Teen books are hot with adults

I’m a teen services librarian and lately I’m delighted to find that I’m serving more and more adult patrons.  Many teen book virgins feel some trepidation, but there is no need, there is something for almost everyone in the Teen section. Teen books are often fast-paced reads, but don’t let that fool you: They are not simplistic. Teen publishing often seems more willing to take risks and is interested in challenging social conventions — just like teens! However, not all teen books are created equal, and just like books for adults there is lots of mass-produced crap.  Here are a few suggestions of some outstanding books in several genres. 

There is a trend of great speculative fiction happening in teen publishing. Most of whhunger-gamesich is not your space type Sci-Fi but more dystopias, scary government, anti-consumerism type stuff. One of my all time favorites in this (and any genre) is House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Set in a not-too distant future,  we meet El Patron, drug business king pin and one of the most powerful men in the world. He is well over 100 years old and his body is giving out, and that is where his teenage clone Matt comes in. But Matt has his own personality and consciousness even if his destiny is predetermined. Bleak, scary, all too realistic and great for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale or Brave New World

Think reality TV goes a little far? Try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. One male and one female teen from the 12 districts must be tithed yearly to a fight until death on a televised game show.  Think this has been done before? Think again. Collins creates a story full of surprises, action, and contemplative moments. Fair warning you will not be able to put this down! 

Fun for hipsters, geeks and nerds,  try these two smart and funny novels:
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Thought provoking, hilarious and feminist. You’ll wish you knew Frankie. Hell, you’ll wish you were Frankie.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green 
Sweet, dorky, road trip romance for those who love 16 Candles, High Fidelity or Say Anything

Some of the most beautifully written books in the teen section are from Europe and Australia. Many of them are marketed as “adult” books there, but “teen” books in the U.S.  

How I live now by Meg Rosoff is a short intense book that you will never forget. Setamar-by-mal-peet-book-covert in England during an attack by unnamed terrorists,15-year-old Daisy and her teen cousins try to survive on their own. It is as confusing, disturbing and heartbreaking as one might imagine it would be after a sudden breakdown in society. This war story focuses on desolation, hunger, longing, pain and an intense love story between two of the cousins.
Two very different novels about WWII are The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and Tamar by Mal Peet. The Book Thief, a book club favorite, is a heartbreaking tale of friendship set during the holocaust. Tamar is a road trip/mystery that follows Tamar as she searches for the secret of her name and tries to solve the mystery her grandfather’s past as a Dutch resistance fighter.  

Touching Snow by Sindy M. Felin, a National Book Award finalist, is the story of a first generation Haitian immigrant dealing with culture clashes, child abuse and her own sexual orientation in 1980s NYC. Not for the faint hearted but still a hopeful story that would be great for a book group.

If you’d like other suggestions for teen books (for teens or adults!), please email teencenter@spl.org.
    ~ Jennifer, Teen Center

Spring Break Fun for Teens at the Seattle Public Library

Hey Seattle area parents:wii-mii-beatle-by-megnut

Stuck at home this spring break with a teenager (or two) who’s got nothing to do? Well, you’ll be glad to learn that the Seattle Public Library is offering a number of cool programs for teens—and they’re all free! For example, the Northgate Library will be showing anime videos on Tuesday, March 31, and hosting an afternoon of open videogame playing (featuring Dance Dance Revolution and the Nintendo Wii) on Thursday, April 2 at the Northgate Community Center. Find more details about these programs at Push To Talk, Seattle Public Library’s blog for teens, where you’ll also find lots of great content created for and by teenagers including book reviews, information about free programs and events for teens around town, and other fun stuff.  

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg—to find out what’s happening at other libraries, visit the Seattle Public Library’s calendar of events for teens.  There will be open gaming at 3 different locations, a hands-on workshop in which teens will make wearable, recycled robots, and more! All library events are free and open to the public.

None of these programs appeal to your teen? Well, don’t forget that the library also has thousands of great teen books — check out our recommended reads for teens in all genres and the latest teen fiction and nonfiction books to be added to the collection. 

Here’s hoping you and your teens have a relaxing and fun spring break next week—at your local library!

Teen Books for Giving

Are you panicking because you have a teenager (or two) to shop for this holiday season? Never fear – Shelf Talk is here to help.  Hayden, Jennifer and I, three of Seattle Public Library’s Teen Services Librarians, read dozens of teen books all year long, and they’ve selected their favorites from 2008 just for you. Here’s our top 12 from 2008 (in no particular order):

Hayden’s picks:

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
You might get an awesome fairy, like the clothes-will-look-great-on-you fairy, or the every-guy-will-have-a-crush-on-you fairy. Or, like 14-year-old Charlie, you might get stuck with a really lame fairy, like the every-car-you’re-in-will-find-a-great-parking-spot fairy.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
This is the perfect book for every smart girl who sometimes feels like she’s not taken seriously.  Frankie is thrilled to be dating Matthew, a member of the all-male secret society of pranksters at her elite boarding school.  But when she realizes that Matthew and his friends just think of her as a cute plaything, she sets out to show them exactly how brilliant she really is.

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi
When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, 16-year-old Miles and his father end up stuck inside the nightmare world of the dark, stinking Superdome, where gangs of thugs prey on New Orlean’s most helpless citizens.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
It’s a few years in the future, and Jenna Fox has been in a coma for a year.  She doesn’t remember the accident, her family, or anything about her life before—even her own body seems strange.  And when her parents tell her to go to her room, she finds herself physically unable to disobey.  A page-turner!

Jennifer’s picks:

The Devouring by Simon Holt
For the supernatural/horror fans on your list. 13 year-old Reggie finds a handwritten journal about The Vours, supernatural beings that inhabit your body by feeding on your fear. Along with her best friend she jokingly calls them forth, but the person in the house who is most scared of the legend is her 10 year-old brother. When he starts acting very strange, she realizes she will have to face her biggest fears to save him. A quick, gripping, creepy read, and the first in a series.

What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson
A touching, hopeful book about heavy topics. 16 year-old Alex starts his junior year by attempting suicide. He is depressed, estranged from his popular jock brother, and dealing with his sexual orientation. When he makes the varsity cross-country team, and becomes friends (and more) with one of his teammates, he begins the process of healing, self discovery and learns there is a whole lot more to his life and his family than he believed.  

Runaways: Dead End Kids by Joss Whedon
What would you do if you found out your parents were super-villians with super powers? What if you found out you also had super powers? Meet the Runaways, a band of teens trying to figure out how the heck to use all their powers, right some wrongs and survive. This is the eighth graphic novel in the series and the first written by Joss Whedon (creator of the Buffy the Vampire TV and comic book series).

Revelations by Melissa De la Cruz (Third in the Blue Blood series)
Can’t get enough of Twilight? Then read this series. Schuyler Van Alen goes to an elite private school in New York City but does not really fit into the exclusive, Prada-wearing, party-hopping scene. That is until she realizes she really is one of them –  a non-human killing vampire. Now she must solve the mystery of the uber-vamps that are killing off her classmates before it is too late! 

Abby’s picks:

Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
Cousins Mariko (words) and Jillian (pictures) collaborated on this stunning graphic novel that explores first love, depression, sexual identity and the cruelty of teenage girls through beautiful Japanese brush-style drawings and the sardonic, self-deprecating voice of Skim, the not-slim, half-Asian, Wiccan teenage narrator. A great gift for anyone who enjoys coming-of-age stories and comics like Ghost World, Blankets or Optic Nerve.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Sixteen-year-old Katniss lives with her mother and younger sister Prim in the poorest of the twelve districts of Panem, a futuristic state built on the ashes of the United States. Every year, each district must send a boy and girl to the Capitol to fight each other to the death in a televised competition — the Hunger Games. When Prim is selected by lottery to compete, Katniss volunteers to take her place, and finds her wits, strength, courage and loyalty all severely tested as she struggles to survive. I couldn’t put this one down!

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
Sutter Keely is a few short months away from his high school graduation, but he has no future plans beyond getting his party on and seeing his beautiful fat girlfriend Cassidy. When Cassidy dumps him and Aimee, a quiet, shy girl, enters his life, his life takes a turn that even he never expected. An offbeat, funny and touching story about an imperfect but likeable teenager who knows that sometimes the only way to get through life is to fully embrace the weird. 

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
An entire town hides from its enemies inside a thrift-store handbag. Invisible wizards command a small village of children to do their bidding. A teenage poet digs up his girlfriend’s grave to get his poems back and finds a not-so-dead stranger in her place. These creepy, funny, bizarre and magical stories will worm their way into your heart and haunt your daydreams.

Looking for more great teen reads? Check out Push to Talk, The Seattle Public Library’s blog for teens! You’ll find book reviews for teens by teens and librarians here.

Okay, where is all the ‘free money’ for college?

I’ve always heard that there’s money for college—if you know where to look. My son still has three years until college, but recent headlines about tuition going up as the economy goes down (Cost of higher education heading up, Washington Post) and indentured college grads (Graduates drowning in debt from high cost of college, Seattle Times)  have me freaked out. I’m hoping to attend a free presentation, Scholarships and College Admissions, at the Central Library this Wednesday, November 19, at 6 p.m., featuring admission experts from Kaplan Test Prep. I’m most excited to hear Sam Lim, founder of Scholarship Junkies, an honors student at the University of Washington who received 18 (!) scholarships.  

I’m also keeping an eye on the College Prep articles and tips on Push to Talk, the Library’s blog for teens (and the people who like/love them). And I’m trying to not freak out.