Gender Relations: Online Discussion Rescheduled!

Over the summer we excitedly relaunched this project and decided that we wanted to share book reviews and thoughtful posts and host a Twitter chat on August 26.

And everything was running according to the syllabus we had laid out here.

Until the most awesome excuse for canceling happened: Sarah had a beautiful baby boy five days before!

Life has been hectic for both of us so as we’re adjusting to our new roles and new years, we finally decided that now would be the time to try to finish what we started on this theme.

The new date for our #yalit101 Twitter chat discussing This One Summer will take place on November 6, 2014 at 7 pm EST. At the end of the chat, we’ll announce a winner of the book giveaway. All you need to do to have a chance to win is to participate in the discussion.

Feel free to read our past posts on the topic of Gender Relations and certainly track down a copy of This One Summer to refresh your memory as we dive into these important questions about our own identities and how we relate to one another.

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Guest Review: Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Story of a GirlTitle: Story of a Girl

Author: Sara Zarr

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: January 10, 2007

Reviewer: Kevin English

Summary (From Goodreads):

When she is caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother’s best friend—Deanna Lambert’s teenage life is changed forever. Struggling to overcome the lasting repercussions and the stifling role of “school slut,” she longs to escape a life defined by her past. With subtle grace, complicated wisdom and striking emotion, Story of a Girl reminds us of our human capacity for resilience, epiphany and redemption.

Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl details Deanna Lambert’s life after her father catches her having sex in the back of her brother’s friend’s car. Within the first few pages, you quickly learn that this is a story that every teenager faces. It reminded me of Alex Finn’s Breathing Underwater, which is another book that needs to be in a classroom library. I found myself pausing a lot while reading. This book is more than just a recounting of a teenager’s mistake. It is, instead, an attempt to reclaim one’s identity and reputation in the eyes of those that matter most.

 

For starters, readers get into the mind of Deanna and so many teenagers’ minds—and I want to emphasize that the minds aren’t just males—when they stumble across this line:  “It was knowing someone else thought about me for more than one second, maybe even thought about me when I wasn’t there” (65). As Deanna’s thoughts reveal, all teenagers—and even adults—engage in behavior that they will question, and possibly regret, later. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20! But this line pushes us to think deeper about the motivations behind Deanna’s actions. She didn’t want unfettered attention; she wanted someone to think about her. Is that really too much to ask? And she brings it up again here: “Or how sometimes you might think you wanted to do it and then halfway through or afterward realize no, you just wanted the company, really; you wanted someone to choose you, and the sex part itself was like a trade-off, something you felt like you had to give to get to the other part” (79).

 

As a result of her actions, she received more negative attention than she deserved, which I feel comfortable saying probably happens all too often in every high school across the country. And again this draws attention to how problematic the dominant narrative is where males are privileged for promiscuity while females are essentially shunned. And it isn’t even just the insults she faces from her peers in the hallway. This book sheds light on the ostracizing that can occur within families as well. It was during this portion of the book that I found myself stopping and thinking about how I navigate this circumstance as a future father:  “See, he talked about me that way even when he thought I couldn’t hear. It wasn’t just something he did when I was around so that he could make me feel like crap, punish me, or whatever. If I needed proof about what he really thought, here it was” (69).  And it’s here where Zarr shows us in relevant ways how powerful our words can be, whether we intend for others to hear them or not.

 

Again, this book encourages readers to reconsider the dominant narrative. It’s like the debate ensuing around college campuses around the country right now. Things are always more complicated and complex than they seem, and we can’t possibly know what young adults are thinking when they engage in behavior we might consider reckless. It’s all the more reason that we need to engage in conversation with them, not at them. That’s the only way that we can possibly begin to understand and then hopefully help.
As a male, stories from female protagonists’ perspectives always intrigue me. It’s part of the reason why I try to read a variety of literature. For a few hours or days, I get to be someone else and live vicariously through them. I get to experience what they experience, think what they think, and feel what they feel. And I think that I walk away a better, more understanding person for doing so. This is also a reason why I plan to share this book with as many students as possible this year, so that they can think about how people’s reactions to the decisions others make can serve as painful reminders of regrettable choices.

 

This book deserved to win the National Book Award, not just be a finalist. I’m proud that it will be on my shelf this year.

Kevin English is entering his third year of teaching in southeast Michigan and is a teacher consultant for the Eastern Michigan Writing Project. He’s an avid reader that’s continuously working to fill his “reading gaps.” Since beginning his career, he can’t recall a day when he he hasn’t tripped over a to-read pile in his house. 

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Guest Review: Inexcusable by Chris Lynch

InexcusableTitle: Inexcusable

Author: Chris Lynch

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster

Release Date: May 8, 2007

Source: checked out from public library

Reviewer: Gregory Taylor

Summary (from Goodreads):

Keir Sarafian knows many things about himself. He is a talented football player, a loyal friend, a devoted son and brother. Most of all, he is a good guy.

And yet the love of his life thinks otherwise. Gigi says Keir has done something awful. Something unforgivable.

Keir doesn’t understand. He loves Gigi. He would never do anything to hurt her. So Keir carefully recounts the events leading up to that one fateful night, in order to uncover the truth. Clearly, there has been a mistake.

But what has happened is, indeed, something inexcusable.

Keir Sarafian is a good guy. He says so, with conviction, right on page three of Inexcusable by Chris Lynch. It’s the first thing the jacket copy tells us on the flap of the book. It’s right there in the first paragraph of the Goodreads summary. And the thing is, you believe him. You’re rooting for him. He seems like a really nice guy, a guy who’s just trying to get through his senior year of high school, a guy who has a crush on his childhood friend Gigi Boudakian.

The problem is, right from the first page, Gigi is screaming at Keir to admit what he’s done to her, even though she said no.

In this speedy first-person narrative, just 165 pages long, the chapters alternate between this tense and terrifying scene between Keir and Gigi, and Keir’s account of the events leading up to it. Keir’s a good guy (everyone says so; even Gigi says so, emphatically, only fifteen pages from the end of the novel). He’s just had some lousy luck. And maybe a couple lapses in judgment. And a few times when peer pressure lured him into bad behavior. But that’s normal, right? No one – not even a certified good guy – is a perfect saint.

Most of the time, Keir is a good guy. But he’s also an unreliable narrator. Doubt creeps in as you read about his exploits with friends and teammates; foreboding insinuates itself as you discover that Keir’s father acts more like a frat bro roommate, especially now that Keir’s older sisters are off at college. Keir is weak when it comes to making the right decisions, or choosing responsibility over fun and friends. Keir does have strengths: mainly, his power to rationalize his actions and his unerring ability to let himself off the hook. “The way you make things look is not the way things really are, Keir,” his sister Fran tells him. “You make things up to be what you want them to be” (150).

Keir loves Gigi Boudakian. He idolizes her, fantasizes about her, dotes on all her beautiful details. And although Gigi sees his flaws, and although she is dating someone else, she has a gentle affection for Keir – especially his sweet side that shows when he’s away from the influence of others. On the night in question, Gigi willingly gets in a limo with Keir and goes for a three-hour drive to another state. They take a long romantic walk in the middle of the night. They hold hands; they kiss. Unexpected (but preventable) circumstances lead them to share a room for the night. Certainly Gigi knows how Keir feels about her. Has she led him on? Has she invited the actions she now claims were unwanted?

Inexcusable unflinchingly inhabits the mind of a well-intentioned but weak-willed teenage boy. With heart-dropping clarity, this story demonstrates how a guy who’s kind and sweet and not particularly contemplative or self-aware can get into trouble, fast. Keir is not a monster; he’s the boy next door. All the good guys out there – and the girls who have a soft spot for them – need to read this book.

Gregory Taylor is a junior high school Teacher Librarian and former English teacher in Boise, Idaho, and teaches a course in Young Adult Literature at Boise State University. He’s been a devoted reader his whole life, and lives in a two-story house increasingly overrun with books.

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Guest Review: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

not that kind of girlTitle: Not That Kind of Girl

Author: Siobhan Vivian

Publisher: Push (Scholastic)

Release Date: September 1, 2010

Reviewer: Kim McCollum-Clark

Summary (From Goodreads):

Natalie Sterling wants to be in control. She wants her friends to be loyal. She wants her classmates to elect her student council president. She wants to find the right guy, not the usual jerk her school has to offer. She wants a good reputation, because she believes that will lead to good things.

But life is messy, and it’s very hard to be in control of it. Not when there are freshman girls running around in a pack, trying to get senior guys to sleep with them. Not when your friends have secrets they’re no longer comfortable sharing. Not when the boy you once dismissed ends up being the boy you want to sleep with yourself – but only in secret, with nobody ever finding out.

Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices – and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between.

Not That Kind of a Girl announces its theme with its title.  We only use that phrase with boys or men with a kind of feminine slur in our voices, flapping our eyelashes or something.   Only girls and women use it on themselves and other girls unselfconsciously.   This realistic high school novel is from 2010 and features a first-person narrator, Natalie, a high-performing, ambitious senior, who definitely judges “those other” kinds of girls.  She was embarrassed and angry that her best friend was gamed into a compromising position back sophomore year, and the later behaviors of her classmates, both male and female, bring the anger back.  She sees all of their testing of their sexual limits as exploitative.  She writes them off, even her best friend Amber, and a new freshman named Spencer, whom Natalie used to babysit years ago.   And then, to turn the (forgive me) screws even tighter, Natalie blithely forgives herself for sneaking around, in escalating ways, with handsome football player Connor.

 

Siobhan Vivian keeps the focus on the actions and explanations of the characters, particularly the girls, in this pointed and complex little book.  Amber and Spencer are at different points in their self-regard and their experience of their gender roles and sexuality.  Spencer, though younger, feels her personal agency keenly and believes she is in control of her choices. Even when a “sexting” picture is sent around in revenge, she refuses to consider herself a victim.  She calls Natalie out on her judgment and on her double-sided position, sneaking out with Connor and still maintaining she is above such things.  Amber wants to heal and move forward from what happened to her, but Natalie constantly reminds her of her poor choices and the inevitable consequences of being involved with guys—any guys.   But Amber comes to see that her past choices should not define her future, and she tries to move on, even if it is without her best friend.

 

Natalie’s conversion moment comes very late in the novel, but I think the real power is in exploration of the continuum of young women and their choices and actions.   They are trying to carve their own paths, at different speeds and with different choices, but each path feels both predestined and a bit of a landmine.  Every kind of  “girl” faces a series of epithets and ready-made stories people will try to attach to her, regardless of her choices.

 

I love having re-read this novel after This One Summer, as the graphic novel conjures so beautifully that preadolescent dream-state, the confusion of that time when you watch yourself changing and you don’t even recognize who you are for whole chunks of time.   Natalie came down very hard on the other side of that dream-state.  She decides—at 13? 14?—that no sexual partner is worth trusting, and yet the absolutely security she imagines that choice will bring is a fantasy.   Vivian’s novel offers a lot of room for reflection for all readers as they count the costs of all their choices, both physical and emotional.

 

Kim McCollum-Clark teaches English and English Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She remembers fighting—without much self-awareness—against the very small, very pink, very passive “girl box” of her young adolescence (circa 1980) with red Keds sneakers, a stack of books on her hip, and no purse to be seen. And yet—still a girl!

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Gender Relations: Teaching Resources

Sarah and I spent some time brainstorming a list of articles and media to share with you relating to the theme of gender relations. It’s a pretty varied list because we have been pondering this topic (and talking about it) for quite some time.

Some of what is here might be best for you to do some background reading. Some of it you might link together to a QR code marked “For More On This Subject” that you can paste in the back of certain titles. Maybe you would share it with book clubs reading the book or – if you are tackling any of these titles with whole classes, maybe you’d pick an article or two to go with it.

These are really just here for you to check out — and we’re inviting the Hive Mind to add to the list. Feel free to look over what’s below and share what we missed. We’re annotating what we’re sharing here, so it would be helpful if you would do the same.

Other suggestions on how you might use any of these resources is certainly also appreciated.

    • Kimberly at Stacked recently wrote a post about matriarchal societies in fiction, in fantasy in particular. She’s included a list of books that feature these societies and is looking for additional titles.  This is an interesting post considering Kim points out that societies like this don’t exist. Why in fiction, but not in real life?
    • The oversexualization of female characters in comic books has long been a topic of discussion – especially among those of us who appreciate superheroes and the comic book as a form. For years I have shared the image below (and I cannot quite figure out where it originally came from – so if you know who should be getting credit for this, please let me know!) with my students and just let them write about their reaction. It never fails to get conversations started. what if all the male characters posed like the female one
    • Jennifer Mathieu, the author of The Truth About Alice, has a guest post at The Perpetual Page-Turner about slut-shaming. She’s included a list of books that take on the topic of teen girls and sexuality.
    • Jill Guccini at Book Riot writes about Speak, YA, Steubenville and rape culture. Can reading YA help our teens understand rape, our boys in particular?
    • Speaking of rape culture, here are a couple of quick videos. The first speaks for itself – the second one from The Daily Show should only be shared with students under careful consideration – the back and forth between Jessica Williams and Jordan Klepper (starts at 2:16) about how to stay safe in college is brilliant but may not be appropriate to share in class.

 

Again, please add what you’ve seen that fits with the theme of Gender Relations by sharing links and annotations in the comments.

Just a reminder – we’ll be chatting about our title selection This One Summer on Twitter on August 26, 2014 at 8 PM EST. We hope you’re joining us in reading and we look forward to discussing it – and possibly some of the related resources and additional titles that have been shared – with you!

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Guest Review: The List by Siobhan Vivian

The ListTitle: The List

Author: Siobhan Vivian

Publisher: Push (Scholastic)

Release Date: April 1st, 2012

Reviewer: Cathy Blackler

Summary (From Goodreads):  

An intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

 

Few arenas lend themselves to a conversation concerning gender relations better than high school. Adolescent angst, a desire for identity, and a ruthless social structure all contribute to the sensory experience. Bonds are formed that at first glance may appear unbreakable; however upon further examination the covalence is tenuous, at best. The unquenchable thirst for acceptance during these formative years is like no other. High school is a time of discovery and teens often find themselves standing insecurely on the precipice of adulthood, curating behaviors and qualities that seem crucial in order to navigate the murky waters.

In her young adult novel The List, Siobhan Vivian thrusts readers into the high school arena by examining the experiences of eight young women. A non-sanctioned tradition at Mount Washington high school, The List is anonymously crafted and displayed each year during the week prior to Homecoming. The eight young women who fall victim to the annual tradition are consigned to two categories: Prettiest and Ugliest; two girls per grade level, one girl for each category. Reactions run the gamut, even amongst the girls themselves as they struggle to make sense of their newfound celebrity.

For Junior Bridget Honeycutt inclusion on the list as the Prettiest Junior is tethered to the byline “what a difference a summer can make.” Insecurity rears its ugly head as Bridget struggles with her self worth, causing her to wrestle demons that feed a hunger like no other. As Bridget prepares for the Homecoming Dance

 “She gets ready without looking in the mirror. Bridget doesn’t need to see         herself.  She already knows. She will never be pretty.”

 Bridget’s story sheds light on the heartbreaking isolation that often accompanies the search for one’s self. While relationships, adolescent and otherwise, can be fraught with distorted perceptions from a multitude of vantage points, feeding doubts, anxieties and self-sabotaging behaviors, a desire for acceptance is always at the forefront.

Freshman Danielle “Dan the Man” DeMarco is confused by the proclamation that decrees her the Ugliest freshman, but not as confused as her boyfriend, Andrew, a member of the school’s football team.  Danielle’s physical prowess earns her a coveted spot on the Varsity Swim Team, while her new nickname attracts unfair attention from Andrew’s friends and teammates. While Andrew appears to say “all the right things” on day one, the constant ridicule and jabbing from his teammates eventually takes its toll, causing Andrew to succumb to peer pressure and Danielle to question her self worth in ways that The List did not.

 “She searches his face for a glimmer of someone who remembers who she had been before Monday. The boy who had been proud to be with her, who had pursued her for weeks at camp. How could so much change in a week? Danielle hasn’t only lost her sense of self, but she’s lost her sense of Andrew, too.”

 Labeling individuals as a way to reward and ridicule is certainly nothing new. Vivian has taken an age-old phenomenon and put it on paper, where its existence cannot be ignored or denied. Her novel invites conversations, many of them difficult, yet necessary. When individuals are singled out and whispered about, where does responsibility lie?  Does the human experience demand winners and losers? How does our perceived place in any social structure affect our relationships? Our inclination to pass judgment reduces the recipients of that judgment to a single story and flattens the experience for us all.

Gender relations often claw their way to the forefront of the high school experience, becoming entangled in the desire for acceptance, identity, and the curiosity to discover who we are. To navigate this last stop on the road to adulthood one must be willing to take a hard look at the behavior of others, but most especially of ourselves. The List delivers a frank portrayal of these behaviors. Vivian gifts readers with her story of heartache, triumph, uncertainty and discovery.

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Cathy Blackler teaches High School English in Southern California. A proud, card-carrying member of the #nerdybookclub, she served as her District’s Teacher of the Year during the 2012-2013 school year, is currently serving a three-year term on the California Young Reader Medal (CYRM) Committee, and was recently inducted into her High School’s Alumni Hall of Fame. She truly leads a reading life, and still owns the first book she purchased with her own money.

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Gender Relations: Supplemental Texts

Our first theme for YA Lit 101 version 2.0 is gender relations. Our first shared text is This One Summer and hopefully you’re either currently reading it or planning on reading it in time for our group discussion because we can’t wait to discuss it with you!

As we planned this first topic, we thought it would be helpful to create a list of books that deal with gender relations in one way or another. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, so we’re hoping you’ll leave a comment sharing some additional titles. The titles we’re sharing focus on topics such as sexuality, rape & rape culture, teen pregnancy, slut-shaming, expectations & stereotypes, and so much more. The titles are listed in no particular order. We considered organizing them by category, but many of these books fall under more than one category when discussing gender relations. We’re including the cover images, Goodreads summaries, etc.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers (Goodreads): Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard—falling from it is even harder.  Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High… until vicious rumors about her and her best friend’s boyfriend start going around.  Now Regina’s been “frozen out” and her ex-best friends are out for revenge.  If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day.  She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully.  Friendship doesn’t come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend… if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don’t break them both first.

Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march toward an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author of Cracked Up To Be.

Over You by Amy Reed (Goodreads): Max would follow Sadie anywhere, so when Sadie decides to ditch her problems and escape to Nebraska for the summer, it’s only natural for Max to go along. She is Sadie’s confidante, her protector, and her best friend. This summer will be all about them. This summer will be perfect.

But that’s before they meet Dylan.

Dylan is dangerous and intoxicating, and he awakens something in Max that she never knew existed. No matter how much she wants to, she can’t back away.

But Sadie has her own intensity, and has never allowed Max to become close with anyone else. And Max doesn’t know who she is without Sadie.

There are some problems you just can’t escape.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Goodreads): Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

Tease by Amanda Maciel (Goodreads): From debut author Amanda Maciel comes a provocative and unforgettable novel, inspired by real-life incidents, about a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide.

Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault. At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (Goodreads): For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now… not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.

And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them…

Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers.

The List by Siobhan Vivian (Goodreads): An intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher (Goodreads): First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.

But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s looping scrawl.

Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she’s caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie’s own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

Debut author Chelsea Pitcher daringly depicts the harsh reality of modern high schools, where one bad decision can ruin a reputation, and one cruel word can ruin a life. Angie’s quest for the truth behind Lizzie’s suicide is addictive and thrilling, and her razor-sharp wit and fierce sleuthing skills makes her impossible not to root for—even when it becomes clear that both avenging Lizzie and avoiding self-destruction might not be possible.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Goodreads): Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch (Goodreads): “I am a good guy. Good guys don’t do bad things. Good guys understand that no means no, and so I could not have done this because I understand.” 

Keir Sarafian knows many things about himself. He is a talented football player, a loyal friend, a devoted son and brother. Most of all, he is a good guy. 

And yet the love of his life thinks otherwise. Gigi says Keir has done something awful. Something unforgivable. 

Keir doesn’t understand. He loves Gigi. He would never do anything to hurt her. So Keir carefully recounts the events leading up to that one fateful night, in order to uncover the truth. Clearly, there has been a mistake. 

But what has happened is, indeed, something inexcusable.

Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal (Goodreads): It’s the mid-1980s, and Ari Mitchell feels invisible at her Brooklyn high school. Her hair is too flat, her style too preppy, and her personality too quiet. And outside school, Ari feels outshined by her beautiful, confident best friend, Summer. Their friendship is as complex and confusing as Ari’s relationship with her troubled older sister, Evelyn, a former teenage mom whose handsome firefighter husband fills Ari’s head with guilty fantasies.

When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York—and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn’t think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari’s family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future. 

When misfortune befalls Blake’s family, he pulls away, and Ari’s world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?

I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin (Goodreads): PURE. UNPLANNED. PERFECT. Those were Nick’s summer plans before Sasha stepped into the picture. With the collateral damage from his parents’ divorce still settling and Dani (his girl of the moment) up for nearly anything, complications are the last thing he needs. All that changes, though, when Nick runs into Sasha at the beach in July. Suddenly he’s neck-deep in a relationship and surprised to find he doesn’t mind in the least. But Nick’s world shifts again when Sasha breaks up with him. Then, weeks later, while Nick’s still reeling from the breakup, she turns up at his doorstep and tells him she’s pregnant. Nick finds himself struggling once more to understand the girl he can’t stop caring for, the girl who insists that it’s still over.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger (Goodreads): Whitley Johnson’s dream summer with her divorcé dad has turned into a nightmare. She’s just met his new fiancée and her kids. The fiancée’s son? Whitley’s one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin’ great.

Worse, she totally doesn’t fit in with her dad’s perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn’t even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she’s ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn’t “do” friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn’t her stepbrother…at least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

Filled with authenticity and raw emotion, Whitley is Kody Keplinger’s most compelling character to date: a cynical Holden Caulfield-esque girl you will wholly care about.

Fault Line by Christa Desir (Goodreads): Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (Goodreads): Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way–the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds–a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl’s struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone–especially yourself–you fight for it.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads): Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

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