Push to Talk: A teen blog powered by the Seattle Public Library

23 Mar

Title: Push to Talk

Genre: Library Blog

Link: http://blog.spl.org/yablog/

Ages: 12-18

Scale: 9/10


I think the mission statement of this amazing blog  summarizes the intent and purpose better than I ever could.

WE HEREBY SWEAR that this blog for teens, written by teens and the librarians who serve them, shall be interesting, worthwhile, entertaining, and peppered with pictures of animal babies. Did we miss anything? Let us know what you think, what you want to read, what’s boring you to death, etc here: teenblog@spl.org!


The blog contains a cornucopia of book reviews, puzzles, and great links to other sites. I actually found the teen reviews of books to be such an excellent tool. I hated the book “boy meets boy” by David Levithan, but was thrilled to see that this particular teen advisory board loved it. It’s insightful for librarians and it helped me to see the book from an entirely new perspective. I also just love that the teen advisory board actually gets to create such a colorful blog. It must be an incredibly satisfying experience for the teens and librarians involved.

I would recommend this site and would love to be a part of the creation of similar blog.

Read Alikes:




The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

21 Mar

Title: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

Volume I:  The Pox Party

Genre: Audio book

Author: M.T Anderson

Recommended Age: 15-19

Scale: 6/10


Most of the story is told from the perspective of Octavian. Octavian and his beautiful motherlive in pre-Revolutionairy Boston.  These two individuals are given classical eduations, music lessons, and the finest clothing by a group of scientists who call themselves The Novanglian College of Lucidity.  Later, it is  revealed that Octavian and his mother are actually slaves and part of an ongoing experiment. More specifically, the scientists  have been trying to determine which race(African vs. European) is actually superior.  Octavian is also effected by the loss of fortunes of the College of Lucidity and the American Revolution, smallpox, and his mother’s death.
This is the worst summary I’ve ever written. My apologies. It’s a super long and complicated book.
Tooooooo looooooooong.

Audio books are not for me.  The story is narrated by Peter Francis James (super hottie from Law and Order) and although I appreciate his deep rumbling voice, I simply could not get into the story. I also think the variation in literary and story-telling techniques does not really lend itself well to an audio book. This book uses first person narrative, fictional letters, and diary entries and the shift between these methods is  awkward. Also, who the heck has the time to listen to this? Certainly not high school students.
Overall, I would not recommend this audio book.
Listen Alikes:


12 Mar
Authors: Mariko Tamaki
Drawing: Jillian Tamaki
Genre: Graphic Novel.
Recommended Age: 15-18
Scale: 9/10


This indie graphic novel is set in the early nineties and tells the story of “Skim”,  a Japanese Wiccan Goth girl who attends an all-girl school in Toronto. Skim is a lonely outsider who makes the mistake of simultaneously  beginning a romance with her artistic English teacher and helping her best friend through a tragedy. This book deals with  serious themes that most young adult readers would be able to recognize: sex, coming of age, depression, and friendships.


Although the story is a bit too heavy handed for me (I like my graphic novels to be on the lighter side of things), I think that many teens would recognize the patterns of behaviors and might enjoy this story. The art is the best part of this book. The facial expressions are evocative and the lack of colors seem to make each scene that much more poignant.
Overall, this book is worth reading.
Read Alikes:

Breaking Up cover

The Official Nancy Drew Handbook: Skills, Tips, and Life Lessons From Everyone’s Favorite Girl Detective

11 Mar

Title: The Official Nancy Drew Handbook

Genre: Non Fiction/Self Help

Author: Penny Warner


Scale: 10/10

Thoughts and Summary are combined on this one!

Who didn’t grow up wanting to be just like American’s favorite headband wearing girl detective?

I devoured these books as a young teenager and emulated Nancy in the worst possible ways. I carried a tiny notebook around in my pocket, begged my mom for saddle shoes and tennis lessons, and tried to learn to tap out Morse code with the tips of my pencil in math class.

For girls like me, this book is  easy to fall in love with.

The Official Nancy Drew Handbook is a guide to the good life as demonstrated by our favorite ginger girl sleuth.  The cover of the book is  bright blue, and has this wonderful grainy texture. The pages of the books are outlined in blue and yellow (typical Nancy colors), and every second paragraph contains passages from Carolyn Keene’s books.

The author is clearly a big fan and this book is equal parts homage to Nancy Drew and Self Help. There’s a chapter entitled “Clues to Success in Relationships&Life” and a chapter entitled, “How to Uncover a Haunted Bungalow and Other Ghostly Apparitions”.

Nancy Drew books now seem a bit dated (I can’t even tell you how many times I slapped my forehead, groaned out loud, and even shouted that Nancy wouldn’t be unconscious if she had JUST BROUGHT HER CELL PHONE), and the author of this handbook acknowledges this and modernizes the self help tome accordingly. Overall, I think this book is wonderful and has something for everyone. There’s a page explaining the best way to train a carrier pigeon, a chapter on setting goals and achieving them, and a section that instructs readers on the best way to avoid being drugged.

I think this book is amazing and should be a fixture on library shelves.

Read Alikes:

The Nancy Drew Cook Book!                                           The Lost Files of Nancy Drew

Winnipeg Public Library: Booked

2 Mar

Title: Winnipeg Public Library

Genre: Library Web-site for teens

Author: N/A

Recommended Ages: All young adults

Scale: 8.5/10



The Winnipeg Public Library page for teens contains a ton of information. There are quizzes, a list of events, book lists ( written by teens!), and links that should enable teens to find/ search for the books they want most. There’s an easy-to-find link to the library home page. Most importantly, the site is big, bright, and fun to look at.


It’s fun! It’s probably really hard to attract young adults to libraries and a cool web-site probably goes a long way. The fonts are clear and the links to other pages are easy to find and use. I especially enjoy the link to the book lists written by teens on the right hand side of the page. I think that teen library web spaces should have section written and edited by teens, so these lists were nice to see. There’s also an app for book recommendations on smartphones listed on the left hand side of the page and I think that is an extremely good idea. I’ve seen library web-sites that use as little technology as possible and it can be embarrassing. The only complaint I have about this site is that the list of events hasn’t been updated and describes past events. This could easily be fixed.

Read alikes:



Young Adult Friction

1 Mar

Song Title: Young Adult Friction

Genre:  Music

Band Name: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

Recommended Age:  16 and up

Scale: 8/10


I wanted to write about young adult music and didn’t want to write about Justin Bieber. That was a problem onto itself.  Another problem? I honestly have no idea what kind of music young adults listen to…I hadn’t even realized that there was a difference. Is there a difference? I still don’t know.

When I was in high school, I made it my mission to listen to every obscure band ever. I somehow thought that was the key to unlocking the mystery door that is being popular. Probably not having a constant nosebleed would have helped more.


I decided to consult with a friend of mine who substitutes at a high school.  She steered me to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and said that students in her English class were humming and singing this particular song constantly.

Done and done. Problem solved.


Awesome. I love the high hat, the catchy chorus, and  the clever title of this song. The whole tune is probably a little too sexy for younger adults, but high school students could and should love this. The song also describes every nerdy kid’s most favorite fantasy: sex in the library stacks. The band also manages to rhymes “microfiche”  and  makes an excellent  pun about “checking me out”. The only things I didn’t enjoy about this song (and this band) is that the whole concept seemed too familiar and safe. This isn’t a band that is doing anything new and even the music video was clearly an homage to old Belle and Sebastien tunes.

Listen Alikes:

Belle and Sebestian’s “Wrapped Up in Books”

Vampire Weekend’s “I Think UR a Contra”


26 Feb

Title: Cicada

Genre: Magazine

Author: Well…you know…lots.

Recommended Age: 13 and up

Scale: 9/10

Cicada magazine is aimed at teens and young adults. It contains original poems, works of fiction, and artwork created by its audience. The issues each contain brief biographies of the authors. This month’s edition contains several fantastic short stories. One involves Sherlock Homes, another follows the trials of Angela the apartment wanderer, and involves a map set to music. All of the stories are lovely and engrossing.


It’s great. I love the idea the excerpts from the web-site might make into the print edition. I also love that the magazine provides young adults with a space in which they might actually be able to be published. The layout of the magazine is fun  and the cover is fantastic and (oddly) reminds me of The Giver.  I would recommend this to teens that are interested in being published.

Read Alikes: