Archive for the ‘Teen Issues’ Category

New Books Highlight: Tackling Tough Issues

On Monday, August 5 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Village Center Meeting Room, the Shorewood School District is holding a community forum about youth mental health and suicide. These are important, huge subjects that deserve our close attention. I hope you can make it to this community forum!

Authors know this – maybe those authors who write for teens in particular – and that is why it’s actually pretty easy to find a lot of amazing fictional books about mental health issues facing young people. Fiction helps us to better-understand big issues like depression, teen suicide, and bullying, by letting us explore the issues through a comfortable distance while simultaneously pushing us to examine them more closely. Fiction can also help to normalize – and thus reduce the stigma of – mental illness. When we can openly talk about mental illness, we can help ourselves and help others instead of persecuting, ignoring or shaming someone for their illness.

Reading well-written fiction about people like ourselves or very different from ourselves – clever, thoughtful, otherwise okay teens who suffer from depression, or popular, happy teens who find themselves having to come to terms with the suicide of a friend, or marginalized, queer/questioning teens who overcome bullies by finding solace in friends, family and caring adults – helps us better understand all of us.

Here are a few (pretty) new titles that explore mental illness in teens:

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cookcover image of a really awesome mess by trish cook

Emmy and Justin are both sent to Heartland, a treatment center boarding school where they are supposed to come to terms with the mental illness that got them there. Emmy threatened a racist bully and got expelled from school and Justin feels strongly that his suicide attempt wasn’t serious; both teens think they are mostly fine. As they get to know each other and their classmates/therapy group-mates, they begin to delve deeper into their illnesses – and to come to terms with the fact that they have been ignoring their illnesses and won’t recover until they face them. Like some other notable books about teen mental illness (for example, It’s Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini), Cook lets her characters be hilarious, inappropriate, sarcastic while dealing with serious mental illness – and thus Emmy, Justin and the whole Heartland bunch come across as very real.

Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodmancover image of kindness for weakness by shawn goodman

On the surface, this is not a book about being depressed or suicidal – but it is a book about sliding between stable mental states, struggling against violence in a violent society, and coming to terms with oneself. James is desperate to prove himself  to his older brother, Louis, and does the only thing he knows how: gets involved in Louis’ drug dealing. When a deal goes awry, Louis abandons James to the consequences. James is incarcerated at a juvenile detention center where bad goes to worse: every inmate is a bully, every situation is wrought with violence and fear and James does not know how he will hang on to himself – or who he even is. At the heart of James’s story is a message of survival when the odds are against you.

Cameron and the Girls by Edward Averettcover image of cameron and the girls by edward averett

This is another story that treats a serious mental illness – schizophreniform disorder, a kind of temporary schizophrenia – with both humor and tender tact. It’s not a kind of disease that we talk about much, so Cameron’s situation is unique and enlightening. Cameron decides not to take his meds in an effort to maintain some control over his life. But this means that it is not long before he hears voices in his head which begin to compete for his attention. On top of that, Cameron convinces Nina, a clinically depressed classmate, to drop her meds, too. Only Nina’s decision may have more serious consequences than Cameron’s. Author Averett is a clinical psychologist and does an amazing job of showing us who a teen with schizophreniform disorder is.


Bestselling Author Wes Moore in Milwaukee Thursday

Wes Moore, activist and author of The Other Wes Moore and Discovering Wes Moore both about his experience as a privileged person encountering someone who shared his name but for whom life had not gone so well – is in Milwaukee tomorrow (Thursday, March 14) to speak at MATC. Discovering Wes Moore is a recent YA title, which you can read more about in an earlier blog post.discovering

He’ll speak from 6-7pm on “Empowering Our Youth” in Cooley Auditorium (Room M203) at the downtown MATC campus, and will sign his books from 7:30-9 in room 605 of the central building of MATC Downtown. Find out more about the visit here!

If you’re a reader of this blog, you’re the (probably) the youth about which Moore will be speaking, but you’re also possibly luckier than some of the kids he’ll talk about. Why not check out this great learning experience and chance to meet a best-selling author!

New Books Highlight: New Books, New Year, New You!

This week I’m showcasing some new nonfiction at SPL that has to do with self-betterment/inspiration, just because it’s that time of year when we all think about such things. Yeah, I know: no one really keeps their New Year’s resolutions. But, it’s still worth it to start the year off with an inspiring book or two. Who knows, maybe this really will be the year you achieve your dreams! YOLO!

New Year’s Resolution #1: Write. You should read…

Just Write, Here’s How! by Walter Dean Myers

Myers’ slim volume of writing advice – Myers is, by the by, one of the biggest YA authors of the 90s-2000s – packs a punch. Myers gives you some great prompts and practical tips, while also filling you in on a little bit of his own experience and what works for him.

New Year’s Resolution #2: Volunteer and get involved more. You should read…

A Random Book About the Power of Anyone by Talia Y. Leman

High school student Talia Leman shares her random and awesome experiences in harnessing the power of herself and kids like her. When she was in the 5th grade she got inspired by the tragedies in the wake of way that Hurricane Katrina affected the people of the south, and took action to raise over $5 million with the help of other kids around the U.S. She was in 5th grade, you guys! Her wonderful writing is really off-beat and funny, and she will inspire you.

New Year’s Resolution #3: Understand others, understand yourself. You should read…

The Letter Q: Queer Writers Notes to Their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon

Queer writers from all genres and types of books come together in this anthology to share their experiences and their worlds through writing letters about the future to their younger selves. This is the ultimate “It gets better…” read and will help you find your path to hope and understanding this year, whether or not you are LGBTQ.

So read on and challenge yourself to keep those resolutions!


Happy NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo sounds like a Pokemon character or something (right?!), but is actually the cleverly shortened version of National Novel Writing Month, which occurs every November and is widely celebrated. What is NaNoWriMo about? It’s about writing novels and, more generally, celebrating the written word.

NaNoWriMo challenges everyone to put pen to paper and/or fingers to keys (or screen if you’re a tablet person) and write a novel (or 50,000 words of one) in just 30 days. Can it be done? Sure! Check out the NaNoWriMo website for inspiration and information on what the month is all about, including tips from real authors, and lists of authors who have completed the challenge and the books that have resulted. The Young Writers Program, sponsored by NaNoWriMo, is geared towards teens, with a Dare Machine which features a new writing-related dare every day and interviews with awesome authors like Ransom Riggs.

For more writing motivation check out the display in the Teen Space at SPL featuring young authors who hit it big. You might just have an author inside of you, and these famous young folk (Kody Keplinger and Christopher Paolini, among others) will inspire you to find out.

If you decide to take the plunge and try to write a novel this month (even if you don’t but are still interested in writing), hunt down these recommended books for even more guidance:

Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction (Call # 808.042 F828)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (Call # 92 K54)

Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write (Call # YA 808.3 H241)

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them (Call # 808.02 P966)

Go forth and write!

Election 2012: Get involved even if you can’t vote!

The election is a mere month away! Are you prepared?

Image courtesy: Flickr user KClvey (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Even if you’re not yet old enough to vote, you can still be a political junkie, an activist, a thinker and a person with a voice. Here are some awesome websites to help you get involved and learn more about what’s at stake this election year.

This is a site designed specifically for teens, with posts written largely by teens. Bookmark this one to refer to and post stuff to all year long, not just around election time. This site is easy to use and provides lots of information from a teen’s perspective about the various parties’ campaigns (not just the two major parties, but also the less-talked-about parties like Green and Libertarian), plus discussions about the big issues facing both everyday people and state and federal governments. Many of the teens who post to this site are, as the website’s name might indicate, activists in their communities. You’ll be inspired! is an independent (i.e. nonprofit, nonpartisan) website that describes its mission as being a consumer advocate for voters. This means that it takes the messages from politicians that you might hear in the media, and tells you the plain facts that are represented, or misrepresented, in those messages. Sometimes, politicians skew facts to support their viewpoints, and is a great place to find out when and/or whether your favored candidates are doing so.

Rock the Vote

Rock the Vote is an initiative founded over 20 years ago to get young people, like yourselves, involved in the voting process. It’s a grassroots organization that inspires your political thought by connecting you to the issues that really matter to you and showing you how your favorite artists and stars are politically engaged, too. Rock the Vote also advocates for issues that impact young people and works to get Washington to consider them seriously.

If you aren’t of legal voting age but still want to be involved, find out how you can volunteer for the campaign of your choice through the party representation in Milwaukee County: Check out the websites for the Republican Party or Democratic Party of Milwaukee County, or the official sites for each of the candidates – President Barack Obama, GOP Challenger Mitt Romney,or the Green Party.

If you are of legal voting age (18, of course), there is still time to register to vote! In Wisconsin, you can register on election day at your polling place, or in person or via mail. Go here to find out exactly what you need to do. Also, the Village of Shorewood has a page with more Shorewood-specific voting information, including a link to a map of polling places, here!