Love and Global Warming – Who knew?


Block, Francesca Lia. Love in the Time of Global Warming. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2013. 978-0-8050-9627-9. 230 p. $16.99. Gr 9-12.

After an Earth Shaker, or earthquake destroys Los Angeles and possibly more, 17-year-old Pen embarks on an epic quest to find her missing parents and younger brother, Venice. Pen navigates a dark world with a copy of The Odyssey as her guide, finding that evil creatures and humans now lurk around every corner. With beautifully lyrical prose and a touch of magical realism interspersed throughout the story, Pen makes friends and discovers her own identity, which she had questioned in the time before the Earth Shaker. Teens will identify with Pen’s realistic emotions and reactions throughout the story; she is scared and determined, but grounded in the reality of a devastatingly beautiful world after disaster.

Dystopia, Fantastical Realism          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Going Vintage in a Digital Age


Leavitt, Lindsey. Going Vintage. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. 978-1599907871. 320 p. $16.99. Gr. 9-12.

Cyber bullying is currently a hot topic in educational circles, and much literature has been written on the topic. Leavitt takes a lighter approach to cyber bullying in her newest novel, Going Vintage. The main character, Mallory, thinks that she has the perfect boyfriend, and they spend most of their time together. One day, however, Mallory logs on to Jeremy’s computer and discovers that Jeremy is cheating on her with an online girlfriend as part of a virtual world called “Authentic Life.” Mallory feels betrayed and decides to give up on boys and technology. While cleaning out her grandmother’s house with her antique-dealer father, she locates a list that her grandmother wrote of her goals for 1962. Among the items on the list are: finding a steady boyfriend, sewing a dress for homecoming, cooking a family meal, running for pep club secretary, and doing something dangerous.  Mallory makes it her goal to complete her grandmother’s list. She soon realizes that it is harder than she thought to give up on technology, even though creating a pep club means that she will be spending more time with Oliver, Jeremy’s cute and fun cousin. The novel provides insightful commentary on our current teenage population’s obsession with their phones. Mallory feels isolated from her friends at times, but also discovers pleasure in simple things like phone calls with Oliver. The novel seeks a balance between scaring students and making them think about their actions, and does an excellent job of achieving this goal.

Realistic                        Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

As I am sure many teachers and adults in general have noticed, students these days are obsessed with technology, mainly their Smartphones. Students are constantly connected to their phones and are either texting, Snapchating, listening to music, or Tweeting.

This book would be an excellent companion piece to a lesson on the pervasiveness of technology and our dependence on, and sometime addiction to, our personal devices. Currently, I am working on a unit on Digital Citizenship with Honors English 9 students. Their final project is to design a lesson on some aspect of digital citizenship for a chosen grade from Kindergarten through fifth grade. Students began with researching the topic, and then were given a lesson plan outline and suggestions on completing their lesson. I am amazed and excited about the ideas and discussion that has resulted from these lessons.  I wish that we had more time (don’t all librarians?!) so that I could share passages from this book along with articles on the uses and abuses of social media. Our next part of the lesson will involve having students read recent articles on social media, and using chapters of this book would be an excellent strategy for incorporating novels into discussions of social issues and technology. I am certain that many students can relate to Mallory’s reliance on her cell phone and the feeling of being left out when not connected to this device, but also feeling as though technology is overtaking their lives.  I am going to suggest it as a title for our book club in the spring and hopefully work with the English teachers in various grades to use parts of the book to introduce the concepts of digital citizenship.

One book a…Thousand Words

Brown, Jennifer. Thousand Words. New York:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013. 978-0316209724. 288p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.


The premise of this book is so timely and appropriate for high school students today. High school sophomore Ashleigh loves her senior boyfriend and while drunk at a party, she is encouraged by her friends to send him something so he does not forget her at college. She decides on the spur of the moment to send him a full frontal nude photo of herself even though she is a virgin. What happens next is an absolute nightmare as the photo is sent out to practically everyone in the school as a result of a bad breakup and her friends who trash Kaleb’s house and truck. The story, told through her time working on her sixty hours of community service and flashbacks, really gets to the heart of the matter of the dangers of drinking and sexting and how it not only changes her life, but also the life of her ex-boyfriend who is charged with distributing child pornography. Ashleigh loses her parents’ trust, coach’s respect, friends, and reputation. We are there with her as she attempts to rebuild her life with the help of an unlikely new friend, Mack. The title comes from the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, but as Ashleigh also learns, it does not tell the whole story.

Realistic                               Marian Kohan, Erie School District

The book does not come off as overly preachy as it highlights an important issue that too many of our teens are engaging in and the possible worst case scenario that could result.  One of the students who read the book liked it but thought it seemed too contrived and went overboard on the consequences for the teens. Another thought that there was no way a girl who was not having a sexual relationship with her boyfriend, and really didn’t want one, would send a nude photo of herself—drunk or not. To her the story lacked a ring of truth but she did like how the story was told and wanted to read more about Ashleigh’s new relationship with Mack.

You Look Different…In Real Life

Castle, Jennifer. You Look Different in Real Life. New York: Harper, 2013. 978-0-06-198581-2. 355p. $17.99. Gr. 8-12.

Justine was six years old when she and four of her classmates were selected to be the focus of a documentary focusing on the lives of a typical group of kindergarteners.  Five years later, a follow-up film documented their evolving friendships, personalities, interests, hopes and dreams.  Now as the teens reach the age of 16, the time has arrived to document them for a third film.  Only this time, Justine is uncertain if she wants to participate in the project.  An outspoken youngster, she was the undisputed star of the prior documentaries.  But at 16, she is disappointed in the choices she has made and the boring direction her life seems to be taking.  She’s not the only film participant whose life hasn’t turned out the way they imagined.  The five teens, once close as children, now seldom speak.  Close friendships have broken and families have disintegrated.  Some of the five have embraced their minor fame, while others have sought to reinvent themselves in reaction to their portrayals in the films.  When filming on the third movie commences, the five teens are sent by the film directors on a weekend retreat.  Forced to once again interact, will the teens come to some type of understanding about the fracturing of their relationships and their future?
Realistic                       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

I would rate this book three stars (out of five).  The plot of the book seems to have been inspired by director Michael Apted’s Up documentary series which started in 1964 with a group of children and has revisited them every seven years until present day.  (In America, this documentary series is usually shown on PBS).  In a documentary film, it is relatively easy to follow multiple storylines.  In a novel, it becomes a bit more problematic.  Having to follow the evolving storylines of five characters did cause the plot to lose focus at times.  However, there were sections and scenes within You Look Different in Real Life that were quite powerful and affecting.  The reader does gain perspective on how participation in reality films/shows could alter the life of a child/teen and those around them.