Thursday, February 28, 2013

Watson and Crick DNA Breakthrough

On this day in 1953, Watson and Crick discovered the chemical structure of DNA, the Double Helix.

DNA plays an interesting role in YA books, often with consequences we don't see outside of fiction.


Double Helix by Nancy Werlin. When Eli gets a job working with the father of modern transgenics, his parents are dead set against it. His parents were friends with Dr. Wyatt when they were in school, so what's the big deal?

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke. It may be the 21st century, but Queen Victoria still reigns. Years ago the bubonic plague mutated, affecting the DNA and turning the aristocracy immortal. It's genetic and sometimes things go wrong. Xandra and her siblings are halfies, not quite human, not quite undead. Published for adults, mature teens will love this one. The first in the Immortal Empire series, follow it with The Queen Is Dead.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield, illustrated by Keith Thompson. In this alternate take on WWI, The Allies are Darwinists, with their warships and weapons made by combining DNA strands from different animals. The Central Powers distrust the Darwinists reliance on animals, instead trusting technology and machines. All Derwyn wants to do is fly-- and she'll disguise herself as a boy to do it. Little does she know she'll end up in a war on a British warship (mostly whale) with the son of the murdered Archduke...


Jurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton. This is a modern classic that teens will love. Scientists find Dinosaur DNA and create a dinosaur safari park. But then it all goes wrong and it's dinosaurs run amok!

The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sean Kean. This nonfiction title for adults is an engaging look all the small and big ways DNA effects our lives and who we turn out to be.

Eve and Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant. Applegate and Grant retell the story of Adam and Eve, but this time in present day. After Eve is in a car crash, her mother has her recover at her genetics lab, where Eve starts creating the perfect boy.


The Angel Experiment by James Patterson. Max and her friends were bred to be 98% human and 2% bird. When one of their own is taken, they have to save her and battle other genetically mutated creatures and just possibly save the world. The first in a long-running series, the second is School's Out.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano. The first generation of genetically engineered "perfect" children are practically immortal. Every other generation dies young. Men at 25, women at 20. Science is trying to find a way to reverse their mistake, but in the mean time, in order to repopulate the world men take multiple wives, whether they're willing or not. The first in the Chemical Garden trilogy, the third, Sever came out last week.

Lucy by Laurence Gonzales. Jenny's a bonobo researcher. When a colleague dies, she starts caring for his orphaned daughter, Lucy. As Jenny looks through his notes, she discovers that Lucy s the result of a genetic experiment, half-human and half bonobo. Published for adults, due to Lucy's age, this has high teen appeal.

What are your must-read titles that deal with DNA?

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Happy Birthday John Steinbeck

It's John Steinbeck's 101st birthday today. I first encountered Steinbeck in a high school English class (The Grapes of Wrath) and fell in love. I read some more in other classes. My junior year of college I was studying abroad and picked up East of Eden. It was like talking to an old friend.


Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck. As a librarian, I cringe when teens come in needing a book to read, but it has to be over a certain page count. This is my go-to answer why page counts are stupid. Think a short book is somehow lesser? It's OF MICE AND MEN, one of the greatest American novels! And it's only 108 pages, way too short for any length requirements I've come across.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. This is another one I had to read for school, but it has one of my favorite opening lines in literature and was my favorite book senior year (and not just out of "school books," out of all books).

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck. When you think tense WWII spy fiction, Steinbeck isn't usually an author that springs to mind, but here he is! It was first published in 1942 and tells the story of a small town overtaken by occupying forces and the daily small things the citizens do to sabotage the army. A quick, tense read.


Steinbeck's Ghost by Lewis Buzbee. When Travis's family moves from Salinas to a fancy new development, he often returns to the library he loved. But the library might be closed down, and Travis starts to see Steinbeck characters come to life around town.

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner. Scooter's father left years ago and no one knows where he is now. Scooter is dying, and his final wish is for his best friends to find him, and hand-deliver a valuable edition of Of Mice and Men.

Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film about The Grapes of Wrath by Steve Goldman. David and Mitch are best friends, but things have been different ever since David came out. Mitch can't get a date to prom and instead of just doing his book report on The Grapes of Wrath, he turned in a claymation movie, that had nothing really to do with the book. He might fail English. He might get suspended.


Student Companion to John Steinbeck by Cynthia Burkhead. Probably not one for general reading, but a great resource of biographical information, his works, and why he matters today.

The Portable Steinbeck by John Steinbeck, edited by Susan Shillinglaw. I've been a fan of the Penguin's portable anthologies since high school. This one contains excerpts from his longer works and the complete text of some of his shorter ones, as well as speeches and short stories.

Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches from the War by John Steinbeck, edited by Thomas E. Barden. Steinbeck's last published work were the columns and articles he published in Newsday, reporting on his time in the field in Vietnam from 1966-67.

What are your favorite works by Steinbeck. What other books do you know for teens that reference his work?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. For more information on teen dating violence, see this CDC page. It's chilling:

Did you know that in a recent national survey, 1 in 10 teens reported being hit or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend at least once in the 12 months prior to the survey? And nearly half of all teens in relationships say they know friends who have been verbally abused.


Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala. Joy feels suffocated. Literally from her severe asthma, metaphorically from her boyfriend's controlling ways and painful words. Then, it just gets too much so she runs away to find a new life on the streets.

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. Caitlin can't believe she could get a guy like Rogerson. But when he turns violent, she can't bring herself to leave.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown. Alex has found the perfect boyfriend. She understands why Cole doesn't want her hanging out with Zack, even though they're just friends, and he's her best friend. But how far is Cole willing to go to keep Alex under his control?


 Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. The entire town is mourning Trip's death in a car accident, but his girlfriend knows the truth of who Trip was, the reality of their relationship, and what actually happened that night.

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Resenfield. Two girls, one spending one last summer in her small town before leaving for college, one a stranger whose corpse is found by the side of the road. The readers get both sides and see how much the two have in common.

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch. Keir knows he's a good guy. He knows he loves Gigi. He knows he would never do what Gigi has accused him of. Never.


Split by Swati Avasthi. Christian got out long ago and doesn't expect his little brother to show up on his doorstep, beaten black and blue, having finally made his escape, leaving their mother behind. As the two brothers try to find what happens next, the disturbing truth remains-- Jace may be doomed to repeat his father's ways. In fact, he already has.

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn. Caitlin has a restraining order and Nick is in anger management, but why? He told her not to sing in the talent show. She deserved it, why doesn't everyone see that?

Bad Boy by Dream Jordan. Kate never wanted to be back in the group home, not after spending a year with excellent foster parents. But here she is, and her only solace is Percy, but he's not the kind of comfort that Kate needs.

What are your recommended reads dealing with teen dating violence?

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Monday, February 25, 2013

February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month

February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month and this week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. See the National Eating Disorders Association. There are a few books about eating disorders on my list about ballet, notably A Dance of Sisters.


Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Lia struggles with anorexia. Her attempts at recovery are made more impossible by the fact her best friend recently died and Lia thinks she could have saved her.

Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder by Nadia Shivack. When she was in in-patient treatment for bulimia, Shivack would draw her emotions on napkins in order to keep herself from purging. Collecting these drawings with others, Shivack offers a raw memoir about her and food.

Purge by Sarah Littman. When her eating disorder is discovered, Janie attempts suicide, which lands her at an in-patient treatment center where she and the other patients try to find the way forward.


Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher. Hornbacher developed her first eating disorder in 4th grade. In college, she was down to 52 pounds and given a week to live. Although in recovery at the time, there is little distance to the events described, as Hornbacher was only 23 when she wrote this. Published for adults, due to Hornbacher's age during the book this has high teen appeal.

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins. This verse novel follows four friends and their attempts to be perfect, and how far they're willing to go to get there. Read it with Impulse, the story of the 5th teen, whose attempts have already landed him in the hospital.

Skinny by Ibi Kaslik. Told in alternating voices, Skinny follows two sisters-- Giselle, a med student, and Holly, who is still in high school. Giselle is self-destructing and wasting away from anorexia as Holly watches, struggling to understand and help.


Never Enough by Denise Jaden. Claire is the pretty, popular sister, a position that Loann has always coveted. But, when Loann gets the chance to enter Claire's world, she sees the price her sister has to pay to stay on top, a price that might just kill her.

The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel. Sethie is driven and controlled. It is this focus and willpower that gives her perfect grades and it will give her the body she wants, but she will never be thin enough. The numbers on the scale will never be low enough to truly get there.

Purge: Rehab Diaries by Nichole Johns. Johns suffers from EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.) It's given her health issues she may never be free of. And, when she finally goes into treatment, she struggles with the fact she's the biggest person there. Interspersed with documents from her time in rehab (including the bill) Johns gives an unflinching and hard look at her struggles.

What other books to you recommend that look at eating disorders?

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wilhelm Grimm's Birthday: More Fairy Tales!

Wilhelm Grimm was born on February 24, 1786. With his brother Jacob, he made 1/2 of the Brothers Grimm, collectors of fairy tales and writers of German dictionaries.

We've have a few days of Fairy Tale retellings before, so be sure to check out this lists I did for Jacob Grimm's birthday and Charles Perrault's birthday!


Wicked Jealous: A Love Story by Robin Palmer. Palmer is the author of several contemporary realistic fiction novels that are also fairy tale retellings. This one is Snow White. The others are Little Miss Red (Red Riding Hood), Cindy Ella (Cinderella), and Geek Charming (Frog Prince.)

Beastly by Alex Flinn. Beauty and the Beast set in modern day New York, told from the point of view of the Beast. This is the deluxe edition, which includes Lindy's Diary, Beauty's side of the story. Fans will also want to read Bewitching, the story of Kendra, the witch that placed the curse. Flynn also has several other fairy tales, A Kiss in Time (Sleeping Beauty), Cloaked (a bunch of them), and the upcoming Towering (Rapunzel, which comes out in May!)

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Pearce's Little Red Riding Hood has two sisters, one skilled at hunting the wolves that terrorize humans and one that dreams of something more. Pearce has other fairy tale retellings include Sweetly (Hansel and Gretl) and Fathomless (Little Mermaid).


Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. The Frog Prince, Cinderella, a nursery rhyme, and many other stories interweave to create a story about Sunday Woodcutter and a true friend with a secret identity-- she doesn't see him transform from a frog into a prince, but that's probably a good thing-- he's her sworn enemy.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. Not a fairy tale retelling. Elizabeth got a job at a secret library that lends objects. She spends most of her time in the Grimm collection, which lends out magic objects from fairy tales. But, the objects are going missing, so it's up to Elizabeth and the other pages to get to the bottom of the mystery.

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison. After her older sister steals her boyfriend, Savannah gets some help from her fairy godmother, but Chrysanthemum Everstar isn't that good of a fairy godmother. Savannah keeps getting zapped back into various fairy tales, but waaaaaaaaaay before the princes ever enter the picture. Be sure to check out the sequel, My Unfair Godmother.


Water Song by Suzanne Weyn. I've highlighted several titles on from Simon Pulse's Once Upon a Time series of fairy tale retellings. This one is the Frog Prince, set in Belgium during WWI.

After Hamelin by Bill Richardson. When Penelope turns 11, she wakes up unable to hear. It's the only thing that saves her, because that's the day Pied Piper comes and steals all the children. It's up to her to get them back.

Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham. Exiles from their homelands, a quiet street in Manhattan hosts a secret world of fairy tale characters. Published for adults, mature teens will love this comic book series. The Fables universe is expansive. There are 18 omnibus editions of the main series (so far) and several spin-offs series: Jack of Fables Vol. 1: The (Nearly) Great Escape, Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love, and the new one, Fairest. There's also a novel, Peter and Max.

What are your favorite fairy tales?

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oscar Week: Books about Making Movies

So far we've spent Oscar week discussing books that have been, or soon will be, turned into movies. What about books about making movies? Don't worry-- that's what we have today.


Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts by Troy Lanier and Clay Nichols. The authors teach film making in high school. If you can't take their class, you can at least read their book for tips on how to make something polished that people besides your family and friends will want to watch.

Screenwriting for Teens: The 100 Principles of Screenwriting Every Budding Writer Must Know by Christina Hamlett. Everything you need to know to come up with a killer script.

The Hollywood Sisters: Backstage Pass by Mary Wilcox. Eva has made the big time as a TV star. Her younger sister Jess prefers to be off-camera, but when someone tries to ruin Eva's career by spreading lies to the press, Jess is on the case. The first in a series, follow this with The Hollywood Sisters: On Location.


Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley. Nat has the stupidest super power ever-- she can talk to cats. But when Hollywood comes to town in order to film a remake of Ferris Bueller's Day Off at her high school, it might just come in handy. The lead actress is acting strangely. If her cat can be believed, it's because she's an impostor. Can Nat save the day?

Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Brenden Halpin and Emily and Franklin. The reason the romance sparks so much on their hit TV show is because Charlie and Fielding are in love in real life, too! Until the paparazzi blow their cover-- their off-screen romance is a giant publicity stunt and the truth is, they can't stand each other.

Theodora Twist by Melissa Senate. Theodora is a hard-partying A-List star. Emily is a boring nobody whose only claim to fame is that she lives in Theodora's old house. To rehab her image, Theodora is starting in a new reality show-- one where she goes back to her roots, and lives in her old house, hosted by Emily's family. What could possibly go wrong?


The A-List: A Novel by Zoey Dean. This is the first book in Dean's gossipy series following Hollywood's teenaged elite crowd. Fans will also want to read Dean's other Hollywood-centric series, Talent and The A-List: Hollywood Royalty.

Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. Cocks and Morgan are best known as the duo behind Go Fug Yourself. In their fiction debut, Molly jets off to Hollywood when she discovers her father is a famous movie star. But she's unprepared for the realities of the Hollywood and the lives of the rich and famous.

Hollywood Hustle. Vince may have accepted who his family is, but when he goes to college, he still decides on film school in LA-- about as far away from Jersey and the mob as he can get. But, the mob will follow him wherever he goes. Even worse? His film studies prof thinks that Vince's ideas about the mob rely too much on stereotypes! If only he knew... You'll want to start with the first book, Son of the Mob.

What are your favorite books about Hollywood and movies?

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