Tag Archives: teen fiction

Reading Diversity in YA Lit

When I was in library school, I took a class called Materials for Young Adults. We read classic YA literature like J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Judy Blume’s Forever, but also enjoyed newer selections like John Green’s Looking for Alaska and Caroline Pignat’s Shooter. The book I enjoyed the most was a novel written in verse called Brown Girl Dreaming. Jacqueline Woodson uses the strengths of poetry, fiction and memoir to write a beautiful story about growing up black in South Carolina and New York during the 1960s and 70s. After reading this book, I thought: “If this is what YA literature has to offer then I’M IN!” While I don’t usually buy books, I had to make an exception here – when you want to underline every word and dog-ear every page, it seems like a necessary purchase.

I shied away from reading YA literature in the past because I felt like I wasn’t the target demographic and if I’m being honest, I held some stereotypes about the genre. But the books I read for that class reaffirmed for me that a) YA stories are just as important and beautifully written as their adult counterparts and b) everyone should just read what they enjoy – life’s too short to read what you think you should. As a result, I’m on a bit of a YA kick!

What better book to look at next than Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, a novel I continue to hear about over and over again. Starr is a 16 year old girl who feels caught between two worlds – the mostly black neighborhood she lives in and the primarily white private high school she attends. After her childhood friend is shot by a white police officer in front of her, the space between these two worlds becomes even more noticeable. We watch Starr navigate life after death, walking beside her in both grief and frustration. This novel lives up to the hype, filled with equal parts heartbreak, hope, anger and activism.

Currently, I’m reading Adam Garnet Jones’ Fire Song. After mentioning that some of my favourite books are by Indigenous writers, a co-worker suggested this novel about a young Anishinaabe boy, Shane, who is trying to keep everything together after his younger sister commits suicide. Shane’s mother won’t leave his sister’s room and both are guilt-ridden for missing any warning signs. Shane needs to deal with his own pain but instead of sharing his grief with his girlfriend, he wants to seek comfort from David, his secret romantic partner. On top of everything he’s dealing with, Shane’s dream of attending university is threatened. Just like Starr, we root Shane on as he tries to create a life for himself after a devastating loss.

What’s the next book on my YA list? I’m excited to lighten things up with the novel that inspired last summer’s Netflix hit, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. The movie follows Lara Jean, the middle child in a family of three girls. When letters Lara Jean had written to past loves are mysteriously mailed out, she has to face the ghosts of crushes past. More than just a fun teen romance, I also enjoy the fact that our protagonist is part Korean but her character and choices are in no way defined by being Asian. I look forward to seeing how Jenny Han originally envisioned this story, and also plan to devour the two sequels, P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean.


Calling All Teens!

Summer is in full swing, and if you’ve got teenagers at home, they’re likely taking full advantage of their new found freedom.  Sleeping in, watching movies, hanging out with friends, and soaking up the sun!  Inevitably though, that wonderful sense of freedom quickly turns to boredom, and those same teenagers start looking for something to keep them busy.  A new challenge.  Something to inspire them.

Well, the library may just be the answer!  Our online Teen Summer Reading Club is a great way for teens to explore their creativity, with contests for writers, artists, photographers and book lovers.  Club membership is open to all teens in Grades 7 though 12, and in order to register, teens simply need to create an account on our teen website, Booked!  From there, members can post their creative work to our website, for all to enjoy, and at the end of the summer, the best of the best in each contest category will win an awesome prize!

If teens are looking for something to do with a few friends, the library also has a ton of really cool programs!  Like Scratch Programming!  Teens will learn the basics of the popular programming language Scratch, and spend the day creating, collaborating, and discovering endless possibilities while designing a video game or animated story.  Or our Words Out Loud program!  Teens will join local slam legend Steve Locke to explore tools of communication and creativity by writing new poems and practicing sharing them in their own unique, authentic voice.

And of course, as always, the library has an amazing collection of books for teens to explore.  Summer is the perfect opportunity for kicking back with a good book — no grueling book report required!  Check out these amazing books for some chill poolside reading!

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Avoiding relationships to protect her sensitive heart, plus-sized Molly supports her once-cynical twin, Cassie, when the latter has her own bout of lovesickness, a situation that is complicated by sibling dynamics and an unexpected romantic triangle.

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place. She may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her twin brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands.

Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa
In a future defined by environmental devastation and the all-seeing EcoPanopticon, Rowan, an illegal second child, rebels against an impossible choice by escaping her home for a night of both friendship and tragedy.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win–unless her stepsisters get there first… Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake–until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.





MYRCA Madness


March is a month which is special to many people for many reasons. For some, it’s because of St. Patrick’s Day, a time to celebrate their Irish heritage.  For others, it’s all about the basketball, and March Madness. Some years, Easter falls in March, which brings a bunch of reasons to celebrate. For the past 26 years, though, March is also the month when MYRCA voting starts.

And what is MYRCA? I’m so glad you asked. MYRCA or Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award was founded in 1990 as a way to celebrate the International Year of Literacy. Every year since then, the members of the MYRCA committee read and reflect on Canadian fiction that was  written for young people, in order to come up with the annual reading list. This list is available to everyone, and is a great way to promote reading and literacy.

Starting in March, any Manitoba student in grades 5 to 8 who has read at least 3 books on the list is eligible to  vote. These votes then determine which author will become the MYRCA winner for the year. The winning author gets the chance to come to Winnipeg to take part in the awards ceremony. Students from all across Manitoba take part, and it’s a momentous opportunity for students to meet the winning author in person, to ask questions and to present the prize. Past winners have included Kenneth Oppel, David Carroll, Susin Nielsen and Norah McClintock.

Check out this year’s list and you’ll be sure to find something for everyone, from laugh out loud hilarity to non stop hockey action and super scary science fiction.


Tank and Fizz: The Case of the Slime Stampede


Oh no! The cleaning slimes at Gravelmuck Elementary School have escaped and are leaving destruction in their path! Principal Weaver is sure that Mr. Snag, the beloved school custodian, is to blame.  Tank and Fizz, a goblin detective and his troll friend Tank are equally sure that he is innocent and set out to prove it.  Don’t forget to read the pictures in this very funny and somewhat slimy mystery.


Last Shot


Bryan ‘Rocket’ Rockwood has been drafted into the OHL for his skills, not his size. He’s the smallest player on the team, and his teammates and coaches don’t ever let him forget it. Rocket has the determination and the skills to make it in the NHL, but can he earn the respect of the coaches and the other players? Or should he give up his dreams for good?



The Scorpion Rules


The world has changed. Cities have been destroyed and empires have crumbled. The planet is now ruled by a supercomputer who has dictated that all of the ruling families must provide a child to be held as a hostage until their 18th birthday to ensure that the world will remain at peace.  Going to war means the death of a hostage.  Duchess Greta thought she was prepared to die, until she meets Elián….


There’s a lot more where this came from! You can find these titles, along with all of the others on this year’s list, at any public library or on the Overdrive site. So don’t delay, start reading today! Voting will begin on March 20, 2017, and close at midnight Wednesday, April 12, 2017. All eligible students can vote at the Winnipeg public library of their choice.

Now, when I say MYRCA you say: “Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award!”



Teen Spirit

I fantasize about going back to high school with the knowledge I have now.
Spalding Grey

I was a teenager when I first started working at the library,  a long time ago in what feels like a galaxy far, far away. At that time, most of the grown-ups browsing in the Young Adult section were in search of something for their kids to read. Fast forward several decades, and that’s all changed.

These days, with the huge success of series such as Twilight and the Hunger Games, adults are reading teen fiction in unprecedented numbers. While YA novels are written with adolescent protagonists, the story lines and concepts hold a great deal of appeal for all ages. Look at John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars – the humour and pathos we experience with Hazel and Gus transcends their chronological age. There’s an added appeal for me as a reader  in that reading YA fiction is like boarding a time machine and going into the past. I can revel in re-living how I felt and thought at that point in my life, with the added attraction of knowing that I never have to attend high school again.

elanor and parkEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a book I would have loved when I was a teen, and that my inner adolescent still enjoys. The slowly unfolding relationship between Eleanor and Park that defies their parents and their peers is a romantic’s dream. The book is set in the 1980’s, so it gives a great hit of nostalgia for the music and fashions back in the day.


Cover image for Wildlings. Book one, Under my skinThe Wildlings series by Charles de Lint is great retroactive wish fulfilment for me. I remember yearning for the ability to morph into a totally different shape, and the teens in this series can do just that – change shapes from human to animal, and back again. But all is not sunshine and roses. The evil adults in the community are bent upon controlling the Wildings, and the teens are equally determined to remain free.

Cover image for The awakeningI’m a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld books, and her two YA series Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising gives the same thrills and chills, with ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night, as well as teen crushes and worries about how to fit in at school. If your version of high school includes Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is the series for you.

Cover image for We are all made of moleculesThere were a lot of great YA books published in 2015, but this one is one of my personal favourites. We are all made of molecules is the story of  two teens who move in totally different social circles at their high school. Stewart is a brainy, unpopular nerd, and Ashley scores high on popularity but low on grades. The two are forced to figure out how to interact with each other at home and at school when their parents move in together.

A good story is a good story, regardless of the age of the characters. Remember, Shakespeare’s Juliet was only 13 years old. So the next time you’re searching for a good book, have a look at young adult fiction and unleash your teen spirit.


Actual Conversation with Actual Tween about MYRCA

It’s spring break and while I am busy trying to renovate the bathroom, my tween is getting bored playing his same old video games.

“Can we go shopping for a new one?” he asks.

Well, “NO.”


I want to say: Can’t you see I am busy? But it comes out: “Because when I was your age, I had to use my imagination to entertain myself. Go read a book.”

Tween rolls eyes.

“Get the laptop and look up: www.myrca.ca. It’s the Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award. Reader’s Choice. You know, like the Teen Choice Awards… the one where they give out giant surfboards?”

A spark of recognition floats into the tween’s eyes.

“Well, you choose the winner, you! Not me, not your teachers, not the librarians, YOU!”

“That’s cool. I loved The Lightning Thief.”

The Emperor's Code

This is where I know I’ll lose him, but I valiantly try in spite of the drywall mud forming to a hard crust all over my hands.

“It’s a Manitoban award, the books are all Canadian. You can’t vote for The Lightning Thief because it’s not on the list.”

Tween sighs mournfully.

“You know, a lot of people read through a lot of books to pick the list, just take a look at it… See? You’ve already read all the 39 Clues; The Emperor’s Code is on there. Isn’t that the one where Dan gets lost in China and goes on tour with Justin Beiber?”

“It wasn’t Justin Bieber, he went on tour with his superstar cousin, Jonah Wizard.”


Dear George Clooney, please marry my mom

“Um, Mom, why is there water running down the stairs?”

As I run back the bathroom, I can hear the click clicking of the laptop keys.

“Hey Mom! Dear George Clooney is on the list, I’ve read that one too. Violet feeds cat poop to her baby twin sisters. It’s hilarious! Then she tries to get George Clooney to marry her Mom because she’s dating a man named Dudley Wiener!”

As he laughs hysterically, I wonder why, exactly, that is funny, but I am too busy mopping to care.  

“And my teacher had us do a project on The Adventures of Jack Lime. First he read it out to us in class and then we had to make a movie trailer.”

I come back downstairs to see my tween looking up books on the library’s website. I may not be a plumber, but I think I have this parenting thing down pat.

Adventures of Jack Lime

“Can we go to the library? It says I can vote anytime during spring break.”

“I have to drive your sister to Millennium for the Hunger Games party.   You can vote then.”

“Awesome. Can I call on Hunter now to see if he wants to make another movie trailer with me?”


“We can feed poop to his baby sister!”

As tween runs out the door with the video camera, I think to myself, maybe I should stick to renovations. It’s much easier.


Playlists for Books

The other day, I was sitting on the bus reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver on my iPod, while listening to Adele’s latest album 21.  The music was a perfect backdrop to the raw, emotional, and wrenchingly heartbreaking story of a dystopian world where love is treated like a disease.  Adele has described her own musical style as “heartbroken soul,” and when her amazing smash-hit Rolling in the Deep started to play, I couldn’t help but notice that the music and lyrics fit the tone of the book to a “T:” “we could have had it all….”

More and more, books and music seem to have this symbiotic relationship going on.  Of course, there are soundtracks to movies that are based on books, but nowadays, authors are also coming out with playlists for their novels.  Especially authors who write for teens.  Which makes sense, given the white earbud epidemic that seems to have spread among the adolescent population. 

One of the first YA authors to do this was Stephenie Meyer who created a Twilight playlist.  Meyer says that she can’t write without music and that the playlist is composed of the music she hears in her head while reading the book.  Mostly, it’s a collection of alternative rock (Coldplay, Muse, My Chemical Romance), and I think it works quite well.

Maggie Stiefvater has also created playlists for her novels Shiver and Linger.  Maggie says, “I have to have music playing non-stop while I write, or I can’t focus. All I can think about is doing laundry, taking a walk, making cookie dough, or laying on the floor. So I create focused playlists for each book, every song picked to reinforce the mood or help me through a scene.”  Stiefvater’s lists have that alternative feel as well, but its more Folk Festival than Rock on the Range with tunes from Rufus Wainwright and Fleet Foxes.  Fitting, nonetheless. 

I love this idea of pairing music with books (it’s almost as natural as cake & ice-cream, chips & dip or macaroni & cheese), and I think this only the beginning.  As ebooks become more mainstream, it seems only natural to listen to some tunes while reading a good book.  And hey, if it means I don’t have to listen to that crying baby on the bus while I’m trying to read, I think that’s a good thing.  Music most definitely has the power to influence mood, and it can really enhance your reading experience.  So why not put together your own book playlist, and see what you can come up with!?

Some other really cool book playlists?  John Green’s Paper Towns playlist, Becca Fitzpatrick’s Crescendo playlist, and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls playlist.

~ Lindsay