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.

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 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!

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 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?

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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this-book-is-gaybeyond-magentathis-one-summermexican-whiteboy

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

all the bright placesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven handles difficult topics for teens, from emotional problems and mental illness to death and suicide, but in such a way that everything is written eloquently and seriously, showing the consequences of all actions, no matter how big or small. Niven’s characters are beautifully written. The story really captures the heartbreaking yearning for everything to end up alright by showcasing a compelling search for hope when all seems lost.

All the Bright Places is told from the points of view of two high school students, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. Theodore and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at their school. Finch is fascinated with death, chronicling ways to kill himself. Something good stops him from hurting himself every time. Violet has a countdown until graduation, when she can finally leave Indiana and start a new life away from the aftermath of her older sister’s death.

That first meeting is the start of a very unlikely relationship between the freak, outcast boy, Finch, and the popular, yet damaged girl, Violet. This book weaves an exhilarating and  charming, yet simultaneously heartbreaking, love story between the two that immediately draws you in. When Violet and Finch then pair up on a class project to discover the natural wonders of their state, they learn more about each other than they initially thought. Death-fascinated Finch and future-focused Violet find hope and help by working with each other. Their lives will be forever changed.

This book is also available as an audiobook. If you use RiverShare OverDrive, our e-book and audiobook service, you can check out All the Bright Places as an e-book, as well as an audiobook.

eleanor and parkHave you ever read a book that immediately piqued your interest? One that you just couldn’t put down? My latest “must finish quickly” book was Eleanor & Park, and what hooked me, besides the immediately engaging story line, was that I listened to it as an audiobook and was therefore able to listen to it while I was doing other things. (The version I listened to was through OverDrive, but this title is also available as a print book and a book on cd – same narrators too!)

Eleanor & Park tells the story of the two title characters: Eleanor, a red-haired chubby high school student starting at a new school, who runs into Park, a kid right on the cusp of the cool crowd, but not firmly implanted there. Eleanor feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere, especially at her new school or at home. and Park feels like she doesn’t belong at their school either. Despite himself, Park finds himself falling for Eleanor, a situation that she has trouble with since she can’t possibly believe or see why this perfect Asian boy with the perfect family would ever fall for a mess like her, living with her mother, abusive step-father, and four siblings in a tiny house. This book is set over the course of one school year in 1986 with readers getting an intense look into Eleanor and Park’s budding relationship and daily lives as they struggle with trying to fit in and the strange sweetness and intense hold that first love has on them. This book pulled at my heart strings, making me pull for Eleanor and Park to beat the odds.

What really hooked me about this book was the narrators. Their voices perfectly matched the characters that I envisioned in my head with earnest emotion shining through both voices. Their inflections as both narrators mimicked the different people in both Eleanor and Park’s lives had me present, immediately in the story with them: sitting on the top bunk in Eleanor’s room while she read the comic books and listened to the tapes that Park gave her, and watching Park as he only asked for batteries for Christmas, so he could continue to give Eleanor music to listen to. I couldn’t get enough and finished this audiobook in two days. Check this book out, either in print or audio, and let me know what you think!

the 5th waveA brand new movie to hit the theaters recently is The 5th Wave. This movie is one of many young adult books that have been made into movies with producers and directors hoping to score big with both young adult readers and fans of somewhat dystopic literature. In order to fully prepare myself for the movie, I decided to dive into the book to see if I liked it.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is the first book in a trilogy (the second book is The Infinite Sea, but the third book, The Last Star, won’t be released until May 24, 2016!). The 5th Wave concentrates on the life of Cassie Sullivan, a teenage girl living with her mother, father, and brother when things start to change. While she’s in school, everything goes dark. All the lights go out and everything electronic stops working. Looking up into the sky, they see a giant ship. An alien invasion has begun.

The Earth is quickly decimated by the alien invasion. Cassie realizes that everything is happening in waves, the largest of which is when a plague is unleashed killing the majority of the world’s population, including her mother. Leaving their home, Cassie, her brother, and father are forced to rely on each other. When further tragedy strikes, Cassie is left to rescue her brother and to keep her promise. The problem is, she has no idea where he might be, only a vague idea that he could be at an army base. On her way to rescue him, Cassie is forced to confront the idea that the aliens may have been living amongst the human population for years and that the very person she has come to trust most could actually be an alien.

I found this book to be extremely intriguing because alongside Cassie’s story, Yancey designates different sections to other characters, so you are able to see how the invasion affects people besides Cassie as well. This adds depth to the book, which I really enjoyed. Check out this book or see the movie and let me know what you think!