Skip to content

Introduction: A Showcase of Young Adult Materials

We all want to be entertained. We all enjoy distraction from our lives and we lose ourselves in things that delight, scare, absorb, teach, compel, describe, and reflect each of us in some way. We all like to lose ourselves in things if only for a moment. As a gateway to such escape, books used to be one of the only sources available to us, but now we have alternative forms of delivery; movies, music, audiobooks, and of course the Internet (and all that ethereal realm contains therein).

With so much choice available, it can sometimes be hard to know what to pick up. This can be especially challenging for teens today that have a great deal “at their fingertips,” with the prevalence of Information Technology. It can be especially easy to lose sight of the variety one can find in what might appear to be a “simple” book.

In order to regain a sense of what is available in Young Adult (YA) resources, this reading blog is a sample of various YA novels and other entertainment materials in a range of genres that I have read, listened to, or watched over the past several weeks. I have written about my responses to each genre or topic with as open a mind as possible so as to invite others to also take a chance and explore! Although this is only a taste of each genre showcased, there are many, many more options!

I hope that this limited exhibition of books and YA resources will remind teens (and other readers) that there are many ways to become engaged with the world, and that there are many different ways to experience it, and stay connected with it. I hope this reading log will make people interested, curious, and above all, inspired. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Geography Club, by Brent Hartinger

Bibliographic information (APA): Hartinger, Brent. (2003). Geography Club. Harper Tempest: New York, USA.

Category: Controversial, Challenged or Banned*, & Realistic Fiction

Subcategories: LGBTQ Fiction, & Award-winning

Descriptive Summary: Russel Middlebrook thinks he is the only gay kid in the whole of his high school. That is, until he meets another high school kid, Kevin Lander (one of the popular kids!!) through a gay chat room. Soon after that, he finds out that his friend, Min, is bisexual and from there about some other kids just like him as well. Now that Russell and his newly discovered friends do not feel quite so alone anymore, they form the ‘Geography Club’ at their school as a cover to meet and spend time with each other (without anyone else knowing what they really have in common). Things do not go quite as planned, however, when other people want to join the so-called ‘Geography Club.’ Not only does it soon become clear that you need to have more in common than a shared secret to keep friends, it also soon becomes clear that while you can close yourself in, you cannot close the world out forever. Perhaps, most worrying of all, secrets have a way of being found out at the worst possible moments.

Book Talking Hooks: According to the ALA Challenged or Banned Books List of 2009-2010, Geography Club has been challenged at the West Bend Community Library in Wisconsin in 2009, on the grounds that it is “obscene or child pornography” (Doyle, “Books Challenged or Banned in 2009-2010,” 2010, p. 5). There are passages that do deal with physical intimacy, (both the heterosexual and homosexual variety), and this might be what attracts some teens to read it. This is not to say that the references to intimacy are especially graphic, but just the fact that it is controversial might be the attraction. For example, Russell finds himself in an awkward situation where sex might be a possibility and he has to think of a way to get out of it really quickly (Hartinger, 2003, p. 117).

Geography Club also strongly evokes feelings of empathy. When another school outcast, Brian Bund, is being picked on (2003, p. 9, 137, 164, 184), author Hartinger is realistic in his portrayal of teens. Brian may be being picked on, but Russell does not get up to help him, lest he be bullied too.  Young adult readers who enjoy scenes of the particularly emotional kind will enjoy that characteristic in this novel.

This is a really relatable book for teens that feel alone, not just because they might be LGBTQ, but for any other reason. Russell said, “the fact is, there is a difference between being alone, and being lonely. I may not have been completely along in my life, but I was definitely lonely” (Hartinger, 2003, p. 11, 103, 225). Many teens can relate to this feeling because it is a very realistic one for many.

Hartinger also creates a strongly vivid feel in terms of atmosphere, especially the sense of the awkward. For example, Russell and the others have being LGBTQ in common, but little else and it takes a while for them to become real friends. That transition is strongly laden with awkwardness and tentative efforts to connect (Hartinger, 2003, p. 39, 53, 59, 69, & 219).

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. Discovering you’re not alone in the world can be one of the most relieving feelings ever. That is the sensation this novel creates in the reader, and it might be especially effective for young teens that are coming to terms with being LGBTQ (Hartinger, 2003, p. 29, 35, 39, & 137). I like that positive message in this novel, because it is one of hope.

I, personally, am not really sure why this book was challenged. There are indeed references or passages on physical intimacy, but I do not find them graphic, demeaning, violent, or unlawful. Indeed, I am surprised that this book was challenged in specific reference to pornography, because there is not one single detailed account of sex in the novel that could be classified as “pornographic.” Given that there is one reference to sex, I would perhaps evaluate it as being suggestive, but not graphically inappropriate (Hartinger, 2003, p. 47, 124, 127, & 131).

There is, however, some occasional strong language and references to drinking that I can see some parents objecting to, but it is never portrayed in a positive light. On the contrary, Russell feels uncomfortable and turned off by it, rather than attracted to it (Hartinger, 2003, p. 84, 99, 119, & 171). This novel does not argue for meaningful physical encounters (straight or otherwise), or drinking. If anything I would say it makes the case for the reverse.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: Geography Club is heavily issue-oriented and angst-filled as well as emotionally powerful. Moments of coming to terms with oneself are oddly bittersweet, and heavily laden with significant atmosphere. It is, however, also inspirational and overall, a good read. Readers who enjoyed this book might also like to try Absolutely, Positively, NOT, by David LaRochelle.

Reason for Inclusion: As mentioned above, this book was challenged in the United States of America and I wanted to see why. I was interested to see if the fuss was about graphic descriptions of sex, or if it was the element of homosexuality that was the problem. Personally, I would say it was probably both, but in neither case would I have considered the content sufficient grounds to ban the book.

The book was also recently made into a movie adaptation (due to be released in 2013), so I also chose it to appeal as a cross-over form of entertainment; teens who have either read the book or seen the movie might like to try the other medium as well.

Geography Club is also the first of a series of books called the Middlebrook Series. Series titles are good choices because they encourage young readers to keep improving their language skills. This novel is a good enticer to encourage that trend.

This book has also been chosen as an ALA Popular Paperback, a YALSA Must Read Book,”and one of Booklists, Top Ten Best First YA Novel among many other honors and awards (as listed on the author’s official website).

Suggested Audience: USA Today wrote that Geography Club (and other books in the Middlebrook Series) are, “entertaining for all readers, regardless of their sexuality,” and I would completely agree (Brent’s Brain, “The Russel Middlebrook Series,” 2013). I would recommend this book for teens aged 14 and up, but perhaps most especially for teens that might be feeling isolated in connection with LGBTQ topics personally.

References

Brent’s Brain: Home of Writer Brent Hartinger (2013). “The Russel Middlebrook Series.” Retrieved from http://brenthartinger.com/the-russel-middlebrook-books-2/

Entertainment Canada (2012). “Geography Club Movie: Brent Hartinger Book Adaption Begins Production.” Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/28/geography-club-movie-brent-hartinger_n_1633866.html

Doyle, Robert, P. (2010). “Books Challenged or Banned in 2009-2010.” Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/banned/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/free_downloads/2010banned.pdf

Absolutely, Positively, NOT, by David LaRochelle

Bibliographic Information (APA): LaRochelle, David. (2005). Absolutely, Positively NOT. Arthur A. Levine Books: USA.

Category: LGBTQ Fiction

Subcategories: Award-winning & Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Summary: When you’re a ‘manly’ man, you buy Playboy Magazines, date lots of girls, and get tattoos of busty women, right? At least that’s what Steven keeps telling himself in a furious effort to deny that he is actually gay. Even though Steven fantasizes about his favorite teacher, Mr. Bowman. And he notices good-looking boys. And he likes square dancing. And he had no actual real interest in girls. But still, Steven is absolutely, positively sure he is not gay!

16-year old Steven DeNarski is just your average, angst-filled teen, with one difference. He is trying to make himself not gay, while also trying to make sure no one finds out his terrible secret in the meantime. What follows all his failed efforts to convince himself he is not gay, is Steven’s roller coaster ride of discovery, and the eventual epiphany that self-acceptance can be one of the most freeing things you will experience in a whole lifetime. Funny, sad, and empathetic, Absolutely, Positively NOT will speak to any teen that has (or is having) a hard time accepting who or what they are.

Book Talking Hooks: Steven is a really, really nice person. One of the better things about his character is that even as he is struggling with a deeply personal issue, he is not unkind to other people and he does not take his frustration out on them. We could all, at some point or another in our lives take a lesson from that, but it is also a device in this book that creates sympathy or even empathy in the reader for Steven (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 41, & 49).

Absolutely, Positively, NOT is really funny in the right places (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 37, 73, 116, 122, & 139). On the very first page, the reader is entertained by Steven’s observation that square dancers’ flannel plaid shirts and goofy shoes make them look like escapees from clown school (Larochelle, 2005, p.1). This immediately amusing observation wins over the reader that wants to hear what Steven thinks of next. Whenever a situation in the novel can be taken too seriously, the sudden interjections of humor keeps things light and breaks the tension.

Steven’s solutions to problems can also be really creative, if a little improvised. When Steven makes up a fake girl he has a date with to pacify his mother, but then she wants to meet his date. Steven’s solution is ingenious and funny, if a little unorthodox (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 135, & 148).

Steven’s initial efforts to justify his behavior to himself, and to overcompensate for his feelings toward other men is comic relief and a little sad at the same time. Apparently, manly men get tattoos of busty women in bikinis, so Steven thinks he should get one of those too, and read Playboy magazines! (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 12, & p. 17). The reader sees him so desperately trying to justify himself and his feelings that it is humorous, but also sad in that Steven puts so much nervous energy in denying who he truly is and no one should have to live like that (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 17, 45, & 113). It is almost a relief when Steven finally admits it to himself and other people that he is gay, and it changes the slightly burdened feeling an empathetic reader might feel for Steven.

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. I really liked this book because of the positive message of the content. Steven is really brave. Steven does not give up. Steven is eventually willing to be different in order to really be who he is inside, and that is a really important message to broadcast to young readers, no matter what their orientation may be.

Steven is strong enough, and curious enough to keep looking for an answer, even when his first attempts at a solution do not pan out (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 25, 64, 67, 105, 173, & 189). Eventually, he comes to accept the one that feels the most right for him, even if it isn’t the one that he wanted to begin with. That takes real courage, and it is a really positive message to present to readers in their formative teen years.

Another really great thing about the content is the portrayal of Steven’s friends and his family. They may not be perfect, or had the best reaction when Steven told them he was gay, but eventually, really crucial people in his life stepped up, and helped and supported him (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 122, 132, 165, 171, 208, & 215). For all their weirdness, his support network is there for Steven when it matters. This emphasizes the importance of those people in a teens’ life who might initially appear marginal or peripheral to personal drama, but are in fact really important in their support during what can be a difficult time in a person’s life.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: Absolutely, Positively NOT is issue oriented in its candid portrayal of a trying situation, and angst-filled, but it is also bittersweet, funny, emotional, and very inspirational. Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan, and Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez might also be good alternative reads for teens that are a fan of this book.

Reason for Inclusion: Generally, the review comments were positive. For example Kirkus Reviews, said that, “Gay teen angst has rarely been so funny. . . . this will entertain readers no matter which team they play for” (Arthur A. Levine Books, “Absolutely Positively NOT,” 2013).

Teen Reads also made a very perceptive comment about the subject of teen LGBTQ fiction. Treating the subject of coming out of the closet with humor can be seen as disrespectful to most people’s struggle, “but LaRochelle’s skillful approach to the tribulations faced by 16-year-old Steven DeNarski manages not only to deal with Steven’s coming out in a respectful manner but also to capture the dread felt by anyone who has spent a second of time worrying what the world would think of them once they were out” (Teen Reads, “Review,” 2013), and I am inclined to agree with this insight.

In 2006, Absolutely, Positively Not also won the Sid Fleischman Humour Award as well being included in the Booklist Top Ten Novel by a New Author, and the ALA selected it for their Best Book for Young Adults list.

Suggested Audience: I would recommend Absolutely, Positively NOT to any young reader who enjoys a good laugh, but perhaps most especially to any young adult who have recently come out of the closet or are thinking about it. Teens aged 13 and up would enjoy this book.

References

Arthur A. Levine Books (2013). “Absolutely Positively Not.” Retrieved from http://www.arthuralevinebooks.com/book.asp?bookid=87

Good reads (2013). “Sid Fleischman Humor Award Winners.” Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/award/show/3764-sid-fleischman-humor-award

Teen Reads (2013). “Review” Retrieved from http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/absolutely-positively-not

Yalsa. (2013). “2006 Best Books for Young Adults with Annotations.” Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yalsa/booklistsawards/booklists/bestbooksya/annotations/06bbya

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Bibliographic Information (APA): Hartman, Rachel. (2012). Seraphina [E-Reader version, 2012]. Double Day: Canada

Category: Canadian* (Author), & Fantasy, Science Fiction, or Horror

Subcategories: Award-winning

Descriptive Summary: After years of bloody war, the people of Goredd and dragons have maintained a wary peace for 40 years, but that peace is now seriously threatened on the eve of the anniversary of the treaty. Prince Rufus is found murdered in draconian fashion—his head has been bitten off—and dragons that attend court (transformed into human form) find themselves at the centre of blame.

In the midst of this precarious situation, Seraphina Dombegh is a very gifted musician at court with a dangerous secret of her own that she must conceal at all costs. Yet she finds herself drawn into the investigation with the somewhat gruff Prince Lucian Kiggs and they begin to understand that something sinister is afoot. Seraphina is forced to choose between keeping her secrets and her life, or choosing the peace of the realm.

Book Talking Hooks: Rachel Hartman’s descriptive style and imagery is truly beautiful, especially when it comes to descriptions of sound and music. When Seraphina sees into a ‘vision’ of sorts, the vivid visual scene was larger-than-life and three-dimensional (Hartman, 2012, chapter 3, p. 22/33). Seraphina once thinks, “I feel this music in very blood. This is what it means to be me, right here, right now, solid flesh, ethereal air, eternal motion. I feel this, and it is truth beyond truth” (Hartman, 2012, ch 31, p. 6/26). The depth of description really adds texture to the story (Hartman, 2012, Prologue p 4/9, ch 10, p. 3/24, ch 12, p. 2/28, ch 15, p. 3/25, ch 24, p. 21/25, and ch 30, p. 12/18). Readers who like complex imagery will enjoy the depth of description.

This novel is also really complex in its world building and character building. For example, dragons have peculiar traits such as maternal memories (Hartman, chapter 2, p. 22/31, ch 6, p 13/19, ch 15, p. 8/25, ch 23, p. 14/23), and a mind construct called Ard to keep their thoughts in balance and to abstain from emotion clouding their judgment (Hartman, 2012, ch 4, p. 2/44). Emotions that conflict with Ard are against the law for dragons, which adds to the complexity of the character construct, and resulting situations with serious consequences (Hartman, 2012, ch 29, p. 10/18).

Fans who enjoy novels with complex emotional study and depth to the characters will enjoy this novel because insights into the character’s emotions are crucial to understanding their motivation. Seraphina’s secret history keeps her isolated from people and she is aware of that; she is lonely and that is important to why she simultaneously wants to reach out to people and form relationships, at the same time as push people away (Hartman, 2012, ch 2, p. 30/31). The moments when Seraphina experiences the joy of someone actually ‘seeing’ her for who she is inside, is a moving experience for her (Hartman, 2012, ch 13, p. 11/17).  Other glimpses into someone’s character can change the whole perception of them, and Seraphina’s perception of dragons is crucial to how she conducts herself (Hartman, 2012, ch 17, p. 10/21, Ch 36, p. 4/14).

Above all, this tale exemplifies courage on behalf of others, even at great risk to personal safety. Seraphina is an admirable character. She is not perfect, but she is nonetheless admirable and it is inspirational to read about people like that (Hartman, 2012, ch 10, p. 16/24, ch 15, p. 8/25, ch 19, p. 21/36, ch 21, p. 9/23, p. 11/23, ch 33, p. 14/20).

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. One of the best strengths about Serpahina is that there is really exciting plot development, such as when Seraphina learns that her ‘secret’ does not leave her in quite so much isolation as she had first supposed. In this way, the reader is drawn into the revelation and wonders what Seraphina will do with it next (Hartman, 2012, ch 8, p. 9/19, 19/19, and ch 10, p. 6/24), or what will happen when Seraphina thinks she has finally found the enemy at the centre of the conspiracy (Hartman, 2012, ch 19, p. 36/36).

Seraphina is also about positive messages. For all of its fantasy, it is about first impressions, prejudices and how one can be wrong about someone or something. Those prejudices can become powerful monsters in their own right because a similar opinion held by many, even when it’s wrong, can be a challenge to overcome. For example, Serpahina has a lot more experience with dragons and has insights into how they think and why. (Hartman, 2012, ch 3 p 12/33, ch 4, p 36/44, ch 14, p. 15/29, and ch 15, p. 5/25).

Having the courage to change your perceptions of someone may be the bravest thing about this book. Seraphina is angry with her mother for the choices she made that affected the course of Seraphina’s life, but as she comes to understand her mother’s struggle, she begins to forgive her a little; and it is freeing to Seraphina who carries a heavy burden inside (Hartman, 2012, ch 19, p. 33/36). “She’d believed in this; she’d given everything she had. What if our mothers were not the fools we had taken them for? What was love really worth?” (Hartman, 2012, ch 37, p. 22/33).

Ironically, the greatest strengths of this novel can also be its weaknesses. The mental landscape that Seraphina creates to try and understand herself is intricately complex and might be more of a challenge to a younger reader (Hartman, 2012, ch 4, 6/44, ch 26, p. 16/23, ch 30, p. 4/18, and ch 37, p. 16/33). The plot development is also quite complex, and keeping track of all the characters can be a bit of a challenge. (There is a really helpful inclusion at the end of this book of all the characters in a character list as well as a glossary to explain some of the more complicated terminology).

Readers’ Advisory Notes: Seraphina is an intense vista of world-building, character and plot intricacy, as well as lots of action and adventure! This novel also touches upon a wide range of emotions and character motivations. There is a great deal of texture, intense detail to the imagery, and description that makes Seraphina one of the most richly descriptive books I have read in a long while!

Reason for Inclusion: The School Library Journal, the Youth Services Corner, and Hornbook all gave Seraphina a starred review, which is high praise for a debut novel. Publisher’s Weekly also included this book as one of The Best New Books for The Week of July 2012 list. Hartman also won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Text in 2012 and the William C. Morris Award in 2013 for Seraphina (among other awards and shortlists). Given that these achievements and recognition are quite extraordinary for an author’s debut novel, this book is a good choice to give a try.

Suggested Audience: I would recommend Seraphina to teens that are fans of fantasy and quite complex alternative world-building. Given the slightly more complicated plot development and wide ranging cast of characters, I would more specifically recommend this book for a slightly older teen (maybe aged 16 and up) who can keep track of the story easily.

References

ALA. (2013). “American Library Association Announces 2013 Youth Media Award Winners.” Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/news/pr?id=12298

Booklist online (2012). “Booklist Review: Seraphina.” Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com/Seraphina-Rachel-Hartman/pid=5331300

The Governor General Literary Awards (2012). “English Winner and Finalist.” Retrieved from http://ggbooks.canadacouncil.ca/en.aspx#tab4

Hornbook. (2012). “July/August 2012 Starred Reviews.” Retrieved from http://www.hbook.com/2012/05/blogs/read-roger/julyaugust-2012-starred-reviews/

Publisher’s Weekly. (2012). “PW Picks: The Best New Books for The Week of July 9, 2012.” Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/52869-pw-picks-the-best-new-books-for-the-week-of-july-9-2012.html

School Library Journal. (2012). “Starred Reviews from the August 2012 Issue.” Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2012/08/books-media/starred-reviews-from-the-august-2012-issue/#_

Youth Services Corner. (2012). “Starred YA Book Reviews 2012.” Retrieved from http://www.youthservicescorner.com/starred-ya-book-reviews/starred-ya-book-reviews-2012/

Born This Way (Music CD), by Lady GaGa

Bibliographic Information (APA): GaGa, Lady (2011). Born This Way. [Music CD]. USA: Streamline, Interscope, & Kon Live

Category: Music Album (Audio Recordings)

Descriptive Summary: Lady GaGa is an experimental post-modern electronic pop artist and this artistically ambitious album is definitely a product of that agenda and creative expression. Born This Way lives up to the hype and the phenomenon that is the persona of Lady GaGa in the media. It is controversial, fun, and highly creative; all of these elements are a reflection of the artist herself in many ways. Born This Way almost seems to be an effort to push societal boundaries to its limit, which is something that a lot of teens can personally identify with.

Born This Way is music that is not just open to interpretation, but actually needs it in order to have context for every listener; no two people are going to derive the same meaning from it, which may be one of the reasons Lady GaGa remains such a sensational and fascinating phenomenon for many fans. The variety of music topics and the breadth of ‘artistic license’ in Born This Way is certainly what makes this project so artistically ambitious. There are elements of 80s music, disco, heavy metal, and acoustics. There is probably at least one theme in the music that will appeal to different teens that have more eclectic tastes in music.

Book Talking Hooks: Lady Gaga won a Grammy Award in 2009 for her single Just Dance and it became a best seller worldwide. Poker Face was another single that followed and went to the Number One Bestseller spot, selling over nine million singles worldwide in 2009. Collectively, Just Dance, Poker Face, and Bad Romance sold 15 million singles worldwide and Lady Gaga is the only artist to have four different singles claim number one hits from debut albums. At the 2010 MTV Music Awards, Lady Gaga also won eight of her thirteen award nominations among many other awards, nominations, and best seller lists places.

Given Lady Gaga’s unbelievable success worldwide, it is not surprising that she is hugely popular with young adults and pop culture. Also, not surprisingly, Born This Way has also been very popular. The single, Born This Way (the second song in the album) is the fastest selling single on record, selling one million copies five days after its release in February 2011. Born This Way is also only one of 19 albums to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 Countdown List. Other singles on the album, Judas and The Edge of Glory (items number four, and 14 on the album respectively), were number one bestsellers on iTunes.

Songs like Judas, have generated considerable controversy in the media, particularly from religious communities. The song Judas, for example, sparked a great deal of controversy for the Christian religion, especially for Catholics who reacted very strongly. Teens that have a somewhat rebellious streak may be attracted to this aspect of the album, thus increasing it’s popularity.

There are also certain other songs that teens could relate to. The song, Hair (item number six in the album) is something that tees might identify with since it is about someone trying to express their individuality through how they dress and their parents don’t like it. This is a common struggle for many young adults trying to be different, or just simply to be rebellious. Bad Kids (song number nine) is also a similarly themed song about feeling like every bad thing that happens is a teen’s fault and that that teen is not really a bad kid after all. This is another message or theme that many teens would identify with.

Overall, Born This Way has many songs with different paces, tones, varying content. For example, Marry The Night (song number one in the album) is strongly reminiscent of the 80s music style. Schiebe (item number seven) is partially in German and will appeal to teens of a multicultural background. Most of it is quick and catchy; these songs would be fun to dance to. Highway Unicorn (song number eight), has strong elements of repetitive techno, which is also really popular with young adults. You and I is an example of a song with slower beat. With this sort of variety, the chances are not bad that a teen already into pop music will find a number on this album that they like.

Evaluative Comments: 3/5. Born This Way is certainly creative and the variety of beats and tempo make it entertaining to listen to, if that is the style of music of person is into. This album clearly involves multiple sources of inspiration and musical equipment.

Some of the song numbers will have some appeal to teens that feel alienated or different through songs like Bad Kids, or Born This Way. Both of those songs do have positive or good messages for teens. For example, the single Born This Way is just about celebrating who and what you are; we could all do with a little more of that in our lives!

However, this album may be a bit of a dubious choice for the Young Adult section in a library collection, given the controversy it has generated and some people possibly viewing some of the song’s messages as unwholesome for children and teens. Songs like Marry the Night can be seen by some to encourage somewhat less than wholesome behavior in terms of sexual promiscuity, as does Government Hooker and Heavy Metal Lover (song numbers three, and 11 respectively). Keeping an album like this in the YA Section could generate further controversy.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: Born This Way is certainly issue-oriented but perhaps also reflective (primarily due to the controversy surrounding the album’s candid content). This kind of music would generate conversation, dialogue and debate. It is also highly creative with a wide variety of different moods. Angst-filled, emotionally intense, occasionally disturbing (for some teens), but also a bit funny and feel-good at times. Truly a range of emotions!

Reason for Inclusion: As noted above, Lady GaGa in general is hugely popular in pop cultures, music, fashion, and social media in general (she is the most followed celebrity on Twitter, for example, with over nine million followers and over thirty million ‘likes’ on Facebook to date). She is an award-winning artist for many of her works, and Born This Way is one of the most popular albums of all time (as noted above in Book Talking Hooks).

I also picked Born This Way because of the controversy it generated upon its release in 2011. Teens are interested in the controversial or the challenged which, I think, is a large part of the album’s success. The messages in songs like Judas, and Bloody Mary are not especially violent but they are viewed as blasphemous and disrespectful of religion, which is a hot topic in the media. I did not find these songs to be especially anti-religious so much as a self-expression of one’s perception of religion. This is something that I can see appealing to teens a lot as they try to voice their own opinions and I understand the appeal of this album because of that.

Suggested Audience: Born This Way is classified as dance-pop. Therefore, I would recommend it to teens that find that style of music appealing. Given the highly creative elements of artistic license and interpretive qualities this album involves, I would also recommend this to slightly older teens that might be interested in making a project out of music and/or art analysis or an examination of pop culture. Furthermore, given the slightly questionable message in some of the songs concerning moral behaviour, this may also be another reason to regard it as entertainment for a more mature teen. I would recommend the album Born This Way to teens aged 15 and up.

References

The Hollywood Reporter (2011). “Lady GaGa’s ‘Judas,’ Upsets Religious Groups. Retrieved from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/lady-gagas-judas-upsets-religious-179188

Lady GaGa (2013). “BIO.” Retrieved from http://www.ladygaga.com/bio/default.aspx

The Metro (2011). “From Lady GaGa to Rihanna: Top 5 Controversial Music Videos of 2011.” Retrieved from http://metro.co.uk/2011/12/08/from-lady-gaga-to-rihanna-top-5-controversial-music-videos-of-2011-248036/

Metrolyrics (2013). “Born This Way Lyrics.” Retrieved from http://www.metrolyrics.com/born-this-way-lyrics-lady-gaga.html

The Sun (2011). “Lady GaGa Blasted by Critics.” Retrieved from http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/music/3565300/Lady-GaGa-blasted-by-critics-over-controversial-Judas-music-video.html

The New York Public Library Teen Website

Bibliographic Information (APA): The New York Public Library. (2013). “Resources for Teens.” [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.nypl.org/help/getting-oriented/resources-teens

Category: Teen Library Website

Descriptive Summary: If you are new to New York City, then the New York Public Library (NYPL) website for teens is a great place to locating new resources and helpful advice for settling in. There is practical advice for things like Money Matters, How to Find Things, and Research Services, and a subsection dedicated to help with school projects. There is also a lot of fun stuff too! There are links to music, YouTube, podcasts, and summer reading clubs! There is something for everyone on the NYPL page! Listed in a logical list-type formation, all the resources are clearly laid out and easy to choose from. All you have to do is look!

Book Talking Hooks: The NYPL offers a range of resources and services that create Events, Programs, and Volunteer Opportunities for teen. This is a really useful way of showing the next generation that the NYPL is not just about books and outdated materials. The NYPL is current, fresh, and fun!

There are also many links to popular social media at the top and bottom of the Resources for Teens homepage. A wide selection will attract a teen conversant in social media contact. This opens up the NYPL to new points of access that are valuable for today’s teen audience.

If teens are not into books, they can also check out what the NYPL has to offer under the Audio, Video, and Images category instead. This shows that the NYPL has lots to offer their patrons beyond books, and teens will come back to look for new things.

The NYPL also makes itself even more relevant by including phone apps that can connect with things like Homework Help, to eBooks, and to academic articles that teens might like to study. Through social media, the NYPL is using a valuable point of access for teens in this digital age and in this way, the library reaches a larger audience and serves its public better. These sorts of applications are also useful training for older teens that will be preparing for post-secondary education; lots of colleges and universities offer similar services through their academic libraries. In this way, the NYPL is not only current, but is encouraging young adults to think of the library space as something beyond a physical building with only books in it.

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. One of the primary strengths of the NYPL Teen site is how inclusive it is. The website can be converted into multiple languages by clicking on conversion links. The NYPL is then available in Spanish, Chinese, or Russian. The multiculturalism of New York as a city is really encouraged by making the NYPL available to a much wider audience in their native language. One of the first places new immigrants might go is the public library to become acquainted with a new place.

The NYPL is even more inclusive and user-friendly in that it also offers books and resources for the blind by through Braille books and recorded audiobook resources. It is a thoughtful extension of making the NYPL more usable to a wider audience. These resources increase the relevance and the value of the NYPL as a whole, not just for teens.

Some of the more disappointing aspects of the NYPL Teen site were things like usability and navigability. Finding the page for Teens was not straightforward. It took some looking around but I eventually found it under the Using the Library drop-down menu option, where there was a Teen selection available.

All the subcategories are listed in a straight line down the centre of the page, which is very logical, but not very creative. Order is important, but creativity and use of color are also really important considerations when designing a site to attract teens and children. More artistic license and creative use of the space would make this resource more engaging and it would encourage more traffic of users that enjoy their own virtual “space” at the NYPL.

It is also disappointing that although there are links to Summer Reading Programs for children, teens, and adults they are all still from 2012. An update in this sort of area is crucial to keeping the NYPL and its services relevant. Although the Summer of 2013 has not occurred yet, there is no indication on the page of any upcoming plans in the weeks ahead. That sort of information is valuable to attracting future patrons to the library.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: The NYPL teen site is exemplary of a site that serves people from multiple cultural backgrounds and is highly informative, relevant to its community, and a great resource to compliment a teens’ education. This site would pair up nicely with other educational facilities like the New York Metropolitan Museum, for example.

Reason for Inclusion: I included this website because I was curios about what a really large library network would have to offer for a vastly multicultural area such as New York. It would seem that varied and useful resources would be made available to that sort of public and I found this to be the case with the NYPL teen website available in different languages. I had also heard about the NYPL from friends that had gone to New York and encountered the physical space of one of the library branches (Sarah Skaling, 2010, Personal Communication). They were impressed with it, so I looked up the virtual space to see what that had to offer as well.

Suggested Audience: I would recommend this site to any teen looking to research school projects for connections to other educational resources, as well as teens just trying to find things to do in a new city, or to get to know their way around. The logical and simplistic layout of the site is also encouraging to younger teens who might find a more complex site difficult to navigate, so this site could be used by teens aged 13 and up.

References

NYPL (2013). “Resources for Teens.” Retrieved from http://www.nypl.org/help/getting-oriented/resources-teens

NYPL (2013). “Summer Reading 2012” Retrieved from http://nypl-src-teens.bibliocommons.com

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.metmuseum.org

The Halifax Public Library Teen Website

Bibliographic Information (APA): The Halifax Public Library. (2013). “Teens Halifax Public Libraries.” [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/teens.html

Category: Teen Library Website

Descriptive Summary: Think that libraries are stuffy and boring places with just old-fashioned books? Think again! The Halifax Public Library (HPL) has so much to offer teens, and nowhere is this clearer than the Teen HPL website! Anyone can find out about teen programs, resources, facilities, and library-based events on the teen library website. This is also a valuable resource for help on crafting resumes, interviewing for a job, or learning to drive. Not only is this site fun, and engaging, but it is also full of really valuable information for getting involved with your community, promoting yourself, and using the valuable resource that is the Halifax Public Library!

Book Talking Hooks: This is a really informative and fun website! There is a lot of information available on just about anything a teen could want to know about in connection with the HPL, but the site does not have an over-crowded or chaotic feel to it. Rather, there is a sense of logical order that enables a user to find most things with relative ease. The most important search functions are in slightly larger and colored lettering to make it stand out more. A quick glance over the page will usually lead a user to what they want to find. For example, there is a large menu bar on the left-hand side of the screen with choices such as Programs, Contests and Teen Topics (amongst others). This makes the webpage very user-friendly.

The HPL Teen site has also made great use of color. The background is bright and friendly and colored lettering also aids in distinguishing one section of text from another. In this way, the site designers have used colors to aid in effective organization. The most important sources and links are bright and stand out which helps site navigation.

The HPL Teen site is a really good example of how libraries have evolved to serve the needs, wants, and interests of children and young adults. There are options to view Programs, Contests, or to Volunteer with the Library. Teens can clearly see that some services at the library are made with them in mind and this will encourage them to return to the website or to go to a physical branch to see what the place is all about.

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. The HPL has included really useful functions like the Ask a Librarian and Live Homework Chat. This is a really convenient way of enabling teens to get in touch with library help and services, which shows that the library is reaching out to their audience in convenient and relevant ways. The creation of new access points to resources is what keeps a facility like a library relevant. Further more, this is really useful preparation for post-secondary education where the equivalent of such functions are often available through college and university library websites for their students.

The site has also made really good use of internal links or menu choices to important information such as branch hours or super easy options of selecting from the How Do I drop-down menu to learn about the more common questions and answers. Internally, the HPL has also made really good use of TAGS. Popular key terms and expressions are included at the base of the teen home page. This means that a teen could probably find a resource they are interested in without too much difficulty. Clearly, the site is navigable through multiple access points.

Another strength of the site is the employment of social media. There are clear links to external sites like Facebook and an RRS feed. In this way, the HPL Teen site stays connected to the community and to its target viewers. Perhaps one way for the site to improve, however, would be to set up a Twitter account that viewers could follow, thus increasing the potential for social media and the HPL.

The HPL has also demonstrated an awareness of the space and resources outside the library itself through the inclusion of links to external resources. The Teen Topics page has links to health and wellness, emergency services, and job and volunteer opportunities. This gives the facility a sense of contextual place and encourages teens to embed the library as part of his or her own environment. Although a website is not a physical space in the classical sense of the word, the HPL has created a really welcoming virtual space that is heavily teen oriented. Ownership of that space will help to encourage the target audience to make use of it.

It would be an improvement for the site, however, if the option to view the site in other languages were possible. While English is the primary language of Halifax, there is also a vibrant immigrant population and the library would be a really useful resource in other languages.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: I found the HPL Teen site really engaging, fun to look at, resourceful, community-aware, and encouraging to teens and their needs and wants with a strong orientation towards effective service.

Reason for Inclusion: I have a lot of personal experience with the HPL branches (as I live in Halifax), and I wanted to see if the resourceful website matched the services that are available to teens at the various branches. Certain branches were slightly more resourceful than others, but all the branches demonstrate an awareness of a teen physical presence as well as a virtual presence and this was really good to see. I found the website to be really useful in informing me about the services and the priority teens gets with the HPL.

Through general conversation with people associated with the HPL (and library patrons), I have also heard really great things about the services offered by the HPL for youth. It was really good to hear that resources (both physical and electronic) were living up to the expectations of many people I have spoken with in the past. For example, although it is not a direct recognition of teen resources, the HPL has won the John Cotton Dana Award, (presented by the ALA) twice for Summer Reading Programs. (Personal Communication, Kelli Woo Shue, Manager of Emerging Technologies with the HPL, 2013).

Suggested Audience: Any and all teens and children in the Halifax Regional Municipality would find this site super useful and resourceful to find entertainment and opportunities to become engaged with their local community. I would recommend this site for teens of all ages.

References

Halifax Public Library (2012). “Awards.” Retrieved from http://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/about/news/awards.html