The time has come to vote for your top 10 favorite titles of 2015! Voting for the 2015 Teens' Top Ten is now open through Teen Read Week (Oct. 18-24). There are 24 titles to choose from or you can nominate your favorite book that didn't make the list. Not sure about some of these titles? Take a look at the book trailers to see for yourself.
It is said that there are very few heroines. This is true, for strength is a trait commonly reserved for men. Women on the other hand, are given traits like knowledge and beauty. But on one day, on the island of Crete, a baby girl was born. She was perfect in every sense of the word; exemplary, flawless, faultless. This was to be expected though; she was the daughter of two gods, Athena and Apollo.
Her name was Andreia. Athena and Apollo were inquisitive and questioned what their wonderful daughter would come to be known for.
Would it be strength like Hercules?
Bravery like Perseus?
Or would she take after her mother? For years they watched Andreia grow, fiercely training in combat and excelling in everything she did.
At the age of sixteen, Andreia was given her first set of armor which included the best crafted sword and shield made by Hephaestus himself. Apollo had already given her his gift years before: a beautiful lyre crafted with the love and pride of his heart. Andreia possessed her father's love and talent for music and was unquestionably beautiful like her mother. She had hypnotizing jade eyes and cascading hair the color of fire embers drifting through the empty night sky. She also showed tremendous strength and bravery like Hercules.
A few weeks later, Andreia came home from a long day of brutal training only to find her home engulfed in deep red-blue flames. Her house was engulfed in the hungry flames and her childhood memories flashed before her eyes. Full of rage, she assumed Hades was the culprit of the destruction. Her thoughts were confirmed.The sound of air snapping in on itself pierced the air as Hades returned to his realm.
Quickly, she was informed by Apollo that Hades had taken his precious golden lyre in a fit of jealousy, for he wished to be wanted and welcomed instead of being banished to the underworld. Doing this, Hades left both worlds - leaving gods and humans without music forever unless the lyre was returned.
In the middle of preparing for the journey to the Underworld Andreia confronted Apollo to ask if she could go in his place. He refused and told her she was too young and dainty for such a dangerous and tedious task. But Athena was lurking in the shadows listening in. She thought it wasn’t fair to keep Andreia from her first quest. And a great quest at that, as it was a once in a lifetime trip to the Underworld. She knew she had trained her daughter for a momentous occasion such as this, and felt that denying her this wasted the past sixteen years of training for the moment when she would depart on her first journey. Andreia was brave, strong and more than capable of protecting herself from danger to be able to come home safely.
For weeks, Apollo and Athena argued about whether or not she should go. Apollo was discouraging, telling Andreia that she would never be able to complete such a task, fearing he would lose his beloved daughter forever to Hades. Finally, Athena came to her senses and decided one night she would help Andreia on her first journey to retrieve the lyre without her father's permission
At dawn the next day she would set off equipped with her armor and the cloak of swiftness and silence to sneak past the gates of the Underworld.
At the gates to the Underworld she slipped on her cloak to slyly get past Cerberus: Hades’ three-headed, dragon-tailed beast of a dog. That was the easiest part and didn't require any work. Next she had to reach the center of the Underworld where she would find Hades. The only way to get to the core was to walk along Hades’ rivers. The first was the Cocytus River. It was also known as the River of Wailing, because the tormented souls that inhabited the Underworld lived in this river, constantly moaning in sorrow and pain. With two more rivers to go Andreia was already regretting the journey. She was mentally exhausted after spending hours listening to the souls. But determined to prove her father wrong she treaded on.
The next river was very common among the gods, known as the River of Hate or River of Styx. The Shades of the Underworld traveled by this river. Andreia was taught at a young age about the Shades. They are smoky versions of their former selves. They keep the negative emotions they died with, such as hate and anger. As Andreia passed the very last Shade, she heard a noise and smoothly and quickly unsheathed her sword, preparing for battle. When she turned around she saw Hades’ very own monsters. They were so dangerous he only needed two in order to protect the entire underworld. With fangs as deadly as a freshly sharpened sword and a flesh eating acid in place of saliva the monsters could kill almost anything in its path. The monsters towered over her, slime dripping from their blood red bodies. She tilted her head back to fully see them, it was then she remembered her lyre. Andreia pulled it from the chain around her neck and in the same motion and began to play a rhythm so fast and high pitched it caused even the great beats to collapse on the floor in fear.
Hades heard the ruckus and instantly appeared in front of her. He ordered his monsters to seize Andreia. They marched behind Hades to his dungeons. The monsters threw Andreia violently to the floor like rag doll. Hades knew what she wanted and like Athena forewarned her he offered her a deal. He told her she could leave without the lyre and she would leave on the same risky path she came. Or, she could be locked away in Tartus with the Titans for ten years and, if she survived she would be free to take the lyre back home to her father and he would personally escort her. She decided it was too late to turn back and took Hades’ offer of spending ten years with Titans.
Hades was thrilled she chose his devious option. He confiscated all of her weapons, armor and lyre and took her down to the depths of the underworld, to Tartus, and bound her in the same bitter chains the Titans were eternally bound in. Once Hades was sure Andreia was secured, he traveled to find Athena and Apollo and silently gave them the gifts they had given their daughter only months before. He left with an arrogant smirk before any questions could be asked. Apollo was enraged; his stormy words tore through the sky as he blamed Athena for the death of their daughter.
For the next ten years Andreia was tortured but to her it was worth it as long as she got to bring the lyre back to her father and make the gods proud. The entire time Andreia was in Tartus her parents believed her dead and did not speak a single word each other because Apollo was still angry and resentful because towards Athena for her seemingly naive decision.
At last, after ten years of suffering for all involved, apart from the one behind it all, Andreia was released. With the skin around her wrists and ankles burned, cut and bruised from the chains Hades took her home to Crete. He had since been exiled from the island and could not return so instead of taking her directly to her house, he left her at the edge of the island with only a sword and the lyre she worked so hard for. Once again he left with an all knowing smirk.
She was left to trudge home, the blackness of the night concealing everything around her. Carefully she felt before taking each step, halfway home she sat down to rest her tired legs. The sun was beginning to rise, covering the earth with a pale pink blanket. Taking in her surroundings, she saw a serpent like head slowly rise up, then two, then three. They rose up and up and up. Recognizing it has the Lernaean Hydra, she realized why Hades was wearing his signature smirk; he had summoned the hydra here. Knowing the only way to kill it was to plunge the sword deep into its throat without touching or inhaling its poisonous breath, she contemplated how to go about slaying it.
Andreia charged at it with sword in hand and leaped up to put the sword down its throat but instead sliced off one of the heads. In its place grew two more. The creature reeled all four heads back and swept them in her direction, knocking her off of her feet and throwing her into a tree cutting up the side of her face. Blood dripping down her face and neck and anger boiling her blood, she charged at the monster once again determined to hit her target this time. She was not about to let a glorified snake get in her way after coming this far. As she felt the sword slip down the throat of the first head, she jumped back and watched the body fall with a thud that shook the ground. Proudly she stomped away from the body and sprinted the rest of the way home.
Around noon she arrived home beaten, bloody and bruised. Her father was facing away from her when she first saw him. Quietly she snuck up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around she presented him with the lyre at last. He pulled her into a hug, relieved she was not dead and proud of her for completing her first quest. She had successfully returned music to the worlds.
If you're interested in learning more about Greek Mythology check out the library's Gods, Goddesses and Mythology database.
Image Credit Giorgos~ on Flickr.
In a broken world
Grey and void of hope
Tears hit the dust
For they are no more
Many are hopeless
They can’t see the light
But as for me
I see differently
For I see rainbows in the road
Made from the dust of dreams
Dropped from the minds and thoughts of those
Who left them all behind.
I see memories
All but forgotten
Just a small taste
Of what it once was
Hopes long abandoned
Dropped into the dirt
And as for me?
I see differently
For I see hope that will not die
No matter where it lies
Given back to all the people
This is where it will thrive
Image Credit: Laura D. Whitehead on Flickr
Everyone has certain core traits that can be used to describe them at any point in their life so far, and likely will be continue to being a key part of their personality. Some people are kind, or funny. Some people are bossy. Some are athletes or artists. Others are animal lovers. I am a reader. I have read more books that I care to admit, and if there is such a point of reading too much, I have reached it. I was the kid who would stay up way past their bedtime with a good book. I was the kid who would get grounded from reading. However, I don't own all that many books. I go through so much material that it has never made any sense for me to buy books, because they last me maybe a week. So, any of the books that I own are books that I have loved so much that I needed to have on my shelf, either to reread and reread and reread again, or to give to my friends to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to read these books.
I tell you all of this because it is difficult to put into just a few words how spectacular these next two books are.
The first one is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. This one starts out with Charlie, getting ready for his first year of high school, writing letters in his journal to a friend. This friend isn't real, in the strictest sense. He is someone that Charlie has invented who will just listen to him, and understand him, because "[he] needs to know these people exist." This creation of this partial friend gives the book a completely honest feel--all of Charlie's emotions, everything he is going through, it is laid out for you to see. He is lonely, lost, and confused. And every single ounce of those emotions, you feel it. And you feel his joy, and desire to fit in, when he meets Patrick and Sam, two seniors, who teach him about music and friendship. This book is about growing up and learning who you are. It's about music and literature and life and love. It goes through his first year of high school, and to me, it is just one of the best books ever written. And, though I cannot believe that I am about to say this…the movie actually does the book justice. Part of that is due to the strong musical component, which comes across much better on a screen, and the other part is because I adore Emma Watson. This is a book for anyone who is starting high school, especially if you have ever felt like an outsider. TRIGGER WARNING: this book goes into some heavy topics, which is half of what makes the book as amazing as it is, but if you are sensitive, I might stay away from this book.
The second book is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This is lighter than Perks, so I love it in a completely different way. Without a doubt, out of every single book that I have ever read, this one resonates with me the most. Center to the story lays Cath, a girl starting her freshman year of college with her twin sister, who has been her best friend and partner in crime for years. But, suddenly, Wren doesn't want to be her roommate, and worse, doesn't really seem to share their lifelong interest in the Simon Snow books, about a young boy who goes to wizarding school. When I read this book, I happened to be a freshman in college, where all of my friends had gone off, and I stayed close to Lakewood. I might, perhaps, also share a certain obsession with Simon Snow, I mean Harry Potter. So, this book means a lot to me on a personal level. However, it cannot be said that this is the only reason that Fangirl is an amazing book. For one, Rainbow Rowell is a phenomenal author. She writes characters that I automatically fall in love with, and creates relationships that are beautifully real. From Cath's strange roommate (and based on stories from my friends, those are really the only kind) to Cath's inability to leave her room for dinner, so she ends up living on energy bars, this book is funny. But because of her relationship with her sister, her father, her mother, the book has its serious notes. Honestly, this book is perfection, and I am not doing nearly a good enough job at telling you why you should read it. But, as an added incentive, Rowell is writing Carry On soon, the last book in the Simon Snow series. This will be a treat to anyone who loved Fangirl, which, in my opinion should be everyone who has read Fangirl, and anyone who is unusually obsessed with stories about wizarding schools (meaning most everyone who has read Harry Potter).
So, whether you are going to high school or college for the first time, or simply want a good book to start off the school year, there is no doubt in my mind that The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Fangirl are two of the best books for those purposes, or really just for reading.
The second annual Teen Fandom contest was a success! A number of teens released their inner fanboys/girls through these creative projects. Did you miss the contest? Here are some of the entries we received:
Nowadays, there are many types of social media out there. From Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, Snapchat and Vine…there are too many to name! There is however, one that practically rises above all: YouTube. There are many people who you will see and hear on a daily basis via YouTube. For example, on January 22 YouTubers got to talk with the President of the United States while he was in the white house. In addition, YouTube personality Tyler Oakley has interviewed many celebrities on the red carpet.
I could go on and on about my YouTube obsessions with people like Jenna Marbles, Pewdiepie, AmazingPhil, and Danisnotonfire. But there are people on the internet who actually make a difference in the internet community. For example, people like Joey Graceffa, Tyler Oakley, Troye Sivan, Connor Franta and Hannah Hart all embrace their true selves. They all have one thing in common too: They all have come out of the closet and told the world that they’re gay, and they help others with things like self-confidence and becoming yourself. There are some people like Markiplier, who have live stream charities to help with a variety of things like Alzheimer's and children's hospitals of America.
A lot of people just think the internet is a dark place that makes it impossible to accomplish anything in a day, but really it has made a change on the world. YouTube has even changed lives. From last year’s "ice bucket challenge" to this year’s sketchy "charlie, charlie challenge" to the famed "Harlem Shake", YouTube has made a huge effect on the world. You tube can be accessed all over the world, from the United States to the United Kingdom, to Australia and even Japan. The internet is an amazing place where you can learn anything, like how to cut a watermelon, but really it’s just a place like no other.
To learn more about these YouTube stars check out these books:
In real life: my journey to a pixelated world, by Joey Graceffa
BINGE, by Tyler Oakley
A work in progress: a memoir, by Connor Franta
Image Credit: Katie Killary on Flickr
There is something about putting your sunglasses on, hopping in a car and driving that just says summer. The music, of course, must be blasting. This means if you are listening to the eighties music that your dad puts on (seriously, I don't think I know anyone else, except perhaps my brother, who had whole albums of KISS and Lynyrd Skynyrd music memorized before they hit the fourth grade), or country music, which, to me anyway, is practically created for the sole purpose of road trips. Even if you are not a country music fan, go on a road trip, find a country station (there will be at least one if you have half a radio signal) and just try listening to it. But you have your music, possibly a good friend and the road.
And, while there is something so beautifully summer about road trips, it is also an indisputable fact that there is also something inherently literary about road trips. I speak of course, of the undeniable metaphor that exists in road trips or even just trips in general. You know, the whole "it's not the destination, it’s the journey" sort of thing that likely appears on lots of cross-stitched pillows. But, while I may jest, there does in fact lay a kernel of truth. Many authors use these literal journeys to parallel metaphorical ones. The perhaps most obvious example would be Jack Kerouac's On the Road. (I would say more here, but I confess I have managed to let this sit on my to-be-read pile for far too long. But it is literally about a road trip and a quest for self-knowledge. Even if I had read it I think my point would be made). Another classic literary example is John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. I did read this one. And I really wish I hadn't. It is my own personal opinion that if you actually loved this book, you are either a) an English teacher or b) a librarian. No mean to cause offense but this might literally be the book that I have liked the least of all of those that I have finished. But I digress, in the tale of the Joad's trip to California; there are undeniable themes of growth and starting over. For another, more contemporary example of road trips, we find John Green. He seriously loves his metaphors. Paper Towns has the most obvious road trip, and he has stated in one of his vlogs that he likes road trips because "they are a really good metaphor." (He has literally two thousand vlogs, so I really cannot point to which one, exactly this came from. But I promise it's there. Also, it may have been the inspiration for this post).
Without a doubt, road trips are deeply entrenched in the metaphors of finding yourself. But they are also light and fun, very summery. So, here are a few of my favorite books that feature a road trip:
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Okay, so this one is a not quite a traditional road trip. It starts when a girl gets a letter, or rather thirteen letters, in the mail from her aunt. Getting mail from aunts is a fairly normal thing, even if the number of letters isn't. But Ginny's aunt had died a while ago of brain cancer. And the first letter sends her off to London with nothing much more than a little bit of money and some vague instructions. From there, Ginny is sent on crazy adventure all around Europe just trying to follow her crazy aunt's instructions. This is a terrific read, and wonderfully fast paced, and it is light and funny, although it does have its serious moments. I most definitely give this (and actually all of Johnson's other books, really) five out of five stars.
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
This one is a little more serious than Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. A while before the start of the book Amy's father died in a car crash and now the remainder of the family is packing up and moving cross-country. So, it is a road trip from California to Connecticut for Amy as soon as she finishes the school year with old family friend, Roger, to meet up with her mom. As you can guess by the title, things don't exactly go as planned. Filled with great detours, including a quick visit to Yosemite, an ill-advised trip through the desert, and a stop at Graceland, this book also tackles some more serious topics like the death of a parent and a brother who is in rehab. Really, as the road trip seems to imply it is all about picking up and moving on with your life, even when something catastrophic happens. It is equal parts light and serious and it is a wonderful book. I give this one 4.5/5 stars.
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
I'll be honest with you; it has been a really long time since I have read this book. But I do remember a tall girl who worked at a local shoe store, run by an old woman who, for some strange reason decides to enlist this random sixteen year old employee to drive her across the country to some conference in Texas (probably) in order to prevent the sale of her shoe-store empire to some corporate monster. And really, whenever you put an old lady in a car for an extended period of time…you know funny things have to happen. When I read this I most definitely gave the book a 5/5 stars. However, because it has been a while I will give it a 4/5 stars, just in case my past self was nicer about book ratings than my current self was (because I totally was). In any case, I hope you enjoy this one as much as I remember enjoying it.
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
Out of these four books this one is arguably my favorite. As with most of the other books it starts with the death of a close family member; in this case, Honor's brother, who was killed in Iraq. And, as in Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, Honor receives a letter from her brother several days after his funeral. It contains tickets to a concert in California and seeing this as a last request she decides she has to go. So, armed with nothing more than her brother's Impala, her brother's (still slightly drunk) former best friend and her trusty red cowboy boots, Honor sets off. (Have you noticed that so many of these books started with dead family members? I think that it's because the road trip is essentially the grieving process, all tied up into one nice literary package. Also, many of these books have very interesting passengers. Because there needs to be some humor in these books that start with such a morbid beginning. Really, to me it is not just the deaths, or the comic relief, that makes these books, but the ways in which the authors combine them to create fun books that also border on the serious. In all honesty, that's why I love road trip books). Without a doubt, I give this book 5/5 stars. Even if it doesn't seem like something you'll like, its only about two hundred pages, so it's not much of a time risk, even though I promise that it is worth it.
And that's all for now. Hopefully you decide to try out one or more of these books, or even go on a road trip of your very own. After all, reading and road trips…isn't that what summer is all about?
I gaze in awe
At the abundance
Of such unique works of art.
Each totally different,
Created by the same ocean,
But a separate pound of a wave.
I pluck a single shell
From my feet
Mesmerized by the shape:
The smooth curves,
Made by a violent throw;
The bleached white
That was once full of color.
This small fragment
I hold in my hand -
Once a creature’s home -
Has been cared by the hand of Nature
To look like some sort of rose.
It swirls into itself,
Spinning and twirling
Image Credit: Annette Simpson on Flickr
Book Basics Title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Published: 2012, Amulet Books
Genre: realistic fiction
Star Rating ★★★★ Buy It
Short Summary- Greg Gaines is “casually friendly” with almost all the social groups in his Pittsburgh high school. He’s not really friends with anyone, except Earl Jackson, his “co-worker”, whom he makes mediocre movie re-creations with. This way of life suits Greg just fine, until his senior year of high school when his mom forces him to hang out with a classmate (with whom he has a painfully awkward history with) who’s just been diagnosed with leukemia, Rachel Kushner. This, of course turns Greg’s entire world upside down, as a forced friendship evolves into a genuine one.
What I Liked- This is an insanely hilarious book. It’s not your stereotypical cancer book: the characters don’t fall in love, and the relationships between them are cringe-worthy awkward. But this is why I liked the book so much. It’s real. It’s an accurate portrayal of the struggle of fitting in in high school, overly involved parents and the depressing void that is cancer. The narrator, Greg, is in no way perfect yet the reader finds themselves wishing they knew him in real life because of his weird (some might say twisted) sense of humor and relatable philosophies on high school life. All the characters were very well developed and delightfully quirky.
What I Didn’t Like- There was very little that I didn’t like about this book. The language was, at times, profane and somewhat excessive, I thought. A lot of the humor in the book is pretty profane as well. Also, I felt the female character, the dying girl (Rachel) was under-represented and probably could have been featured for a larger portion of the book.
In Conclusion- This is not your average teen-with-cancer book. In fact, that’s what it makes it so great: it stands in a category of its own. The hilarity and awkwardness of this book is what makes it so awesome: it’s relevant, poignant, and real. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is relatable yet unique and enjoyable for teens and adults alike.
Read It Before You See It- The movie adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl wowed at its Sundance Film Festival debut, winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. It’s out in theaters everywhere now, but I had the chance to attend an advanced screening when the library took JCPL Teens earlier in June, and I have to say: if you liked the book, you’ll love the movie. It’s equal parts humor and heart and will keep you in tears of laughter and emotion throughout the entire movie. Though the cast doesn’t feature a lot of recognizable names, the three main characters (Thomas Mann plays Greg, RJ Cyler plays Earl and Olivia Cooke plays Rachel) did an excellent job portraying their fictional selves. I also had the chance to meet Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler, and they were as quirky in real life as they were onscreen. As for how the book and movie compare, the book is (as it usually is) better, but the plot line is followed fairly closely and the unique narration style from the book is expertly placed in the movie. It’s a great movie, and I highly recommend it whether you’ve read the book or not. (But seriously, read the book first. ;)) You can watch the trailer here.
Also, if you liked this review check out my blog for more book reviews and recommendations!
NOTE FROM JCPL TEENS STAFF: We're giving away 28 Me & Earl & the Dying Girl lunch bags for part of our Summer Reading weekly prize drawing this week! Log your Summer Reading minutes before midnight on Thursday for a chance to win!
Image Credit: Caitlin, Teen Contributor