The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I spend a lot of time reading review journals, magazines, and online blogs about books. This helps me to order the most current books for my sections and keeps me aware of other books that are coming out across the whole library. The Hate U Give came across my radar as a book to recommend to teens about gun violence. Based on all of the talk going around about this book and its relevance to the Black Lives Matter movement, I knew I needed to read The Hate U Give if just to try to understand the power this book has.

The Hate U Give is a MASSIVE New York Times and Amazon bestseller. If the title drives you grammar nerds a little crazy, Thomas has reasons for it. The Hate U Give comes from the acronym THUG LIFE that Tupac Shakar had tattooed across his abdomen. It stands for “The hate u give little infants f**** everybody”. (If you’re offended by that word, I strongly suggest you don’t read this book. It doesn’t shy away from violence and language.) That acronym runs rampant throughout The Hate U Give and the main characters keep returning to it. It’s important. Now let’s get down to what this book is about.

The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr.  By the time she is sixteen, Starr has seen both of her best friends die as a result of gun violence: one by a gang drive-by and the other just recently fatally shot by a cop. Starr was out at a party, something she never does, when shots rang out. She and her friend Khalil took off running to his car. On their way home, they are stopped by the police, pulled over, and Khalil is shot and killed. (Obviously there’s more to the story, but I don’t want to give too many spoilers!) Starr is the only witness to Khalil’s fatal shooting by that police officer. This fact causes her a great deal of agony. Does she speak up? Obviously her parents and the cops know that she witnessed his death, but does she tell her friends? How will she react when the story is plastered all over the news? What will she do if the district attorney contacts her or if the cops want to interview her? Starr wants to stand up for Khalil, but she is afraid. How will she react if people start telling lies about Khalil? She just doesn’t know what to do.

Starr has grown up in the rough area of Garden Heights, but with a solid family backing her up. Her mother works as a nurse in a clinic and desperately wants to move away to protect the family. Her father, known as Big Mav, is a former gang-member who took the fall for King, a notorious gang lord in the community, and spent three years in prison when Starr was younger. Now Big Mav owns the local grocery store and is working to make the community better. Starr doesn’t go to the local high school; instead she goes to Williamson, a private school in a more affluent neighborhood where instead of being a black majority, she’s one of only two black kids in her school. Starr constantly talks about her Williamson self and her Garden Heights self. They’re kept separate and each Starr acts different. Her Williamson friends and her Garden Heights friends hardly ever mix. This is a life that Starr has kind of adjusted to, but the slightest bump to her normal life could cause her world to come crashing down. Khalil’s death rocks her world and Starr soon finds herself and her family the target of the police and King, the local drug lord, as everyone puts pressure on her and intimidates her in order to figure out what really happened the night that Khalil died.

The author, Angie Thomas, began writing in response to the fatal shooting in Oakland, California in 2009 of 22-year-old Oscar Grant. She quickly found the subject too painful, so Thomas set the book aside. After the stories of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice broke the news, Thomas knew she had to start writing this book again. Thomas had to voice her opinions, had to acknowledge the neighborhood where she grew up, and needed to shine a light on Black Lives Matter. The themes of social justice, opinion, responsibility, existing in two worlds, and violence are so prevalent and deeply explored in this book because Thomas knows what she is talking about. She lived it.

This book has been optioned for a film and is in development. I can only hope that the movie is just as moving as the book was. The movie has the opportunity to further change the world.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star continues my journey back into young adult fiction. I used to exclusively read only young adult fiction, but about five years ago, I decided that I needed to read outside my comfort area (and to read books with people my own age in them). Starting to read in a new area can be daunting, so I recommend looking at award-winning book lists and even articles with lists of books on different subjects. That is how I stumbled upon The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

Nicola Yoon had already been on my radar because of her book, Everything, Everything, but I had never actually read it. When I found an article that was talking up The Sun is Also a Star, I decided to give it a go and try to see what everyone was getting so excited about. (I was also slightly obsessed with making things using yarn when I saw this book cover, so I figured I needed to read it!)

The Sun is Also a Star takes place all in one day. Natasha is a girl who loves everything that is based in facts. She adores science and has a list of facts for almost any situation. She lives with her parents and her younger brother in a one bedroom apartment. Natasha’s life had been going along perfectly until one day when her father makes a mistake and ruins everything for the whole family. Her life could implode around her. Daniel is a boy who never messes up and is therefore seen as the good son at home and the good student at school. After his older brother messes up in college, the pressure on Daniel to be perfect becomes even higher.

When the two meet, Daniel finds himself questioning what his parents have always told him and just how he lives his life. He is a poet and a dreamer, but must live up to his parents’ high expectations. Daniel must find a way to be around Natasha more than he probably should. Natasha is more hesitant than Daniel and finds his exuberance about their “relationship” daunting and more than a little off-putting. Daniel feels that there is something magical and extraordinary between them, if only he could get Natasha to feel the same way. Daniel reaches out into the universe to try to convince Natasha that their futures can change, but he has trouble believing he can change himself.

This book, while taking place in one day, shines through a series of flashbacks into each character’s life. Minor characters that Natasha and Daniel come in contact with have their own sections within the book as well. The tiny snapshots into daily life show the effect a short interaction with a complete stranger can have on both your life and the other person’s. The ending left me wondering what had really happened between the two. Long after I finished reading this book, I found myself thinking a lot about fate, how even the smallest and inconsequential of our actions can greatly impact our lives and the lives of others, and how our attitudes and thoughts can influence our futures as well. The Sun is Also a Star had more of an impact on me than I thought it would. I’m glad I decided to pick it up and give it a try.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

I’ve been reading a lot of young adult fiction in my spare time. A vast majority of them have dealt with sad topics: mental illness, suicide, death, endings of relationships, abuse, homelessness etc. These are all topics that teens deal with on a daily basis, so I appreciate the fact that there are resources out there that teens(and their parents/guardians/loved ones) can turn to if they need some help. However, reading all these angsty books with no break and with no happy ending in sight is throwing me down a rabbit hole of sadness. I needed a break or a book with a happy realistic ending, not a sad realistic ending. Enter Jennifer Niven.

I’d read All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven last year and had loved her work (fair warning though: this book has a sad realistic ending dealing with mental illness and suicide). Flipping through a review magazine, I found Holding Up the Universe, also by Niven. The premise sounded like it could possibly end well and I was willing to risk it because I had loved her previous book so much.

Holding Up the Universe tells the story of Libby Strout and Jack Masselin. It is told from both of their points of view, alternating chapter to chapter. Libby Strout was once known as “America’s Fattest Teen”, a teen whose house had to be partially demolished in order to get her out of it. Back in school for the first time in years, no one can see past her weight. She’s still just the fat girl even though she’s lost 300 pounds. After her mom’s death, Libby is left picking up herself, her father, and their grief. She is ready for the new start high school has to offer.

Jack Masselin is the quintessential high school popular boy. He has swagger and the ability to give people what they want. He is able to fit in. While he seems like he has it all together, Jack has a major secret. He cannot recognize faces. Jack has prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize people by their faces. Everyone he meets, he has to try to figure out who they are by their identifiers: big hair, beauty mark, Mohawk, etc. Jack gets through life by being the funny, charming guy, but doesn’t let people get close.

Jack and Libby’s lives become entangled together in the aftermath of a cruel high school game. Sitting squarely in community service and group counseling together forces them to make a connection. This connection changes both of their lives, forcing them to confront issues that neither of them realized they are carrying. Will their connection change their world for the better or for the worse? Add in cruel high school students, family issues, obesity, brain injuries, and the possibility of love and Jack and Libby are in for a crazy ride of self-esteem, self-reliance, and teenage angst. Holding Up the Universe was the exact book palette refresher I needed.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

the-way-i-used-to-beThe Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith is a deeply moving, traumatic examination of one young woman’s struggle to overcome the aftermath of a rape. Eden, a 14-year old teenage girl, is raped by Kevin, her older brother’s best friend and college roommate. Her family is asleep down the hall while he crawls into her bed. Eden is the typical band geek, good girl who lives in fear of Kevin as he tells her that he will kill her and that no one will believe her if she talks. She is paralyzed with fear and doesn’t know what to do except try to live her life like normal, an idea that quickly fails as she becomes a new person overnight.

This book follows Eden through all four years of high school, highlighting her relationships with friends and family as she keeps this dark secret under wraps. School becomes increasingly more difficult for Eden as she turns to lies, booze, sex, and parties to smother her emotions. Kevin’s younger sister, Amanda, who Eden used to be friends with, turns against her and begins spreading vicious rumors about her around school. Eden’s best friend, Mara, knows nothing about what happened to her and the two move through high school experiencing some typical high school activities: dying their hair, first crushes, getting piercings, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes for the first time, going to parties, doing drugs, and getting their drivers’ licenses. All the while, distance begins to grow between the two. Eden also finds herself separated from her other friends and her family. She has buried who she used to be, buried her emotions, and buried her secret deep inside.

As Eden grows older, readers are able to dissect the way her rape has affected her personality and her relationships. The way Eden treats herself changes drastically from her freshman year to her senior year of high school, as evidenced through her inner monologue throughout the book. How she believes others to see her changes throughout the book as well. The long-term view of the effect this trauma has on Eden allows readers to gain a better understanding of the guilt, hatred, and complex emotions survivors face in the aftermath of rape and sexual assault. The Way I Used to Be is not an easy book to read as watching Eden disintegrate is painful, but the truth and emotions revealed are so vivid and true-to-life that this book becomes a necessary read to understand the emotions survivors experience on a day-to-day basis.  Eden carries a double burden – the weight of carrying her secret and the violation of rape. She shows strength, power, survival, disappointment, pain, heartbreak, and massive loss throughout this book, leaving readers to grow attached to her well-being and her journey through a troubled adolescent made even more difficult by rape. The Way I Used to Be takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster as Eden struggles to find her way back to herself in the aftermath of her rape.

Online Reading Challenge – October Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Book Lovers!

How was your October reading adventure – did you meet the challenge to try a Young Adult book? There are a lot of great ones – I hope you were able to find one you liked!

In October I read Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. This book was recommended to me a long time ago and it kind of dropped off my radar. Now I wonder, why on earth didn’t I read it right away? It’s remarkable.

revolutionAndi is a depressed, modern-day teenager, mourning the breakup of her parents marriage and the death of her little brother. Her Father decides that accompanying him to Paris over winter break will be just the thing to help her break through her depression. Andi, of course, is less than thrilled but changes her mind when, poking through some antiques, she comes across a diary written by a girl who lived in Paris during the French Revolution. Alexandrine is feeling many of the same turbulent emotions as Andi as she struggles to survive the horrors of the war. As Andi delves further into the diary she begins to feel a kinship with Alexandrine that crosses culture and time and allows her to put her own suffering into perspective.

I had a little trouble with this book at first – Andi is very angsty and very angry at the beginning of the story and I had to force myself to push through. But the historical details, the weaving of the love of music (by both Andi and Alexandrine) throughout the story and an ending that is intense and gripping add up to a book that is very hard to put down. Beautifully written, complex and with just a tiny bit of magical realism, this is a wonderful all-encompassing read.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read in October? Tell us how you did with the Young Adult theme!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-month Check

online colorHello Readers! How are you finding this months Reading Challenge – are you enjoying a great Young Adult read, or are you skipping this month? If you’re still searching for a Young Adult novel to try, here are a few suggestions.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This book was a huge sensation a couple years ago and for good reason. On the surface, it’s a fairly typical story – a boy and a girl meet and fall in love and face many obstacles. However, the obstacles here are more serious than a typical story – both have cancer. Yes, it’s often a sad story (I cried several times while reading this), but it’s also frequently laugh-out-loud funny and the characters – both main and minor – are terrific. But what I took away from this book that has stayed with me long after finishing it, is the message, that life is worth living and no life is useless. An amazing read (as are all of John Green’s books) – very highly recommended.

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Raised by an unstable father who keeps constantly on the move, Sam Border has long been the voice of his silent younger brother, Riddle. Everything changes when Sam meets Emily Bell and, welcomed by her family, the brothers witness the warmth and protection of a family for the first time. But when tragedy strikes, they’re left fighting for survival in the desolate wilderness, and wondering if they’ll ever find a place where they can belong. Part survival story, part family dynamics, I’ll Be There reads like an action-packed thriller that is nearly impossible to put down with great characters that you will love.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Amber already mentioned this book in her introduction to Young Adult books, but I wanted to tell you a little more about it. Anna has been sent to Paris to spend her last year of high school. At first she is miserable and lonely but as she makes friends and begins to explore her new city, Anna comes into her own. More than just an education, Anna gains confidence and strength of character and makes lifelong friends – and meets the love of her life. This is a fun read, especially if you love Paris, beautifully written. There are two follow-up books by Perkins, following secondary characters in Anna and the French Kiss first to San Francisco (Lola and the Boy Next Door) and then back to Paris (Isla and the Happily Ever After) tying all three together beautifully. Enjoy!

Faith, Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine by Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage

faithFaith, Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine is a refreshing step back from the traditional female superhero tale. This first volume introduces Faith Herbert, a woman orphaned at a young age who has always wanted to do something great. Faith is a psionically gifted psiot, which basically means that Faith can fly and has telekinetic powers. She’s a body positive plus-size superhero known as the Zephyr. Pretty cool.

Now Faith is striking out on her own, having broke up with her superhero boyfriend and her crime-fighting superhero group all at almost the same time. She has decided to take control of her life and live how she’s always wanted to be: in control of her own destiny. This means that Faith is working a day job as a reporter with a secret identity and a group of colleagues who have no idea that she is Faith Herbert OR the Zephyr.

Patrolling at night, Faith stumbles upon a conspiracy revolving around the disappearances of multiple psiots around the city. Her private and public lives come to a screeching collision at her work place, where Faith is forced to mesh her two worlds together and hope things work out. The missing psiots occupy Faith’s mind, leaving her to patrol more and ask questions. She uncovers a mysterious plot to use the psiots by aliens. Of course it’s aliens. This conspiracy is deeply-rooted in entertainment, politics, and regular societies. Faith uses her superhero savvy to save the world, but finds she may need help.

Online Reading Challenge – Young Adult Books

online colorIt’s October and we’re starting on a new genre for our Online Reading Challenge – Young Adult!

Feeling a little unsure about reading a Young Adult book? Not sure that there will be anything in this area that you’d enjoy? Think again! Young Adult books have come a long way in the last couple of decades – you will find compelling stories and stellar writing, the kind of books anyone will want to read.

Still need some convincing? Listen to our own Young Adult Librarian, Amber. A huge fan of the genre, Amber also buys the books for this area for the Davenport Library, so she knows Young Adult books, inside and out. Here’s some words of wisdom from her:

–if you are new to YA, start where you are familiar! YA covers all genres and types of literature so if you like historical fiction, read a book like Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly or Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. If you like science fiction, read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card or Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. If you like romance, read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Or start with an author you already enjoy; many “adult” authors have also written Young Adult books including James Patterson, Jasper Fforde, Jodi Picoult and Sophie Kinsella.

–Part of what makes Young Adult literature so appealing and universal is that authors are able to explore complicated and emotional topics through narrators who are dealing with these topics for the first time and are able to be more honest, more passionate, more open than many adult characters are able to be. When asked why she chose to write young adult romances at a YA Lit conference in 2012, Stephanie Perkins replied that it was because she had such an intense romantic experience as a teen. People often remember every little detail of their first kiss, their first dance, their first heartbreak, and yet sometimes can barely remember the name of a person they dated in their thirties. We remember every time we were bullied in high school, the first time someone close to us passes away, and the confusion of a national tragedy happening.

Amber’s listed a bunch of great suggestions and believe me, you can trust Amber’s recommendations! I’m going to read Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, historical fiction set in France. What about you? What are you going to try this month?

Banned Books Week – Young Adult

Thanks to ALA, we’re focusing on books with diverse content and books with diverse authors this Banned Books Week, so we thought a blog post full of young adult books would be in order. There are lots of young adult books for us to choose today, so if we skipped your favorite, you may see it later this week or even way down at the bottom of this post in our extra bonus Banned Books reads.


miseducation-of-cameron-postMiseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth is a young adult novel that was released in 2014. This book centers around the life of Cameron Post. Cam’s parents die suddenly in a car crash and she finds herself feeling relief. With them both gone, neither of them will know that she had been kissing a girl just hours before they died.

After their death, Cam has to move in with her aunt and grandmother. Her aunt is conservative and her grandmother is immensely old-fashioned. She is living in Miles City, Montana, a town where she has to hide who she really is from everyone around her. This conservative ranch town is hard for Cam to adjust to, so she tries to blend in and bury her feelings.

Coley Taylor moves to town then and Cam’s life changes. Coley is a perfect cowgirl, beautiful, and driving a pickup. She also has the perfect boyfriend. Coley and Cam become super close and Cam finds herself seeing that something more may happen. Right when this seems actually possible, her ultrareligious Aunt Ruth sends her to a religious camp to be ‘cured’.


fallen-angelsFallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers was number 26 on the list of most frequently challenged books written by authors of color from 1990-1999 and is currently number 11 of the top 100 Banned/Challenged books: 200-2009 list. This book is frequently banned for reasons of racism, offensive language, and violence. Myers also won the 1988 Coretta Scott King Award for this book.

Fallen Angels tells the story of Richie Perry, a seventeen-year-old student who has just left his Harlem high school. He has decided to enlist in the Army in the summer of 1967 after his college plans fall through. As a result, Richie spends a year on active duty in Vietnam, something that changes his life forever. He has illusions about what he will face over there and doesn’t believe that he will be sent overseas because of his knee injury.

Richie finds himself face-to-face with the horrors of warfare and the Vietcong they are fighting every day. He struggles with all the violence and death around him, but those are not the only thing haunting him and his comrades. They are told they will encounter light, easy work, something that proves to be untrue when one of the first new recruits he meets is killed during his squad’s first patrol. He is deeply shaken and the increasing levels of destruction and brutality he witnesses leave him questioning the morality of war and the virtues of the people around him. Richie also finds himself questioning why the black troops are given the most dangerous assignments and why the U.S. has even involved themselves in this war.

Walter Dean Myers also has several other books that are banned because of diverse content: Monster, Hoops, and Scorpions.


will-grayson-will-graysonWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan has been banned/challenged multiple times for its content. Levithan also has multiple other books that have been challenged for the same reasons. This book deals with homosexuality and relationships.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson tells the story of two different Will Graysons: one gay and one straight. Will Grayson meets Will Grayson, one cold night on a very unlikely street corner in Chicago. This chance meeting changes both of their lives, and the lives of their friends, forever. Will Grayson and Will Grayson find their worlds meshed together, collided and intertwined. One straight Will Grayson and the other gay Will Grayson are both dealing with romantic relationships, complicated friendships, and friends that think they know what is best for them.

David Levithan has more books banned/challenged for diverse content: Two Boys Kissing, Boy Meets Boy, Hold Me Closer, and Full Spectrum.


Here are a list of other young adult books that are frequently banned or challenged that are either by diverse authors or have diverse content! Click on the title for more information. There are many, many other young adult books that have been banned, but we just don’t have the room in this blog post to share them all. For more information, contact us!

(Here’s a list of frequently challenged young adult books to help you get started! http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/YAbooks )

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirlHave you ever read fan fiction? Fan fiction is when fans of television series, movies, books, etc. write fiction about the different characters present within that certain TV series, movies, books, etc. Quite simple. A famous example of fan fiction is Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a Twilight fan fiction story. (If you look online, there are many, many other examples, as well as popular fan fiction websites.)

Fangirl focuses on Cath, a teenage girl just graduated from high school preparing to head to her first year of college. Cath is a GIANT Simon Snow fan. While other people love Simon Snow, Cath lives and breathes him. She has spun a new world for Simon through her fanfic website, “Carry On, Simon”. Simon Snow is a character in a magical series that Cath and her identical twin sister, Wren, write about online. Once college starts though, Cath and Wren begin to drift apart.

This first year of college is rough for Cath. She and her sister are going to the same college, but her sister doesn’t want to room with her, a fact that Cath can’t understand. Rooming with Reagan, a much older girl, and somewhat-rooming with Reagan’s ex-boyfriend, Levi, who never seems to leave their dorm room, Cath struggles to find her balance between the real world and the fanfiction world of Simon and Baz. Cath’s relationships with Reagan, Wren, Levi, and her father all add necessary personal touches to this book, allowing readers to draw connections between what Cath writes about in Simon’s world and what is actually happening in Cath’s world during the day-to-day.

This book alternates between sections of the Simon series, sections about Cath’s real life, and sections of various fanfiction(whether it be Cath’s or someone else’s). While all this switching may seem overwhelming, the book actually benefits from the many different points of view. Don’t give up! Stick with it and soon you’ll be sucked into Cath and Simon’s world.


This book is also available in the following formats:

  1. OverDrive ebook
  2. OverDrive e-audiobook
  3. CD audiobook