Groundhog Day, Teenage Style

When I was young, I would hear my mother and her friends recounting their high school days. And not in a ‘remember the good old days of high school’ kind of way. Anybody who says high school was the best four years of their lives is obviously drug addled and should not be trusted. But the one thing I would hear over and over was “If I could go back knowing what I know now…..”

A few years after high school I would start saying the same thing. 22 years after graduating high school, I still have nightmares that I’m back in school but I’m 39. I can’t remember my locker combination, I haven’t done any homework for three months, and I’m starting to get that ‘I’m not going to graduate’ panic. Then I realize “I’m 39 years old. I don’t need my algebra book. These people can’t tell me when or if I’m going to graduate.” And then I wake up relieved and go to work where it’s a different kind of high school experience, but this time I get paid for it.

I love YA books and I don’t really know how to explain it. If anything, I’d rather have credit card debt than be 17 again. But there are times while reading a young adult novel that I’ll think: If I had to do it all over again, go back knowing what I know now, I could really incite a riot. I’d tell that smug AP English teacher who didn’t think I was a good writer to shove it. I’d tell the misogynistic vice principal that he wasn’t General Patton. I’d tell that one girl….well, I’d tell her everything she needed to know.

In Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall Samantha Kingston gets a do-over but not in a good way.

Samantha is a part of the most popular girls clique in high school. She’s gorgeous, has a beautiful boyfriend, and is in the prime of her life. Samantha used to be a nerd who loved to ride horses (which I don’t really understand how that makes her a nerd but whatever) but then focused on becoming popular. Her group of friends aren’t the nicest people but they’re her best friends and she would do anything for them. On Friday, February 12th, Samantha and her gang go to a house party and Samantha plans to go all the way with her boyfriend for the first time. Do people still say ‘all the way?’ Losing your virginity sounds kind of like you set it down on a shelf at Target and then walked away only to go try and find it an hour later.

Anyway, everyone is at this party and they are so drunk my own liver was starting to ache. Samantha and her friends have been drinking for hours and they decide it’s time to motor. The four of them get into a car (I know. How stupid can they be? They’ve been drinking and they get behind the wheel.) It’s icy out, they’re all feeling pretty good, the radio’s blasting and then they get into a car crash. Samantha, sitting in the passenger seat, is supposed to die.

She wakes up the next morning thinking the entire thing was a nightmare. Until the day starts playing out exactly as it did the day before, people say the same things they said before, and her classes are exactly the same as the day before. Samantha’s feeling really off but decides to go with it. She goes to the same party that night and everything happens again. She wakes up the next morning to the same day. She’s officially freaked out.

And this keeps happening.

Until she figures out she needs to start making changes. She starts off with little things and they don’t make a difference. And then she realizes she’s going to have to go big and make changes that will affect everyone.

What starts off as a seemingly regular YA book turns out to be a look inside (and you guys know how much I hate delving inside and inspecting my feelings too much) to see what we’d do not only to save others but also the sacrifices we thought we’d never have to face.

The Female of the Species

This is how I kill someone.

I learn his habits, I know his schedule. It is not difficult. His life consists of quick stops at the dollar store for the bare minimum of things required to keep his ragged cycle going, his hat pulled down over his eyes so as not to be recognized.

But he is. It’s a small town.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for opening lines. The above quote, which opens Mindy McGinnis’s The Female of the Species, is narrated by Alex Craft, a teenager in a small Ohio town hit hard by recession and harder by opioid addiction. The soon-to-be-victim that Alex is stalking is the man who abducted, raped and killed her older sister three years prior. Due to a lack of evidence, police cannot make charges stick. Thus, the killer walks free until Alex takes ferocious justice into her own hands.

femalespeciesAmazingly, in a small town with no secrets, Alex gets away with murder. People are satisfied that a vigilante “made things right,” and the killer’s death evolves from recent crime to urban legend. But for Alex, this act of savage violence bears its own costs. Though she feels no guilt, she remains overcome with rage and views herself as deeply damaged. To protect others and herself, Alex withdraws, keeping to herself whenever possible. However, during her senior year of high school two classmates threaten her seclusion. Peekay, the local preacher’s daughter and Jack, the closest thing the town has to a golden child, are both drawn to Alex and determined to bring her into their lives. As Alex begins to care for Peekay and Jack, she feels a fierce need to protect them, bringing her anger back to the surface with explosive and violent effects.

At times, The Female of the Species is deeply upsetting. McGinnis does not shy away from uncomfortable subjects including addiction, sexual assault, rape culture, and the unequal expectations society places on young men and women. McGinnis gives her characters the voice to skewer hypocrisy with devastating precision, as when Alex observes: “But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.”

The Female of the Species rewards readers willing to grapple with these difficult issues by masterfully blending genres. McGinnis seamlessly maintains the intensity of a psychological thriller while incorporating elements of a contemporary coming of age story and flirting with classical tragedy. As the story unfolds, told from the alternating perspectives of Alex, Peekay and Jack, Alex is revealed to be an incredibly complex young woman whose intensity, ferocity and loyalty are equally mesmerizing and terrifying.

Best of 2016: Young Adult Fiction & Graphic Novels

We continue our daily coverage of the Staff Picks Best of 2016 List with our choices from young adult fiction and graphic novels. For a full list check out the Library Newsletter.

Young Adult Fiction

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Running Girl by Simon Mason
Garvie Smith is 16 with a genius level IQ, who cannot be bothered with school; he smokes and hangs out with the bad boys. But when 15 year-old Chloe Dow is murdered, Garvie comes up against the ambitious D.I. Singh–and both are determined to solve the murder.

I was so ready for a mystery I could devour, and was surprised to find myself flying through this page-turner. Garvie is an unlikeable main character, but that was actually part of his charm. If that doesn’t make sense, you need to read this! -Carol’s pick

As Old as Time by Liz Braswell
What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast?
That tagline was all I needed to know–I had to read this book, so that’s all I’m giving you.

I read this fresh take on “Beauty and the Beast,” one of my favorite tales of all time, completely in one day (literally could not sleep until I’d read the last page). -Carol’s pick

Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley
Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

A dystopian novel for those (like me) who dislike dystopian novels. I was so invested in Blanca’s story that I didn’t want it to end. The author will be here in 2017 as part of Everett Reads! So read this while you can! -Carol’s pick

A Study in Charlotte: a Charlotte Holmes Novel by Brittany Cavallaro
Charlotte and Jamie, descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and students at a Connecticut boarding school, team up to solve a murder mystery.

Anything relating to Sherlock Holmes is always a sure bet with me. What made this book stand out was how real the characters felt and how the author handled addiction. -Carol’s pick

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Dreamology by Lucy Keating
Experiencing dreams about her soul mate all of her life, Alice meets the real boy, Max, when she moves to a new school and finds that their real relationship is more complicated than their dream one.

I’ve always been obsessed with the fantasy that you could dream about real people without having ever met them, and maybe even communicate with them in the dream. This book explores that idea, with a twist you won’t see coming. -Carol’s pick

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Every day in chemistry class Lily Abbott is finding notes left to her by a mystery boy, love letters really, and she hopes they are from Lucas, her crush. So when she finds out who really wrote them, she’s shocked and unsure about how to respond.

I used to pass notes when I was younger, and so I’m predisposed to enjoy stories like this. While high school tropes abound, I was surprised at the twist at the end and want a re-read. If you want to swoon, read this book! -Carol’s pick

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
Eden is a freshman in high school when her brother’s best friend sneaks into her room at night and rapes her, turning her life upside down. She knows she should tell someone but the time is never right, so she attempts to deal with it on her own.

Eden’s efforts to toughen herself and test her level of damage by experimenting with an older boy ring true and accurate. Told in four sections that represent her four years of high school, Eden’s story, all too common, is so important to hear. -Elizabeth’s pick

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
Tessa travels back to her childhood hometown to visit her father who is very ill in prison, but instead gets entangled in a murder mystery in which she played a part 10 years before. Did she and ex-friend Callie help convict the wrong man?

In addition to plenty of suspense and mystery, I enjoyed Tessa’s seemingly average character who, despite her challenging past, shows real determination to once and for all learn the true identity of the Ohio River Monster. -Elizabeth’s pick

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The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron
Every 12 years, the settlers of the colony of Canaan lose their memories. Otherwise, life on their beautiful planet would be almost perfect.

I’m always on the lookout for unique science fiction for teens. Something that varies from the current dystopian “formula.”  -Emily’s pick

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Solomon, a teenager with severe anxiety and agoraphobia has figured out what he needs to do to survive— never leave the house. It’s all going fine until Lisa bursts into his life, bent on helping Solomon, and winning a college scholarship in the process.

This novel manages to tell a very funny coming of age story about friendship, love, and all the awkwardness of being a teenager while also talking about mental illness in a respectful and enlightening manner. -Jesse’s pick

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Nix has the power to sail anywhere: to the future, the past, and even into mythical worlds. Now she must decide whether to help her father sail back in time and save her mother’s life, even if doing so might threaten Nix’s very existence.

This book has such a fresh, creative premise. It is a joy to slowly unpeel the layers of Nix’s past in this story that is one part swashbuckling adventure and one part historical mystery. -Jesse’s pick

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
A struggle between a tyrannical empire and a rebel army, who are separated by blood. The sequel to an equally compelling series beginner, Glass Sword showcases the best and worst of people in the tragedies of war, in ways both honest and heart-wrenching.

Amazing characters, engaging plot, and it takes place in a truly unique world. 10/10 would recommend. -Sammy’s pick

Young Adult Graphic Novels

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Giant Days by John Allison
Best friends Susan, Esther, and Saisy are rounding out their first semester at university where they find out college is more than academics. Add pub-hopping, hookups, breakups and political scandal–this might be the most eventful semester ever.

The ongoing saga of friendship and personal discovery with laugh-out-loud humor (or humour, since John Allison is English) never fail to impress me and capture my undivided attention. If you’ve never read a comic book, start at volume 1 and thank me later! -Carol’s pick

Goldie Vance by Hope Larson
Goldie wants to one day become the in-house detective at the resort where she lives with her dad, the manager. When the current detective encounters a case he can’t crack, he agrees to mentor Goldie in exchange for her help solving the mystery.

Goldie is the girl I always wanted to be: she gets to work with her best friends, drive other people’s cars (she’s a valet), and solve mysteries on the side. Mix adventure, mystery, and a dash of 1960s Florida– Welcome to the Crossed Palms Resort! -Carol’s pick

Patsy Walker aka Hellcat Volume 1: Hooked on a Feline by Kate Leth
Patsy Walker returns to the spotlight in her first solo ongoing series since the 60s!

I know literally nothing about the old-school Patsy Walker. But I do know that our modern lady works as a PI for lawyer She-Hulk and fights crime as Hellcat. There are tons of fun and puns thanks to legend Kate Leth. Lighthearted and witty– pick this up today. -Carol’s pick

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
In this standalone story, Squirrel Girl will encounter her most unbeatable, powerful, and dangerous enemy–herself!

If you haven’t read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, this is your chance to try it out without having to know what’s what. Funny and outrageous, Squirrel Girl will leave you in stitches. -Carol’s pick

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One-Punch Man by ONE
An ordinary guy decides to be a hero and discovers that he can defeat anyone with just one punch. Unfortunately, no one takes him seriously or believes that he got his powers by sticking to a simple training routine.

The series uses a lot of deadpan humor and is very self-aware. Each volume is a very quick read (20-30 minutes maximum), which for me, is a definite plus. -Zac’s pick

Birth of Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki (translated by Zack Davisson)
This volume introduces Kitaro and includes a few additional stories in a very accessible format. Kitaro, created in the late 1960s and a mainstay in Japanese culture, exists in a world of Japanese folklore.

The detail and explanation of yokai and Japanese folklore is both entertaining and highly informative. Mizuki’s storytelling is a treat for readers of all ages. -Zac’s pick

Best of 2015: Teen Fiction & Graphic Novels

We continue our Best of 2015 list today with the ever popular category of fiction and graphic novels for teens. Don’t let the teen label throw you. Plenty of adults love these titles as well.

Fiction for Teens:

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Madly by Amy Alward

When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure!

Magic, mystery, romance–what’s not to love? The world has magical rules that are vague enough to be believable, and I loved meeting another strong female heroine. Sam Kemi will be back in book 2–can’t wait to see what happens next! -Carol’s pick

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

After her parents’ divorce, Zoe Webster moves from Brooklyn to upstate New York where she meets the weirdly compelling misfit, Philip Digby, and soon finds herself in a series of hilarious and dangerous situations as he pulls her into his investigations.

The fast-paced adventure was only surpassed by the quick wit. And I haven’t looked it up yet, but reading the ending makes it obvious that a sequel demands to be written. Or at least I am demanding one. I picked this book up on a whim, and I’m so glad I did. -Carol’s pick

Reawakened by Colleen Houck

A visit to an Egyptian exhibit brings teen Lilliana Young face to face with a recently awakened mummy-turned-handsome-sun-god as she gets caught up in an adventure with more twists and turns than the Nile itself.

This book brings ancient Egyptian mythology into the modern age in an engrossing way. Liliana’s journey, both around the world and inside her heart, is a fast-paced adventure that kept me on the edge of my seat. -Carol’s pick

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Fifteen-year-old Caden Bosch is traveling against his will on a ship bound for the deepest part of the ocean with an evil captain and trickster parrot. Or is it that he’s slipping from his typical teenage life into the depths of madness?

By switching back and forth between the real and imagined stories, Shusterman expertly propels the reader into Caden’s mind and its swirling, confusing, and terrifying thoughts. Brendan Shusterman’s drawings add greatly to the chaos. -Elizabeth’s pick

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Messy, earthy Agnieszka expects to lose her friend to “The Dragon”, a wizard who periodically takes a village girl for unknown purposes, only to be taken herself. She quickly becomes involved fighting the evil Wood, and learns to trust her budding powers.

This Polish fairy tale is at times very dark and the quest seems hopeless, but there are enough bright and funny parts to keep hope alive. I loved the totally creepy feeling to the Wood and all of its bizarre creatures brimming with evil intentions. -Elizabeth’s pick

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

Claire and Ella have been best friends since elementary school, and Ella has become intensely important to Claire. During a campout at the beach the group meets mysterious Orpheus, whose hypnotic music draws them all in, especially Ella.

A modern day retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Ella Grey is likely to make you seek out other versions of the story and other books by Almond. Beautifully written, atmospheric, and full of teen angst and passion. Tragic and lovely! -Elizabeth’s pick

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

The much-anticipated sequel to Seraphina (2012). In a world where dragons can assume human form, there are children who are half human and half dragon. Seraphina can communicate with others of her kind by diving deep into her subconscious mind.

While this tale is inspired by other fantasy series about dragons, the characters are endearing and the pacing keeps those pages flying. -Emily’s pick

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

She could bear the beatings, but she couldn’t bear life on the farm without books. After her father forbids her to attend school, 14-year-old Joan runs away to Baltimore. After all, it’s 1911! A modern girl should be able to make it on her own, right?

There is no shortage of historical fiction about girls running away from home to seek their fortunes. This story portrays the tensions between Jews and Gentiles in the early 20th century from the point of view of a young “Goy” working in a Jewish home. -Emily’s pick

Graphic Novels for Teens:

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

In this printing of the popular, award-winning web comic, a villain adopts a sidekick with incredible powers and a mysterious past.

Colorful, intelligent, and insightful to human behavior and relationships, Nimona is everything you want a graphic novel to be: at once impactful, complex, and accessible. Iconographic and character-driven, this graphic novel is terrific for all ages. -Alan’s pick

Batgirl Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher

It’s Batgirl as you’ve never seen her before! Big changes are here for Barbara Gordon as she moves across Gotham City to begin a new chapter in her ongoing fight against crime as Batgirl.

Who doesn’t love Batgirl? This collects volumes #35-40 of the Batgirl comics, which have been my re-introduction to DC and one that was a random selection at Everett Comics! -Carol’s pick

Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 by Various

The compilation of Bob’s Burgers comics #1-5. Read about the Belcher family (parents Bob and Linda, and their children Tina, Gene, and Louise) with brand-new in-canon stories created by the TV show’s producers, writers, animators, and  the series creator.

I hop and skip for joy every time I pick up the newest issue of Bob’s Burgers at Everett Comics. Jennifer H. got me to take a chance on the TV show a year ago, and the comics totally live up to the show’s quality humor. -Carol’s pick

Captain Marvel Volume 2. Stay Fly by Kelly Sue DeConnick

A compilation of stories that originally were published as the Captain Marvel comics #7-11.

Carol Danvers isn’t just cool because of her awesome first name. She’s a woman setting her own course, even if that means leaving everyone she loves behind and going on an intergalactic adventure with the Guardians of the Galaxy. -Carol’s pick