Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster

Harlequin Teen, 2017

North Shore Illinois is picture perfect. Expansive lakefront properties and even neighborhoods have immaculate yards, successful professionals and little to no crime .  North Shore High School is a reflection of that perfection.  Most of the seniors (merit scholars are common) who graduate usually go on to Ivy League colleges.  Families raise their children to be perfect candidates for a successful future.

But perfection comes at a cost.

Mallory knows this all too well.  She's reminded every time she steps into her house and her mother constantaly barrages her about her weight, her grades, her boyfriend, and her applications for early admissions into university.

Liam, NSHS's golden boy and Mallory's boyfriend has seen the cost of perfection.  It's one he's also hiding from others perfectly until his secret overcomes him

Kent and Stephen consider themselves the geek squad.  Both are looking at early admission to MIT.  They both have mothers who hover over everything they do, from what they wear, to what extra-curriculars they're involved in to their grades.

Owen defies the stereotype.  He's the one that enjoys hanging outside, not worrying about tomorrow and passionate about videography.  But he sees the facade and is hit the worst by the ideology of perfection.

Braden's run with perfection may cost him more than he thought.  

Simone is the new girl in town, with successful artists as parents.  She has lived life how she's wanted to.  She wears beads on her wrists, and doesn't look like the other students.  But that's okay because she's going on a gap year after graduation.  Little does she know she's already succumbing to the perfection

What is the cost?  It's something parents can't see or feel, but their children do all too well.  The stress they put on kids may be intended as good, but comes out in ugly ways.  Everyone is still reeling over the deaths of two of NSHS’s students.


That’s also something that makes North Shore different.  The amount of teen suicides far surpasses the national average in just their city’s boundaries.  Work harder, study more, get involved, be a merit scholar, early admissions, look perfect in everything you own or are….it is taking a toll on the community and the students.  Not all of them will be strong enough to overcome and the ones that do decide to do something about it.

They become Gatekeepers.  They are there to guard against the constant stress to obtain perfection and the cost it incurs. 

This novel is inspired from the 2012 incidents of multiple teen suicides in Forest Park, Illinois.   Lancaster offers a glimpse into the lives of those from wealthy families that many teens think have it all, are it all, and wish they could have it too.  Lancaster pulls readers into the intricate and secret details of each of these kids families and how every one of them could succumb to seeing suicide as the only answer.  The topic of suicide is difficult at best in a fictional setting.  Some may embrace this novel while others find it trite and unworthy of the topic.  And although this subject is tough, I found that Lancaster does an excellent job of building intensity from every character so the reader is taking turns down different outcomes and avenues in a myriad of ways.  Recommended for YA.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

2017, Crown Books for Young Readers

The Tower of Babel was created to reach the sky and it could only do something like this because mankind spoke the same language....

In the world of tomorrow, a new world, Genesis 11, has been found that is compatible to earth.  But what used to take years to get there, it only takes months now, thanks to the Babel Corporation.  And Babel has also found a highly lucrative mineral with endless possibilities.  Nyxia, a black substance, is an object that can be manipulated by your mind to create whatever you'd like, from a translator to a bullet-proof wall.

Emmett Atwater can't believe he was chosen.  Not only will he get to go to a new planet, Emmett also has added benefits, including his family and himself being taken care of for life. Coming from a struggling family and a mother who is slowly dying, Emmett does it out of love.  And he boards the ship.

When he boards the ship created and equipped with highly trained Babel Corporation staff, he finds out he's not the only one who has been selected.  There are nine others including Longwei, a highly competitive person; Jazzy, a girl from Georgia; and Azima, a strong girl from Africa and one of the last of her nomadic tribe.  They will be trained to work and survive on Genesis 11 as they mine nyxia during the duration of the space travel.  All ten are put through rigourous tests, including mind and body.  And they are also vying for position...only a few will make it to the finals.  The rest who don't will have most benefits taken away and sent back to earth.

For Emmett, this isn't an option.  He knows he has to make it or his mother will die.  But each member of the group of ten have their own personal reasons to make it as well.  But not all of them will, and some won't even survive the trip....

Another thing they don't know are the secrets the Babel Corporation is hiding from them.  There is a problem with nyxia, one with deadly outcomes.  On top of that are the inhabitants of the planet aren't friendly to outsiders.  But Babel has plans....

And like the story, the tower will topple and create chaos...

This novel is PACKED with action, suspense, and mystery to compel readers to find out what will happen next.  The reader is fortunate to become an outside observer of all the difficult training happening, as well as the mindsets and secret partnerships that are happening behind each other's backs.  The characters have very different personalities, leaving the reader wondering if what they're seeing is the truth or a cover.  Reading this is like taking a roller coaster ride where you never know if the seat belt is secure or not.  AMAZING science fiction read for all secondary JH/HS.  Highly recommended!  A plus?  It's a series!!!  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Five Ways to Step Up your Advocacy Game

I added the hyperlink where you can buy this...
I do NOT profit from it at all...just thought I'd share it :)

As librarians, we know the importance and impact the library and librarian make to our campuses and districts.  Librarians have always made headway into innovation and we need to make sure this also includes how we share what the library does through advocacy efforts aimed at decision-makers for our campuses and districts.  Here are five small ways we can show librarians and libraries do have an impact.  Best of all, it won't cost you anything but a little time and effort:

1. Change the library environment:  This won't cost any money whatsoever.  Librarians new to their positions or in a new library usually do this, but you shouldn't over look the library you may have been serving.  It's a simple context with a lot of sweat equity.  Sometimes we have so much to do we often overlook how the library design can be REIMAGINED simply by moving things around and creating new spaces.  What better way to capture your campus's attention than to rearrange furniture into different learning commons?  If you have the money, add elements like large screen collaboration stations, a Lego wall etc...Freshen it up, add some dimension, watch what happens next

2. Harness the power of social media:  I love my library PLNs...they show, teach and amaze me everyday.  But I have also noticed that the PLNs I am a part of can be insular.  We need to get outside of our online comfort zones to make a larger impact.  Use your social media to make sure your voice, ideas, impact can be showcased to those decision-makers.  Use hashtags that administrators on Twitter use and become part of the conversation that way.  Create a campus-based social media account such as Instagram so not only students and teachers can see what you're snapping photos of, but admin can too.  Be engaged in district-wide Twitter chats and let the library's voice be heard virtually.

3. Send out monthly newsletter to your campus touting the amazing things the library does and can do to your campus.  Focus your information on highlighting to important parts of the library and use your stats to help.  Include images from your social media accounts (and hyperlink them).  Showcase students interacting in the library with each other, their classes or alone.  Already do this?  How about taking it up a notch and sending this monthly to your district superintendent, curriculum coordinators, technology director or curriculum and instruction director? Don't keep it contained....let this information loose every single time you share it with your campus.  It may not be read, that's true.  What's even more true is that is just might....

4. Harness new and interesting ways to share the successes you and the library have had with (mostly) free webtools.  Turn that paper state of the library report into an infographic.  Then step up that infographic into a video using tools like Biteable.  Use Flipgrid to capture students, teachers and administrators giving video testimonies on how the library has helped them and share this with other librarians and decision-makers.  Nothing speaks louder than a student's voice, and this webtool can definitely help.  Kick it up by doing this monthly from different angles (a teacher's Flipgrid, your book club, a classroom etc).  How about creating a monthly Quizzizz for fun to engage your email recipients with what the library does?  Sharing can be as fun as you'd like, so try out new approaches.

5. Nothing is more loud and clear than your approach.  Be available, be approachable, leave your door open, show people you want to create a relationship with them.  Too often, our administrators see us as checking in and out books...MOVE to another area, DO something different, and SPEAK with your words and actions to prove that isn't the case.  It's easy to get caught in the trap of our office or circulation desk.  The hardest thing you could do is unglue yourself from the areas your feel most comfortable in (even if it's for an hour a day) to be seen differently.  They say it takes 30 days to create a new habit....test out this theory and see if it makes a difference.  It won't cost a thing....