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Poetry Friday: Good Luck, Kid by Joseph

August 30th, 2019 (06:00 am)

Current Mood: awake
Current Song: Good Luck, Kid by Joseph

You're used to looking around to see
How everybody else is doing it
Now it seems like we're all losing it
You read the paper, it's all bad news in it
The train's off the tracks, boat's capsized
Don't know the left from right
And you think, "How am I gonna do this?"

You thought you'd know the way, but now you don't
You thought you'd have the answers when you'd grown

They handed you the keys
The driver's seat is yours now
There's nothing left to lean on
You're the queen from here on out
No time for doubt
Good luck, kid.

- selected lyrics from Good Luck, Kid by the band Joseph

Listen to the song.

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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Poetry Friday: Rain by Ian Pople

August 22nd, 2019 (06:00 pm)

Current Mood: determined
Current Song: The River by AURORA

A lexicon of words that were not
said in childhood, and all of those
that were, were said beside
an upturned boat, lapped
planking of the creosoted shed,
were said into the wind on
tussocky ground, by farm-rust vehicles.

The buildings I could not complete
without my father’s help, the wind
in which I was at sea. Rain blooming
in August that moved the land
and over land toward the autumn,
sliding through the gates of summer,
feeling for the bone inside the wrist.

- Rain by Ian Pople

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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Author Spotlight: Sarah Dessen

August 18th, 2019 (08:42 am)

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Song: The Twilight Zone theme song

Once upon a time, a customer tapped a book that was facing out on the shelf. It was called This Lullaby. Her finger still on the cover, she turned to me. "Have you read this?"

"No, actually," I replied.

She was surprised. "But you've read everything!"

I smiled. "Not everything. Not that one - not yet." I told her that I hadn't read anything by the author, Sarah Dessen, but I intended to do so.

And I did. At the urging of one of my regular customers, a very passionate reader who was in high school at the time, I read Dreamland first. I quickly blazed through Sarah's backlist, reading them in the order they had been released. By the time I got to This Lullaby, Sarah had firmly secured a place on the list of contemporary authors I enjoyed. She has a strong following, and I feel she has earned it. Her writing is consistent, engrossing, and straightforward. I've enjoyed all of her novels and look forward to more.

Here is an overview of her books, in order of publication:

That Summer

All of Sarah Dessen's books have fitting titles and realistic leading ladies, and her debut is no exception.

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Someone Like You

Some best friend pairs are comprised of one outgoing person and one introverted person. Such is the case with dynamic Scarlett and quiet Halley.

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Keeping the Moon

Nicole "Colie" Sparks isn't the only girl who feels embarrassed by her mother. She is, however, the only daughter of Kiki, a woman who has become known for informercials. Both Kiki and Colie have lost a great deal of weight, but while Kiki seeks out the spotlight, Colie would rather hide out in the shadows.

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To simply say that Dreamland is the story of a girl who has an abusive boyfriend would be selling the book - and the girl - short. Though the physical abuse is a large portion of Sarah Dessen's darkest story, that is not all. Dreamland is also about the dissolution of a family.

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This Lullaby

My second favorite Dessen novel revolves around a girl who has no interest in romance and is haunted by a song.

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The Truth About Forever

When Macy was little, her father used to drag her and her older sister Caroline out to local marathons with him and sign them up for the kids' track. By the time she was eight, Macy knew she was a good runner - fast, focused, flying. Caroline was no longer interested in running, so it became something that Macy shared just with her father. He'd help her prepare for meets, and they ran together in the mornings.

One morning, that all changed.

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Just Listen

Annabel Greene lives in a glass house.

No, really.

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Check out the roundtable discussion of Just Listen with the postergirlz.

Spoiler alert: One of Annabel's sisters has an eating disorder, so I included Just Listen in my post about Weighty Matters at SparkLife for SparkNotes (...and I'm realizing I should have included Keeping the Moon there as well!) and my post here about Eating Disorder Awareness.

Lock and Key

Ask twenty people to define "family," and you'll get twenty different definitions. Ruby's definition of family is about to change, and she's not quite sure what that means.

For years, Ruby and her mother moved from apartment to apartment. They lived in random places and cramped spaces above other people's garages. When Ruby's mom takes off and doesn't come back, Ruby does just fine on her own - until child services steps in and sends her to live with her older sister, Cora, who hasn't seen Ruby in ten years.

( Read my full-length book review... )

Along for the Ride

Read but not yet reviewed. My apologies!

What Happened to Goodbye

Mclean used to be a fairly well-adjusted girl, living in a house with both of her parents, content to be who she was. Then her mother cheated on her father and everything changed. Her parents divorced, her mother remarried, and Mclean decided to hit the road with her father, a restaurant consultant whose job caused them to move a few times a year. Mclean impulsively decided to reinvent herself in her new town, and kept doing so in every new town. Each time they moved, she used a derivative of her middle name, Elizabeth, and tried out a completely different personality: Eliza, the rah-rah girl; then Lizbet, who hung out with the drama kids and dancers, wore black clothes, and "made everything in a production"; then Beth, the student council secretary who also worked for the yearbook, the newspaper, and a tutoring service.

Now Mclean and her father have moved again, this time to Lakeview, to save (or close) a restaurant called Luna Blu - and instead of renaming herself yet again, Mclean unintentionally shared her real first name with someone and is now unsure how to act. How can she "just be herself" if she's not sure who that girl is anymore?

( Read my full-length book review... )

The Moon and More

This is the summer between high school and college. This is the time that Emaline has the chance to reconnect with her father. This is the time that she has to face what's going to happen with her boyfriend. This is the time that she connects with her half-brother and an unexpected out-of-towner, and pulls her close friends even closer, to make their last summer at home a memorable one. Filled with the swells of the ocean, the heart of this particularly effective coming-of-age story pulses steadily as Emaline's first-person narrative expresses her thoughts.

( Read my full-length book review... )

Saint Anything

Readers who have felt overshadowed by an older sibling or overlooked by their parents will relate easily to Sydney, the protagonist of Sarah Dessen's latest novel, Saint Anything. Sydney's charismatic older brother, Peyton, was the apple of their mother's eye - until he started acting out. Now he's in jail, sentenced to seventeen months for driving drunk and hitting and paralyzing a young boy. Shortly after the sentencing, Sydney begins her junior year. A change of school and a change of pace at home starts a change in her.

( Read my full-length book review... )

Once and For All

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...

( Read my full-length book review... )

The Rest of the Story

She has two first names, Emma Saylor, but everyone - her dad, her friends, her new stepmom - simply calls her Emma. Only her mother called her Saylor, and her mom's been gone for five years now, having died from an overdose when Emma was twelve. Now Emma's seventeen, and looking forward to the summer between junior and senior year of high school. When her family's plans get unexpectedly upended and she needs a place to stay, she ends up at her maternal grandmother's house alongside cousins and other relatives she hasn't seen in a dozen years. At first, it's strange to be surrounded by relative strangers and see pictures of herself as a kid that capture moments she doesn't remember. As the summer progresses, Emma starts connecting with her next of kin and giving new friends and new experiences a shot. She even starts going by the name her mother gave her, Saylor. But what happens when the summer ends and she has to go back home? Does being Emma have to be separate from being Saylor, or can she find a way to contend with both sides of her heritage, and herself? Read the book to find out!

"I wish I remembered," I said. "I lost a lot. Like, everything from this place."

"Wasn't lost," he said. "You just left it here."

- Emma Saylor and Roo, The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen, page 226


All of Dessen's books are set in the same fictional town(s), Lakeview and Colby. No book is a sequel/prequel to another book, but the books do have connections. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll put it this way: Keep your eyes open and you will see some familiar faces make cameos.

Though The Truth About Forever is my favorite Dessen novel, I can relate a little more to Ruby from Lock and Key than to Macy - though not to Ruby's family situation, thank goodness, or the "bad stuff." I share elements of Ruby's personality: her stubborn streak, her determination to do things on her own and her reluctance to let others assist her. This is similar, in a way, to how I "get" Jade from Deb Caletti's novel The Nature of Jade - though I think I'm more like Jade than Ruby.

That Summer and Someone Like You were combined to make the film How to Deal. It was odd to see two very different books mixed together into one film. Some characters weren't there, while others were combined. Some of my favorite moments from the books weren't in the movie. I saw the film with a good friend who also loves Sarah's books. Thumbs-up to Mandy Moore, Allison Janney, and Alexandra Holden.

Sarah has contributed short stories to anthologies such as Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday, One Hot Second, and Twice Told: Original Stories Inspired by Original Artwork.

Related Posts at Bildungsroman

In 2006, when Just Listen was released, I had the opportunity to interview her.

In March 2008, Sarah was the featured author at readergirlz, with Just Listen as the book group pick of the month. Learn more. Read the March 2008 issue of readergirlz.

I've also hosted two roundtables dedicated to Sarah's books: the first with the postergirlz talking about Just Listen, and the second with me and Suze chatting about all of Sarah Dessen's novels.


Many thanks to Sarah for noting this post at her own journal. I'm honored!

Watch Melissa Walker interview Sarah Dessen on rgz TV (the readergirlz YouTube channel).

Visit Sarah Dessen's official website and LiveJournal.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: California Hills in August by Dana Gioia

August 16th, 2019 (06:00 am)

Current Mood: sleepy
Current Song: Only Hope by Mandy Moore

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.

An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.

One who would hurry over the clinging
thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,
knowing everything was just a weed,
unable to conceive that these trees
and sparse brown bushes were alive.

And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion,
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.

And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain -
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

- California Hills in August by Dana Gioia

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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Poetry Friday: No Name by Emily Berry

August 8th, 2019 (06:00 pm)

Current Mood: peaceful
Current Song: Blue Ribbons by Fleurie

What can I tell you? It was a summer that seemed to be
making history — their personal history — almost before
it began, and they stood back slightly, still in it, but
observing it, saying “the summer this,” “the summer that,”
all the while it was going on. They became obsessed with
a fountain, for example, one they walked past each day,
how abundantly it would reach upwards and yet be pouring
back down itself the whole time — all winter this fountain
had been dry, not saying a word. What more can I tell you?
Oh, everything — like how they would walk home in
the evenings when the light was soft, anything bad sliding
off them, and they would feel owned, completely owned,
in a good way, by the air, which would touch them constantly,
sometimes urgently, sometimes lightly, just to let them know
it was there, and they would think maybe this is what being
alive is, when they saw how complicated a tree was and how
it wanted them looking at it and saying this, how the color
of a particular flower at this particular moment was redder
even than the life force, whatever that is, if you could open
it up and get right down inside it, if you could put your mouth
to it and become as red as that rose even, it was still redder
than that, and they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves
so they wouldn’t do anything except listen to the songs in their
heads which were sad ones like nearly all good songs and watch
this feeling rolling in, sunshine or rain, we don’t know yet,
it’s a good one, it’s the best one, though it has no name.

- No Name by Emily Berry

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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Poetry Friday: For Teenage Girls by Clementine Von Radics

August 1st, 2019 (06:00 pm)

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

There will always be those
who say you are too young and delicate
to make anything happen for yourself.
They don't see the part of you that smolders.
Don't let their doubting drown out
the sound of your own heartbeat.

You are the first drop of rain in a hurricane.

Your bravery builds beyond you.
You are needed by all the little girls
still living in secret, writing oceans
made of monsters, and
throwing like lightning.
You don't need to grow up
to find greatness.

You are so much stronger than the world
has ever believed you could be.
The world is waiting for you
to set it on fire. Trust in yourself

and burn.

- selected lines from Advice for Teenage Girls with Wild Ambitions and Trembling Hearts by Clementine von Radics

Watch Clementine perform the full piece at Soap Boxing Poetry Slam on Button Poetry.

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]

Booklist: Tough Issues for Teens

August 1st, 2019 (09:00 am)

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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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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DIVORCE, SEPARATION, AND/OR STEPFAMILIES - parents dating, getting remarried, etc
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CAR ACCIDENTS (and similar accidents)
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ADOPTION - Also foster care, group homes, and counseling
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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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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]

Best Books of July 2019

July 31st, 2019 (06:00 am)

Current Mood: artistic
Current Song: Feel Something by Jaymes Young

July 2019: 20 books and scripts read

This month's standout: I liked the artwork in the first Blackbird graphic novel by Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel. I really like Jen Bartel's style and color palette - such vibrant, beautiful colors! Check out her work: jenbartel.com

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: What You May Find by Arctic Lake

July 26th, 2019 (06:00 am)
Current Song: What You May Find by Arctic Lake

Thoughts haunt me from time to time
But it's in those moments
Only you break inside
I could learn from you, I could
But I'm scared of what you may find

- lyrics from What You May Find by Arctic Lake

Listen to the song - Watch the music video.

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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Poetry Friday: Balcony Dreams by Mauwe

July 19th, 2019 (06:00 am)

Current Mood: determined
Current Song: Balcony Dreams by Mauwe

Can you tell me where
All the other dreamers go
Do they end up on the road, hitching rides
From the ones who say our head's up in the clouds
And we should come back down
But they can't hear the sounds of something bigger

Reaching in and I am reaching out
It's getting harder down here on the ground
But we all have to start somewhere

Yes, I know my chances
Yes, I heard you say
Might not go as planned but
I'll still go my way
Yes, I know my chances
Yes, I'm well aware
This might not go well but
I know I'm not scared

- lyrics from the song Balcony Dreams by Mauwe

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.