185 pages. Tr. $13.41, ISBN: 978-1-41559-581-7

Plot: Paul is gay and everyone knows it, and no one really cares. Paul lives in a town in which anything LGBTQ is acknowledged and accepted. His best friend Tony is also gay but he lives in a much different town. Tony can’t come out and he is tormented by the idea of the retribution and judgment he would face if he did.
            Paul’s best friend from elementary school, Joni, starts going out with Chuck, a cruel jock who insulted Paul’s friend, Infinite Darlene, a cross-dressing quarterback. Tony meets Noah one night when he is with his friends and he is immediately smitten. Noah goes to the same school, and they have trouble connecting but eventually begin a romance. Drama ensues when a neighborhood woman spies Tony and Paul in a friendly, consoling hug;Tony’s parents won’t let him see Paul at all. A still enamored ex-boyfriend of Paul’s re-emerges, prompting Noah to break up with him. Will Tony ever see Paul again? Can Paul organize the Dowager’s Dance AND win Noah back? He’s certainly going to try.

Critical Evaluation: This is a bit of a gay-themed Tale of Two Cities, and Levithan makes some wonderful points with the set up of the story. While the plot is driven by the typical teenage drama, the kiss, the ex, the traitorous ex-best friend, the strict parents, there is a larger issue that he tackles, which is why this book is considered a groundbreaking work in the field of young adult literature. What Levithan offers is a vision of what could be. What would it look like? If LBGTQ teens were accepted, the normal romance/friend issues would be the worst they would have to deal with. By introducing Tony’s world, Levithan shows the way most towns are now. The contrast is what makes the point: Paul’s world is free, Tony’s world is dark and inhibited. This juxtaposition of the settings creates a vision and an argument about freedom and equality that will resonate with anyone concerned with these issues of freedom and equal rights. It might also change minds.

Reader’s Annotation: Paul is gay and he lives in a town in which homosexuality is accepted, even celebrated, but that doesn’t mean that he can avoid drama.

Author bio: A native of New Jersey and graduate of Brown, David Levithan got involved with children’s literature when he landed an internship at Scholastic. He has worked there ever since; he’s now editorial director and the founder of the Push imprint, Scholastic’s foray into edgier YA books.
            Boy Meets Boy began as an annual letter to friends, and it was lauded as a groundbreaking novel. Levithan collaborates with other YA writers (John Green and Rachel Cohn). He has won two Lambda literary awards.

Genre: Part fantasy, part realistic.

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Focus on the town and the “what if” scenario.
Focus on the romance – the boy meets boy, boy loses boy – and the friendship issues.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14 +

Challenge Issues: The gay theme in this book has provoked many challenges. I would keep Levithan’s excellent essay on LGBTQ literature and libraries on hand. I would also keep a file with positive reviews and quotes from people about the book. Also, keep Levithan’s bio on hand. His role as an editor of YA books might help. Keep the library selection policy and reviews on hand so that you can give the person who is challenging the book copies right away.

Why Included: It is a groundbreaking YA novel.