May 7th, 2013
When: May 6th, 6:00 – 7:30pm
How many teens: 7 (I would have had 10, but a couple were unable to come last minute)
Cost: $0, thanks to Simon & Schuster who supplied the books & money for snacks.
The book we discussed was The Program by Suzanne Young. For those who have not heard about the book, here is what it is about.
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.
Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.
I came in with a list of questions and was pleasantly surprised by the teen feedback. I was also happy with how talkative they were (and on topic!), especially since I had lost my voice. Below is the questions and general responses I got. I tried to stay in the moment with the teens, so some of it is not as indepth as I would like, but I think you can still get the overall picture. (Also, there will be some spoilers, you have been warned. Jump to the end for the giveaway!)
1. What did you think of the book overall?
Most of the teens loved it. There were a couple who thought it was OKAY, but none them hated it. A couple teens mentioned how parts of the book didn’t work for them/were too slow, but oddly enough it wasn’t the same for each teen. The biggest complaint is that they wished there had been more backstory to the world/a view before the Program. All but one of them said they would be reading the sequel (and were excited to see where it would go.)
2. Do you think the Program is working?
Oh, how this was a trick question. All of them agree it was working since the objective of the Program is to keep people from killing themselves. However, they all thought it wasn’t the best way to solve the suicide epidemic, especially since it meant teens were bottle up their feelings. They argued, that technically, it was making things worse since several teens kill themselves just so they don’t have to go into the Program. But they looped right back to the point that those who go into the Program are “cured” and therefore it was kind of working.
3. Do you agree that without all your memories you are just a shell of a person?
They surprised me with this one by saying no. They all agree you weren’t the same person as before, but didn’t agree with being just a “shell”. They understand why those on the outside thought that, but pointed out that the returnees were still connecting to people (even those they’d known before) and generally liked the same things they did before. They brought up the fact, that Lacey still liked older “bad” boys even after her memories had been erased.
4. Would you allow your child to go into the Program?
Again, they shocked me by saying yes. They brought up the very valid point that between the losing a child and having part of their memories erased that there was no competition. As teens, this was something they didn’t want/agree with, but they could totally understand why a parent would do it.
5. Thoughts on the romance?
The first response to this was NO MORE LOVE TRIANGLES, which brought on a slight mini-rant about all the love triangles there are in YA Lit. When I reign them in and asked who they would rather see her with James or Realm, I got a very resounding neither. I had one girl who was very Team Realm, but the rest were Team Sloane.They thought James was a jerk and Realm couldn’t be trusted. The only person they had hoped she would have hooked up with was Miller.
6. How about the orange pill? (MAJOR SPOILERS, SKIP THIS QUESTION)
We were split on this one. Half of us were annoyed that she didn’t take the pill, especially since the whole third part had been about her trying to remember. It was like getting what you wished for and be like “Oh, just kidding,” However, the other half thought she was wise to wait. They worried the pill may give her a mental breakdown, especially considering how much just one memory has screwed her up. They liked that she’s not rushing into it and hoping she’ll give it more thought before jumping in and taking it.
7. The epilogue?
We all decided we’ve been Sherlocked. No one was expecting it at all. Without giving away too much, my teens all took it pretty straightforward until I told them my theory and the clues that pointed to it. We’re all very, very anxious to see where Young plans to take it and if any of our theories are correct.
One of the things we were asked to think about was a food or drink recipe that would go along with the book.
I’ll admit I didn’t try to tie a lot of our snacks I bought to the book. We had popcorn and chips and crackers and general junk food that make teens happy. However, one of Sloane’s favorite memories is eating ice cream with her father, so there were pints of ice cream for each teen.. (Okay, and largely because this made my teens VERY happy.) Also, orange cupcakes were also mentioned in the book, which unfortunately my store didn’t have anything close to. However, it did find some with light red/pinkish frosting which reminded me of the pills from the book.
The other reason I didn’t make all the snack tie into the book is that I wanted the teens to help me come up with a recipe. We kept thinking how the Program was to make everyone “sunny”. Combine that with the bright yellow jumpsuits and we ended up on eggs…more specially an omelet. Our omelet would be Sloane’s experience and contain: tomatoes (red pill), yellow bell peppers (yellow pill), & eggplant (purple pill). Thankfully, this was a library program and I didn’t have to make omelets, because frankly they would have turned into scramble eggs! (which may have still worked all this considered.)
Take away/Lessons Learned:
My teens continue to surprise me. I wasn’t sure how long this discussion would last, but they easily talked the whole 90 minutes. I think they would have talked even longer if I had let them. I’ve been saying that book groups don’t work for us, but this may have been the eye-opener I needed. The majority of the teens showed up and all of them begged to do this again.
Extras aka but wait there’s more!:
Host your own Book Club – enter for your chance to win five (5) copies of The Program and a $50 Visa gift card! (This can be for library and non-library book clubs!)
Prizing provided by Simon & Schuster
Giveaway open to US addresses only
a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the author: Suzanne Young currently lives in Tempe, Arizona, where she teaches high school English. When not writing obsessively, Suzanne can be found searching her own tragic memories for inspiration. She is the author of several books for teens, including The Program, A Need So Beautiful, and A Want So Wicked. Visit the Official Site of The Program and Suzanne Young’s Official Site
May 1st, 2013
You may have noticed the lack of book reviews this year. I’m going to try to work on that, but honestly, I’m not sure it’ll get better right now. I am Great Graphic Novel for Teens this year and am still working out the balance of reading for committee and reading for myself. I am discovering it’s a very delicate balance, but I am working on it. I am, however, writing up some posts on programming and what’s going on w/my teens. Hopefully, there will be some posts up later on this week and next!
April 18th, 2013
So, my intention is always to get these up sooner. Sadly, I keep failing at it. I promise I’ll be better this summer! (My Spring events are almost done.) But enough with my excuses, let’s talk about my Anti-Valentine’s Party.
When: February 14th, 6:00 – 8:00pm
How many teens: 16
Cost: approx $60. This included the pinata, candy, snacks, & small prizes.
I tried to use the schedule that Tiffany and Brianne posted, but keeping my teens on a schedule is near impossible. I try to keep them on task, but it is never an exact science with us.
When the teens first arrived, they received a scratch-off card that could earn them a free book, small prize, or a couple pieces of candy. If they had no matches they still got a piece of candy, so there were no true losers.
Next, they were given the task of creating their conversation hearts (5 total). They were also told that they would have to give up a heart if caught saying love, heart, valentine’s, hug, or kiss. I let the teens use this time to socialize and eat snacks. (20 – 30 minutes)
I then broke them into 4 groups to create their own break-up letter. This is where things got a little interesting. There was one table of regulars that I had to remind to keep it PG. They were crazy and strange but there were a couple that were even made me giggle. I think only one group went for serious why the rest tried to be as off the wall as possible. (30 minutes)
Third thing we did was vandalize the romance cover. I had some that really got into this and some who were eh about it. Again, I had to remind them to keep it PG as several of them were veering into wildly inappropriate. I did allow a little fun, but I stopped it before too many lines were crossed (30 minutes)
The last group activity we did was find my match. I put famous book, tv, and history on slips of paper that I taped to their foreheads. They were to ask each other questions to figure out 1) who they had & 2) who had their match. This went way faster than I intended it to. While some struggled, others had their matches found in moments. Perhaps the best part of this game was I gave two siblings Clary & Jace. It was completely by accident, but several teens had a good laugh over it. (15 minutes)
I tried to get them to do the “worst place to be broken-up with” list, but they were getting extremely antsy and wanted to take a crack at the pinata. I told the teens they could take 2 hits each. I don’t know if pinatas are really that weak or if it was because it was a pull-tab style pinata, but it only lasted 3 teens (6 whacks). Of course, once it hit the floor, all of them started to stomp on it until it was utterly and completely obliterated. (5 minutes – includes cleaning up the mess!)
I think this would work better as a 90 minute event rather than a 2 hour one.
- I need to find a better way to do the scratch off cards. I don’t know if I didn’t have the mixture correct or didn’t use enough crayon, but several would scratch off enough and it made it very hard to read the prize.
- The conversational hearts were great for decoration, but flopped as a game. They played for real for a while, but by the end of the program they had picked a random person and gave all their hearts to him. I still honored the rules and gave him a prize, but it didn’t seem as fair. I may make the period shorter or just drop the game aspect all together.
I had a heart-breaker songlist playing in the background, although, the teens seemed to barely realize it. I may try to incorporate it in better by either making it a game or having some karaoke.
I need to find a stronger pinata. I really didn’t think it would destroy in 6 whacks. I will also limit it to one whack per teen.
Overall, even with the few hiccups, I felt like the program was a success and will do it again next year. This may be one that I allow my TAG to come up with games/ideas for as well.
March 26th, 2013
This month’s craft was SOCK MONSTERS and it was a HUGE hit. The teens absolutely loved it and it only cost about 30 bucks (I have enough left over socks to do this again at the after-school program I do at a local school.) They’re relatively easy and I have several teens who got really creative with them. I had seen several versions via pinterest, but none of them fit my needs. So, I played around and created my own version. Below a visual step-by-step on how to create them
For those who don’t want to view the visual here are the written directions
Materials needed: Glue gun/fabric glue, socks (we used baby socks), rice/stuffing, & felt
Step one: Cut a straight-line about halfway on the heel. This will be the mouth.
Step two: Flatten sock, fold the edges in, and glue shut. This will make the mouth/lips look puffy.
Step three: Stuff it! We used rice but you could easily use normal stuffing or any other filler you’d like.
Step four: Glue the top shut.
Step five: Give it a face using felt. I found some self-adhesive felt at Walmart that worked quite nicely and meant the teens didn’t have to use the glue gun to make the felt stick.
February 20th, 2013
Hooked by Liz Fichera
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: Jan 2013
When Native American Fredricka ‘Fred’ Oday is invited to become the only girl on the school’s golf team, she can’t say no. This is an opportunity to shine, win a scholarship and go to university, something no one in her family has done.
But Fred’s presence on the team isn’t exactly welcome — especially not to rich golden boy Ryan Berenger, whose best friend was kicked off the team to make a spot for Fred.
But there’s no denying that things are happening between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile…–From Goodreads
Short of it: This one started out strong for me, but started to fall apart midway through. I appreciate the tough topics the author tried to tackle, but ultimately ended up being just an okay book for me.
Plot: I appreciate Fichera making the book more about just romance. Racism and gender equality are important issues, but how it was handled didn’t work for me. I understand that Seth was upset at being kicked off the team, but he never had any true passion or skill for golf. I know there’s the additional layer of abuse with his stepfather, but it doesn’t excuse the levels he took his hate for Fred. He didn’t even know her beyond that she took his spot; a spot that she was asked by the coach to take. Granted, perhaps some of the anger could have been subdued by have her “try-out”, but I’m not so sure. His anger should have been directed at the coach, not Fred, but since she was the easy victim she had to bear the brunt of it. And while the pranks started off relatively harmless they get to a point of life and death. While bullying at any level isn’t okay, the lengths to which Seth takes it is absurd. He’s willing to physically harm someone to the point of hospital/death because the coach put her on a High School golf team.
I also don’t like that he never faces any consequences. I’m not saying he should be in jail, but there should have been some sort of punishment to his actions. I appreciate forgiveness/being the better man, but I seriously hope that neither Ryan nor Fred ever go near Seth again.
However, I did enjoy how Fichera made golf seem interesting. It’s the one sport I usually find extremely dull, but I never felt that way during Hooked. I also enjoyed how she weaved in Native American culture into the story. I have no idea if the legends/ceremonies are based in truth or not, but they were a nice addition to the story.
Character: I’m torn on how I feel about Fred as a character. On one hand, I love how she was willing to be the only girl on an all-boys golf team. She knew it would cause trouble, but she knew it could be the ticket she needed to get into a good college. However, I don’t like how she just took the abuse from the guys. I get not making waves, but at a certain point you have to stand up for yourself. Game after game, she proved her worth and yet it barely earned her any respect from her teammates. They still pulled pranks and gave her the cold shoulder. I wish she had pushed back herself a little instead of playing the damsel in distress card.
I do want to make a side-note that I loved the relationship between Fred and her father. While their home life wasn’t perfect, he tried to make it the best he could for Fred. I love how he built her a putting green in their backyard. And even though he knew it would be tough for her on an all-boys team, he didn’t stop her from following her dreams and tried to support them.
Romance: The romance for this one drove me a bit insane. It was insta-love and I never felt they were building their relationship on something solid. I longed for something more from them, especially because I thought they could be adorable together, but never really got it. Instead, what I got was this back and forth love-hate romance. One misunderstanding would send them spiraling into not speaking to each other for weeks. Fred too often took what she saw as fact without trying to talk to Ryan and find out the truth. I know that new relationships can be fragile, but communication is the only way to make it grow. Fred wouldn’t even listen to him when he tried to explain what was going on. I never felt like the level of trust a relationship needs was ever truly there.
Not that Fred was the only one to blame. Ryan could be a real jerk at times as well. I hate how he didn’t stand up to his friends when they were being bullies and acting way out of line. While he never agreed with what they were saying he didn’t do much to stop it. Even when he does man-up about some issues, he doesn’t really confront his friend about it. I appreciate him taking the blame and apologizing when needed, but I felt like he didn’t confront the true issues until the very end (and even then not really). While the thing he does to help her and her family is a bit cliché, it was ultimately very, very sweet. It was the thing that solidified me liking him even with all his mistakes.
Writing: I can’t say that I really have any complaints about Fichera’s writing. She was able to create a story that kept me interested enough to finish the book despite my issues. In fact, I will most likely pick up the sequel/companion.
Librarian-Mode: Romance is such a huge genre and this would most likely satisfy those looking for that fix. However, I would pair this one with Catching Jordan and Dairy Queen, which have the same theme of girls breaking into a boy’s sport world.