Favorite YA Reads of 2010

Wendy Stephens, author of Wendy on the Web, recently wrote a post detailing her favorite reads of 2010 prompting me to consider the YA novels I had read this year.  Which are ones I have or will recommend over and over to my students?


Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

This is the first installment of the Infernal Devices series that is the prequel to the Mortal Instruments series, my favorite YA fantasy series of this century.  Cassandra Clare has captured the essence of the Mortal Instruments world with this novel; I felt as if I had fallen right back into this delicious world of Downworlders and Shadowhunters – even though the novel involves different characters and is set 100 years ago in England.

Clare does not disappoint in this story of sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray who has traveled to London to be reunited with her brother who has mysteriously disappeared.  She is captured by the Dark Sisters who awaken and help her perfect her power of shapeshifting.  Once she escapes from their clutches, she takes refuge at the Shadowhunters’ London Institute and continues to search for her brother.

Science Fiction

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

Another first in a series, Lockdown introduces us to Alex Sawyer who has been framed for the murder of his best friend and sentenced to life in the legendary Furnace Penitentiary. Furnace is a prison like no other, buried a mile underground and ruled by inhuman creatures who take pleasure in randomly kidnapping inmates from their cells.  The inmates are dragged, kicking and screaming, from their cells and undergo horrific, though unknown, experiments which transform them into hideous beasts.

No one has successfully escaped from Furnace, but the thought of spending the remainder of his life there propels Alex to team up with two other inmates to attempt the impossible.  Smith succeeds in keeping the reader mesmerized and anxious to  discover what will happen to Alex.

Realistic Fiction

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Finally, a stand-alone novel!  Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is laying down in the backseat of her stepmother’s Escalade when Griffin Sawyer, another teenager, decides to steal the car.  His father runs a chop-shop and Griffin is hoping to prove he can be an asset to his dad.

Griffin doesn’t realize Cheyenne is in the back seat until it is too late and now he must decide what to do with her.  Cheyenne, who is blind, tries to convince Griffin to let her go because she can’t identify him. When his father discovers that Cheyenne is from a wealthy family, Roy decides to ask for a ransom.

A fast read, the last third of the novel is a suspense-filled ride that you can’t put down.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia loves her life.  She is close to her parents and younger brother, she is a talented cellist hoping for a scholarship to Juillard, and her boyfriend Adam “gets” her.  But in the proverbial blink-of-an-eye, everything changes.  Mia’s family is involved in a fatal car crash, with Mia being the sole survivor.  As she lingers in a coma, Mia is completely aware of what has happened and can’t imagine life without her family.  Will she find the will to fight for life without them? This poignant story takes you on Mia’s mental journey to a decision.

What titles have you recently read that you are recommending to your students?

Improving the Reader’s Experience, One Step at a Time

“Mrs. Bullington, what’s a good book to read?”

More often than not these days, my answer to this question is one of several book series that have been popular in our library:  the Mortal Instruments series, the Hunger Games series, the Immortals series, the Wake trilogy…the list goes on and on.

Helping Students Help Themselves

Once students have read the first book in the series, they often want to check out the second title.  If I am not working with a teacher, student, or class, I love to help inquiring readers locate the right book.  But what about those times when I’m not available?  How can I still assist readers?

Last year, I created a Recommended Reads notebook that is displayed on one of the counters at the Circulation Desk.  It has been one of the best reader’s advisory tools in our library.

This year, I decided to tackle the series in our collection and “Operation: Save Our Series” was launched.  Each title in a series is identified with a label located under the call number.  The label simply states “Series” and the number of the title in the series.  We began pulling books and applying the labels three weeks ago.

To ensure accuracy in labeling, I checked those titles with which I was unfamiliar using the Mid Continent Public Library’s Juvenile Series and Sequels site. After an intensive first week, my service learners had identified and pulled myriads of series from the shelves.

They Just Keep Coming!

Who knew we had so many series?  It seems each time I walk through the fiction area, I notice another series that has escaped our labeling efforts.  Slowly, but surely, we are creating order out of series chaos.

The next step in the process is checking the catalog records for each series.  Unfortunately, many records do not indicate that a title is part of a series, so in spare pockets of time (we all know how rare those are!) I am updating catalog records to reflect this.

Efforts are Rewarded

At our book club meeting this week, I shared the new series labels with the students.  While many members are daily library users and had seen “Operation:  Save the Series” in action, others were pleasantly surprised by the news. All twenty-four students burst into applause at the announcement, though, making our efforts all worthwhile!

I Am Number Four

Cannot wait until this is released!  The first book in this  new science fiction series  will not be published until August 3, but a movie is already in production (produced by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay).

Read Kelly Jensen’s review at Stacked.

Visit the book’s website.

Email Treats

I’ve recently subscribed to two more library related listservs (LM_NET and YALSA-bk) and found some gems from them in my inbox this evening.

I know you shouldn’t wish your life away, but the first gem is a YouTube video for a book coming out this fall.  Gotta get this book!


Another great find was this list of YA series on the ECYA Blog.  What a great site!  Check out the book lists, display ideas, and the Young Adult Authors page.

Publication Date Nearing

Are you a fan of the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness?  The third book in the series, Monsters of Men,  is being published May 3rd – in the UK.  Not sure of the release date here, but Jennifer Rothschild shared on the YALSA-bk listserv that you can order it with free shipping from The Book Depository.com (direct link to the book).  Have never done business with this site, but for diehard fans of the series, it might be worth checking out.

Book Trailers

If you have yet to discover Book Trailers for All, head on over to the site.  It’s still in its infancy (eight weeks old), but it is brimming with book trailers.

These were just a few of the great tidbits shared through listservs today.  What goodies have you discovered lately?

Recommended Reads

Because cloning myself is completely out of the question (my husband doesn’t think the world is ready for more than one me), I’ve had to consider ways to work smarter, not harder. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is being able to connect a reader with the right book. However, that reader often walks into the library when I am working with a teacher or teaching a class. I hate to see a student leave the library empty-handed because I was unable to find the time to work with him before he had to return to class.

Recommended Reads Notebook

To address this problem, I recently created a Recommended Reads notebook that is displayed on our Circulation Desk’s counter. It will remain a work in progress but currently contains:

  • Yearly South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees brochures (annotated brochures provided by fellow SC school librarians and available at the SCASL website)
  • Copies of our B.O.W. (Book of the Week) signs.  Each contains a photo of a book’s cover and an annotation meant to entice students to read the book.
  • YALSA’s 2010 Teen’s Top Ten Nominations (with the titles in our collection highlighted)
  • Readalike Lists created using ATN Reading Lists
  • The Great Scavenger Hunt Book list (with the titles in our collection highlighted)

Next I will be adding a section on Series.  It will contain annotated lists categorized by genre to help readers determine the sequence of a series.

Not Reluctant Readers, but Readers Reluctant to Use the Notebook

At first, I had to physically hand the book to students to encourage them to discover what it contained.  I have been rewarded recently with seeing students approach the desk and pick up the notebook on their own when they are looking for a book to read.  I still love to help students find books, but it is gratifying to know that even when I am not able to verbally suggest a book, I can still guide students towards books they might enjoy.

Suggestions for Improvement?

What else would be helpful to readers who have to rely on this notebook for a recommendation?

“How You Doin’?” or “How You Doing It All?”

Matt LeBlanc

Photo by Alan Light, used with permission under a Creative Commons license

Joey Tribianni from the sitcom Friends is known for his line, “How you doin’?”  But if he were to seriously address today’s  school librarians, Joey would ask,  “How you doing it all?”

Where Does the Time Go?

At times, I wish there were a camera on me during the school day to record the life of a school librarian.  As a classroom teacher, I had a better grasp on what I did with my time:  for ninety minutes at a time, I was in a classroom being guided by my written lesson plans.  I would pencil in notes on my lesson plan book to help me remember where I left off, what worked well and what didn’t, and thoughts for improving the lesson the next time around.

But as a a school librarian on a flexible schedule, my work day doesn’t follow a written plan.  Yes, you can look at our library’s scheduling calendar to see what classes I worked with and look at the Class Visit Request forms to determine what information literacy skills I taught those classes.  But those capture just a short time in my day.

The First Wave

The busiest parts of my day are usually those that don’t involve teaching classes.  When the library opens at 7:30, the whirlwind of activity begins.  Students and teachers must get ready for the day by working on projects, checking out equipment or materials, and scheduling classes to use the library teaching areas or computer rooms. When the bell rings for first block to begin, I have a moment or two before a class arrives to try to read email, sort through the stacks of paper that have accumulated on my desk(s), and tackle one of the items on my ever-growing “to do” list.

The Tide Rolls In

Before I know it, scheduled classes arrive and other students begin to trickle in from classes to return, renew, or check out books or to use a computer to work on an assignment.  Teachers stop by to look at the scheduling calendar during their planning periods and discuss how they will be using the library facilities.  Other teachers call to request help troubleshooting  misbehaving  equipment.  Students often approach me  to say they enjoyed the last book I recommended and would like help in finding another one like it.

Multitasking to the Max

So, on any normal day, a school librarian is often pulled in multiple directions during a given moment:

  • A class to teach
  • An individual student’s needs to be addressed (checking out books, requesting computer use, requesting help with an assignment or locating  a book) – multiply this need by five or six (an average number of students who visit the library on their own)
  • A teacher who needs to discuss scheduling a class to use the library’s facilities
  • A teacher who needs help to get equipment running smoothly

Notice that the list does NOT include any of the librarian’s work that must be accomplished:

  • reading reviews and creating a materials order (or a collection wish list)
  • working with student staff to insure tasks are accomplished (shelving, processing magazines)
  • updating web site
  • processing materials
  • inventory
  • weeding
  • repairing books
  • creating/editing catalog records
  • reading professional journals/blogs
  • recommending new resources to teachers
  • working with vendors
  • running reading promotion programs
  • preparing and presenting staff development
  • creating, assembling, and putting up new bulletin boards
  • creating displays
  • reading children’s/YA lit to recommend to students
  • creating advocacy opportunities/reports
  • planning and creating information literacy lessons
  • compiling statistics
  • planning and holding book club meetings

Words of Wisdom

During my school library internship, I was able to visit several high school libraries in the upstate of South Carolina.  One of the questions I asked each librarian was, “How do you do it all?”  Their answers varied, but they all were proceeded by a knowing smile –  implying that we must accept that it can’t all be done as we would like.

I was told to prioritize.  I was told to focus on the program component that was nearest and dearest to my heart.  I was told to learn to accept that it wouldn’t all get done.

As an idealist, I want to believe that I can do it all – and do it all effectively.  As a realist, I know that it is impossible to do without the help of others.

What words of wisdom do you have?  How do you do it all?

Overwhelmed by Series?

Photo used with permission under a Creative Commons license

Photographer's Assistant, Bird and Beckett

School librarians often find book series to be both a blessing and a curse.  Students who might normally  read one book per semester will read three or four books in a series.  Hooking students on one series can whet their appetite for more books just like the series they devoured in two weeks.

But these same series can also cause problems.  What happens when a student finishes book one in a series and rushes into the library to find that all copies of book two are checked out? What happens if a student begins a series unfamiliar to you and wants to know the order of the books?

Resources to the rescue!

Need to know the order of books in a series?

Need ideas of other books to recommend?

  • Check out the ATN-Reading Lists Wiki’s Read Alikes page.  You’ll find suggestions for a wide range of books, both fiction and nonfiction.
  • What Should I Read Next? Enter details (title or author for example) or the ISBN of a book you’ve enjoyed.  You’ll be given a list of suggestions.  Currently (April 2, 2010) the site has over 70,000 titles in its database with more being recommended by readers daily.

Photo attribution:

Photographer’s Assistant, Bird, and Beckett


Free YA Author Chats in April

Image: ‘May their JOY Embrace U!(Bali Kuta Beach)


Photo used with permission through a Creative Commons License

I just finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner and thought I’d visit his site to see what info I could find on the sequel (The Scorch Trials to be published on Oct. 12th).  While reading through his blog, I found an exciting announcement.

Georgia McBride has founded the YALITCHAT which has its own blog and ning.  The Inaugural Event will be held on the nights of April 14th and 15th.  The following excerpt is fromthe YALITCHAT blog:

“We’ll have giveaways, virtual popcorn and loads of fun. It’s a celebration of YA on twitter and you’ll be a memorable part of the inaugural event! One night wasn’t big enough, so we need two! That’s right YALitChatters, mark your calendars because April 14th AND 15th we’re having a party and it’s MADE FROM AWESOME!

Night I April 14 @ 8:30-9PM EST: Pre-Show discussion of BEST scenes from each of the author’s books!

9-11PM EST: Melissa Marr, A.S. King, Becca Fitzpatrick, Lisa McMann, Ellen Hopkins, Margaret Stohl, Carrie Ryan, Alyson Noel

Night II April 15 @ 9-11PM EST: Holly Black, Michelle Zink, Scott Westefeld, Kami Garcia, Cassandra Clare, Bree Despain, James Dashner, Sarah Rees Brennan” ~http://yalitchat.wordpress.com/88/

Add this event to your calendar!

Reading Challenges

J. Kaye of the Home Girl’s Book Blog has issued the 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge.  The rules of participation are simple:

1. Anyone can join. You don’t need a blog to participate.

–Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post. To learn how to sign up without having a blog, click here.

2. There are four levels:

–The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

–Just My Size – Check out and read 50 library books.

–Stepping It Up – Check out and read 75 library books.

–Super Size Me – Check out and read 100 library books.

(Aim high. As long as you read 25 by the end of 2010, you are a winner.)

3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – any book as long as it is checked out from the library count. Checked out like with a library card, not purchased at a library sale.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

6. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

7. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to your post where your library books will be listed. Include the URL to this post so that other viewers can find this fun challenge. If you’d prefer to put your list in the sidebar of your blog, please leave your viewers the link to the sign up page. Again, so viewers can join the challenge too.

****You do NOT need to review your books. That is optional.****

(excerpted from the Home Girl’s Book Blog)

What a great way to promote your library and resources!  Imagine using this as a contest in your own library.  Create fliers with the challenge’s image and post throughout your school.  This would be a great advocacy tool to share with your school community.

J. Kaye has other reading challenges listed on the website.  Encourage your students to choose one or more of them.

South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2010-2011

Although the voting for the 2009-2010 award is still a few weeks away, I have been preparing a book order for next year’s nominees which inspired this video.


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