Thursday, September 27, 2012

Introducing AJ!

SCPL Teens has gotten a lot of new faces this summer! Over the next few weeks, we'll be featuring them here so you'll know who to look for when you need a recommendation for your next awesome teen read. 

Today, meet AJ of the Inman library!




THEN WHAT:  I graduated from USC Upstate with a degree in History. I started working as a page in 2009 and have worked my way up.


FAMILY: My Dad is about to retire from Duke Energy and my Mom is a teacher for Spartanburg County. I am an aunt; my older sister has two kids.


HOBBIES: Well of course I love reading! It is one of my absolute favorite things to do.  I also enjoy traveling as much as possible.


FAVORITE QUOTE: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” - Dr. Seuss.


FAVORITE TEEN BOOKS: I have too many favorite teen books to choose from. I love Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Matched by Ally Condie and the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Of course the Harry Potter books are among some of my favorites.


FAVORITE NON-TEEN BOOKS:  I love anything by Cathy Lamb. Most of her books are very funny except there is one of her books called Henry’s Sisters that will make you cry. So be careful about that one.


RECENTLY READ: I am almost finished with a book called Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson This book  is about Peter Pan but it is from Tinker Bell point of view. The interesting point about Tinker Bell is that she has been following Tiger Lilly around instead of Peter Pan.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Travis' Book Review: All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison

As a contemporary comic book fan, I love the lore and character of Superman, but I must admit that I generally find it difficult to be interested in Superman comics. Yeah, I know…he’s Superman! He’s the Man of Steel!  He’s the square-jawed cover model for truth, justice, and the American way. Well, that’s actually kind of the problem – he is just too strong!  In today’s market, Superman’s appeal seems to be mostly limited to cultural nostalgia.  He has always just been the same flying, invulnerable, faster, and stronger than anyone Superman, and after 80 years of being the same character, it’s easy to lose interest.  That’s why I was very excited when Grant Morrison, one of my favorite comic book writers, began writing his own interpretation of Superman. If anyone could make Superman relevant and exciting again, it would be him.  Luckily, Morrison’s All-Star Superman does not disappoint. 


All-Star Superman begins with the concept that is all too familiar to comic book readers – imminent peril.  Lex Luthor has sabotaged a mission to explore the sun, and Superman, as usual, swoops in to save the day. Our hero prevails, and for his crimes against humanity, Luthor is sent to prison where he is to await his execution. Luthor’s plan, however, wasn’t actually to sabotage the mission. Knowing that the yellow sun is the source of Superman’s power, Luthor’s intention was to kill Superman by luring him too close to the sun, thus causing his cells to overcharge. The result is that Superman gains even more strength, a stronger sense of aesthetic, and an enlightened curiosity, but all at the cost of cellular breakdown.  In one year, Superman will die, but he intends to use his newfound capabilities to prepare the world to become a world without Superman.


Released in 12 parts from 2005-2008, All-Star Superman pushes the idea of Superman to new heights without having to reinvent the character. Written by Morrison, drawn by Frank Quitely, and inked by Jamie Grant, the series incorporates decades of established storylines, characters, and plot points without the author feeling the need to rewrite what the audience already knows. The beauty of the story is that the author and illustrators have a great understanding of what made Superman so wonderful in the Golden and Silver Age of comics. Morrison writes a very modern storyline, and the illustrators are able to capture a certain sense of brightness and glow that is oft forgotten in many modern comic series.  Even amidst the artistic glow, however, it is still Morrison’s storytelling and characterization that shine brightest, allowing the reader to dive into the complex psyche of his character. This Superman is curious, enterprising, adamantly moral, and most importantly, physically and emotionally vulnerable. The audience really gets to feel what it is like to be Superman.  He is not simply a being with superpowers, but a being with an enlightened sense of humanity.  


The story also expands on the symbolism and mythology of the character. Morrison chose to call the story “All-Star” because it is a recurring DC title meant to showcase the company’s big players. Morrison actually uses a more literal approach to the title, transforming Superman into a celestial being. The character shines such a light on the planet that he has become as big and as important to humanity as the sun itself. In that way, Superman is a figure, an idea, and a beacon that shines light on spirit of man can become - not only in the universe of these characters, but for the reader, as well. It’s a concept that may seem a little outdated for modern readers, but Morrison is able to write in a way that a fan of Superman, a first-time reader, and even a skeptic like me can feel the wonder that was once and still is Superman. That said, I would highly recommend All-Star Superman to any comic book fan or any reader willing to try a new medium.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Heather's Book Review: Wish by Joseph Monninger

I started Joseph Monninger’s Wish assuming, for some reason, that it was a book about mermaids. Really, it is a book about a teen girl, her terminally ill brother, and sharks. The sharks were enough to make me keep reading. Normally I’m not a fan of sick kid books because 1) they are depressing, 2) they make a saint of the sick kid without truly acknowledging how much it stinks to be terminally ill, 3) the crisis point in the story is always predictable, and 4) you just know someone’s going to die at the end of it all. Wish is half of these things—different in some refreshing ways, but ultimately what you would expect from a novel that makes a big deal about granting a slowly dying kid’s biggest wish.

Fifteen-year-old Bee has a brother with Cystic Fibrosis. Said brother Tommy is eleven years old, but his lungs keep him from acting like one because they frequently fill up with mucus, thus (among other things) making it difficult for him to breathe. However, while he can’t do very physical activities, he is also a shark enthusiast in the way that only eleven year old boys can be. His biggest wish is to get the chance to swim with sharks, and when a Make-a-Wish-style organization offers him the chance to do just that, he, Bee, and their desperate-for-companionship mother head to California to satisfy his greatest wish.

As Terminally Ill Kid stories go, Wish is not a bad read, though it is a typical example of its story type. It mixes tragic moments with uplifting ones, but is never melodramatic, nor deeply saccharine, and is thus a book I would recommend for a teen who is in a similar situation as the main character. Also, the angle provided by Tommy’s zealous love of sharks and shark facts makes the novel significantly more interesting than it would have been otherwise, and even ties in with Tommy’s perspective on his illness in several interesting ways. Bee, too, has several meaningful realizations over the course of the story that could be relevant and encouraging to any reader in her place. Also—spoiler—Tommy doesn’t die at the end, another benefit for a reader looking for some hope in their sibling’s situation.

Wish’s main flaws, to me, are the middle two that I mentioned earlier. First, it almost sanctifies Tommy. In this book, he isn’t an eleven year old kid frustrated with life because his lungs don’t work. He’s a serene, pleasant boy whose quiet acceptance of his condition is admired by and inspiring to all characters in the book. Bee notices some moments of disappointment in him over the course of the book, but even these are subtle, contained, “Look at how brave he’s being!” moments. I remember myself at eleven. Colds and minor knee scrapes gave me reason enough to be mad at the world for days at a time, so I find it hard to believe that even a fictional eleven year old could go a whole book without being more than lightly disappointed at his lot in life. Second, the book has a predictable crisis point. When Tommy gets a chance to swim with his hero and shark attack survivor Ty Barry, our finely honed Reader Senses see that the book is near its end, and then tell us that it’s time for the story’s crisis and climax. It’s not even surprising when an Ominously Huge Wave comes to act on its Ominous Hugeness, with Tommy in the middle of it.

Another significant flaw, in my opinion, was the inclusion of a minor romantic arc between Bee and the young surfer Little Brew, which emerges late in the novel. The story having focused on her relationship with her brother until this point, this arc seemed out of place. Also, throughout the novel, a lot of strife is caused by their mother’s determination to find a new male companion, even in the midst of a trip that is so clearly supposed to be about her son. Bee is especially frustrated by this, so when she decides that a relationship with this hot, kind (and generally perfect and bland) surfer dude could enrich her in some way, it feels even more out of place, and even a little hypocritical on her part. I doubt this was the intention of the author, since the book is intended to be a positive one, but it was nonetheless present—and irritating. Generally I can’t stand books where girls think their problems can be solved by getting a date (unless that date can bring something other than Being a Hot Boy to the relationship). I especially can’t stand it when they get irritated at their moms for doing the exact same thing.

Overall, though, for the reader who is looking for a book of its sort, Wish is a book worth trying.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Photobook: Spartanburg 2012!

The wait is over! The Photobook: Spartanburg 2012 exhibit is now on display in the AT&T Exhibition Gallery (and will be through the end of September). We had a great turnout for the Opening Reception on Thursday, September 6th. Over 50 of you came!


The judging process was tough this year—we had so many great submissions!—but after much debate, we narrowed the winners down to these three photos…


Third Place (and a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card) went to Cherell Harp for her vibrant motorcycle close up.



Second Place (and a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card) went to Hannah Marie Wayne for this summery shot. Doesn’t it make you wish you were still on vacation?




And last, but definitely not least, First Place (and a digital camera) went to Clay Knight, for this serene, classic Southern porch view.




We also drew a random winner from all participants who completed the Photo Scavenger Hunt. This year’s winner was Mary Evington! She took a lot of cool photos, but our favorite was this shot of the newly remodeled airport:




Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all participants for showing us an awesome teen’s-eye-view of Spartanburg! We hope you’ll join us next year for Photobook: Spartanburg 2013!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Introducing Jennifer!

SCPL Teens has gotten a lot of new faces this summer! Over the next few weeks, we'll be featuring them here so you'll know who to look for when you need a recommendation for your next awesome teen read. 

Today, meet Jennifer of the Headquarters library!


HOMETOWN: Augusta, Georgia


THEN WHAT: I have a Bachelor’s degree in communications, with a focus in journalism, from Augusta State University. I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, copy editor and page designer. Currently, I’m working on my Masters of Library and Information Science through USC-Columbia.


FAMILY: I have a 9-year-old son, one sister, two brothers, two step-brothers, two step-sisters and three sets of parents. My family tops the charts when it comes to blended families!


HOBBIES: I am an avid reader (like a book every day or two), and I watch far more television than anyone should. I’m a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy, and that carries over from reading into movies and television. (Ask the other Teen Room staff – I’m horribly addicted to Doctor Who!) I also enjoy playing RPGs on my computer when time permits. (Skyrim and Guild Wars 2 are my two current games).


FAVORITE QUOTE: "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually — from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint — it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff."— The Tenth DoctorDoctor Who


“Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you'd most like not to lose.” 
― Neil Gaiman


FAVORITE TEEN BOOKS: It’s so hard to choose just one! Some current favorites include Divergent, anything by Kristin Cashore, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Cinder.


FAVORITE NON-TEEN BOOKS: I’m a huge fan of George R.R. Martin, and I am impatiently waiting on his next book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. I also enjoy Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. And I can’t forget to mention classic dystopian fiction books – Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale.


RECENTLY READ: I just finished reading Crewel, an awesome blend of dystopian and fantasy fiction by Gennifer Albin, which will be released in October. I’m also reading the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody and the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Emily's Book Review: A Midsummer Tight's Dream by Louise Rennison

What happens when you plop an ordinary teen girl down in a prestigious performing arts school in the north of England? A Midsummer Tight’s Dream by Louise Rennison answers this question with Tallulah Casey, a young Irish lass who tells us her concerns about the town boys and her own knobby knees in British slang that is so thick and hilarious that it requires Rennison to provide American readers with a glossary in the back of the book. The storyline itself is the stuff of pure, frothy chick lit, and the plot centers around the problems and adventures that many teenage girls face. Is Tallulah a good “snogger” (kisser)? What do the boys from Woolfe Academy mean when they speak in their own indecipherable “boy language”? How does she hide her hated knees and stop her “Tourette’s syndrome of the legs” from making her break out into Irish dances at inopportune times?


Though there were many things I enjoyed about this book, I never found myself fully absorbed in the story. Tallulah’s misadventures were amusing, and I did laugh out loud more than once while reading, but for whatever reason, I did not find myself longing to come back to the book when I put it down. I think, honestly, I would have enjoyed it more if I were still a teen girl myself, and I was disappointed that the book did not in any way mirror my favorite Shakespeare play, despite its title. I did love the British slang, however, though I had some trouble understanding it at first. In fact, my favorite part was the glossary at the end, which contained entries such as “plectrum—Surely you know what a plectrum is? How do you pluck your guitars in America? And I know you do pluck a lot of guitars because I’ve seen old repeats of Bonananza and Dallas. But I will explain… it’s that bit of plastic stuff that you hold in your fingers to stroke the strings so that you don’t chip your nail polish.” Many of the other entries in the glossary were amusing, as was the humorous way Tallulah viewed the world.


I would recommend A Midsummer Tight’s Dream to anyone looking for an amusing way to pass a few hours and especially to teen girls who enjoy British humor or who are fans of Rennison’s previous work.