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A Very Special Message for our Teen Writers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently sent a very kind message of encouragement for our WCL Teen Writers, following their huge success participating in the Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020 Challenge, in which they collectively wrote well over 100,000 words in their bid to write a whole novel over a month of isolation. Here’s what the Prime Minister had to say:

I want to pass on a quick message to everyone involved in the WCL Teen Writers group — and I want to start by saying thanks.

Right now, we’re living through really challenging and uncertain times, and for many people, it’s been tough. I know young people are facing their own unique challenges, from adjusting to distance learning, giving up special occasions like school balls, and not being able to meet up with your friends, but so many of you have put in an amazing effort and played your part to help keep this virus under control. Thanks for this — it’s so important.

I was interested to hear about your online writing group, the work you’re doing, and the support you provide each other. This is a really good example of the positives that have come out of the COVID-19 response. You’ve all come together online to support each other, share your work and ideas, and embark on some pretty impressive projects. I hope you’re enjoying the group and will continue to keep in touch when life returns to something a bit more normal.

All the best with your writing — I’m sure I’ll be seeing your work in bookstores soon! For now, though, stay safe and look out for each other.

— Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern

As you can imagine, the Prime Minister’s message generated considerable interest on our WCL Teen Writers Discord server, from the joyous but mostly coherent:

…to the joyous but not so coherent:

…to the reflective and compassionate:

…and right back around to the disbelieving:

Thank you, Prime Minister, for your words of encouragement, motivation, and solidarity. Rest assured, we’re still writing and keeping connected (and of course the banter is still top-quality), and hopefully will be for a while yet! Here’s what one of our talented writers had to say about the group:

If you’re a keen writer, or even just really like reading, we’d love for you to join our vibrant community on Discord! Just email us or message us on Facebook with your name and school year level, and we can send you a link to join!

Fighting off the boredom with PapersPast

Are you really, incredibly, horrendously and hyperbolically bored? I know. Me too. Lockdown is still, absolutely, the right thing to be doing but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or fun or not boring.

This is just a teeny blog post but the resource I’m highlighting here can provide hours of interesting scrolling. There is a site called PapersPast that anyone can access for FREE and it is a digitised and readable form of hundreds of the newspapers and magazines from Aotearoa/New Zealand’s past. It’s a resource from the National Library of New Zealand and is a great example of how informative and interesting archival material can be.

This site is for you if:

  • You want to learn more about local history.
  • You’ve got really hooked on researching genealogy, what with ancestry.com being available from home at the moment and all!
  • You want to read newspapers but are, sensibly, limiting yourself to current news intake as there is only so much news it is healthy to consume at this time.
  • You’re bored and want something to do.
  • You’ve become increasingly interested in news and the media and the role it plays in the world through seeing the impact that is has at a time like this.
  • You’re studying history at school and you need to find some primary sources for a project.

NOTE: Old school newspapers may not be quite what you expect. Back in the day they were such a foundational and unique resource that people and communities put all sorts of stuff in there. Sometimes they feel more like blogs or Facebook feeds than they do contemporary print media. If someone loses their favourite knitted beanie ...they probably didn’t call them beanies back then… where does the word beanie even come from?...  on Cuba street back in the early 1900s, everybody knows about it! That kinda thing. It’s weird and fascinating. We’re keen to see what kind of stuff you’re able to find!

Camp NaNoWriMo April Challenge 2020 is Done and Dusted!

So, Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020 is officially over. We’re super thrilled that so many of you took part in one way or another, whether you joined our classroom forums, contributed to the conversation, hung out over on our Discord, chatted with Elizabeth Knox, or took part in the Camp NaNo Challenge itself. Around 30 novels were started, and many of them were finished — together, we wrote well over 100,000 words. A lot of us learned something about writing and life along the way. Be proud. However you participated, you reached out in this time of isolation and helped create something really special.

If you don’t want it to end, or worse, weren’t able to take part in the first place, all is not lost. Our NaNoWriMo Young Writers’ Programme classroom will probably be fairly quiet until the next challenge comes along, but the Discord is still just as busy as ever, with author talks, writing games, stuff to learn, people to meet, and of course, the highest quality banter this side of the equator. If you want to join, just get in touch on Facebook or by email. We’d love to have you. Also, keep your eye on the Event Calendar so you don’t miss any upcoming events!

Five Days in the Life: A Review(ish) of MangoLanguages

Hello, B. Spinach here. Another week in lockdown Wellington is upon us and I’m really starting to feel sad that a Spanish language course I had signed up for, and is obviously not running, has been postponed. I was really pumped to meet new people and get my brain, mouth and thoughts around a whole new set of sounds to communicate with. So I have decided to do something about it with —drum roll please– one of Wellington City Libraries awesome resources: MangoLanguages!

You might be familiar with the app DuoLingo? It’s a goodie. The Italian and French courses that I did (only to a very basic level) were invaluable when I was travelling in Europe last year. So for that DuoLingo, Merci beaucoup! Well MangoLanguages is a little bit like that, but like all online language learning software it’s got its own particular format and way of doing things. It’s a really effective and well designed programme that offers 71 different language courses all of which you can access for free if you are a WCL card holder (it just takes your library card number and your PIN and you’re good to go my friend). I would like to point out that MangoLanguages is an American-run app and does not have a te reo Māori course or Pacific languages from our part of the world, so it won’t be the right tool to fulfill your reo needs.

I’ve gone for the introductory Spanish module. Firstly I am very mono-lingual so this is quite new and exciting. Secondly this post is only going to track five days and five lessons which is a WOEFULLY small sample size, but hey, hopefully it’s interesting for you to see what it’s like to dip your toes in this software and also useful for me to make sure that I stick to my plan.

To give you a feeling of what this looks like introductory Spanish is divided up into five main units, which are in turn divided into chapters inside of which there are lessons. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, don’t worry! For Spanish, the five units are: Introductions, Connections, Community, Lifestyle, and Ambition. For this blog I’m just doing the smallest sized chunk I can, because this seems sustainable, so I am doing a single lesson every day. I should mention also that there are additional units with tantalising titles like: Romance, Text Talk, Medical, Spanish for Librarians… I know we’re all drooling about that last one.


Day UNO

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty tired today and it has been hard to focus generally. Regardless I did a lesson and managed to to do the whole thing happily. I really like the format of these lessons. There is a timer feature for you to practice the words after first being introduced to them. This seemed stressful at first but even on a tired brain I managed to happily piece together the sentences with individual words I had learned. The timer kept a good pace, I like it.

“Hello, how are you today?”                                                                                                       “Hola, ¿cómo estás hoy?”

I will be interested to see how much sticks in my tired brain for tomorrow but is quite a testament to the lesson that it grabbed my attention easier than all the chirpy TV I have been struggling to focus on today. Buenas noches.


Day DOS

So I have more energy today, excellent. I have gone for a run, done some work, watched YouTube, played frisbee, written an email, cooked food…you know, general adult stuff… and now it’s time for Spanish. Though the energy is higher today the word I related to the most is cansado, which means tired. Hmm… maybe I do need sleep after all.

Some thoughts:                                                                                          – I’m really impressed with the sound quality (would recommend headphones).
– I’ve remembered a surprising amount since yesterday, cool.                                          – – The rate of repetition is excellent. Just when something is slipping out of your brain it comes back into circulation. Doesn’t feel like a chore, more like a game/ 10/10.


Day TRES 

Day three, whoop! A beautiful Wellington day. Today’s Spanish was good, it’s really fun getting my mouth around the Spanish words. It’s worth listening carefully to the demo, just to get the softness of the T’s and get just how the double L (ll) sounds, and other letters that are said differently in English.

P.S fun fact! Did you know that llamas…yes those cute giant furry animals…are actually meant to be said with a Y sound. So like Ya-maas, if you’re sounding it out. Cool right!


Day CUATRO

Took me four days to realise this but if you click on any of the Spanish terms a little box comes up with how you say this phonetically! Don’t wait four days to work this out, it is very helpful. Also I’m on to slightly more complicated sentences now and it is helpfully showing the literal vs. equivalent phrase when word orders vary between the languages.


Day CINCO

I made it. Mini celebration. A smooth run today, I’ve got into the swing of it and am really milking the review section to keep on top of words I learned earlier in the week.

Final fun fact: Days of the Week are not capitalised like they are in English. There you go, now you know a new thing too!


My conclusion

I really like MangoLanguages! I know, a surprise right? But no, in sincerity, being in lockdown has been a really strange time for me finding any kind of focus let alone learning something totally new, and even so I have really enjoyed MangoLanguages. It is going to become a proper habit, like brushing my teeth or drinking coffee every morning. Anyway, B. Spinach out. Hope lockdown is treating you all okay and you’re finding ways to be really nice to yourself and everyone in your bubble and the world outside.

Who Are We Really?

Dear readers, none have asked, but some may have wondered: who are the strange and wonderful people who write for this illustrious publication? Look no further. We’ve delved deep underground, into the very lairs of these mysterious bloggers, and we’ve brought forth poetic riches the likes of which have never been seen. That’s right, I forced them all to write haiku about themselves to introduce themselves to you! In alphabetical order, no less. Here goes.

First we have the ever-wise B. Spinach. When she’s not tirelessly working the fields to bring more of that herbaceous delight into her house and onto her plate, she can be found somewhere in the pages of Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner:

Aspires to paint a
mural, but so far just makes
tiny paper planes.

Next is the indomitable Catherine, whose book-treat of choice is Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters:

I had to write a
haiku; this is the result.
Let’s all blame Stephen.

Truly moving. Next up is the enigmatic Maiph. Purveyor of knitted goods and slayer of the leviathan, their literary musings chiefly concern the excellent The Owl Service by Alan Garner, and their inscrutable poetic waxings and wanings are represented below:

Inscrutable, yet
easily scruted when I
am tangled in yarn.

Finally, it is I, Stephen, your humble administrator. The title that sparks the most joy for me currently is Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe:

Moonlight falls softly
upon a nerd; He sleeps, eats,
but mostly he sleeps.

You, too, can write a haiku. Or a novel. Join us over at our online creative writing group at the NaNoWriMo Young Writers’ Programme (classroom code is CWRNJDZH), and don’t forget to join our Discord once you get in!

Libraries in the Time of COVID

Peeps, it’s a weird time for all of us, librarians included, as we attempt to navigate the apocalypse with nary an open library in sight from which to retrieve the objects of our solace — books. But fear not! The library, in its wisdom, has foreseen such a calamity and from the depths of its vast reserves of online material has produced a bounteous temple of all things YA — the OverDrive Teen Reading Room. All you need is a library card (click here to grab one if you haven’t already) and all the reading material you could ever need is at your fingertips from the comfort of whichever anti-viral fortress you’re currently holed up in. Check the list below for some of my faves:

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe / Sáenz, Benjamin Alire
Guys, I don’t want to freak you out but READ THIS BOOK NOW. This is the OverDrive eAudiobook version, so you don’t even have to read words, just zone out and let Saenz’s perfectly spare, searing prose transport you. This is a gorgeous story of family, friendship, love, pain, illness, recovery, and discovery that paints in poignant, pointillistic detail the agony and anticipation of leaving childhood behind and moving somewhere new. Waste no more time, and while you’re at it read everything else Saenz has ever written. You won’t regret it.

Feed / Anderson, M. T
It may seem a little on the nose to be recommending dystopian fiction right now, but hear me out. This modern classic is absolutely worth a read — it takes a peek beneath the veil and examines human nature with a kind of clarity seldom seen in any fiction. Unsettling? Yes. Frightening? Probably. Un-put-downable? Absolutely.

An unofficial encyclopedia of strategy for Fortniters / Rich, Jason
We understand it’s not entirely impossible that there may be some people out there who are choosing to spend their isolation period not reading, but gaming. We have you nerds covered as well! The Unofficial Encyclopedia of Strategy for Fortniters is just one part of a gaming eBook collection that includes titles on Fortnite, Minecraft, Terraria, and more. Can’t go outside? Make your own outside, inside!

Finally, I wanted to do a special plug for our wonderful OverDrive LGBTIQ+ Reading Room. We’ve pulled together our favourite titles from across the rainbow spectrum and curated the ultimate collection of LGBTIQ+ reads for you to enjoy. There’s heaps to choose from across fiction and nonfiction, eBook and eAudio — biographies, romance, YA fiction, the arts, crime and mysteries, social comment and social issues, personal essays, poetry, and much much more. Feel free to send through a request if we’re missing a title you think we should have!

Even though our physical sites are closed, we’re here for you still. Follow us on social media or comment on one of these posts if you want to stay in touch. We’ll be keeping you up to date with books, websites, resources and other cool stuff and general distraction during these spooky, spooky times. Stay safe and stay indoors!

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsGirls resist! KaeLyn Rich

An activism handbook for teen girls ready to fight for change, social justice, and equality. Take on the world and make some serious change with this handbook to everything activism, social justice, and resistance. With in-depth guides to everything from picking a cause, planning a protest, and raising money to running dispute-free meetings, promoting awareness on social media, and being an effective ally. Get this handbook to crush inequality, start a revolution, and resist! (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Lantern’s Ember, Colleen Houck

Five hundred years ago, Jack made a deal with the devil. It’s difficult for him to remember much about his mortal days. So he focuses on fulfilling his sentence as a Lantern–one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, a realm crawling with every nightmarish creature imaginable. Jack has spent centuries jumping from town to town, ensuring that nary a mortal–or not-so-mortal–soul slips past him. That is, until he meets beautiful Ember O’Dare. Seventeen, stubborn, and a natural-born witch, Ember feels a strong pull to the Otherworld. Undeterred by Jack’s warnings, she crosses into the forbidden plane with the help of a mysterious and debonair vampire–and the chase through a dazzling, dangerous world is on. Jack must do everything in his power to get Ember back where she belongs before both the earthly and unearthly worlds descend into chaos. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe ultimate survival guide to being a girl, Christina de Witte

Addressing the struggles of young girls everywhere, this hilariously relatable comic guide to life provides real advice and encourages a new generation of teen girls to find confidence and embrace individuality. With friends, love, social media, body image, and more–navigating young adulthood can seem impossible. The Ultimate Survival Guide to Being a Girl provides humorous and highly relatable guidelines for all of the struggles young girls face, presented in author Christina De Witte’s signature comic style and told from the point of view of her lovable Instagram and Internet character, Chrostin. A Hyperbole and a Half for the young adult audience, the book includes comics and hands-on advice about serious issues like mental health and self-care, and also deals with questions on every young girl’s mind, like “Can you survive on pizza alone?” Quirky, hilarious, and sincere, The Ultimate Survival Guide to Being a Girl empowers young women to challenge society’s unrealistic standards of beauty and embrace their individuality. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe girl who fell, Violet Grace

Chess Raven is a hacker who has grown up with nothing and no one. Her parents died when she was three and her foster care situation turned out badly – very badly. But on her sixteenth birthday, her life is turned upside down. Chess learns her mother was Queen of the Fae and her father was a brilliant physicist. The unique blend of her mother’s fairy blood and her father’s humanity gives Chess – and Chess alone – the ability to unlock a mysterious vessel that will unleash unimagined powers – with devastating consequences. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsUnholy, Bill Bennett

The second gripping novel in acclaimed Australian filmmaker Bill Bennett’s compelling series about modern-day witchcraft. As the celestial firestorm night of Unholy nears, Lily finds herself caught deep within the shadow world of black witchcraft – a world more evil than she ever could have imagined. In the race to save her mother’s soul, Lily will need all of her strength and newfound powers to battle the elite witches hell-bent on her capture. A relentless page-turner, with plot twists that will shock and disturb – Unholy unleashes the darkness that seeks to destroy the world as we know it. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsOpen road summer, Emery Lord

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. Her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of healing hearts and break-up ballads. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsNyxia unleashed, Scott Reintgen

Emmett Atwater and the other Genesis spaceship survivors are caught between Babel and the indigenous Adamite population when they are sent to extract nyxia, the most valuable material in the universe. Emmett Atwater thought Babel’s game sounded easy. Get points. Get paid. Go home. But Babel’s competition was full of broken promises, none darker or more damaging than the last one. Now Emmett and the rest of the Genesis survivors must rally and forge their own path through a new world. Their mission is simple: extract nyxia, the most valuable material in the universe, and play nice with the indigenous Adamite population. Caught between two powerful forces with clashing desires, will the Genesis team make it out alive before it is too late? (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsUnbroken; 13 stories staring disabled teens, edited by Marieke Njkamp

An anthology of stories in various genres, each featuring disabled characters and written by disabled creators. The collection includes stories of interstellar war, a journey to Persia, a dating debacle. The teenaged characters reflect diverse colors, genders, and orientations– without obscuring the realities of their disabilities. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWildcard, Marie Lu

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Knowing the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she is determined to put a stop to his plans. But someone has put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsEscaping from Houdini, Kerri Maniscalco

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria , they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly. But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale? (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsP.S. I still love you, Jenny Han

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once? (Publisher summary)

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMunmun, Jesse Andrews

In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers. Warner and his sister Prayer are destitute–and tiny. Their size is not just demeaning, but dangerous: day and night they face mortal dangers that bigger richer people don’t ever have to think about, from being mauled by cats to their house getting stepped on. There are no cars or phones built small enough for them, or schools or hospitals, for that matter–there’s no point, when no one that little has any purchasing power, and when salaried doctors and teachers would never fit in buildings so small. Warner and Prayer know their only hope is to scale up, but how can two littlepoors survive in a world built against them? (Publisher summary)

First lines: Being littlepoor is notsogood.
I know I know, you think you know this already, howabout I just tell you though.
I want to see if this makes you laugh. A middlerich kid stepped on our house and crushed my dad to death. Then that same year a cat attacked my mom at the dump and snapped her spine. Okay there. That’s it. Did you blurt a little giggly laugh?

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe girl who saw lions, Berle Doherty

Abela has lost everything, and now she must leave her home in Tanzania and flee to Britain. Rosa’s struggling to cope with her mother’s wish to adopt a child. When they are brought together, will Abela and Rosa ever be able to love one another like sisters? From the Carnegie Medal-winning author Berlie Doherty, The Girl Who Saw Lions is a powerful and moving story, inspired by the author’s visit to Africa. (Publisher summary)

First lines: The priest arrived on a red motorbike. Dust rose like smoke around him as he roared into the village. Already the villagers were strolling towards the church, which was built like a barn on wooden supports. The sides were open, and swallows and children swooped and tumbled in and out. Abela had been one of the first to arrive, carrying her baby sister on her hip, the child’s skinny arms looped around her neck. She was too big to be carried, really, and Abela was too small to be carrying her.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe astonishing color of after, Emily X. Pan

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: when her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. When she travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time, Leigh is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life. (Publisher summary)

First lines: My mother is a bird. This isn’t like some William Faulker stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap. My mother. Is literally. A bird. I know it’s true the way I know the stain on the bedroom floor is a permanent as the sky, the way I know my father will never forgive himself. Nobody believes me, but it is a fact. I am absolutely certain.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFound, Harlan Coben

It’s been eight months since Mickey Bolitar witnessed the death of his father. Eight months of lies, dark secrets, and unanswered questions. Mickey’s sophomore year brings on its own set of troubles: Ema surprises with news that she has an online boyfriend, and he’s vanished. As he’s searching for Ema’s missing boyfriend, Mickey and his friends are pulled deeper into the mysteries of the Abeona Shelter, risking their lives, until Mickey finally comes face-to-face with the truth about his father. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Eight months ago, I watched my father’s coffin lowered into the ground. Today I was watching it being dug back up. My uncle Myron stood next to me. Tears ran down his face. His brother was in that coffin – no, strike that, his brother was supposed to be in that coffin – a brother who supposedly died eight months ago, but a brother Myron hadn’t seen in twenty years.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe sorcerer heir, Cinda Williams Chima

Emma and Jonah are at the center of it all. Brought together by their shared history, mutual attraction, and a belief in the magic of music, they now stand to be torn apart by new wounds and old betrayals. As they struggle to rebuild their trust in each other, Emma and Jonah must also find a way to clear their names as the prime suspects in a series of vicious murders. It seems more and more likely that the answers they need lie buried in the tragedies of the past. The question is whether they can survive long enough to unearth them. (Publisher summary)

First lines: “Where are you off to, Alicia?” Aunt Millisandra asked as Leesha Middleton sidled past on her way to the door.
“A party,” Leesha said, purposely vague. “I’ll be back late.”
“Is the party here in town?” Aunt Millie asked. “Will there be drinking? Will you be careful?”

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. (Publisher information)

First lines: The summer is made for stoop-sitting
and since it’s the last week before school starts,
Harlem is opening its eyes to September.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsTo kill a kingdom, Alexandra Christo

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. Hearts are power, and with the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. When a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own, the Sea Queen transforms Lira a human as punishment. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. Hunting sirens is Prince Elian’s calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good– but can he trust her? (Publisher information)

First lines: I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.
There are seventeen hidden in the sand of my bedroom. Every so often, I claw through the shingle, just to check they’re still there. Buried deep and bloody. I count each of them, so I can be sure none were stolen in the night. It’s not such an odd fear to have. Hearts are power, and if there’s one thing my kind craves more than the ocean, it’s power.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsRestore me, Tahereh Mafi

It’s been sixteen days since Juliette Ferrars killed the supreme commander of North America and took over as ruler of the Reestablishment on the continent … Juliette thought she’d won. She took over sector 45 and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch–and with so much power in her young hands, the world is watching her every move, waiting to see what happens next. (Publisher information)

First lines: I don’t wake up screaming anymore. I do not feel ill at the sight of blood. I do not flinch before firing a gun.
I will never again apologize for surviving.
And yet-

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe case for Jamie, Britanny Cavallaro

A year after August’s death, Jamie and Charlotte are manipulated into reforming their detective team by someone who wants to see them suffer. Jamie is going through the motions at Sherringford, trying to finish his senior year without incident, with a nice girlfriend he can’t seem to fall for. Charlotte is on the run, from Lucien Moriarty and from her own mistakes. No one has seen her since that fateful night on the lawn in Sussex—and Charlotte wants it that way. She knows she isn’t safe to be around. She knows her Watson can’t forgive her. Holmes and Watson may not be looking to reconcile, but when strange things start happening, it’s clear that someone wants the team back together. Someone who has been quietly observing them both. Making plans. Biding their time. Someone who wants to see one of them suffer and the other one dead. (Publisher information)

First lines: It was January in Connecticut, and the snow hadn’t stopped falling in what felt like forever. It gathered in the windows wells, in the hollows between the bricks of the rebuilt sciences building. It hung from the boughs of trees, tucked itself up the root systems below. I shook it from my wool cap before every class, ruffled it out of my hair, pulled it from my socks.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsInto exile, Joan Lingard

Catholic Kevin and Protestant Sadie have married and escaped to London to start a new life together, away from their disapproving families and the fighting on the streets. But news from Belfast brings loneliness and heartache – will they ever really be free of the Troubles back home? (Publisher information)

First lines: Sadie McCoy stood by the window looking out into the dingy street. It was Sunday morning, early, and few people were about, which made the street look even worse than usual. She was used to dingy streets, it was not that in itself that was bothering her, but the streets she had known were Belfast ones, with rows red-bricked houses built back to back. This was a London street, and even after a month it still looked foreign to her.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsA girl like that, Tanaz Bhathena

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, sixteen-year-old half-Hindu/half-Parsi Zarin Wadia is the class troublemaker and top subject for the school rumor blogs, regularly leaving class to smoke cigarettes in cars with boys, but she also desperately wants to grow up and move out of her aunt and uncle’s house, perhaps realizing too late that Porus, another non-Muslim Indian who risks deportation but remains devoted to Zarin, could help her escape. When the two end up dead in a car on a highway in Jeddah, it becomes clear she was far more than a “girl like that.” (Publisher information)

First lines: The wails Masi let out were so heart-wrenching you would think I was her only daughter lying dead before her instead, of the parasite from her sister’s womb, as she once called me. She should have been a professional funeral crier.

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! Here’s a few must-reads (in no particular order) from our YA collection.

1) Rejected princesses : tales of history’s boldest heroines, hellions, and heretics, Jason Porath.

2) Being Jazz : my life as a (transgender) teen, Jazz Jennings.

3)Here we are : feminism for the real world, edited by Kelly Jensen.

4)Fight like a girl : 50 feminists who changed the world, by Laura Barcella and with illustrations by Summer Pierre.

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