Instability in the (near) future: #YearofYA May 2016

The theme this month is so so important, especially given the release of students for the summer in the coming weeks. Those of us on a traditional schedule are preparing to close the doors to our classrooms, libraries, and schools and we are looking forward to summers away from the grind and responsibilities we face as educators. Several of us take on teacher-roles over the summer, or slide into seasonal work, soak up family time, and the lucky ones, truly get a BREAK. It’s definitely something to look forward to!

But what about the kids? You know the ones. Who bounce between homes. Who fend for themselves. Who might not even have a home to call their own. For many students, school is the safest, most consistent place for them and we lock our doors for 3 months to them.

I’m guilty of flipping off those light switches on the final work day and breathing a sigh of release: no more overdue notices. no more fixing abused books. no more hearing my name prefacing every question or comment. no more thinking about the kids. To be fair, I do think about them – I run into them at the store, at the beach, in the public library. And it gets me thinking: what are they reading? what keeps them busy? should I do more to reach out to them over the summer? Our community is small enough that just about every trip to the library for me involves seeing a student and chatting about books. But that isn’t enough.

For the month of May, your #YearofYA challenge is two-fold: 1) find at least one book that addresses some of the instabilities our students face: from homelessness and child hunger, to family struggles, or abusive situations; and 2) look into local resources that you can share with students, or get involved with in the summer months. We plan to compile a list of books our readers discover this month & resources that will help inspire more outreach in our schools to post on this blog before school is out. Please come prepared to share and/or learn from others!

Our faithful #YearofYA friends @bjneary and @jenniferlagarde suggested this theme that we believe is critically important for all educators. Below are some lists to get you started, but like always, #YearofYA picks the theme, you pick the book(s).

Powell’s list on Homelessness and Poverty in YA

YALSA on “Mending a Broken Heart” reads

LibGuides Homelessness in YA

Teen Librarian Toolbox: Rich Teen/Poor Teen

Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh on Poverty in YA

We need to address these topics now, because June is too late to reach many of the kids who need us the most.

Feel free to invite other educators this month to join us and shine a light on these very real issues, and be a part of the discussion on how we can provide solutions to our students in need. We will chat on May 24 at 8PM EST. The link, will direct new readers to this site.



Review: Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick #YearofYA

After a week, I’m still struggling to sit down and write this review. 1) because the book won’t make its way into the world until May 31, 2016 and 2) I’m struck by how much it moved me. But it’s time for me to pass the ARC on to the next reader, so it’s time…

Like many who have read Quick’s novels, the film version of Silver Linings Playbook was my introduction to his work. Later, I discovered he lives in my neighborhood when my favorite local indie (Duck’s Cottage Downtown Books) held a launch party for last year’s Love May Fail. Whether adult or YA, when you finish a Q novel, you realize he is a remarkable storyteller.

My hopes were high when Downtown Books allowed me to take their Advanced Reader Copy of Every Exquisite Thing and get a head start on the rest of the worldI was at a conference when I breezed through the first few pages, so my heart wasn’t completely in it at the start, but Nanette lassoed me in in no time. The next day, I found myself telling several people about her flippant, yet humorous attitude towards senior year of high school. I read a passage aloud to a HS librarian from page 66, then post-conference, I gave a total breakdown of the first 100 pages and my prediction for what’s next to my hospitable friend (who doesn’t even read YA). My point is, even with the distraction of –oh, you know– doing my job, I was still engrossed in the world Q has weaved around the malcontented Nanette.

There will be reviews and plot descriptions shared over the next several months, so instead of telling  you about Nanette’s discretion with a teacher, that led her to obsessing over an out-of-print paperback, which she shared a love for with a likable outcast {Alex}, and eventually pitted them on a mission to solve the author’s mysterious lack of closure… I’d rather focus on the unbelievable way that Q gets inside your current/former teenage brain. SO many times I said, “how did he know?” about a feeling, or “me too” at a particularly brilliant statement. This coming from a reader who hasn’t been a teenager in a decade, but any reader who felt that impulsiveness towards following your gut reaction, who questioned the expected behaviors of fellow young adults, and those who fell gullible to assuming adults would never let them down can relate to this novel.

“Maybe literature is my religion? Can being a missionary for fiction become my vocation? Maybe engaging with true art is a revolutionary act” 143

Nanette, like many high school outcasts, finds solace in literature. She becomes so obsessed with a piece of fiction that it blends into her reality. Alex, who she befriends after being introduced to by the author of The Bubblegum Reaper, BENDS his reality to fit the fiction. These two become “missionaries” for the message and seem to be on a chase to understand the elusive meaning behind their suffering and struggle. It’s a part of teenage years to “try on” different identities, which is so tragically illustrated in the way they think they are the only ones who feel that way.

“And maybe he loved his high school classmates in a strange sort of way – the way you sometimes love the villains in your favorite stories because they are an integral part of the plot.” 99

This novel is about identity, but also about relationships. Personal, peer, romantic, inappropriate, family, fictional… so many variations but in all examples, Q shows how complex, unpredictable, and misunderstood they can be. My favorite quote though is that above; how we can actually love and appreciate our story’s villains because of the impact they have on who we are, and who we become.

I’m not as eloquent as Q with my writing, so this summary/reflection falls short on how I truly feel about this book. What I can say (after a month of holding back from posting… because now we are THAT MUCH CLOSER to 5/31) is that Every Exquisite Thing will rock the YA world. When this releases and people start sharing their reactions to this novel, its relative, important, captivating, hilarious, heartbreaking story will resonate across the spectrum.