Category Archives: Books

Curl Up & Read: Symptoms of Being Human

Posted on April 1st, 2016 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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Title: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Read by: Anna, a Teen Central Librarian

Summary: Riley Cavanaugh is attending a new school, has debilitating anxiety and a congressman father running for re-election, and hasn’t come out yet. To anyone. Riley is gender fluid, which means some days Riley identifies as a boy and some days Riley identifies as a girl. With all of this going on, how on earth is Riley supposed to blend in, make friends, come out, and survive high school?

Genre/sub-genre: LGBTQ contemporary fiction

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Length: 335 pages

Personal thoughts: 

“People are complicated. And messy. Seems too convenient that we’d all fit inside some multiple-choice question.” – Riley Cavanaugh

This book is long overdue, because until now, stories about gender fluid people have been non-existent. Real and relatable, Symptoms of Being Human is a great look into what it means to be different in a way most people aren’t used to. No pronouns are used for Riley in the book, yet the author’s writing makes it feel very natural, not forced. Preferred pronouns (of which there are a lot of options) aren’t even mentioned by Riley’s therapist and transgender support group, which felt odd to me. Yet the lack of pronouns does serve as a reminder of just how binary society considers gender, and how much we gender everything without even thinking about it.

Riley’s story is very character driven. Riley’s parents are realistic, fully-developed and caring adults, just trying to do the best they can without knowing Riley’s secret. While there were a few minor friends I wanted to know more about, I loved Riley’s two friends from school. Solo and Bec were as well rounded, quirky, and engaging as Riley and they stood out as cool people I’d want to be friends with if I could.

This is a powerful and inspirational story that won’t let you go. I highly recommend this title for anyone who may identify as gender fluid and those who want to know what it means to be gender fluid. That said, I also highly recommend this title for those people who enjoy contemporary teen fiction and are just looking for a good read. Read on!



anna250-150x150Looking to borrow this library book? Look no further!

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow this book? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.


*”Curl Up & Read” posts book reviews by Anna, one of the Teen Librarians at Teen Central, on the first Friday of every month.

On the Radar: Five Books to Check Out in April

Posted on March 29th, 2016 by vkovenmatasy in Books, Previews, Teen Services

Get your library card handy and reserve your place in line for these new April releases! If you place a hold now, they can be in your hands before they even hit the shelf.

Please note: all summaries are taken from the Boston Public Library catalog unless otherwise noted. They may have been edited for length and clarity.


cover of The Raven King

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Summary: Not believing in true love, Blue never thought the warning that she will cause her true love’s death would be a problem, but as her life is entangled in the world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Why We’re Excited: We are finally getting the last book in the Raven Cycle! It’s been eighty-four (okay, actually just four) years since The Raven Boys was published, and subsequent installments The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue have only added to fans’ impatience as they wait to find out if Gansey is ever going to find his dead Welsh king, if Blue’s love really will kill Gansey as foretold, and if Adam and Ronan are just going to make out already. These books have a lot of plot in addition to all the feels, so if you’re waiting for your hold to come in, why not take the chance to reread the first three while you’re at it?


cover of Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

Summary: Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her pot-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor. When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series–they’re the real-life kids from her high school.

Why We’re Excited: Fandom seems like the hot new topic in teen fiction these days (see: Fangirl, Kill the Boy Band, and upcoming releases Gena/Finn, The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, and All the Feels), and it’s always a little nerve-wracking (at least for this long-time fangirl) to pick up a book and find out if the author got it right or horribly, painfully wrong. I’m cautiously optimistic and very curious to see how Scarlett Epstein matches up!


cover of Saving Montgomery Sole

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Summary: An outcast teen girl explores the mysteries of friendship, family, faith, and phenomena, including the greatest mystery of all–herself.

Why We’re Excited: Tamaki is the author (with her cousin Jillian) of Printz Honor Book This One Summer, so we already know she can tell a good story. The set-up of Saving Montgomery Sole sounds like something I’d be nervous about in other hands — daughter of lesbian moms in a not-so-tolerant town has to deal with the son of a homophobic preacher, brace for a treacly life lesson in 3… 2… — but I think Tamaki is up to the challenge of making these characters feel real, and with what we’re seeing on the news these days (thanks for making me embarrassed to call you my former home state, North Carolina) we could all probably use a few life lessons in accepting each other, anyway. Plus, hints of magical realism and a $5.99 mail-order magic amulet? Yes, please!


cover of This Land Is Our Land

This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne

Summary: Explores the way government policy and popular responses to immigrant groups have evolved throughout U.S. history, from 1800 to today.

Why We’re Excited: <Adele voice> Hello, it’s me, election season. I was wondering if after all this time you’re still listening to groundless paranoia and fear-mongering about immigration meant to keep American citizens from discussing the subject in a rational manner. </Adele voice> Wouldn’t it be nice to have some facts and history at your fingertips the next time some politician starts foaming at the mouth on the news about how immigrants are ruining our country? And this book looks gorgeous, too, so getting yourself educated won’t exactly be a hardship. Win/win!


cover of Tell the Wind and Fire

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

Summary: In this near-future retelling of the Dickens classic “A Tale of Two Cities,” a deadly revolution breaks out in a New York City divided by light and dark magic.

Why We’re Excited: Okay, I have a confession to make. I’ve actually never read A Tale of Two Cities. My high school English teacher assigned Great Expectations instead. However, I have read Tell the Wind and Fire, courtesy of a review copy that made its way into my hands a few months ago, so I can assure you that it’s a great read even if you don’t really know the original material. (Something to do with twins and the French Revolution, I think? And possibly an old lady knitting in code.) There’s cool magic and an evil twin (or is he really?) and a pragmatic heroine who’s just doing her best to make sure the people she loves make it out alive. What’s not to enjoy? I’ve been following Sarah Rees Brennan’s career since The Demon’s Lexicon came out in 2009, and she has very rarely let me down.


icon of VeronicaDid I get you interested in reading one of these books? Just click the title of the one you want and the link will take you to the relevant page in the catalog. From there you can click the green “Place a Hold” button and you’re all set!

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow a book? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.


*”On the Radar” features book previews by Veronica, the Teen Librarian at the Dudley Branch, on the last Tuesday or Friday of every month.

Anime Review: Serial Experiments Lain

Posted on January 27th, 2016 by jkenney in Movies, Programs, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

serial lain

Serial Experiments Lain [R 17+] is a powerful science fiction anime series from 1998.  This psychological thriller centers on the experience of Lain Iwakura and her introduction to cyber-life in “The Wired” [Internet].  After a tragic suicide by a girl in her high school class, she and many other classmates receive emails from the girl after she has died.  This mystery sets the scene for the main thrust of the story.

Other characters include Lain’s best friend Arisu Mizuki and her larger circle of friends, Masami Eiri – apparent designer and god-like figure of The Wired, Knights – “men in black” who are ambiguously involved with the wired, Lain’s family and father who is a computer expert, and a group of younger children who provide another perspective to the developing sense of cyber-life.

Masami serves as the main foil in the series.  A large portion of the plot centers on ideas of self, divinity, physical versus spiritual, real versus virtual, and other wrenching questions often faced in the teen years.  The visual palette contains strong use of “white field” contrasts and fills as well as other shadow fills using “blood pool” and collage-like patterns.  The white fields get repeated emphasis as a sunlight effect in the morning scenes as Lain leaves her house for school.  After a few appearances, the technique is familiar and the artistic style of the series is clearly set apart.  Its continued use serves to amplify the sense of drudgery and emptiness that Lain experiences going to school.  At the same time, the technique itself is stark and almost blinding, creating a confusing crosscurrent to an otherwise static and low energy scene.  It’s truly masterful.  The soundtrack is very strong with its selection of music and an audio “hum” effect that is used to represent the ever-present activity on The Wired. It is usually combined with views of power lines and transformers at scene changes.

Serial Experiments Lain has received notable praise from the critical community and I strongly recommend it for Anime fans.  You can watch it for free on Kissanime.com and Animefrost.com

Anime Review: Samurai Champloo

Posted on January 25th, 2016 by jkenney in Movies, Music, Programs, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

samurai champloo

Samurai Champloo is an action [shonen] anime from 2004-2005.  Based on the original manga, this story is an adventure combined with poignant drama and comedy that follows the heroine’s search for the “Samurai that smells of sunflowers.”  We have some episodes available on DVD but the title is widely available over streaming sites.  Ask your teen librarian!

The three main characters are Fuu, Mugen and Jin.  Fuu is a teenage girl with a happy-go-lucky attitude and always seems to be hungry.  She is searching for the famous samurai.  Jin is a ronin [roaming samurai] with the classic stern character of the period.  He wears glasses which were actually available at the time but his are modern and lend a stylish flare to his otherwise quiet character.  He is of course, a master swordsman.  Mugen is another great swordsman but of an unconventional style.  He wears his hair in short crazy dreadlocks, and his sword is curved more like a scimitar with z shaped hilt.  He has a chip on his shoulder and is always looking for a fight.

The art work is quite good with strong “brush lines” and solid earthy colors.  The drawing style is slightly elongated with a linear quality that distinguishes it from other modern series such as Fairy Tail and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.  One great feature of this series is the inclusion of Hip Hop music and samples.  The theme music is a hip hop song that viewers will probably want to listen to each episode.  Hip hop culture and even Chinese kung fu are referenced several times during the series and at least once each with more focus in their own episode.  These elements as well as a few other surprises add an entertaining enhancement to the ongoing story line and themes.  Fight sequences are strong and dynamic, and character development is sensitive and engaging.  Viewers will not be disappointed.

Scholarly Books on Anime

Posted on January 25th, 2016 by jkenney in Books, Movies, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

anime napier anime adapt

The Hyde Park Branch recently added two books on Anime to our Teen non-fiction collection.  Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle, by Susan J. Napier and Anime and the Art of Adaptation, by Dani Cavallaro.

Napier’s work was well researched and effectively supported with lots of end notes and references to the works she examined.  She covers a lot of ground including controversial genres and the edges of popular culture.  She also provides a lot of insight on the influences of Japanese political and economic history.

Two titles she analyzed in particular were of great interest to me.  Akira, the groundbreaking film from 1988 and Serial experiments Lain, a powerful television series from 1998.  With Akira, she interprets the surrealistic and cataclysmic ending in a different way than I did.  I did further research and found corroboration for my interpretation from criticism of the original Manga and film versions by other authors.  Still, the symbolism and dramatic devices she addressed are clearly present and used to great effect in the film.  Serial Experiments Lain is a mesmerizing psychological thriller in the form of cyberspace science fiction.  Napier’s analysis inspired me to watch the series.  Lain lived up to her criticism and I was very impressed with the visual and audio effects in the series.

I have only just started Anime and the Art of Adaptation, by Dani Cavallaro.  I was pleased to see a still from Grave of the Fireflies used as the cover for the book.  It gets analyzed in chapter two under the title “The Nightmare of History.”  The atomic bombings that ended WWII had a deep and far-reaching impact on modern Japanese culture.  It’s effects can be seen in many different areas of the Anime genre and should be explored by all fans.  We Anime Otaku [Anime Fans] are all too familiar with the challenges of adapting Manga titles to moving animation and I look forward to reading more.  Cavallaro’s book is also well researched and includes a filmography and extensive bibliography.