Winter Teen Reading Challenge

Our annual Winter Teen Reading Challenge was a huge success.  In six weeks the teens read over 60 books.  They read about Harry Potter and his friends, Percy Jackson and the Olympians.  Quite a few were into the dystopian novels.  The Maze Runner series by James Dashner was ranked excellent. Of course The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins was another series that had a high rating.

1984 by Orson Wells, Holes by Louis Sacher and Freak the Mighty by W.R. Philbrick were rated excellent, with the notation *must read*.

It renewed my faith in the younger generation.  Teens are reading and they are enjoying some of my favorite authors.  There is nothing better to do on a cold winter night than curl up with a dystopian novel and realize how easy our life is!

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Our Chemical Hearts

Henry Page has attained his dream job for his senior year in high school, editor of the school newspaper.  His dream is shattered when he is told he will share the job with Grace Town.  Grace is a transfer student.  She dresses in oversized boys clothes, doesn’t seem to shower or wash her clothes.  She walks with a cane. Not anyone’s dream girl.  Unbelievably Henry finds himself falling for her.

Krystal Sutherland’s debut novel is a wonderful story of friendship, first loves and high school angst.  Murray and Lola have been Henry’s best friends forever.  The three stumble through senior year. They help each other through heart breaking break ups, hangovers, and missed deadlines.

The story of Henry and Grace is told with humor and heartbreak.  This is an excellent book for teens.  The novel presents dysfunctional families, teen drinking and gay relationships without judgment. I highly recommend it.

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Are teens reading for pleasure?

I meet with a group of teens each week.  This past week I asked them to look through the YA fiction section and list the books they have read and the books they would like to read.  After they finished perusing the shelves we had a discussion.

I asked what everyone was reading now.  One teen asked if I meant other than “school stuff” like Shakespeare? I told them I meant reading for pleasure.  No one was reading anything other than “school stuff”.  That made me sad.  Back in the Dark Ages when I was in high school, besides reading the required “school stuff” I always had a book going on the side. 

We moved on to discuss the books that they had read.  The overwhelming winners were Hunger Games, Divergent, and with the girls Twilight.  The discussion was illuminating.  How can I make the book collection more inviting I asked the group. What genre would you like to see in the collection?  Questions in this vein brought out that it wasn’t the collection it was them.  I don’t have enough time.  I’m reading what’s assigned. 

I’m dismayed but not discouraged.  I’ll continue to entice them blurbs about the wonderful books that I am reading. Perhaps someone will read a something other than “school stuff.”

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The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Hawthorn Creely, a friendless high school senior, finds herself at the center of the disappearance of a missing young woman.  Lizzie Lovett, a beautiful, loved by everyone former high school cheerleader, goes missing on a weekend camping trip with her boyfriend. 

Hawthorn becomes obsessed with the missing Lizzie.  She ponders wild theories about her disappearance as she eats lunch alone on the back steps of the high school.  Hawthorn’s best theory is that Lizzie became a werewolf.  Yes, that’s right a werewolf. 

You will love spending time with Hawthorn and her family in the small dying town of Griffin Mills, Ohio.  Her mother is a hippie, her dad is a college professor and her older brother is bummed because he didn’t get to play college football. 

Chelsea Sedoti has created a wonderful character in The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett that you will love spending time with.  Hawthorn makes you laugh and cry and know what it feels like to be different.  I highly recommend this novel for teens 14 and up.

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A Monster Calls

The yew is considered to be a potent tree. It  protects against evil, is a means of connecting to your ancestors, is a bringer of dreams and  journeys and a symbol of the old magic.

An ancient yew tree is a central character in the young adult novel by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls.  Colin’s mom often stares at the yew that sits on a hill and is framed in her window.  She tells Colin that the yew trees have a special power.

12:07 a.m. is when the monster calls. Colin awakes from a nightmare and then the monster comes.  Colin is coping with his mother’s treatments, his father’s new family and a bully at school.  A lot for a 13-year-old to cope with.

A Monster Calls  is an excellent mix of fantasy and reality.  With compassion, Patrick Ness shows Colin’s struggle with his frightening dreams and his life that is a nightmare.  I loved this book.  It is a book that should be read and discussed.  A Monster Calls is now a movie.  I recommend reading the book first.

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Poetry & Painting

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is usually a quiet time in the library. It is a great time to have a program for kids who are on holiday from school.  The kids need a break from all of the hype of Christmas and something that will stimulate their creativity.  What better than three days of writing poetry and watercolor painting.

Twenty-two kids signed up.  We talked about haiku, limericks, alliteration, rhyming and even onomatopoeia.  I used some wonderful books to read samples of all of the above.  The kids got it.  They did some very creative poems and used vocabulary other than “nice”, “good”, “pretty”.  The 90 minutes flew by each day.  The kids created their own book of poetry and art.

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Books for reluctant teen readers

A reluctant reader needs a book that has a  high interest subject, vocabulary that is easy to understand and should be less than 200 pages.  Here are some suggestions from the American Library Association.

  1. Glimpse by  Carol Lynch Williams. Recommended for ages 14-18.
  2. Blank Confession  by Pete Hautman . Recommended for ages 14-18
  3.   A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti. Recommended for ages 12-18.
  4. Scars  by Cheryl Rainfield . Recommended for ages 15-18.


  1. Some Girls Are  by Courtney Summers. Recommended for ages 12-14
  2. Riker’s High   by  Paul Volponi . Recommended for ages 14-16.
  3. Girl Stolen   by April Henry. Recommended for ages 12-16.
  4. The Duff  by Kody Keplinger Recommended for ages 14-18.
  5. One Hundred Young Americans   by Michael Franzini  Recommended for ages 12-18.
  6. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty byGreg Neri. Recommended for ages 15-18.



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