Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Awesome indeed!

As Andrea says below, teen books are great ffun to read for adults as well as teens.  As additional prooff, I offer you The song of the Quarkbeast, by Jasper Fforde.  Fforde, who has written several series for adults, started a series for a younger crowd with The last dragonslayer.  In this sequel, you will find light spheres that run on sarcasm, additional references to marzipan as a controlled substance, and an enlightening and thought-provoking view on how trolls view the human species (on page 200), as well as the most delightful sentence I've read recently.

"She was so crabby, in fact, that even really crabby people put their crabbiness aside to write her gushing yet mildly sarcastic fan letters."


The song of the Quarkbeast

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I Geek Teen Books! I know we've talked about this before but I love young adult fiction. Always have. Always will. Rainbow Rowell's new book, Fangirl, had me up until well past 2 a.m., desperate to find out what happens to Cather in her first year of college. I laughed and cried and missed the characters when they were done. Cath and her twin sister Wren, so named because their mother couldn't be bothered to come up with two names (get it? Cather and Wren=Catherine), start their freshman year of college at the same university. Wren is both easygoing and outgoing. Cath is neither. Both have family baggage that comes with them to school. I loved the depth of this coming-of-age novel and the way I saw myself in every one of the characters at one moment or other. I wouldn't say I loved it as much as I loved Eleanor and Park but I can tell that I will be thinking about the characters for quite some time. And I will read it again soon, I'm sure.

Sometimes I meet people who are surprised at my love for teen fiction. "Shouldn't an adult read adult books?", they say. "Especially a librarian", they say. To that I say, "pffft!" So many adults are reading what you might call teen or young adult books. Do you know why? Because they are awesome. And there is depth and truth throughout. Also, they don't bog me down with details. I wish I could express it better than that but sometimes you just know what you like. 

It's different for all of us and it can be hard to define exactly what we like and why we like it. But know this.....Whatever you geek, KPL supports you! Love what you love and feel good about it! And let us help you find more of the good stuff! That's our job and we love it!


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park

One of my favorite things about reading a novel is when I come across one with characters so believable, so engaging, that I think about them for days after I’ve finished the book.  Eleanor and Parkwas just one of those books for me, and I nearly decided not to read it because it was labeled as young adult fiction.  Based on the recommendation of someone whose opinion I trusted, I put my teen lit prejudices aside and found I couldn’t put the book down once I had picked it up.  Eleanor and Park are sixteen in 1986, social outcasts, and falling in love over comic books and New Wave.  I’m certain I would have been friends with them in high school.

Tension in the novel arises from Eleanor’s home life—she lives in poverty with an abusive stepfather.  Her situation is a tough one, and it’s heartbreaking, but author Rainbow Rowell manages present her story in a realistic way without turning it into a schmaltzy after-school special.  I consider the absence of schmaltz a major feat since this is basically a story about two socially awkward teenagers falling in love for the first time, and it’s ripe with opportunities for sentimentality.  This book is good for anyone, teen or adult, who likes great character development.


Eleanor and Park

Missing May

Missing May is a bitter-sweet story about the after-effects of coping with the death of a most-beloved wife and stepmother named May. For many years May and Ob, her husband, a disabled Navy veteran, lived in Deep Water, West Virginia in a rusty old trailer. They were a childless couple until they met Summer, a distant relative who became parentless at the age of six, and who was subsequently “adopted” by May and Ob.

The story begins after May’s death. May was a very loving woman and both Ob and Summer grieve so desperately that they attempt to find May’s spirit. Cletus Underwood, a kid from Summer’s seventh grade class, befriends Ob and senses Ob’s despair. He tells Ob and Summer about a Spiritualist in a nearby county, so, Ob, Summer, and Cletus begin a quest to find The Reverend Miriam B. Conklin, Small Medium at Large. Do Ob and Summer find what they’re looking for to quell their sadness? You will discover the truth after reading this inspirational story that received the 1993 John Newbery Award.


Missing May


Looking for a great audio book? I loved the audio version of “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett. On a dark and stormy night (what else) in Victorian London, a young 17 year old man named Dodger happens upon a young woman who is being kidnapped. He rescues her, and being a young man who makes his living from the streets, knows how to survive and protect her. It fast becomes apparent that some very bad men are trying to get Felicity back. Whirlwind action, mystery and history combine to make great listening. I’ve listened to lots of audio books over the years, and the reader can make or break a story. The reader here does a great job, and sounds as though he’s thoroughly enjoying himself.

Pratchett has some real life people make appearances, such as Charles Dickens as a sharp newspaper reporter, and also Sweeney Todd, the famous barber murderer. Dodger interacts with them, in what Pratchett calls “historical fantasy.” It’s so well done that it seems perfectly natural.

I really enjoyed this audio version from start to finish, and hope Pratchett does a sequel, preferably soon!



Facts Schmacts

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion; however, everyone is not entitled to their own facts.”—Michael Specter, author of  Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives

“Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true. Facts schmacts.” –Homer Simpson


Now, I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy (unless the next guy is Jesse Ventura).  In fact, I recently watched a feature-length documentary that details all the crazy theories people have conjured up about secret meanings that Stanley Kubrick supposedly packed into his 1980 film The Shining.  One of these notions is that Kubrick used the Stephen King  adaptation to clandestinely confess that he helped NASA fake the moon landing in 1969.  It would be generous to call the “evidence” these theorists use to make their case for this a stretch: a boy wears an Apollo 11 sweater; a key chain that reads “ROOM No. 237” contains the same letters that one could use to spell “moon room.”  Of course, none of the theorists consider the thought that if they wanted to know if the moon landing happened or not, an old horror movie is probably not the place to go digging for evidence.  But this is just another example of the human tendency to choose one’s beliefs first and selectively scavenge for support second.  These folks are so convinced they are right, that they choose to ignore or deny any kind of actual, factual evidence that would contradict them.

This very conspiracy theory provides the title for the graphic nonfiction book How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial, in which author-illustrator Darryl Cunningham takes some of the most widespread—and often life-threatening—instances of science denial rampant in popular opinion today and presents the scientific evidence to refute them.  Using comic book panels and concise, well-researched information, Cunningham tackles topics like homeopathy, climate change and fracking, debunking the myths surrounding these issues and presenting the science in an accessible manner for both teens and adults.  It’s a quick read and I definitely recommend it to everyone, particularly if you are more likely to believe what Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy have to say about the vaccine-autism controversy than actual scientists.


How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial

Boom, Boom, Pop!

My kids attended a fine arts magnet school in Chicago. The great thing about this elementary school was that everyone danced. Dance was as big a part of the school day as gym. Most kids seemed to enjoy it. Mine certainly did, so when we moved to Michigan it didn't come as a surprise to me when my youngest asked if he could continue dance lessons. It started off good, especially with him being the only boy in the group. He got all kinds of attention from the girls and the instructors. When he walked into class everyone stopped what they were doing and said "Hi, Tommy". My problem was he was growing fast so he kept outgrowing his shoes. I got him through a couple of years by using his older brother's and sister's slippers and tap shoes. Then he outgrew those. It was time to face facts. Although, Tommy was still having a good time in dance and was learning a lot about movement, he wasn't that interested in the actual dance part of it. So, I did what most American moms would do. I bought him a basketball. Then he was a cool kid with a basketball.

Well, the teen book Panic by Sharon Draper is about a real dancer, Justin. Just like Tommy, Justin likes the female attention that comes from being a guy in a dance group. But, he also got a lot of not-so-good male attention for being 16 and liking toe shoes. The major difference between Justin and Tommy was that Justin could dance. He had real talent. Dance was his life. And even though the guys called him a fag he went "boom, boom, pop" with the Black Eyed Peas and that made it all worth it.

But the book Panic is not just about dancing. It's chucked full of teen life, including the scary parts. Sharon Draper has never hesitated to talk about the real life scary stuff, such as, bullying, bad relationships, abuse and abduction, trust and what it means to be a real friend. It's a tough read and although it's very realistic I'm glad it's fiction.



Flowers in the Sky

Flowers in the Sky by Lynn Joseph is a classic coming of age story set in Samana, Dominican Republic, and the promising land of New York. Fifteen year old Nina Perez must find the meaning and truth of life, love and self-image. Through her magical gift of gardening, she discovers that it is possible for flowers to grow anywhere; in the tropics, in the grit of New York City, in the sky, or even inside a heart.

Lynn Joseph’s writing style is real, at times lyrical and always engaging. This book definitely goes on the must read list for summer and beach reading. Enjoy!


Flowers in the Sky

Ship Breaker

For the month of April, I chose a teen title to blog about, and the one I picked was a lucky choice.

“Ship Breaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi is set on the United States Gulf coast following an unnamed apocalyptic event. It’s pretty much every person for themselves, and life is hard and cruel, although small communities have sprung up. Nailer, a teen age boy, is a scavenger of huge cargo tankers, along with crews of other young people who can fit into the small spaces of the ships to search for prized copper wire. A devastating hurricane upsets the already delicate balance of life, and after the storm has passed Nailer and a friend find a large passenger sailboat that has been wrecked. Amazingly, one person has survived, a teen age girl who claims to be from a very wealthy family. She says they will pay richly for her return- but does she really want to go back, and is she telling the truth?

What I really liked about this book was the imagined look at what life could be in the United States if there was a total breakdown of modern life as we know it. It’s a world where living by your wits and skills are the main keys to survival, and trust is not given lightly. “Ship Breakers” is a National Book Award finalist, and fortunately there is a sequel, which I definitely am going to read.


Ship Breaker

Still one of the best teen books!

Sixth grade was a big birthday year for me. My older sister gave me earrings with my birthstone and proceeded to pierce my ears, using the ice cube/potato/“match-sterilized needle” method, without our parents’ permission. Luckily my earlobes didn’t get infected, and I could hide the evidence from Mom and Dad till my earlobes had healed by keeping my longish hair down around my face.

That same birthday a friend gave me The Outsiders. This book rocked my world. I grew up in a smallish town, where the main social difference I knew to that point were country kids vs. town kids, and we didn’t fight. We just had different lives. I read the book over and over, and then again every few years into my 20s. I knew the first sentence by heart and thought it was cool how the author (S.E. Hinton) wrapped that sentence back into the last line of the book.

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” With this sentence, Ponyboy Curtis launches into an amazing story which just doesn’t quit. He’s about to get jumped by the Socs for being a greaser. The ‘Socs’ are the rich west-side kids, who hold beer blasts, drive fancy cars and jump ‘greasers’ for fun. Ponyboy, his brothers and friends, are ‘greasers,’ the poorer east-side kids. They have a reputation for robbing gas stations, holding gang fights and wearing their long hair greased back. But not all greasers are alike, and neither are all Socs, as Ponyboy learns, after a lot of violence, heartbreak and growing up.

I’ve recently been re-reading The Outsiders, and I can’t put it down. It still grabs my heart. It ranks in my memory right up there with The Pigman and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.


The Outsiders
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