ages 11-18

New fiction: The Last Days of California is a unique road trip story

The Last Days of California, the highly anticipated debut novel by Mary Miller, puts a new twist on the classic American road trip story. Published just this month, the book tells the story of 15-year-old Jess, who is traveling with her parents and her rebellious (and pregnant) sister Elise to California in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ. Along the way, the family evangelizes and passes out apocalyptic pamphlets to people at restaurants, motels, gas stations, malls and truck stops across the southern United States. As the novel progresses, Jess tries hard to share the same religious convictions that her parents do—and that she has been taught to follow her whole life—but finds herself questioning both the beliefs themselves and her life as a whole.

Miller does a fantastic job capturing the thought processes and angst of modern teenage life, while adding the unique storyline of the supposedly impending Rapture to this travel story. The descriptions of the beauty--and lack thereof--of the southern U.S. are also enchanting for readers. This coming-of-age novel, although shelved in the adult fiction section here at the AADL, will surely resonate with readers teenaged and up.

Youth & Teen Book Awards Announced!

For at least a year librarians all over the country read, and read, and read and then in the dead of winter in some predetermined location (this time it was Philadelphia) they meet at their annual conference and discuss, and argue and determine the best books, audio and video for children and teens! On Monday, January 27 the ALA (American Library Association) hosted the Youth Media Awards and came up with their best picks. Without further ado find out what books you should start reading NOW! The big three awards are the Newbery, Caldecott and the Printz, but there are many other awards so be sure to look through the whole list!

The Newbery Medal honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children

2014 Winner: Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventure, by Kate DiCamillo

Honor Books:
Doll Bones, by Holly Black
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake
Paperboy, by Vince Vawter

The Caldecott Medal honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

2014 Winner: Locomotive, illustrated and written by Brian Floca

Honor Books:
Journey, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
Flora and the Flamingo, written and illustrated by Molly Idle
Mr. Wuffles! written and illustrated by David Wiesner

The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.

2014 Winner:
Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick

Honor Books:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Announcing the 2014 Printz Award for Teen Literature

The 2014 Printz Award Winner is: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick! Midwinterblood is a novel spanning several genres, including drama, mystery, romance and horror. It begins with the story of Eric and Merle, whose path together tragically ends. The following stories unfold backward in time in a gripping tale of love and loss.

YALSA, or the Young Adult Library Services Association, chose four Printz Honor books as well: Eleanor and Park, Kingdom of Little Wounds, Maggot Moon, and Navigating Early.

The Printz Award is given in appreciation of excellence in young adult literature. AADL also has several award winners from previous years.

Adulting and The Defining Decade are great reads for twenty-somethings!

Young adulthood can be a challenging time. As someone who is navigating the ups and downs of my twenties right now, I am frequently surprised at the unique and unexpected situations that I am presented with as I continue to grow up. As young adults have become more forthcoming about the trials and tribulations of their twenties in recent years, many authors—some of them still young adults themselves—have stepped up to write books giving advice to twenty-somethings and sharing their own experiences. Hoping for some tips, I read two of these such books, both of which you can check out from AADL.

In Adulting, 27-year-old Kelly Williams Brown gives hilarious and practical advice to young adults on a huge variety of topics. She covers cooking, cleaning, moving to a new area, relationships with friends, family and significant others, jobs and working, and many other areas of importance. Brown admits that she is still growing up herself and shares many of her own successes and failures throughout the book. The idea for this book came from Brown’s blog, which you can peruse here.

The Defining Decade is written by clinical psychologist Dr. Meg Jay, and outlines why one’s twenties are an extremely important time period if one wants to be successful later in life. Jay argues against the “thirty-is-the-new-twenty” mentality and offers advice to those in their twenties while also sharing stories from her own practice and from the young people who come to her seeking help.

I found both of these books to be extremely interesting, entertaining and helpful, and I found myself agreeing with most of what the authors put forward. These two books are a great read for anyone in their twenties, for anyone who interacts with people in their twenties, and for anyone who feels like they may still have some growing up to do!

Writing Inspiration for Teens

Working on or even just thinking about writing a short story for the “It’s All Write!” Teen Short Story Contest but need some inspiration? AADL has a lot of books with authors’ thoughts on writing:

King of the mild frontier: an ill-advised autobiography comes directly from Chris Crutcher, author of Deadline and Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories (providing fuel for the movie Angus). He shares details of his difficult childhood as well as the cathartic effects of writing.

Hole in my life by Jack Gantos combines harsh truths with aspiring hope. He discusses his 15 months in federal prison and how he turned his life around through writing and attending college. Gantos is well-known for Dead End in Norvelt, Rotten Ralph, and the Joey Pigza series.

Still need more inspiration? Check out this list of inspirational books with writing prompts and other teens’ stories. In honor of yesterday’s “John Green Day” at Mental Floss, you can read some of his quotes on writing.

Two New Teen Fiction Series

Looking for a new series to get into? Consider these recent additions to AADL’s catalog:

The Opportunity is a series about Harmon Holt, a millionaire who’s giving back to his community by offering internships at the companies he owns to students from his old high school. These lucky teens have the chance to intern in their dream career fields – fashion, music, pro-football – but the jobs aren’t all sunshine and roses. In Size 0, Thea works with a big-deal LA fashion designer and struggles with how models are treated and the impact of fashion on body image. In Box Office Smash, Jason can’t wait to get into the movie business and discovers the unfortunate truth that sometimes you have to start small to get where you want to be.

For those of you who enjoy the Fast and the Furious movie series or restoring old cars, don’t miss Turbocharged. This series explores the exciting, action-packed world of street-racing, drifting, and modded cars. Drift: Nissan Skyline is the story of Kekoa, a new kid in town who runs afoul of the local drifting king and must beat him in a showdown to prove he’s not going to let anyone bully him. In Blind Curve: Acura Integra, Penny and her brother revamp the old car that has been in their family’s garage of years, but before Penny can show off her modding and racing skills, a hit-and-run accident that almost kills a classmate leaves her shaken.

Best New Music At AADL

AADL is constantly adding to its diverse selection of new CDs. If you're seeking some great new tunes, consider the following must-hear material.

"The Electric Lady," Janelle Monae: The easiest way to categorize Janelle Monae's music would be "R&B," but the young singer-songwriter is far more versatile than that. As on her previous masterpiece, The Archandroid, she plays fast and loose with genres from funk to soul to rock to jazz...even a bit of baroque folk. Creating an android alter-ego for herself, she weaves bits of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi dialogue into the album, which plays like an hour of the funnest, funkiest radio you've ever heard. Featuring excellent guest artists from Prince to Erykah Badu. (Fun fact: if you haven't heard of Monae before, you've almost certainly heard her voice. She's featured on Fun's smash hit "We Are Young".)

"The Speed of Things," Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: If you're seeking some locally-grown jams, look no further than the new record from Detroit indie-pop duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. These guys seemed on the verge of major celebrity status with their previous record It's A Corporate World. While their latest isn't quite the big, radio-friendly push they need, it's still full of cheery, hooky, danceable tunes. (Just listen to "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On the Dancefloor)" and try NOT to spend the next hour humming that riff.)

"Dream River," Bill Callahan: Some may recognize Bill Callahan from his work under the name Smog, but he takes a more personal approach on this record, his fourth to be released under his own name. There's something fascinating, beautiful and a little spooky about Callahan's sparse, autumnal arrangements. You could describe the record's genre as "folk," but Callahan's whispery, often spoken lyrics are too unique to pin down to an established genre. Lie back and let Callahan's pensive lyrics and atmospheric arrangements wash over you.

Find more great new CDs here.

Teen Novel: A Cautionary Tale of Sexting

Thousand Words by acclaimed author Jennifer Brown is a wrenching piece of realistic fiction that shows – not in a preachy way – that sexting is stupid and dangerous. This new book, written for readers in about grades 9-11, stars tenth-grader Ashleigh, who is pressured by her friends into texting a full-frontal nude photograph of herself to her boyfriend. The photo is meant for his eyes only, but when he leaves for college, there is a nasty break-up. Seeking revenge, he sends the photo to everyone on his contact list.

Ashleigh is shocked to find herself arrested and facing community service, and her ex-boyfriend may be headed for prison. The community – where Ashleigh’s father is superintendent of schools – is an uproar. Gradually, Ashleigh is able to work through layers of issues and find hope in a future, with help from a shy, kind and troubled young man she meets in community service. This is an engaging, beautifully written novel that parents and teens probably should discuss together. I thought it was an utterly believable story and a valuable literary cautionary tale.

ACT Plus Writing Tips With Kaplan Experts

Tuesday January 14, 2014: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Traverwood Branch: Program Room

Brainstorming, organizing, and writing an essay in just 30 minutes is a daunting task, and that's just what test takers will face during the ACT Plus Writing test. But don't worry, we've got you covered - at this program, a Kaplan expert will guide you through the process of preparing to write an essay for the March ACT Plus Writing.

This event is intended for teens (grades 9-12).

Teen author Libba Bray skillfully weaves together historical fiction and fantasy in The Diviners

Teen author Libba Bray first gained notoriety for her unusual Gemma Doyle series, which includes New York Times bestseller A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing. These books skillfully and unusually blend historical fiction with fantasy, merging the world of an early twentieth century girls boarding school with an alternative universe only accessible to those with the Sight.

After completing the Gemma Doyle trilogy, Bray wrote Going Bovine, the story of a 16-year-old boy with mad cow disease, which won the Printz award from the American Library Association. In 2012, however, Bray again delved into the fantasy/historical fiction genre and produced The Diviners, the first in a new trilogy. Set in 1920s New York City, The Diviners introduces Evie, a 17-year-old girl from Ohio exiled from the Midwest and sent to live with her uncle, who is the curator of the unusual Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult. Along with spending her time embracing everything that comes with living in Prohibition-era New York, Evie is drawn into an investigation dealing with a series of occult-related murders. And, although she does her best to keep it a secret from everyone around her, Evie’s supernatural power may be the only thing that will help catch the murderer at last!

Bray’s rare ability to accurately depict historic American settings while injecting them with believable fantastical turns has made fans of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and of Bray’s writing in general ecstatic over the release of The Diviners. Filling a truly unique niche in teen fiction, the book can be enjoyed by adults as well. The second book in The Diviners series, Lair of Dreams, will be published in August 2014, and you can read more about the series as a whole here.

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