Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

No automatic alt text available.In this sweet fast paced coming of age story readers will laugh along with protagonist, Molly Peskin-Suso, as she stumbles into adulthood in this modern age of social media and cell phones.  I love how patriarchal assumptions are being challenged by the characters.  In this scene, where Molly and her sister Cassie are meeting some friends for the first time, the conversation turns to their collective bat mitzvah.

“‘I love that you have your bar mitzvah in front of your parents and grandparents and everyone, and like, that’s the Jewish version of ‘becoming a woman.”  He leans forward, grinning.  ‘But in my religion-‘

‘You are not religious,’ Mina says.

‘In my religion,’ he repeats emphatically, ‘you become a woman by…’ He forms an O with his left hand and pokes through it with his right pointer finger, again and again and again.

‘Jesus Christ, Max.  Stop it.  I’m serious,’ Mina stands up.

‘Yeah, that’s pretty fucking problematic,’ Cassie says calmly.

‘What?’  Max looks wounded. ‘How is that problematic?  The Jewish thing?’

‘Um, let’s start with the implication that becoming a woman has anything to do with whether or not you’ve had sex.’

I have to admit, my sister is a badass.  She just doesn’t get intimidated by people.  I don’t know how to be like that.

‘Ohhh, geez.  Okay.  I was kidding.’  Max sighs.

‘And you know what?  I’m pretty much done with this construct of ‘virginity.” Cassie does air quotes.  ‘Which I’m sure you think applies to hetero, vaginal sex.’

‘You think a person can lose their virginity from oral sex?’

‘Yes,’ Cassie says.

‘I mean, I think people have this mentality that sex is only real if it involves a penis,’ Cassi says finally.” (p. 75-77)

This story addresses the legalization of same sex marriage (Molly and Cassie’s moms get married).

The author also addresses the changing nature of relationships between family members as well as friends when romantic partners begin to enter the dynamics.

” I think every relationship is actually a million relationships.” (p. 335)

And Molly expresses the self doubt we all carry in secret, “I just feel like I’m a really defective girl in some ways.” (p. 135)


The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Part ghost story, part coming of age, symbols and stories are used to talk about the unexplainable, the unbearable, the unspeakable.  In The Accident Season, author Moira Fowley-Doyle steeps this story in metaphors and recognizable images from fairy tales.   Yet much of the story borders hazily on reality, with school parties, classroom and lunchroom antics and peer pressure.  Even some of the ghostly elements are cast in the doubtful light of reality to keep readers grounded and guessing as to how reliable the narrator is.  Lovely language and keen characterization make this novel a fast read!  Recommended for 14 + due to underage drinking, smoking and sexual references.

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Twisted by Bonnie M. Hennessy

Bonnie Hennessy cracks open the fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin beautifully.  The characters are complex and add to the heartfelt drama that comes from a powerful curse.  We see the sins of the mothers are passed down with as much fervor as those of the father.  When first readers meet Aoife, a strong headed young woman, she is collecting her besotted father from the local brothel.   When the newly returned Duke shows an interest in this legendary woman who can “spin straw into gold” (by here amazing farming, bookkeeping and sales skills), Aoife’s life becomes complicated quickly.  Give this title to readers of Alex Flinn and Sarah Cross.

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Woman on the edge of time by Marge Piercy

The rich and complex language coupled with the violence and the lack of dignity that our protagonist contends with strikes me fully in the face, like tripping into a rose bush and falling in love with the beauty all the time bleeding.

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So far, some of my favorite quotes include,

“She was marked with the bleeding stigmata of shame.” (p.52)

“The anger of the weak never goes away, Professor, it just gets a little moldy.” (p. 43)

“They took her womb in the hospital.  Afterward that was a curse Jesus threw in her face: no longer a woman.  An empty shell.”  (p. 37)

The protagonist uses the word “spayed” to describe herself – in this one word the author illustrates the treatment of disenfranchised women of color – with the dismissive arrogance people treat animals.  Not – human with thoughts and feelings but with a presumptive judgement about her ability to reason and love.

Outlines and thoughts about teen programs

As if the trouble and uncertainty isn’t enough, there are reports of biological weapons being unleashed in public places.  There have been attacks on the post office and the water plant, each attack has followed the same M.O. an anonymous letter with a warning to the intended ‘victim’, followed by clues on how to create an antidote and a time limit before the virus is released.  Neither the post office nor the water plant tried to solve the puzzle, instead they relied on hazmat units to take care of the problem.  In each location, there is some doubt to how thorough the clean up was and there have been rumors of an illness among several of the employees.  Today, the library received a warning and a small vial with a note saying, “This mixture will effectively incapacitate those suffering from the zombie virus.”  It will be up to us to solve the puzzles, find the clues, and create the best solution we can.  The letter contains a recipe for a number of mixtures. Begin with the vial found in the large locked yellow box.  Add the ingredients in the order you find them, but not until you have found them all.

The first one requires three ingredients and will keep the victim from becoming ill IF it is administered within an hour of the exposure to the virus.

The second recipe requires four ingredients and will give you a week long inoculation to the virus.

The third recipe requires five ingredients for a permanent inoculation.  In large doses, this recipe can also be added to water or injected into plants in order to to create a widespread inoculation.


Teen events

I’m working on a storyline for the teen escape room and it dawned on me that it might be really fun to have an over arching storyline for all of the teen events for the summer.  How to create events that are simultaneously independent and that add and build a world throughout the summer…there’s the rub.

I was hoping to incorporate Zombies … also building … and sewing … and volunteering … Should be a fun challenge.