I decided to create this post about some of the books I’ve been reading for all of the Book Clubs I assist with at my job. The library where I work has 4 Book Clubs: Children’s, Teen, Adult, and Umoja (more on that later). The Lead Librarian selects (in most cases) the book for the upcoming Book Club, reads it, and prepares for the discussion. The book for the club ranges from Bestseller’s to popular indie books.
As some of you know, I’ve been working as a YA/Teen Librarian since spring and I’ve been enjoying it a lot. One of my responsibilities involves the YA Book Club, which meets almost every month of the year (there is a YA Graphic Novel Club, but another librarian runs it). I get to select a book for the teen patrons to read; however, I have to keep in mind that our preferred genre(s) might be different, and I have to select a book that is “age appropriate” for the teens. Then, we have a meetup to discuss the book; there have been times when the teens present had more to say on one book over another one, but that’s how it is with younger readers.
YA Book Club
This book was the recipient for this year’s Newbery Medal, and after reading this book, it’s well-deserved. Petra and her family are evacuating Earth in the near future due to the unpreventable collision of a comet. The plan is for Petra, her family, and the other passengers being “chronically frozen” as other scientists volunteer to monitor their vitals and their brain activity until they reach their new home planet. When Petra “wakes up,” she realizes that the ship was mutinied by a cult whose beliefs of peace and harmony can be achieved by “eliminating” differences including history and heritage. Petra, who always wanted to be a storyteller, or a cuentista, like her abuela, is the only one who remembers Earth, its history, and the stories. Now, she must maneuver her way through “The Collective” in order to save the few remaining passengers before they can bring irreversible harm to their new home.
The teens who read this book didn’t grasp the concept and the irony within this story. Middle schoolers are still learning history and culture; and, in high school dystopian fiction isn’t read as much as it was just a few years ago. So, unless it’s a new popular book or series similar to The Hunger Games and The Last of Us from the last decade, chances are many teens many not comprehend the message within stories such as these. All that being said, after the events of the last few chapters were clarified for the teens, they understood the “twisted irony” and the “hope” at the end of the story.
As a fan of speculative fiction, I’ve gotten used to reading series out of order where the prequel (standalone or series) is released after the main series has been published. The Hate U Give is an amazing book, and Concrete Rose is one of the best prequel books I’ve ever read! One of the reasons for this is because enough of the story involving the parents and the other adults from The Hate U Give provides the background readers wanted without making it too much about the children mentioned in that book. Concrete Rose while set before The Hate U Give is its own story and presented as a “present day story.” So, while the readers (and the author) already knows what will happen with the teen (and the babies) characters in the later book, the characters make decisions towards the lives they want as adults. By the time you’ve finished Concrete Rose, the behavior and the attitude of the parents from The Hate U Give makes more sense.
The Teen readers enjoyed this book and the poem by Tupac associated with it. At the same time, many of them understood the author’s message within this book. They would recommend this book to other readers.
I thought this book was going to be a trope-ful YA mystery fantasy romance novel for teens. The art terminology and painting as a form of magic made the book standout, but the corruption and the deaths of certain characters will keep your attention until the very end. The protagonist is a talented painter; so talented she can “alter” a living being’s physical appearance. After her parents’ disappearance, the protagonist and her sister are struggling to survive. That is until the protagonist “reveals” her talents to the wrong individual, who then blackmails her to complete a job for her. However, the magic cannot resurrect the dead, right?
Based on the response of the teen participants, I can say that this book was their favorite one so far. We all agreed that the twist in this book was something NONE of us saw coming. Not to mention, the rumors of there being a sequel has led to early requests of that book being a future Book Club Selection whenever it is published.
The plot of this mystery/suspense novel caught the attention of the teens and I; and, it was very good. The premise of this story is the daughter of Middle Eastern immigrants aspires to be a reporter sees her chance when a slew of racist events and a missing boy prompt her into investigating the racism and xenophobia within her town (outside of Chicago). When the missing boy is found dead, the protagonist finds a clue of the potential murderer, and whoever it is the person is closer to the protagonist than she knows. And yes, there is a very intriguing twist, or two, in this story.
The tween readers enjoyed this book a bit more than the teens. I believe one of the reasons for this is because the setting of this book is within a high school, and the incidents that occur at the school leading up to the missing boy are some of what this generation of kids have to deal with, sadly. I don’t have to list all of the issues here for you to know which ones I’m referring to. At the same time, the style of the story and the presentation of it makes it an necessary read.
UMOJA Book Club
The fourth Book Club is geared for “New Adults” (individuals over 18 years old, to around 30 years old), but any Adult patron who is interested is welcomed to participate in this Book Club. Umoja is Swahili for “Unity.” The purpose of this Book Club is to “celebrate diversity while committed to unity.” This Book Club reads various fiction (across all genres) by authors of African descendant (Black American, Caribbean, etc.).
The author of this book created her protagonist based on testimonies for underaged workers from Nigeria. This book focuses on a 14 year-old girl who wants nothing more than to go to school and to become educated. In fact, it was her mother’s wish for her, too, before her death. Instead, the girl’s father forces her to get married for a dowry to a man who has 2 other wives and no sons. After more tragedies befall her, the protagonist runs away and gets a job as a housemaid for a wealthy family. When she realizes she hasn’t seen any of her wages, someone tells the protagonist about a scholarship opportunity for a free education. All the protagonist has to do is to apply and to remain employed until she hears back with the results.
One of the things that stood out to me the most about this book (and the participants of the Book Club agree) is that the story doesn’t jump from when the protagonist submits her application to whenever she gets a response. The story continues as the protagonist waits to hear back about the scholarship. Similar to college and to job applications, there is a waiting period where the process of candidates is occurring. Meanwhile, life carries on and everyone has to continue on as they continue to wait to hear back. The protagonist deals with the same waiting process that is familiar to many of us. At the same time, the protagonist begins to weigh out her potential choices for her life as she starts to see the world differently.
Mock Printz Workshop Selections
The very first book I mentioned in this post was this year’s recipient of the Newbery Medal, which is the literary award given for the best contribution to American literature for children. Now, the Printz Award is given to the best contribution to American literature for young adults. Every year, the American Library Association (ALA) announces the nominees (or, in the case of the Alex Awards, the winners) for each of its awards. After some time, the winners are announced.
In some regions, librarians will meet up to have “mock discussions” regarding potential nominees for each of these awards. The genre of the book is no longer an issue as long as the book meets the criteria for the award. I will be participating in the Mock Printz Workshop in my region and below are the selections. Everyone who decides to participate must read all of the selections before the date of the workshop. Then, a discussion ensues and everyone votes on which book could win the award.
This will be my first year participating in a Mock Award Workshop (I only have time to participate in the one for the Printz Award). I am very excited by the selections for our region; and, if it’s similar to when I participate in the SCKA, then there will be some form of chaos, and it’s going to be awesome!
This is some of what I’ve been up to at work. It seems a lot, but it’s not and I’m enjoying the chance to read and to discuss these diverse books with kids and other patrons at the library. It’ll be some time before I can present the next update.
Do you participate in any Book Clubs? Are any of them through your local library? If you do, then which book(s) have you read that you recommend to us?