Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Read This Book

I asked the reps at Random House which of their books I should read. Of course, they first said that all of them for the upcoming months were excellent. I told them that I honestly wanted to pare down my reading and pick up the wonderful books I know are out there just waiting to be read.

The reps looked at each other, nodded their heads and one said, "Before I Die." They handed me a plain white ARC, one of those books that gives you no idea what the cover will look like.

It's been two months since they handed me the book, but when I finally picked it up to read, it captured me immediately.

With writing like, "I miss him as soon as he goes. When he isn't with me, I think I made him up," Jenny Downham captures something that I have not had the pleasure of reading before.

Before I Die is the story of Tessa, a sixteen-year-old girl in England, long ago diagonosed with leukemia. She has a list of things she would like to accomplish. Like many young adult novels, the book opens with Tessa getting herself into a bit of a complicated situation. First up on her list is sex, so she has her best friend Zoey take her to a club and help her pick up a guy. She does have a one night stand with that boy, and Zoey begins something of a relationship with his friend. But that's the only part of the book that is stereotypically YA. The writing is lyrical, and, yes, Tessa dies, but the way the author handles it is fitting, not over the top. I read the Lurlene McDaniel books with great interest as a teenager. Teen girls with fatal or chronic illnesses craving attention, affection and love, craving the chance to make a difference. Those books were just what I needed at the time, but they always had a soap opera feel to them - close ups with teary, wide-eyed faces. Before I Die, on the other hand, has a Louise Rennison/Georgia Nicholson edge, giving us the humor we need to continue reading about a dying sixteen year old girl.

Tessa's best friend, Zoey, neighbor, Adam, brother, Cal, father and mother all play important roles in the story, but Tessa remains, as she should, the focus.

If you only have time for one new book in September, pick up Before I Die by Jenny Downham.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

SRP Wrap-Up

This post contains two main points, one that my first SRP could have been better and could have been worse. If I'd spent more time planning individual programs and less time trying to pack in as much as possible, I think I could have reached more teens. This summer, I cast a wide net and caught rather few fish. In the upcoming year, I'll be concentrating more on the programs that work (book club, Dance Dance Revolution, etc.) and only sparingly introducing new programs. My volunteers will get more of the attention they deserve, and in cooperation with the children's librarian, we'll be be offering service opportunities for teens and services to children. Homework Help! Computer Docents! Reading Buddies! Oh my!

The second of my points is that I think I've reached that point in my life where I want to stop teenagers, give them a shake and tell them a few things. I want to tell that 15 year old girl running around vastly pregnant that her life is about to CHANGE and that she needs to spend a wee bit more time figuring out how to be a mother and a bit less time running amuck and rolling her eyes at librarians. I want to congratulate that 17 year old who has turned his life around and is now concentrating on improving all skills from typing to library research just so he can graduate. I want to stop the seventh graders, force a book in their hands and tell them to get off MySpace.

Of course, I can do none of those things, save quietly encouraging the 17 year old, putting up interesting and enticing book displays for the fifteen year old and the middle schoolers and offering exciting programs that lure kids away from MySpace (a daunting task, I know).

This has been a professionally challenging summer for me. I'm grateful for my supportive supervisor and my patient family and friends who have listened to me whine (because honestly, that's what I did, whine) all summer.

Now, I'm heading into a new season. I'm excited about pursuing more outreach opportunities and dropping fruitless programs.