My daily doomsday prepping

Most nights, we watch one show. For a long time, it was making our way through Buffy—twice. Then Stranger Things—twice. Over the summer, we watched a show on dark tourism and on one street food around the world. Callum, our teenager, watches these with us. It’s our little time to decompress together before we scatter again: me off to read, Matthew to do more work, and Callum to video games.

My new work bag. I’m a grownup!

 

Recently, we started watching a show on doomsday preppers. Whether preparing for some biblical end times, a cataclysmic pole shift, hurricanes, financial collapse, or myriad other (generally very unlikely) disasters, these people stockpile food, guns, and have “bug out” plans. A large number of people featured on this show are former military or police/emergency responders. I hate armchair analysts, but it seems safe to say that most of these people have some form of OCD, paranoia, anxiety, and PTSD. I say this as a person who has a whole jumble of mental health diagnoses … and is a daily life prepper.

 

 

Here’s what I mean: My car is never less than half full. My bills are paid the same day they appear. Laundry never piles up to be anything more than one load can take care of. My house mostly looks like a museum (with the exceptions of Matthew’s office and Callum’s room—I pretend those rooms don’t exist). You will never see a pile waiting to go somewhere. If my to-do list is written out for a week, I will try to get all those things done TODAY. The blog posts I write for Teen Librarian Toolbox are prepared 6-8 weeks in advance. My reviews for School Library Journal are always sent in early. My dogs are never overdue for the vet. We are never down to the last of anything—paper towel, cans of dog food, milk, whatever. I am constantly ready to have some sort of mundane to tragic emergency happen. I have always been like this—thanks, anxiety disorder!—but it’s gotten worse in the years since my dad was killed.

 

Even living my entire life imagining worst case scenarios didn’t prepare me to find out my dad had been killed in a car accident. We had to abandon a lot of our daily life for weeks, and then eventually months, after this. I remember thinking, but at least I’ve bought all the Christmas presents and wrapped them or mailed them; at least I’d done all the holiday baking. Stupid stuff. Who cares? My brain does. It took 11 months to settle his estate and I constantly thought, thank goodness I’m so organized. Of course, my organization took a turn from (semi)normal to mania, but at least I felt productive.

Blog posts scheduled into November

 

I would maybe like to be the kind of person who can CHILL THE FUCK OUT about anything. Small stuff, like let a bill sit for a week if it’s not due for a month or be able to sleep even if I know there’s clutter somewhere in the house. As it is, I send myself emails in the middle of the night when I wake up and think of something I NEED to do. I have a paper planner, a list I keep on the kitchen counter (my one concession to “piles”), and write zillions of notes.

The garbage can in my office only ever contains notes for things I’ve dealt with.

 

I am not preparing for the end of the world. On the show, people keep saying everyone should have a plan for the end of the world. Look, MacGregors are existential nihilists with depression. The end times come, we’re good—goodbye, cruel world. Our plan is we just die. (Don’t send me some worried text. We’re fine. We just know that a zombie invasion or a doomsday scenario means we bug out in our own way. We are indoor folk  with no survival skills and a distaste for humanity on its best day.). I’m preparing for the million small disasters of every day. I’m preparing for my own personal apocalypses. That ranges from being knocked out for two weeks due to the flu to finding myself unable to give a shit about anything other than laying on the floor and staring at my ceiling fans to someone suddenly dying.

 

 

I can’t make fun of those people are the show. They aren’t mentally well. I might not be hoarding food or manufacturing my own ammunition, but I am preparing for the many ways some piece of my world may be interrupted, whether that’s a stumbling block or the ground being ripped out from under me. When people comment on my efficiency and organization, I just laugh it off as “how I am,” but really, it’s not necessarily fun. It’s obsession. It’s anxiety. It’s a Type A desire to feel in control. People so severely misunderstand mental illness and what it can look like. My attention to detail is really just my brain letting its worry and mania run rampant.

 

Side note: Yes, I’m medicated and have been to lots of therapy and am actually doing quite well compared to how my brain sometimes likes to behave. Please don’t send me suggestions for how to stop worrying.

 

Allie Brosh gets it.

 

It’s kind of exhausting. I always joke that at least I get a lot done, but really, I might not mind being able to let a little bit go sometimes. How does someone prep for that? Maybe I should make a list.

Twin Cities Teen Lit Con 2019: Social Justice and Activism in YA Literature

Saturday, April 27 was Twin Cities Teen Lit Con, a wonderful yearly event that I have now had the honor of speaking at for the past four years. This year it took place at Henry Sibley High School, in Mendota Heights. If you’re unfamiliar with Teen Lit Con, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a convention dedicated to teen (YA) literature. This event is FOR teens—teens win the prizes, teens often get first dibs at getting a seat in sessions, there are sessions that are ONLY for teens, etc. I feel extremely fortunate to not only present there each year, and meet so many wonderful teens, but to then also be able to hear fantastic talks from YA authors from around the country. Big thanks to everyone at MELSA, the Teen Lit Con team, the many volunteers, and Henry Sibley High School for the amazing day. What a lot of work went into pulling it off.

 

 

I had a wonderful day running in to lots of friends, listening to smart, engaging speakers, and nonstop grinning at the absolute joy of watching teenagers totally geek out over books and authors. I’m a huge fan of eavesdropping and overheard so many great snippets of conversations about books and presentations.

I presented my session twice on Saturday. I had printed 100 handouts but ran out during the second session. A born pessimist with impostor syndrome, I always assume that maybe my sessions will only draw a handful of people, though that has literally never turned out to be the case (aren’t the lies that depressed and anxious brains able to come up with and convince a person of so fun?!), so I print what feels like an excessive amount of handouts figuring it will be more than enough and I’ll just bring most of them home. I also made handouts from last year’s Mental Health in YA Lit sessions available yesterday, as those sessions were so well attended in the past and the topic is so dear to me. Those handouts all went, too. The mental health handouts from last year’s talk are available here:

Teen Lit Con 2018 handouts MHYALit

 2018 TLC Additional handout

 

The handouts from my 2019 Social Justice and Activism in YA Literature session are available here:   

Social Justice in Young Adult Literature Recommended Reading

Social Justice in YA Lit Resources (websites for further education)

 

Schools and libraries, please feel free to reproduce these and share these, but please leave my credit at the bottom of the page. 

 

As promised during my talk, I’m going to post a few relevant slides from my presentation here. My presentation was a mix of information about social justice, anti-oppression, intersectionality, and own voices and a rundown of some of the many YA books that address these topics. When I began working on my presentation, I made a list of the books I really wanted to talk about. That list was 186 books long. Listen, I talk really fast, but even I can’t fit that into 45 minutes. So I pared it down to a much more reasonable 62 books. I know. I can’t help it! I used every single second of those 45 minutes. Click on the slides to enlarge them.

 

 

 

The rest of the presentation was quick summaries of books that address social justice topics. Slides showed the book cover (because I do indeed judge a book by its cover) and title/author. The suggested reading list includes all the books I talked about/made slides for. Just for a peek, the slides looked like this:

 

 

The resources handout includes these sites and many more:

 

 

After each talk I had excellent conversations with teachers, librarians, and teenagers looking for more books on a certain topic, or suggesting titles to me, or just stopping by to give me a high-five (and in one case, stopping to slip me a coffee gift card!). It was great to see so many people nodding along to the points I was making and scribbling notes. Four years in, I now recognize so many familiar faces in my sessions. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Teen Lit Con is absolutely one of the best days of the year.

 

As a pretty hardcore introvert, being on display like that, socializing that much, should have drained me. Instead, I left the high school invigorated, fueled by all of the excitement and energy of the day. Did I still go home and hole up in my office for an hour before I could interact with anyone again? Yes. But I can’t think of a better reason to feel a little wiped out than hanging out with people who love YA books.

 

Adventures in Dachshunds: The OH GOD, MY DOG HAS ZOMBIE EYEBALLS edition

(Warning: this post has some icky eyeball pictures. Those with Ommetaphobia may want to skip this one.)

I’ve worked three days in the past two weeks. Thanks, polar vortex!

The timing of being home so much turned out to be great. As anyone who follows me on social media knows, one of our dogs suddenly went blind last month. For a handful of days, the sides of Edward’s eyes just looked irritated and red. Not the biggest deal–dogs always have all kinds of strange things going on, especially old dogs. Maybe it’s allergies, I said. Maybe he’s allergic to dogs.

Starting to look gross, but not too bad yet.

 

Once he couldn’t see, he just started keeping his eyes closed all the time.

 

As the redness got worse, we took him to the vet. They did a funky little test on him that basically turned his tears neon green, then they examined his eyes with some kind of special light/tool. Nothing odd showed up, so they sent us home with an ointment. We repeated this process two more times as his eyes became increasingly weird. They went from red, to milky/cloudy, to ZOMBIE EYEBALLS.

Look:

 

It was clear that he was totally blind in one eye and the other was about to call it quits, too. Our vet told us she’d never seen anything like this, which is always super fun to hear, and referred us to a veterinary ophthalmologist. There, the incredibly kind and smart doctor informed us that Edward has a VERY rare disease, something he sees maybe once a year and something that there’s no way our regular vet would know to diagnose. Essentially, there’s a glitch in Edward’s immune system telling it to fight an infection when there is none. As a result (somehow), his corneas became completely inflamed and his eyes were clouded with white blood cells. “He’ll be fine,” the vet calmly told us. “A few weeks of medicine and he should be back to seeing just fine.”

 

We about fell over. Edward and Billy turn 15 next month. We had accepted that Edward was now blind and just really wanted an answer for why he had zombie eyeballs. It was a better diagnosis than we expected. They took him in back for a cortisone shot near his eye, gave him lots of treats, admired what a handsome man he is, and sent us on our way with some prescriptions.

 

Resting flanked by concerned brothers.
Resting after his cortisone shot.

 

He already seems to be doing a bit better. Today, his eyes tracked me setting down his food dish, where before I had to set the dish down and then move him to it, pushing his head down into the bowl so he could find his food. I always assume the worst. In everything. All the time. But even I think the doctor is right—Edward will see again.

 

Here at The MacGregor Home for Elderly Dachshunds, we know we will have our hands full as our pack continues to age. The fact that both Edward and Billy will turn 15 next month is amazing. Billy spent much of the past few years battling stomach problems and seeming like he was about to die, but then suddenly seemed to decide, NOPE, I SHALL LIVE. It’s now like he’s aging backwards. He’s down to 8 pounds (from 12 pounds just this past August), playful as heck, and as fierce as ever. Edward can’t hear, can currently hardly see, and has a history of seizures. And Oscar… well, he’s an adorable little disaster. He has no teeth, has basically recovered from last spring’s paralysis, has a heart murmur, and has been through some shit in his life. We have baby gates blocking all rooms without doors. I have a subscription order for potty pads. Two of the three dogs need prescription food. We have dog diapers, dog strollers, and use our steam cleaner a lot. A LOT. I cry over them and swear at them and desperately love them. I don’t know what I will do when they break our DOGS LIVE FOREVER pact. But for now, I’m just grateful that Edward seems to be rebounding from this setback.

 

I was depression planking and crying. Blind Eddie found his way up onto me.

 

For your viewing pleasure, dachshunds being adorable:

Billy, melting.

 

Oscar froze his paws.

 

This bed was our best investment.

 

Billy watched the ALA Youth Media Awards with me.

 

SNUGGLE PILE.

 

Desperate for the sun.

 

Can’t get enough of ol’ derp-face Oscar.

 

Oscar, king of the pillows.

 

Sun + bed = happiness.

 

 

They’re not going to know what to do if I have to work a full week next week. Bring on more snow!

 

(Also, hi, I have not written a new blog in ages. Blame winter despair. Blame the fact that I spent half of December and much of January battling and bouncing back from influenza. Blame whatever. You can always find me blogging away over at Teen Librarian Toolbox. Or flooding my Twitter with dog pictures. And hey, I even updated the EVENTS page of this blog, so if you want, you can come listen to me speak at TEEN LIT CON in April.)

The skills of defensive driving

For you, maybe it goes like this:

First real snow of the season. It’s kind of pretty.

Argh, why does everyone forget how to drive in the snow?

Okay, be careful—it’s slippery.

 

For me, it goes like this:

OH NO, the first real snow of the season. I HATE THIS. I wish I could make it all melt right now. Burn it with fire!

(Endless loop begins) DEATH, ICE, SLIP, SLIDE, CRASH, DEATH, SMASH, SLIDE, COLLIDE, DEATH, DEATH, DEATH.

Writes note to husband before work. Quickly adds “love you” because suddenly I’m certain I will of course die while driving today and I don’t want my last words ever to him to be that the dogs need to pee.

 

Argh, why does everyone forget how to drive in the snow?

(Another round of my favorite song, DEATH, ICE, SLIP, etc)

Drop kid off at school. He tells me it will be fine, that what happened to my dad was a freak accident, that we will not die in a car crash. He gets out of the car but makes sure to tell me he loves me before he closes the door.

I leave the parking lot thinking, well shit, clearly I’m going to die now. The universe knows it. It made him be sure to remember to say that to me FOR THE LAST TIME.

Rational brain attempts to speak up: Excuse me, but you’re an atheist. You don’t put any stock in any knowledge or fate or reason or logic. It’s just a swirling mass of chaotic futility. Anxious brain shouts over rational brain: EVERYTHING IS CHAOS! DEATH! WHEEEE!

Then I drive, white-knuckled, south through the suburbs, glad that at least I’m not going north into the city, as that side of the road is barely moving. I creep along, not listening to a podcast, because I won’t be able to actually hear it over my screaming brain, grateful that today I’m picking up $50 worth of donuts for book club, so at least I’m driving to a fun destination. Focus on donuts.

I make it to work and breathe a sigh of relief, but know that this same loop will happen every single day that there is snow or ice on the ground this winter, no matter how far I’m going, no matter what.

It would appear that the sixth winter after my dad was killed is not the winter I magically stop finding driving terrifying.

So now what?

I run my little happy lamp every morning. This crappy darkness makes my depression worse. I do not need the added drama of my brain screaming at me about a specific way of dying. I use my lamp, I work through some mindfulness and breathing-related bullshit (and no matter how hard I try, my brain just keeps thinking of it as bullshit, even when it works). I take my medicines—all of them, the daily ones, the backup ones, the backup backup ones. I do stuff like sit for hours with a battery-powered brush, cleaning grout or the edges of the bathroom or whatever other weird and obsessive thing my brain tells me would be soothing. I go to bed and watch the cars’ lights zoom by on the highway behind our house. The leaves are all gone now, and since we don’t have backyard neighbors, I never close the curtains, so I can see the cars while I’m in bed. I wake up in the night terrified. I cover my ears when Matthew tells me a story of driving home from work and an ambulance not being able to get through. “STOP!” I shriek at him. It’s grief season. I can’t hear this.

I live in Minnesota. It snows a lot here. I work in a different city than the one I live in. I have to drive. I have to drive in snow. I have to keep going. But what I want to do? What I want to do is put on my favorite jammy pants, the ones with stars, and close my bedroom curtains. I want to climb into bed with all three dachshunds, crank the electric blanket, and sleep until the spring. The dogs would like it. My family and my employer probably would not.

 

My therapist has me tell myself that the bad thing has already happened. It’s not happening now. It’s not about to happen. But the great thing about brains is that they can think anything. They can understand linear time but still think time is all weird, that everything is always happening, that it loops back over itself, that it’s a Jeremy Bearimy thing going on.

 

And grief? Grief doesn’t care about logic or breathing or something being in the past or anything. Some days, grief only cares about expanding to fill up the container, overtaking me, blocking out anything else. And when the thing that triggers your grief is something as large and omnipresent as nature and weather? That’s hard to escape.

But I made it through driving on the first really bad roads of the season. And I started the day with $50 worth of donuts on my desk. And I will do this over and over and over, this winter and every future winter, likely not with the support of so many donuts, but I will never not get in my car on a snowy day and think of what happened to my dad. The world is a random, dumb, unfair, ridiculous place. Drive carefully out there.

Happy adoption anniversary, Oscar!

Today marks one year since we adopted Oscar. You can read about his introduction to our family here, and the fact that he was marked as “unadoptable” here, and get some other updates here and here.

 

Adopting him was one of the best choices we’ve ever made. He’s sweet and goofy and so, so loving. Edward and Billy love him—especially Edward. Enjoy some pictures from the past few weeks. Oscar has a good life now and we’re so happy to have him in our family.

 

Dispatches from the elementary school library

Oh, hi. It’s somehow the middle of October. September was a total blur of me going back to work, Callum going back to school, Matthew interviewing for a new job, me being super sick thanks to the AMAZING amount of germs small children generate, etc. Now that things have evened out a bit—back in the routine of work and school, Matthew has started his new job, I am temporarily healthy—I have time for things like blogging (though I’ve still been cranking out posts at Teen Librarian Toolbox multiple times a week—come visit!). 

One of my favorite things about working in an elementary school is simply the interaction with kids. I never know what they will say to me. Ever. So, as I’ve done before, here are a few quotable moments from my days in the library.

 

Summer reading part three

Books. Summer. Reading. You know the drill by now. Here’s the first installment. Here’s the second.  I think this puts me at 77 books read this summer. I have 8 more books in my current TBR pile. Think I can get them all done by the first day of school? I do too.

 

Image result for The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio.Image result for drum roll please bookImage result for when life gives you lululemonsImage result for crenshaw book

The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio. MIDDLE GRADE. Wonderful look at community and culture. Filipino American Lou has a real talent for carpentry, design, and architecture. Lou is spirited, filled with determination and heart.

 

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow. MIDDLE GRADE. Melly’s a shy girl, but she finds friendship and confidence at music camp. She learns how to rely less on her best friend and experiences her first crush on a girl.

 

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger. ADULT. Another rich people and their problems book. These are always my favorite summer reads—a little over the top and a lot of fun.

 

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. MIDDLE GRADE. A powerful look at working class poverty. Unique take on an imaginary friend story. We don’t often see families in situations like this in middle grade. Serious but ultimately hopeful.

 

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The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John. ELEMENTARY/MG. Wide appeal. The illustrations and high-interest plot help make for a quick read. Fun, silly, and full of mischief.

 

 

The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson. ELEMENTARY/MG. Uplifting story of understanding prejudice and encouraging tolerance/acceptance. A quiet story, the strong characters and thoughtful, unexpected friendship and its lessons make up for the lack of real plot.

 

Cursed by Bruce Coville. ELEMENTARY/MG. Whimsical story, fun illustrations and “documents” help flesh out the story. Humorous, but the story does drag a bit and mixed format/places we learn information a bit confusing. Fans of magic will enjoy this brownie’s story.

 

Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt. ELEMENTARY/MG. A feel-good story about embracing differences and seeing beyond labels and impressions. Characters are interesting and complicated. Great story about friendship, too.

 

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Webster: Tale of an Outlaw by Ellen Emerson White. ELEMENTARY/MG. Webster thinks he’s a bad hat, but he’s a very good dog. A sweet and emotional look at animal neglect/abuse and rescue. Humorous and full of adventure and rescues.

 

The Infinite Pieces of Us by Rebekah Crane. YA. Reviewed for School Library Journal.

 

Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre. MIDDLE GRADE. Strong characters carry this rather slow story of Lou and friends working to save her house and solve a Civil War mystery. Themes of racism, atonement, and changing values.

 

The High Season by Judy Blundell. ADULT. Say it with me now: rich people and their problems! I really loved this book—great writing, compelling characters, lots of depth.

 

Image result for soar bauerImage result for fuzzy mudImage result for book scavengerImage result for hearts unbroken cynthia leitich smith

Soar by Joan Bauer. MIDDLE GRADE. I usually love Joan Bauer, but this title lacked depth—characters felt like props and MC doesn’t feel nuanced. People who like “inspirational” unrelenting positivity and adult-sounding sixth graders may enjoy this.

 

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar. ELEMENTARY/MG. This was great—fast-paced, super interesting, and filled with tension. The cautionary tale puts the characters in real peril. Readers will race through this suspenseful story.

 

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. ELEMENTARY/MG. An excellent addition to the field of puzzle-solving books. Suspend your disbelief and get caught up in the mystery, ciphers, literary allusions, and the journeys around San Francisco.

 

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Letitch Smith. YA. This is a nice mix of romance, routine high school drama, and more serious topics like racism, bullying, and becoming more socially aware. Louise, the main character, is Muscogee (Creek).

 

Image result for the collectors westImage result for the hating gameMoonstruck, Volume 1: Magic to Brew

 

The Collectors by Jacqueline West. MIDDLE GRADE. Great characters, including a hard of hearing main character who uses hearing aids, interesting world-building, tons of suspense, and leaves readers wanting more. A great addition to any collection. Be careful what you wish for!

 

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. ADULT. 100% my favorite book I read this summer. Enemies-to-lovers fan? You will devour this book.

 

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. ADULT. Stella is autistic and hires an escort to be a practice boyfriend, but, big surprise, they end up falling for each other. An excellent romance with tons of sexual chemistry and great writing.

 

Moonstruck, Volume 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle (Artist), Kate Leth (Artist). YA. Super wacky graphic novel about lesbian werewolves. What’s not to like? Cute, diverse, and full of supernatural fun.

 

Giant Days Vol. 1Giant Days Vol. 2Giant Days Vol. 3

Giant Days Vol. 4Giant Days Vol. 5Giant Days Vol. 6

Giant Days Volumes 1 through 6 by John Allison et al. YA/ADULT. Excellent comics about the first year (and second, by volume 6) of college. Follows a small group of girls and boys as they figure out housing, money, dating, and more. Read all six volumes in 28 hours. Really good.

 

 

Meet the SkyGirl CEOThe Glitch

Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle. YA. The far-fetched plot will appeal to readers who like their main characters in peril. Girl trapped during hurricane evacuation with the boy who broke her heart.

 

Girl CEO by Katherine Ellison, Ronnie Cohen. YA. Full color makes this book very visually appealing. Great profiles of and advice from diverse women entrepreneurs, inventors, CEOs, media stars, and other leaders. Inspiring and educational.

 

The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen. ADULT. Fast-paced read about a Silicon Valley exec who maximizes every second of every day, but is thrown for a loop when a woman claiming to be a younger version of her shows up and makes her question everything.

Summer reading part two

Last week I shared my first chunk of summer reading books. Here’s the next installment.

 

Image result for heart of thorns bartonImage result for storm wake lucy christopherImage result for zebrafish spf40Image result for there are no adults book

Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton. YA. The prologue to this ARC says, “Once upon a time, in a castle carved of stone, a girl plotted murder.” I’m in. Read my Teen Librarian Toolbox review here. 

 

Storm-Wake by Lucy Christopher. YA. Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST in a post-apocalyptic world. Dark, dense, and challenging.

 

Zebrafish: SPF 40 by FableVision team. Middle Grade. Great art in this graphic novel, but the story feels all over the place and doesn’t go anywhere satisfying.

 

There Are No Grown-Ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story by Pamela Druckerman. ADULT. A meditation on what it means to be in your 40s? Yep, sounds like required reading at this stage of life.

 

Image result for heretics anonymousImage result for all we ever wanted giffinImage result for Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator by Catherine Reef.Image result for steal this country

Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry. YA. A bunch of misfits find each other, and some trouble, while at a Catholic school they all feel on the fringes of. Loved it.

 

 

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin. ADULT. I always enjoy her books. The main character reexamines what she wants out of life after having to take a hard look at the actions of her son and her husband.

 

Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator by Catherine Reef. YA. Great biography of Shelley, whose life was just as dark and dramatic as you’d expect.

 

Steal This Country: A Handbook for Resistance, Persistence, and Fixing Almost Everything by Alexandra Styron. YA. Essays, interviews, photos, comics, and plenty of tips for action and allyship. Intersectional and thorough.

 

Image result for darius the great is not okayImage result for Not the Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Mae SafiImage result for Love Double Dutch by Doreen Spicer-DannellyImage result for The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. YA. Mostly takes place in Iran. Really great look at fitting in and finding yourself.

 

 

Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Amirah Mae Safi. YA. Iraqi American main character. Examines friendship and complicated family relationships. A little slow.

 

Love Double Dutch by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly. Middle Grade. A fun, fast read about overcoming obstacles and making new friends on the path to a double dutch championship.

 

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller. Middle Grade. Compassionate and supportive look at the ways families can be affected by mental illness. Very necessary addition to the small field of MG books about mental health.

 

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Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin. Middle Grade. Della’s mom stops taking her meds for schizophrenia and Della, who feels responsible for her mother’s illness, tries to find a cure. Empathetic and quiet.

 

The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristin Levine. Middle Grade. A mystery with a complicated story about identity and sexuality behind it.

 

You Think it, I’ll Say it by Curtis Sittenfeld. Adult. Short stories. Fantastic. One of my favorite reads of the summer.

 

 

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney. YA. This Minnesota author’s book moves between the United States and Liberia and covers multiple generations. Review to come on TLT closer to the September pub date. Brace yourselves—this book is phenomenal.

 

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Paper Girls volumes 1-4 by Brian K. Vaughn. YA. Comic books. 80s setting, badass girls, wormholes, monsters, mind-bending plot, plenty of action, and great art. LOVE.

 

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500 Words or Less by Julian Del Rosario. YA. Main character writes college admissions essays for her classmates, learning about them and about herself in the process.

 

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. YA. Can’t go wrong with a book by these two. Cute story about missing and making connections.

 

Lost Soul, Be At Peace by Maggie Thrash. YA. A compelling and surprisingly deep story about the things we lose, the things we find, empathy, connection, and family in this graphic memoir about depression and family history.

 

Deadendia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele. YA. Can I marry this book? Fantastic graphic novel about a trans young adult, a talking dog, and a portal full of demons. Amazing.

Summer reading part one

Summer is waning, but I’m still going strong on my summer reading pile. I’ve  read 67 books so far and hope to squeeze in maybe 20 more. Have I done anything else this summer, you may ask? Sure. But who cares about that stuff—summer is for reading as much as humanly possible (more, ideally) and staring at dachshunds. Busting my ankle definitely helped me burn through my TBR pile. Here’s the first chunk of what I read this summer—more posts forthcoming.

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Calypso by David Sedaris. ADULT. It’s possible I’ve read every word he’s ever written. The flap copy says, “This is beach reading for people who detest beaches, required reading for those who loathe small talk and love a good tumor joke.” Nothing on earth may have ever spoken to me more or made me feel more seen. Already have our tickets to see him in April 2019 in Minneapolis.

 

 

Cut by Patricia McCormick. YA. First read this back when it came out in the early 2000s. Read it this time for the selective mutism rep for research reasons.

 

 

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. MIDDLE GRADE. This one does double duty—read it for the selective mutism rep and because it’s a Division II Maud Hart Lovelace Award nominee. A moving examination of grief, loss, friendship, and healing.

 

 

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. MIDDLE GRADE.  This is a really excellent book with one of the most diverse groups of kids I’ve seen in a children’s book in a long time. A surefire hit with the graphic novel crowd. (LINK TO TEEN LIBRARIAN TOOLBOX REVIEW)

 

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My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma. YA. A cute, fun read about love, fate, and prophecy. Lots of drama and scheming.

 

 

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maureen Goo. YA. Legit hilarious book. Great main character who loves snark and pranks, but manages to eventually be introspective and grow.

 

 

Social Intercourse by Greg Howard. YA. Rom-com with potential, but the book fell flat.

 

 

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon. YA. Cute romance with lots to relate to re: romance, crushes, ambitions, and popularity.

 

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The Problem With Forever by Jennifer Armentrout. YA. Read for selective mutism rep. A compelling if overlong look at trauma and at relationships.

 

 

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy. YA. Broken record—read for selective mutism rep. I couldn’t read any of these books while drafting my current novel, but now that it’s been through sensitivity readers and is in revisions, I could burn through much of my list. A sister tries to deal with her brother’s death through urban exploration and wild, unsafe stunts. Told through multiple viewpoints and in multiple formats.

 

 

How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson. ADULT. Follow-up to I Don’t Know How She Does It. Exhausted mother of teens goes back to work as her life basically falls apart around her. Oh, and she’s pretending to be a decade or so younger than she really is. Good fun.

 

 

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell. ADULT. Essays. Picked it up for $1 at a book sale. Can’t go wrong with Vowell’s witty commentary.

 

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Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan. YA. Graphic novel. “Losers” get sent to a camp with a horrifying, and disgusting, secret. I wanted to like this, but found it terrible.

 

 

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner. YA. Story about a clever, feminist, cosplaying geek girl. Totally loved it.

 

 

All Out: The No-Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell. YA. Stories of love, identity, exploration, and adventure in various places and times.

 

 

The Place Between Breaths by An Na. YA. A powerful look at schizophrenia. A short but demanding read.

 

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Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro. YA. An intense look at racism, police violence, and mental health. Powerful.

 

 

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay. ADULT. Anthology of pieces about harassment, rape, and rape culture. Not easy to read, but important.

 

Fence Volume 1 by C. S. Pacat. YA. Graphic novel about an underdog who gets involved in the sport of fencing. Reviewed for School Library Journal, so that’s all I can say for now.

 

 

Angelic Book 1 by Simon Spurrier. YA. Graphic novel about a post-apocalyptic world populated by animal-machine hybrids. Reviewed for School Library Journal, so that’s all I can say for now.

 

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Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen. YA. Interesting look at chronic illness—the main character has photosensitivity.

 

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk. Middle Grade. Graphic novel about finding friends even if you have to invent them. Will fly off the shelves. Great for fans of Telgemeier.
Two Dogs In a Trench Coat go to School by Julie Falatko. Middle Grade. Exactly what the plot sounds like it would be. Great silly and clever fun.

 

Mrs. by Caitlin Macy. ADULT. I always enjoy reading about the secrets and hijinks of rich people. The usual interpersonal drama mixed with a secret that affects nearly everyone in the story.