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Little Willow [userpic]

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

August 20th, 2017 (07:22 pm)
artistic
Tags: ,

Current Mood: artistic
Current Song: Declaration by David Cook

Louna, age 18, is about to graduate from high school. Before she heads off to college, she plans to spend the summer working with her mother, Natalie, an accomplished wedding planner. When Natalie takes on a new employee, the carefree younger brother of a client, Louna is caught off-guard - for more than one reason. Ambrose's effervescence and charm pulls most people in, but he rubs Louna the wrong way, and she is worried that he will be a liability for the company rather than an asset.

At first blush, this may sound like your typical "opposites attract" romantic storyline, but there's more to this book than meets the eye. Louna's backstory is layered, revealed slowly, and handled well. I won't spoil it in this review, as I want to readers to discover it on their own, but Sarah, if you're reading this: well done.

As in many Dessen stories, the protagonist has a best friend with an energy and story different from her own. Here, we have Jilly, the eldest of five, who burst into Louna's life years ago when they became neighbors. Jilly's household is chaotic but happy: her parents are very much in love and run a successful food truck business, and though Jilly often has to take care of her younger siblings, she rarely complains. Jilly wants Louna to live life.

Louna and her mother have a very good relationship. They like each other, and they like working together. It was nice to read a story with a happy family dynamic as well as a good work ethic. Natalie and her business partner, William, are very good at what they do. They are very professional and their business has a wonderful, well-earned reputation. They are also fun. Whether it's guessing how long the newly-married couple will stay together or simply chatting about life, their conversations are punctuated with laughter and gentle teasing, and it's clear that they are best friends, good friends, who care about and support one another.

I don't normally gravitate towards stories in which romance is the main storyline. I know that most books, TV shows, and movies that start with two characters disliking each other will probably end up with those characters getting together, and while I have plenty of friends who enjoy the "hate turns to love" type of story, that's not something I'm drawn to. I prefer stories/characters with balanced storylines, where romance might be part of the story, but not the sole focus, where friendships and hobbies and interests and abilities are just as important. I enjoy Sarah Dessen's writing, and I like the world she's created. So while others may like the fact that many a Dessen book ends with a kiss, I like the fact that they end with hope: her protagonists tend to land on their feet and emerge with a new and positive outlook on the world, and, in that final sentence, they are looking forward to the future.

If you liked Once and For All and would like to read more novels set the summer between high school and college, check out my Transition Times booklist.

To read my reviews of all of Sarah Dessen's novels to date, check out my Author Spotlight: Sarah Dessen.

Little Willow [userpic]

Booklist: Tough Issues for Teens

August 19th, 2017 (09:00 am)
hopeful

Current Mood: hopeful
Current Song: Just Enough by Aslyn

One afternoon in the bookstore, a young woman in her late teens approached me and said, "Excuse me. Can you help me? I want some books like . . . " She named a few teen fiction titles that dealt with drug abuse and anorexia. She looked slightly uncomfortable but mostly excited. I told her that I could recommend many good books. Within minutes, she was sitting on the floor in the teen fiction section, a plastic basket full to the brim with books, with additional titles in her hand and next to her knees and her feet.

We had a great discussion. I was happy on any levels: happy that she felt comfortable enough to come to me, happy that she was open-minded, happy that I got some realistic, well-written books in her hand. This urged me to make a list of books dealing tough issues - eating disorders, loss and grieving, addiction, abuse, and so forth.

Due to subject matter, many of these books are recommended for older teens as well as adults, be they parents, teachers, librarians, or simply avid readers.

I've read every title on this list, and have given each book a rating according to the United States movie rating guide - G, PG, PG-13, or R - based on content, and a number of stars - four being the best - based on quality (my personal opinion).

PARENTAL ABUSE OR NEGLECT - Physical or emotional abuse, alcoholism, etc.
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ABUSE BY OTHERS - physical or emotional abuse; date or acquaintance rape; accusations, secrets and lies
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TEACHER/STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS - be they romantic relationships or rumors or no romance, but a definite abuse of power
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POSITIVE & PLATONIC TEACHER/STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS - teachers positively influencing and educating their pupils
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PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIPS - reconnecting with or distancing oneself from absentee parents, dealing with restrictions and expectations
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LONG-LOST SIBLINGS - reconnecting with siblings, or meeting them for the first time
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ORIENTATION AND/OR GENDER ROLES
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VIOLENCE AT SCHOOL
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EATING DISORDERS
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PHYSICAL DISORDERS/INJURIES/SPECIAL NEEDS - protagonist, siblings, friends
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BODY CHANGES - growing up and dealing with natural physical changes (as opposed to health, weight, or body image issues; disorders/injuries are in a separate list above this one)
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TEENAGE PREGNANCY - may also deal with adoption and/or abortion
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TEENAGE ALCOHOLISM
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MENTAL ILLNESS OF A PARENT, RELATIVE, OR PEER
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DEPRESSION
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RECOVERY/SUPPORT GROUPS
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CUTTING
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STEALING
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DIVORCE, SEPARATION, AND/OR STEPFAMILIES - parents dating, getting remarried, etc
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LOSS OR PHYSICAL ILLNESS OF A PARENT
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LOSS OR ILLNESS OF A SIBLING
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LOSS OR ILLNESS OF A FRIEND OR PEER
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LOSS OR ILLNESS OF A GRANDPARENT
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LOSS OR ILLNESS OF ANOTHER CLOSE RELATIVE AND/OR ADULT
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PROTAGONIST WITH AN ILLNESS
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DRUG ADDICTION
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CAR ACCIDENTS (and similar accidents)
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INCARCERATION OF A RELATIVE
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ADOPTION - Also foster care, group homes, and counseling
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KIDNAPPING
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CULTURAL IDENTITY
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SUICIDE OR SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
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ACADEMICS - cheating, excelling, or otherwise dealing with academic pressure
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SOCIAL STATUS - at school or otherwise with peers; popularity, bullying, et al.
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PEER PRESSURE
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RELIGION
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POLITICS
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ACTIVISM
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INTERNET SAFETY - and/or cyberbullying
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SEEKING SHELTER - family shelters, homelessness, runaways
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I hope that this list helps readers of all ages find books they may be too shy to openly discuss with a bookseller or librarian. I want those readers to know they may leave a comment here and tell me which books they have found valuable. Most of all, I want them to know they can talk to their friends or adults they know in order to get the answers and help they may need.

If you would like for me to add more titles about a certain subject, or if you want more information about any of the books on the list, please leave a comment.

Special thanks to those who have shown their support of this list by offering me links, comments, and compliments, such as Jen Robinson, Bookseller Chick, Robin Brande, Sassymonkey at BlogHer, Daisy Whitney, Caroline, Bookstore People, and Jennifer R. Hubbard.

Little Willow [userpic]

Booklist: Set in School and Transition Times

August 19th, 2017 (08:30 am)
nerdy

Current Mood: nerdy
Current Song: Four Years by Jon McLaughlin

My friend Claire asked for a list of YA books which focused on school life. After giving her some recommendations, I typed up this list, and kept adding more and more titles until I had a booklist populated with characters in various grade levels going through all sorts of transitions.

Elementary and middle school:

The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary - Follow Ramona from age 4 to age 10.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson - While Astrid spends the summer before junior high at roller derby camp, she can feel her best friend drifting away. Great graphic novel with a sporty punch!

Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar - Classic girls vs. boys story that also encourages honesty and inspires laughter.

Standing for Socks by Elissa Brent Weissman - Entering middle school, and searching for individualism.

... and, of course, The Baby-Sitters Club. Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey are in seventh grade when the series begins. After a handful of books, they are promoted to eighth grade, at which time they gain two additional members, Jessi and Mallory, who are sixth graders. The girls stay in middle school for the remainder of the series. The original four girls finally graduated from eighth grade at the end of the final series, Friends Forever.

Between middle school and high school:
Transitioning from middle school to high school can be exciting, scary, difficult, and overwhelming. The following stories include middle school graduations and/or the summer between middle school and high school.

The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz

Lucky by Rachel Vail (the first in a trilogy about sisters)

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith

Freshman year of high school:
I highly recommend all of the titles on this freshman list. They get it, they really do.

The True Meaning of Cleavage by Mariah Fredericks - The separation of two best friends. Highly recommended.

Nothing but the Truth by Avi - This documentary novel chronicles the life of a ninth grade boy whose minor disturbance in class leads to a major media story.

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar - A fantastic story, a well-written book.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - School factors heavily into this incredibly memorable story.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson - In this case, the freshman is the protagonist's younger sister, Hannah.

So Not the Drama by Paula Chase - Four friends navigate the high school hallways. The first in a series.

Perfect Girl by Mary Hogan - A first crush, a worldly aunt, and so much more.

The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith - Grieving and healing, a girl and a boy, alone and together.

Looks by Madeleine George - One of the two main characters is a freshman, the other a sophomore.

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell - A freshman girl, still reeling from the loss of her older brother, must enter high school without him there to help her.

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas - The only member of her family to escape her father's abuse, a quiet girl enters high school, finds her place on the volleyball court, and finds her voice.

Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach - Three best friends - three very different girls who play different instruments in the school marching band and have totally different families - march through their freshman year of high school.

Boarding school and/or private school - for elementary and middle school readers:

The Ballet School Diaries by Alexandra Moss - This cute and fun series for kids is set at a ballet boarding school in the UK.

Accidentally Fabulous series by Lisa Papademetriou - The fashionable protagonist goes to a private middle school on scholarship.
- Accidentally Fabulous
- Accidentally Famous
- Accidentally Fooled
- Accidentally Friends

Boarding school and/or private school - for teen and adult readers:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Tracing the roots decades-old struggle for power between three types of kids - Jellicoe School (boarding school) students, local Townies, and Cadets from a school in Sydney - and climbing the family tree. Published as On the Jellicoe Road in Australia. Highly recommended.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta - An all-boys school goes co-ed. Recommended.

Looking for Alaska by John Green - Coming-of-age at a modern-day Alabama boarding school. Highly recommended.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart - A fresh take on secret societies, with a young girl thwarting some smirky boys. A great book set a modern day boarding school. Highly recommended.

Breathless by Jessica Warman - After something happens to her older brother, Katie's parents send her off to boarding school, and she is surprised by how much she loves it there. The book follows her from sophomore year through graduation.

The Poison Apples by Lily Archer - Three girls at boarding school bond over their family situations: each has recently acquired a stepmother. Though it uses the fairy tale metaphor, this book isn't a fantasy, nor is it magical realism. It is realistic fiction, and it is really good. Modern day.

A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy by Libba Bray - Historical fantasy set in a Victorian girls' boarding school. Incredibly imaginative and intriguing.
- A Great and Terrible Beauty
- Rebel Angels
- The Sweet Far Thing

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman - Two best friends consider Pride & Prejudice and get involved in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Modern day. Recommended.

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg - A modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, set in boarding school.

Headlong by Kathe Koja - When a new girl transfers to The Vaughn School, a private school for girls, a lifelong Vaughn student starts to see her school - and her life - differently.

The Gallagher Girls books by Ally Carter - A top-secret modern-day spy school for girls.

The Love series by Emily Franklin - Love starts going to New England boarding school when her dad becomes the principal. Modern day.

The end of senior year:

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando - One week before they graduate from high school, Mary and her friends take part in their school's official-unofficial scavenger hunt.

The summer following high school graduation:

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Return to Me by Justina Chen

Making it through your first year of college:

The Body of Evidence series by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala - In the first book, Body Bags, protagonist Jenna Blake is just about to enter college. The first line of the first chapter: "It was a beautiful day to grow up." There are ten books in this series, following Jenna through a good chunk of her college life.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour - Marin suffered a tremendous loss the summer before her freshman year of college. The book goes back and forth between one winter weekend three months into college and May/June before.

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn - An intelligent but technology-addicted young woman has a difficult time balancing school and fun during her freshman year at Columbia University.

Additional stories in which school is a supporting character:

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters - The main characters start seeing each other before school. Literally.

Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn - Oh, the scenes in the lunchroom! I love this book so much.

Swollen by Melissa Lion - Your perceptions of your classmates may differ from the truth. From their truths. From your truths.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan - I wish all schools were this open and accepting. I wish all people were this open and accepting.

Follow a girl through elementary school, middle school, and high school in the Alice McKinley books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The series has over twenty titles. The Agony of Alice was the first book and is set in middle school. The author has since written prequels, making Starting With Alice (third grade) the earliest story on the timeline. The Grooming of Alice describes the summer between her eighth grade and ninth grade years. Alice Alone starts off her freshman year. For the full breakdown of titles and grades, please click here.

Barthe DeClements had fun with her grade-oriented dramadies for young readers:
- The Fourth Grade Wizards by Barthe DeClements
- Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements
- Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClements
- How Do You Lose Those Ninth-Grade Blues? by Barthe DeClements

Classics:
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Good-Bye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

For even more stories set in school, please refer to the categories of academic cheating and teacher influence within my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.

Also check out my After Graduation booklist.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: Poem (on getting a card) by William Carlos Williams

August 18th, 2017 (06:00 am)
determined

Current Mood: determined
Current Song: That's My Girl by Fifth Harmony

on getting a card
long delayed
from a poet whom I love
but

with whom I differ
touching
the modern poetic
technique

I was much moved
to hear
from him if
as yet he does not

concede the point
nor is he
indeed conscious of it
no matter

his style
has other outstanding
virtues
which delight me

- Poem (on getting a card) by William Carlos Williams

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: There is no Frigate like a book by Emily Dickinson

August 11th, 2017 (06:00 am)
contemplative

Current Mood: contemplative
Current Song: She Runs Away by Duncan Sheik

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

- Emily Dickinson

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: Wonder and Joy by Robinson Jeffers

August 4th, 2017 (06:00 am)
grateful

Current Mood: grateful
Current Song: Growing Pains by Maria Mena

The things that one grows tired of - O, be sure
They are only foolish artificial things!
Can a bird ever tire of having wings?
And I, so long as life and sense endure,
(Or brief be they!) shall nevermore inure
My heart to the recurrence of the springs,
Of gray dawns, the gracious evenings,
The infinite wheeling stars. A wonder pure
Must ever well within me to behold
Venus decline; or great Orion, whose belt
Is studded with three nails of burning gold,
Ascend the winter heaven. Who never felt
This wondering joy may yet be good or great:
But envy him not: he is not fortunate.

- Wonder and Joy by Robinson Jeffers

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Little Willow [userpic]

Books to Read (Forthcoming Releases)

August 1st, 2017 (07:00 am)
thoughtful

Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Song: Without a Trace theme song

September 2017
Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough
The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix #5: Dawn and the Impossible Three by Ann M. Martin, adapted by Gale Galligan

October 2017
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20 Years of Slaying: The Watcher’s Guide by Christopher Golden

Sometime in 2017
The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix #6 by Ann M. Martin, adapted by Gale Galligan
Breakaway by Gale Galligan
Clueless comic by Amber Benson and Sarah Kuhn, drawings by Siobhan Keenan, cover art by Natacha Bustos
Hazel by Gale Galligan

April 2018
Atomic Frenchie by Tom Sniegoski and Tom McWeeney
Sam & Ilsa's Last Hurrah by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Fall 2018
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
Magic Camper by Courtney Sheinmel and Bianca Turetsky ‏

Sometime in 2018
Dear Miss Sweetie by Stacey Lee
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

Little Willow [userpic]

Best Books of July 2017

July 31st, 2017 (09:07 pm)
accomplished

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Song: Gimme Heartbreak by David Cook

July 2017: 16 books and scripts read

Looking for an interesting collaboration? Check out the novel Indigo. The protagonist is an investigative reporter with a secret identity, a shadowy vigilante with supernatural powers, making her one part Lois Lane, one part Batman, with superhuman abilities to boot. When a series of unusual murders plague New York, she seeks out the perpetrators while wrestling with her own strange past.

The book was written by Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry, Kelley Armstrong, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James A. Moore, and Mark Morris, with each author contributing two chapters. All chapters are written in close third-person limited narrative, continuing the same story, without indicating who wrote what.

Side note: I attempted to write round robin novels with friends when I was a kid, but sadly, we never completed a full story!

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: You Know by Mary Jo Bang

July 28th, 2017 (06:00 am)
awake

Current Mood: awake
Current Song: Wind by Brian Crain

You know, don't you, what we're doing here?
The evening laid out like a beach ball gone airless.

We're watching the spectators in the bleachers.
The one in the blue shirt says, "I knew,

even as a child, that my mind was adding color
to the moment."

The one in red says, "In the dream, there was a child
batting a ball back and forth. He was chanting

that awful rhyme about time that eventually ends
with the body making a metronome motion."

By way of demonstration, he moves mechanically
side to side while making a clicking noise.

His friends look away. They all know
how a metronome goes. You and I continue to watch

because we have nothing better to do.
We wait for the inevitable next: we know the crowd

will rise to its feet when prompted and count -
one-one-hundred, two-one-hundred,

three-one-hundred - as if history were a sound
that could pry apart an ever-widening abyss

with a sea on the bottom. And it will go on like this.
The crowd will quiet when the sea reaches us.

- You Know by Mary Jo Bang

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: Costumes Exchanging Glances by Mary Jo Bang

July 21st, 2017 (06:00 am)
hopeful

Current Mood: hopeful
Current Song: Wind by Brian Crain

      The rhinestone lights blink off and on.
Pretend stars.
I'm sick of explanations. A life is like Russell said
of electricity, not a thing but the way things behave.
A science of motion toward some flat surface,
some heat, some cold. Some light
can leave some after-image but it doesn’t last.
Isn't that what they say? That and that
historical events exchange glances with nothingness.

- Costumes Exchanging Glances by Mary Jo Bang

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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