There is something about putting your sunglasses on, hopping in a car and driving that just says summer. The music, of course, must be blasting. This means if you are listening to the eighties music that your dad puts on (seriously, I don't think I know anyone else, except perhaps my brother, who had whole albums of KISS and Lynyrd Skynyrd music memorized before they hit the fourth grade), or country music, which, to me anyway, is practically created for the sole purpose of road trips. Even if you are not a country music fan, go on a road trip, find a country station (there will be at least one if you have half a radio signal) and just try listening to it. But you have your music, possibly a good friend and the road.
And, while there is something so beautifully summer about road trips, it is also an indisputable fact that there is also something inherently literary about road trips. I speak of course, of the undeniable metaphor that exists in road trips or even just trips in general. You know, the whole "it's not the destination, it’s the journey" sort of thing that likely appears on lots of cross-stitched pillows. But, while I may jest, there does in fact lay a kernel of truth. Many authors use these literal journeys to parallel metaphorical ones. The perhaps most obvious example would be Jack Kerouac's On the Road. (I would say more here, but I confess I have managed to let this sit on my to-be-read pile for far too long. But it is literally about a road trip and a quest for self-knowledge. Even if I had read it I think my point would be made). Another classic literary example is John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. I did read this one. And I really wish I hadn't. It is my own personal opinion that if you actually loved this book, you are either a) an English teacher or b) a librarian. No mean to cause offense but this might literally be the book that I have liked the least of all of those that I have finished. But I digress, in the tale of the Joad's trip to California; there are undeniable themes of growth and starting over. For another, more contemporary example of road trips, we find John Green. He seriously loves his metaphors. Paper Towns has the most obvious road trip, and he has stated in one of his vlogs that he likes road trips because "they are a really good metaphor." (He has literally two thousand vlogs, so I really cannot point to which one, exactly this came from. But I promise it's there. Also, it may have been the inspiration for this post).
Without a doubt, road trips are deeply entrenched in the metaphors of finding yourself. But they are also light and fun, very summery. So, here are a few of my favorite books that feature a road trip:
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Okay, so this one is a not quite a traditional road trip. It starts when a girl gets a letter, or rather thirteen letters, in the mail from her aunt. Getting mail from aunts is a fairly normal thing, even if the number of letters isn't. But Ginny's aunt had died a while ago of brain cancer. And the first letter sends her off to London with nothing much more than a little bit of money and some vague instructions. From there, Ginny is sent on crazy adventure all around Europe just trying to follow her crazy aunt's instructions. This is a terrific read, and wonderfully fast paced, and it is light and funny, although it does have its serious moments. I most definitely give this (and actually all of Johnson's other books, really) five out of five stars.
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
This one is a little more serious than Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. A while before the start of the book Amy's father died in a car crash and now the remainder of the family is packing up and moving cross-country. So, it is a road trip from California to Connecticut for Amy as soon as she finishes the school year with old family friend, Roger, to meet up with her mom. As you can guess by the title, things don't exactly go as planned. Filled with great detours, including a quick visit to Yosemite, an ill-advised trip through the desert, and a stop at Graceland, this book also tackles some more serious topics like the death of a parent and a brother who is in rehab. Really, as the road trip seems to imply it is all about picking up and moving on with your life, even when something catastrophic happens. It is equal parts light and serious and it is a wonderful book. I give this one 4.5/5 stars.
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
I'll be honest with you; it has been a really long time since I have read this book. But I do remember a tall girl who worked at a local shoe store, run by an old woman who, for some strange reason decides to enlist this random sixteen year old employee to drive her across the country to some conference in Texas (probably) in order to prevent the sale of her shoe-store empire to some corporate monster. And really, whenever you put an old lady in a car for an extended period of time…you know funny things have to happen. When I read this I most definitely gave the book a 5/5 stars. However, because it has been a while I will give it a 4/5 stars, just in case my past self was nicer about book ratings than my current self was (because I totally was). In any case, I hope you enjoy this one as much as I remember enjoying it.
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
Out of these four books this one is arguably my favorite. As with most of the other books it starts with the death of a close family member; in this case, Honor's brother, who was killed in Iraq. And, as in Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, Honor receives a letter from her brother several days after his funeral. It contains tickets to a concert in California and seeing this as a last request she decides she has to go. So, armed with nothing more than her brother's Impala, her brother's (still slightly drunk) former best friend and her trusty red cowboy boots, Honor sets off. (Have you noticed that so many of these books started with dead family members? I think that it's because the road trip is essentially the grieving process, all tied up into one nice literary package. Also, many of these books have very interesting passengers. Because there needs to be some humor in these books that start with such a morbid beginning. Really, to me it is not just the deaths, or the comic relief, that makes these books, but the ways in which the authors combine them to create fun books that also border on the serious. In all honesty, that's why I love road trip books). Without a doubt, I give this book 5/5 stars. Even if it doesn't seem like something you'll like, its only about two hundred pages, so it's not much of a time risk, even though I promise that it is worth it.
And that's all for now. Hopefully you decide to try out one or more of these books, or even go on a road trip of your very own. After all, reading and road trips…isn't that what summer is all about?
I gaze in awe
At the abundance
Of such unique works of art.
Each totally different,
Created by the same ocean,
But a separate pound of a wave.
I pluck a single shell
From my feet
Mesmerized by the shape:
The smooth curves,
Made by a violent throw;
The bleached white
That was once full of color.
This small fragment
I hold in my hand -
Once a creature’s home -
Has been cared by the hand of Nature
To look like some sort of rose.
It swirls into itself,
Spinning and twirling
Image Credit: Annette Simpson on Flickr
Book Basics Title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Published: 2012, Amulet Books
Genre: realistic fiction
Star Rating ★★★★ Buy It
Short Summary- Greg Gaines is “casually friendly” with almost all the social groups in his Pittsburgh high school. He’s not really friends with anyone, except Earl Jackson, his “co-worker”, whom he makes mediocre movie re-creations with. This way of life suits Greg just fine, until his senior year of high school when his mom forces him to hang out with a classmate (with whom he has a painfully awkward history with) who’s just been diagnosed with leukemia, Rachel Kushner. This, of course turns Greg’s entire world upside down, as a forced friendship evolves into a genuine one.
What I Liked- This is an insanely hilarious book. It’s not your stereotypical cancer book: the characters don’t fall in love, and the relationships between them are cringe-worthy awkward. But this is why I liked the book so much. It’s real. It’s an accurate portrayal of the struggle of fitting in in high school, overly involved parents and the depressing void that is cancer. The narrator, Greg, is in no way perfect yet the reader finds themselves wishing they knew him in real life because of his weird (some might say twisted) sense of humor and relatable philosophies on high school life. All the characters were very well developed and delightfully quirky.
What I Didn’t Like- There was very little that I didn’t like about this book. The language was, at times, profane and somewhat excessive, I thought. A lot of the humor in the book is pretty profane as well. Also, I felt the female character, the dying girl (Rachel) was under-represented and probably could have been featured for a larger portion of the book.
In Conclusion- This is not your average teen-with-cancer book. In fact, that’s what it makes it so great: it stands in a category of its own. The hilarity and awkwardness of this book is what makes it so awesome: it’s relevant, poignant, and real. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is relatable yet unique and enjoyable for teens and adults alike.
Read It Before You See It- The movie adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl wowed at its Sundance Film Festival debut, winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. It’s out in theaters everywhere now, but I had the chance to attend an advanced screening when the library took JCPL Teens earlier in June, and I have to say: if you liked the book, you’ll love the movie. It’s equal parts humor and heart and will keep you in tears of laughter and emotion throughout the entire movie. Though the cast doesn’t feature a lot of recognizable names, the three main characters (Thomas Mann plays Greg, RJ Cyler plays Earl and Olivia Cooke plays Rachel) did an excellent job portraying their fictional selves. I also had the chance to meet Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler, and they were as quirky in real life as they were onscreen. As for how the book and movie compare, the book is (as it usually is) better, but the plot line is followed fairly closely and the unique narration style from the book is expertly placed in the movie. It’s a great movie, and I highly recommend it whether you’ve read the book or not. (But seriously, read the book first. ;)) You can watch the trailer here.
Also, if you liked this review check out my blog for more book reviews and recommendations!
NOTE FROM JCPL TEENS STAFF: We're giving away 28 Me & Earl & the Dying Girl lunch bags for part of our Summer Reading weekly prize drawing this week! Log your Summer Reading minutes before midnight on Thursday for a chance to win!
Image Credit: Caitlin, Teen Contributor
Coding Camp for Teens is NOT your grandmother’s Summer Camp. Forget about hiking and making crafts. At this two week camp, teens will be learning computer programming languages and making web pages! Working alongside some of Colorado’s best mentors from the tech industry, teens will learn the basics of HTML and CSS, gaining the skills necessary to create a web page from scratch. The teacher and mentors can’t get any better; these are the people who build websites and mobile apps!
Have you ever wondered how that app works on your phone? Want to know how that online game actually works? Take advantage of this experience and you’ll have the answers to these questions and more. No experience necessary!
July 27 through August 7
Teens ages 14 - 18
Monday - Friday
2 - 5 p.m.
Registration is limited and available online. Or call 303-235-5275.
I am one of your red blood cells. You may not think of me every day, but I am thinking of you. In fact, I am inside of you. I work to bring nutrients to every part of your body. I know every nook and cranny, from your head to the tips of your fingers.
I will now describe my daily job! My boss is your heart. When it beats it sends me on my merry way in your arteries, blood vessels, and into your capillaries, where I am then allowed to visit the muscles and bone cells. They always enjoy the meal I bring to them but I never can stay long for soon I am whooshed away back to the heart to get re fueled for the next round.
On rare occasions, I get to go visit the Brain or the big boss. This beautiful structure is very smart: it tells all your other organs what to do. I wish I were that smart, but, alas, we cannot all be Einstein, can we? I also enjoy going into the bones. This is where I get cleaned and primed for the day’s work. It is also were I was born and someday I will go there when I am ready to retire and leave the body.
Recently, the heart has been beating strangely, there’s been a lot of platelets acting up and there has been this weird goop clogging up the arteries. I asked the brain what was happening and he said that it was probably cholesterol. I have my suspicions about a heart attack, though I have never personally experienced one. Have you?
Today is my 120 days old birthday and I am finally too old continue my duty. I am trying to leave the body by way of the marrow, but the marrow is not responsive. In fact, none of the cells are behaving properly. I think the body I am in is dead. Have you ever been dead? What is it like? Was it fun? Sorry there goes my mouth getting ahead of my nucleus. Well, anyway, I hope this was an informative essay and that you learned something and also sorry about the handwriting. I am just a blood cell after all.
Sincerely Your Blood Cell,
Image credit: Kai Schreiber on Flickr
OH MY CLARK GABLE, you guys. I cannot describe how amazing this book is. I mean, usually I dedicate these blog posts to at least four or five different books, just so that everyone can find something they like. But this book…this book gets its own post. It's that great.
So, for one, it has a really weird narration style. It has these twins, Jude and Noah, who alternate telling their stories. But, the half told from Jude's perspective is four years ahead of Noah's. So there are all of these plot elements, like a major family tragedy, that would be spoilers in Noah's half, but because of the way its told, you actually already know what happened. At the same time, though, there are four years of the story totally missing, so you get to spend the entire novel putting the pieces together. Really, it's just cleverly done.
For another: the characters. They have such vibrant personalities. Noah, in his chapters, is constantly painting these crazy rainbow portraits. It colors the world red and green and blue and allows you to see into the mind of this extremely talented artist. That alone would make his chapters worth the read, but he is also twelve years old, and trying to figure out who he is. This is sometimes a painful plot to try and read, but I promise you that Jandy Nelson treats the matter in a truly beautiful way. And Jude. What can I say about Jude? She is a sixteen year old girl who has had to live through the family tragedy that has not yet happened to Noah. She is lost, and doesn't really know where she is going. Also, I should probably mention that she frequently talks to the ghost of her dead grandmother. These two are so alive in their respective chapters, they have such strong, unique personalities, it is impossible not to fall in love with them.
For a third, it treats real topics. Noah is trying to sort out his romantic attraction to the boy who moved next door, and Jude is still trying to cope with that family tragedy (which I don't want to spoil, even though it isn't much of a spoiler). There are also many other emotions swirling about, making I'll Give You the Sun an honest and beautiful read.
And it also won the Printz Award this year. If you don't know a lot about the Printz, it is an award given out once a year to the best book in young adult literature. So, if you don't want to take my word for it, some super-duper committee also thinks it is pretty awesome.
As for my rating, I obviously give it five out of five stars. However, when I keep track of books for myself, I have to add another category, because sometimes five stars just isn't enough. For these books, I assign it to my "Favorites" shelf. And if you didn't hear some sort of music in the background when you just read "Favorites" then you didn't read it right. So go try again until you hear that weird music that tells you the word is ridiculously important. And now that you understand the magnitude of that shelf, know that I'll Give You the Sun is one of the few books to have actually made it to that particular shelf. So it is dang good.
Go and read it.
You'll thank me later.
HEAR YE HEAR YE ALL BOOKWORMS, FANGIRLS, FANBOYS, OR ANY FANDOMINIONS OF THE SORT:
The time for the Teen Fandom Contest is nigh!!
Now that you are out of school (hopefully), you finally have the freedom to spend the days reading to your heart’s content, or binge watching shows on Netflix until three in the morning. Why not express that freedom by representing your favorite fandom?
Starting June 17, you can represent a fandom you love by entering the second annual Teen Fandome Contest. This contribution can be in a variety of formats:
- or something else!
This is your chance to release your inner fangirl or fanboy through a creative project! Please submit your entry in person to the Lakewood Library’s Teen Librarian between June 17-July 17. All of the entries will be judged by the Teen Advisory Board on July 22.
But of course, what’s a contest without a celebration? Join us at Lakewood Library for a Costume Party (come in a cosplay as your favorite character!) on Wednesday, July 22, at 6 p.m, where there will be food and the winner of the Fandom Contest will be announced. The winner will receive a $50 visa gift card. Imagine how many books/fandom merch you could get with that!
*Lets out a long, loud sigh, which contains several months’ worth of stress, as well as various dates, facts, and figures that I will never be required to know again* Summer. It is finally here. And if you are anything like me that means one thing: you have no idea what to read. Seriously, the entire school year you are probably making it by on a book a week, if you're lucky, and those are probably presets: sequels that have just been published, or favorite authors who have finally released a new book. (Shadow Scale and Hellhole, I am looking at you.) But now it is summer, and you are not constrained by tedious projects or dry textbooks. You are free!
So, now what?
I'll tell you: Kid's books. That's right, kid's books. Don't forget about all of those J Fiction books out there, just because you have technically, probably, aged out. (And we all know that secretly, at least some of the time, we are all still six. Or five. The point is, you never actually grow out of the J Fiction section.) So, if you are in that awkward phase where you look to old to be looking in the kid's section by yourself, but not quite old enough to have your own kids to be looking for, here are some recommendations.
1. Don't forget about your old favorites. No, I'm not talking about Harry Potter, we all know you probably re-read that once every few years anyway. Well, most of you anyways. I'm talking about books that you read in single sittings, laughing, getting weirdly attached to characters, but for some reason you never picked them up again. For me, this brings to mind A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Seriously, these were great books as a kid, but now reading them after a few years, they are almost funnier. They are extremely dark, but with a sort of humor that I imagine was directed towards teenagers. I liked them as a kid, but now…I have to say that I am even more impressed. I might not be able to speak for all kid's books, but I guarantee that if you go back and read some old favorites, you are going to have a great time, not only in remembering why you loved them in the first place, but also likely in discovering some tidbits that make more sense in your older, wiser* brain. Definitely give these (or any of your old favorites) 5/5.
*Wiser, mostly in the sense that I am using it in a cliché phrase. I'm not sure that any of us should actually ever be considered wise.
2. Now, for some recent finds on the J fiction shelves. If you like fairy tales, especially those that seem to combine stories from all sorts of backgrounds, you might want to try The Sisters Grimm. And I do apologize if you have already read these. Sometimes I am behind on the times. Back when moving to the "New World" was a thing, the Grimm Brothers packed up all (most) fairy tale creatures and moved them to the East Coast, a town called Ferryport (formerly Fairyport, haha, so clever), which allows no one to leave its borders. (Holy cow, I never realized how much this sounded like the show Once Upon a Time before.) Now, I will warn you that the first book is not the best written, but the story intrigued me enough to read the second. The writing does seem to improve, and the story seems to get more interesting. My favorite part: Puck. Such a sassy little fairy, who believes he rules the world, but he is really still a child who, eventually, somehow gets talked into coming and living with Granny Grimm. How do you think that is going to work out: the trickster king being, for lack of a better word, domesticated? I certainly wouldn't want to live with him. So, pretty much an easy read with some rewritten fairy tale characters, who keep butting into each other's universes (also each other's business, but that's sort of obvious). This may not be my number one recommendation, but it only takes a couple of hours. I'd give these ones 3.5/5, though do note that the low score is lower because of the first book.
3. New find: The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch. I'm not really sure about you, but I am willing to read this book just based off of its title, and the name of the author. I mean, how awesome is the name Pseudonymous for a pseudonym (or nom de plume, or penname, or alias, or whatever)?! Also, the back cover is written entirely in backwards words. Like, if weird word jumbles are not your favorite thing, you might actually need a mirror to read the cover of this book. So, apparently I am in fact, telling you to judge a book by its cover. Well, more specifically, all of the writing that appears on said cover. And if all of that isn't enough for you to want to read this awesome book, it has one of those narrators who aren't supposed to be telling the story. And (s)he keeps talking to you! I find those narrators the best. Fourth wall? What fourth wall! I feel like I should tell you more…but it's a secret, right? Nah, I'm not scared of any super-secret organization (well, maybe, we will get to that later). There is a missing magician, and a mysterious box called the Symphony of Smells. Mmm…synesthesia. One of my favorite literary thingy-mabobs. It just makes all the descriptions so much better. I mean, how can you taste the cold? How can you hear the color blue? Seriously, the next time you write, try to use some synesthesia. The style of this book probably fits right in there with anything written by Lemony Snicket. Less morbid, but still that same wit and great narrator. Definitely a 5/5.
4. Now…secret organizations. Imagine that there was a school that took the best and brightest of today's children. Geniuses who might be sabotaging Prime Minister's speeches, or who might be world class diamond thieves. Or maybe someone who was simply dared to hack into the government…and did it. These are the kind of people that go to H.I.V.E. The Higher Institute for Villainous Education. (I told you there was a secret organization I might be scared of. Wouldn't you be? All the little twelve year old geniuses in the world being trained to be super-villains?) Also, there is some pretty cool AI (artificial intelligence) going on here--and you know, every time an AI comes around, there are always weird existential questions (feel free to ignore those or not, depending on your mood). And…I actually don't think I need to say more. It is a secret school for SUPER VILLIAN CHILDREN! So, 5/5 for Mark Walden.
Okay, guys, that's all I've got for now! It should keep you busy for at least a couple of weeks (or days, or hours, depending on how fast you read…). Enjoy! There will be another post later this month so check back in!
We want to make YOU a star by showing off your writing, art, and more. All you have to do is be between the ages of 11 and 18 and send us your work. We're looking for:
-Fanfiction (1500 words or less)
Have something amazing that's not on this list? Send it to us anyway! We want to show the world how awesomely talented Jeffco teens are!
Volunteering for the Summer Reading Program was a great experience. I was able to really help out with the young kids by showing them how amazing reading is. When volunteering for the summer reading program I got to know other teens, librarians, and the young kids of the library. Volunteering for the summer reading program was a great way to spend the extra time during my summer break.
And after everyone’s hard work and dedication to the summer reading program all the teens were able to stay at the library after hours and play games with all the other volunteers.
To learn more about being a Teen Volunteer this summer, contact Tana Lucero.