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Archives - September 2015

Even though it was written in 1975, the teen protagonists in Judy Blume’s FOREVER…are undergoing the same issues that adolescents experience today --- first love, first sexual encounters, fidelity and grappling with sexual preference. While FOREVER... has a huge fan base --- it was a runner-up for the Best Book of the Year Award by the National Council of Teachers of English and has been praised for candidly portraying teen life --- it has been repeatedly challenged by parents, teachers and abstinence groups across the country. Below, author Hilary Badger (STATE OF GRACE) and Teen Board member Aliza M. talk about why they enjoyed FOREVER..., and exactly how they’d respond to those pesky book-banners.
September 30, 2015

Monsters: Evolution

You’ve probably learned a lot about the evolution of humans in your biology class, but what about the evolution of fictional characters, more specifically, monsters? Young adult author Phillip W. Simpson knows a thing or two about that --- not only did he study ancient history and archaeology in school, concentrating on the monsters of Ancient Greece, but the protagonist of his newest novel, MINOTAUR, encapsulates monsters’ shift in the human imagination. How? Read below to find out!
The anonymous diarist in the 1971 book GO ASK ALICE is just a normal 15-year-old girl dealing with crushes, friendships, a new move and body image. But when she attends a party and drinks a soda laced with LSD, she begins a drawn-out addiction to drugs that slowly but brutally takes over her life. While not a feel-good story, GO ASK ALICE has been praised for its candid portrayal of addiction and realistic teen voice. It has also been banned time and time again, generally because of its depictions of drug use and sex and for using “offensive” language. Author Stacie Ramey (THE SISTER PACT) and Teen Board member Linnea P. discuss these claims below, and talk about why they found reading GO ASK ALICE such a meaningful experience.
Eleanor and Park, the protagonists of Rainbow Rowell’s best-selling first YA novel ELEANOR & PARK, don’t blend in very well at their Omaha, Nebraska high school; Eleanor is mocked for her weight, huge red hair and unique fashion sense, and Park stands out because of his half-Korean heritage. And while even they are hesitant when they first meet on the school bus, they slowly uncover each other’s dry wit, unbeatable music taste and obsession with comic books and fall into a deep, unforgettable first love. Although ELEANOR & PARK was named a Michael L. Printz Award Honor book in 2014 --- as well as an Indie’s Choice Young Adult Book of the Year, an Amazon Young Adult Book of the Year and part of the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Top Teen Best Fiction for Young Adults --- it has received some backlash, too, for “vile profanity.” Below, author Lindsay Smith (DREAMSTRIDER, Sekret series) and Teen Board members Grace P. and Lauren H. explain why they love ELEANOR & PARK, and exactly what they would say if any book-banners came knocking on their doors.
SPEAK may be the name of Laurie Halse Anderson’s award-winning novel, but that is exactly what Melinda Sordino doesn’t do after she’s raped at an end-of-summer party. She slowly retreats into silence, using art as her only solace, and only later truly learns the power of voice, expression and sticking up for oneself. SPEAK is often considered a “problem novel,” and that’s exactly what makes it so powerful --- it has been praised for utter realism and intelligence, and the way it tactfully tackles a difficult and important subject. But it’s banned for these reasons too, and even called “soft porn.” Author YA Katelyn Detweiler (IMMACULATE) and Teen Board member Isabel C. talk about their own perceptions of SPEAK, and what they would say to people trying to ban it.
Even before the press surrounding the recent release of its long-lost “sequel,” GO SET A WATCHMAN, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one of those books that has been part of America’s collective consciousness since it was first published in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, and in a 2008 survey conducted by Renaissance Learning, was found to be the most widely read book of students between 9th and 12th grades.   Although its candid explorations of race, childhood innocence and courage in the face of injustice has given this seminal book serious staying power, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is not free from being challenged in schools and libraries.   Below, YA author Courtney Sheinmel (EDGEWATER) and Teen Board member Kate F. talk about what this legendary work means to them on a personal level and how they’d respond to those who want to ban it.  
What do you get when you mix Raina Telgemeier’s simple, bold illustrations with a middle school story that takes us behind-the-scenes of the upcoming production Moon Over Mississippi? The much-praised graphic novel DRAMA, of course!  Called “smart” and “enlightening,” Telgemeier’s 2012 work explores creative fulfillment, friendships, crushes and young love as it follows Callie on her set-design adventures. However, DRAMA has recently experienced a bit of “drama” of its own --- it is the latest addition to the American Library Association’s Frequently Challenged Books list, coming in at #10 for being “sexually explicit.” However, another well-known graphic novelist, Jenni Holm (Babymouse series, THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH, SUNNY SIDE UP and more), and Teen Board member Megan B. disagree. Below they talk about what DRAMA means to them and why it shouldn’t be banned.
September 23, 2015

The Scorch Trials: Movie Review

One of the biggest YA adaptations of the year came out this month --- The Scorch Trials, based on the second book in James Dashner's The Maze Runner trilogy. Teen Board member Brynn S. got a chance to see the movie, and writes a review, below!
There are few fictional characters that are more familiar than Holden Caulfield, the 16-year-old protagonist of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE whose signature voice (“phony,” anyone?) and wry observations of the city around him have captured the minds of readers since 1951. Although the novel has been praised time and time again (it was named one of the 100 best English-Language Novels of the 20th century by Modern Library in 2003), it has also gotten its fair share of push-back. It has been banned in schools time and time again, most often for vulgar language, and was the 10th most challenged book from 1990 to 1999. Below, WHIPPOORWILL author Joseph Monninger and Teen Board member Yasemin B. talk about why they love the book, and exactly what they’d tell those who were trying to ban it.
THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton is remarkable for many reasons. First, it wasn’t written by an established author; rather, it was written by a 16-year-old girl, which wasn’t exactly a position of power in the 1960’s. Second, this 1967 novel is often credited with being the first YA book out there (when the publisher realized it was being bought by high school teachers to use in classrooms, an entirely new marketplace --- and age category --- was born). Lastly, though, the book is legendary for its hard-hitting themes of gang rivalry, class conflict and honor, its gripping plotline and emotive writing. The book’s unique backstory and powerful content doesn’t protect it from book banners, though --- THE OUTSIDERS has been challenged by numerous schools because of its portrayal of gang violence, smoking and drinking and lens into family dysfunction. Below, YA author Julie Chibbaro (INTO THE DANGEROUS WORLD) and Teen Board members Maggie D. and Harleen K. talk about what THE OUTSIDERS means to them and how they’d respond to those who want to ban it.