Monday, December 26, 2011

Bluefish by Pat Schmatz

Travis is a loner at a new school in a new town.  He figures it will be like the old place, except the old place had his dog Rosco and this place doesn't.  To his surprise, the new school has a few things the old one didn't have, including a smart, loud-mouthed girl called Velveeta and a reading teacher who is not going to give up on Travis.

Read this book for the wonderful, complex characters and the complex relationships between each of them...and be ready to cheer in triumph at for at least one of them.

As Travis' grandpa would say, "no sex, no drugs.  Only rock 'n roll."  This book doesn't need any more than that!  Highly recommended for grades 6 and up. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ed King

SITL gives an honorary "kissy-kissy" to local author David Guterson.  While his book Ed King is not written for a teen audience, the Bad Sex in Fiction award is entirely too fabulosa to go unrecognized by the authors of this blog.

Washington State author Guterson 'wins' Bad Sex award

Washington author David Guterson on Tuesday joined John Updike, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and other literary stars as the recipient of the dreaded Bad Sex in Fiction award.

Guterson won the 2011 "prize" for sex scenes in his new novel Ed King, which offers a modern take on the Oedipus myth and sets it in the 20th century.

The acclaimed author of Snow Falling on Cedars took the tongue-in-cheek honor in stride: "Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I'm not in the least bit surprised," Guterson said in a statement released in response to his victory.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Monster Calls  by Patrick Ness
Illustrations by James Kay

Thirteen year old Conor awakens in the middle of the night and sees a monster outside his bedroom window.  Conor is surprised by this monster:  it's not the nightmare he has been expecting.  Instead, the monster takes the shape of a walking, talking, terrible yew tree that tells awful stories and expects the worst possible thing from Conor:  the truth.

The problem with this book is that the plot sounds completely stupid.  My advice: ignore the plot description and just read a page or two...(there's a free preview of the Kindle version of the book HERE. )  Allow yourself to be sucked into Conor's darkness, his fear, and his dread, and learn why the monster is called to walk. 

It sounds scary, but the book isn't actually scary.  It sounds crazy, but the story ultimately makes sense.  And, just a word of warning:  have a hanky ready for the last two chapters.

I wouldn't have thought enough of the "sex" in this book to include it on the Sex in the Library list, but the Children's Librarian who gave me the book was clearly freaked out by the implication of off-the-page intimacy.  Clearly, she doesn't spend much time with teen literature (or teens, either!), but if a very tactful passing reference to intimate married adults bothers you, then avoid this book. 

Otherwise, go find it and read it. 

No cussing, some schoolyard bullying, and the aforementioned implication of off-stage sex.  Highly recommended for ages 12 to adult. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Long, Long, Sleep

A Long, Long Sleep  by Anna Sheehan

Technically, Rosalinda Fitzroy is 16 years old, however, she was born nearly 100 years ago.  Locked away in chemically-induced slumber inside a stasis tube, Rose peacefully slept through the Dark Times that killed millions of people and left her orphaned...and heir to the enormous UniCorp fortune.  Now that she's been kissed awake by the handsome Brendan, Rose must find her place in a world that is completely different from everything she has ever known.

This fresh retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story goes beyond a simple recasting of an old tale into a science fiction framework.  Rose is a fully-realized character with deep flaws that she tries desperately to hide from the world, including herself.  The futuristic world, ruled by mega-corporations like UniCorp, is just possible enough to be frightening, as well as fascinating. 

Cuss words have changed in the future, so they are not offensive to 21st century readers.  There is a very tactful incidence of Star Trek sex, so smoothly written that I almost missed it entirely. 

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All These Things I've Done

All These Things I've Done  by Gabrielle Zevin
16-year-old Anya is the heir to to the "family business":  chocolate. 

In the year 2083, chocolate is a controlled substance, and Anya's family is a modern mafia, importing chocolate and other prohibited luxuries to New York.   Her parents were both killed in mob hits, leaving Anya in charge of a younger sister, a brain-injured older brother, and a dying grandmother.  Anya considers herself the least romantic girl in the world...until she falls in love with Win Delacroix, the son of New York's new assistant DA.

Then Anya's ex-boyfriend nearly dies from eating a poisoned bar of Balanchine Chocolate, and the story begins to twist and turn and twist again.

Crime, drama, chocolate, forbidden romance...and this is only the first book!  At least two more in the Birthright series are already in the works. 

This book contains some sexual situations (including a steamy "near miss" scene in a hotel room) with no actual body parts on the page.  There is no cussing, some not-very-bloody mob violence, and several scenes of alcohol consumption by teens; in 2083, alcohol is legal for all ages, but coffee is not.

Recommended for ages 14 to adult.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

After the Golden Age

After the Golden Age  by Carrie Vaughn

Forensic accountant Celia West is the daughter of superheroes Captain Olympus and Spark, but her only "talent" seems to be a gift for getting kidnapped and held for ransom.  When the insane supervillian Simon Sito (aka The Destructor) is captured and prosecuted for tax evasion, Celia finds her chance to help bring evil to justice.  However, her investigation uncovers a conspiracy that might be the key to the origin of Commerce City's superheroes...and more.

Fast action, excellent writing, great characters, a unique setting, a little romance, and some tactful off-page sexual situations.  This book is written and published for adults, but it will be welcomed by teen readers of superhero fiction. 

Highly recommended for ages 14 and up.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

S.E.X. the all-you-need-to-know progressive sexuality guide

S.E.X. : the all-you-need-to-know progressive sexuality guide to get you through high school and college  by Heather Corinna

Teens who want to know everything about sex:  here's your book. 

Complete (and I do mean complete) information to answer all the questions you've ever had (and possibly some you never considered).  Body image, relationships, masturbation, STDs, pregnancy (and prevention of STDs and pregnancy) as well as the "mechanics" of kissing, mutual masturbation, and various types of intercourse are discussed in frank, readable language. 

The author "translates" medical terms into slang terms (and vice versa) to make the information in this book as accessible as possible. She also addresses many topics that traditionally have been skipped over in sex information books: pornography, relationship skills, gender identity issues, and detailed information about the process and the phyical and mental ramifications of abortion.

Obviously, this book could be problematic in many public schools, and probably too much information for middle schools or junior high schools. However, the information is good, current, and needful. 

This is a $16.95 investment that libraries should try to make wherever possible.  Recommended.

Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens  by Libba Bray
When a plane crash-lands on a (supposedly) deserted island, a small group of teenaged beauty pageant contestants are stranded away from parents, television cameras, and a powersupply for the straightening irons.  Will they turn all Lord of the Flies? Will the Sparkle Ponies prevail?  What will happen to their newfound sense of independence and self-worth when a ship full of faux rock star pirates lands on the island?  

Most importantly: what will happen when the television cameras and Corporation representatives reveal themselves in the heroic conclusion?

Satire?  Oh, yes.  Social commentary?  That too.  Wickedly hilariously funny?  Yes, yes, YES! 

HIGHLY recommended for teen girls, and parents of girls, and teachers of girls, and anybody who ever talks to girls (including boys).  This book contains sexual situations, GLBTQ characters, feminists, corporation stooges, an insane dictator of a tiny country called ChaCha, and a little bit of cussing. 

Also: some really good tips on alternative uses for feminine dipilatory cream.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Doing It Right

Doing It Right : making smart, safe, and satisfying choices about sex
by Bronwen Pardes

With chapter headings like "The Lowdown on Down Below", "Planning, Not Parenthood", "LGBTQ...Which One R U?" and "Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite", it's easy to tell that this book is a cheery, chirpy, and frank guide to sexual information.  The data is up-to-date, with online and toll-free contact information for organizations like Planned Parenthood, as well as for sources of emergency contraception, adoption resources, and STD testing locations.

The writing is naturally friendly without being condescending, the information is complete without being overwhelming, and the narration is uninhibited without being embarrassing.  The author's gentle sense of humor pervades the book, but she also offers non-judgemental advice on sexual decision-making that will make sense to teens. 

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Unshelved = bookish laughter!

If you don't already get a daily giggle in your inbox, you are missing out. 

Unshelved comics aren't just for library staff--they will tickle anybody who has ever squinted at a situation and said "Huh?"

Here's my favorite comic, which seems like it was designed especially for Sex in the Library...and the cartoonists have graciously granted us permission to re-print it here:

Click the link in the caption to biggify the picture and view the comic as it originally appeared on the Unshelved website on August 22, 2011.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lips Touch Three Times

Lips Touch Three times  by Laini Taylor, illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo
Three stories of supernatural love, each of which pivots around a single kiss. 
In the first story, a dead grandmother might be the only one who can save Kizzy from the seductive promises of the goblins. The second story features an old woman who makes a demonic deal to save the lives of children, and agrees to allow a newborn baby to take on a curse to bind the deal...a curse that the child contains until she grows up and falls in love. The third story is a tale of mothers, children, and a fey and magical race called the Druj. 
What took me so long to read this book?  I suppose that somehow I thought it was "just another kissing book", maybe with a vampire in it.  It is not just another kissing book.  The tales are dark, enticing, and entrancing, with hints of longing and a hope (but not a promise) of salvation that will draw readers into each story, beautifully illustrated in shades of red and grey.  As soon as I finished reading it, I knew three people with whom I wanted to share it. 
Highly recommended for ages 14 to adult; minimal cussing, some implied violence (including very muted and off-page sexual violence) and three profoundly significant kisses. 

Monday, August 22, 2011


Glimpse  by Carol Lynch Williams

Yes, we are all tired of novels in poem form.  Yes, it is easier to read about abuse if it is in poem form.  And yes, you do need to read this one.

Glimpse begins with 12 year old Hope talking her sister out of the gun that she is about to use to kill herself.  Liz, who is 14, is taken to a mental hospital.  This begins a series of back flashes through Hope's eyes of a severely dysfunctional family where mom has become a prostitute because it pays so much better than working anywhere else; where Hope has all the dreams and simple reality of a 12 year old.  And where the sisters are told to take care of each other, even if it means that 14 year old Liz will perform as a prostitute and cry all night but keep that from her sister to protect her,  After the psychiatrist and her mother both want the diary Liz kept, Hope finally realizes where it is and reads it, finding out why Liz cried every night, and why she won't talk about what happened to her. 

The verse format does not spare the harsh reality from the reader, although the reader will have figured it out long before Hope does.  Recommended for 8th grade and up.  Sexual parts mentioned; sexual acts alluded to.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Swim the Fly

Swim the fly  by Don Calame

Matt, Sean and Coop, best friends since grade school, always set a goal for themselves for the summer.  This summer the goal is:  to see a real, live girl naked.  While they are doing this, Matt also decides that he wants to swim the 100 yd butterfly – a grueling event for any swimmer, and one Matt will need to really practice to even attempt; but he will impress Kelly, a new girl on his swim team- whose boyfriend also swims the 100 yd fly.  

This is a laugh-out-loud, read-to-anyone-around book.  The extents to which his friends go to help Matt avoid swimming this event are hilarious.  The lengths to which Matt will go to keep his friends from actually seeing Kelly naked while not alerting them to the fact that he is doing just that are outstanding.  When Matt does fall in love, we all cheer.  Vomiting, pooping, possible naked girls- what junior high boy wouldn’t want this book?  Ok what adult male wouldn’t want this book?  Or is that too redundant?  Even the adults in this book are well drawn.

Sexual situations; coarse language; raunchy situations;  ages 13 and up.


Sweethearts  by Sara Zarr

What is your earliest memory?  Do you remember being 3?  Jennifer does.  

What is your strongest memory?  For Jennifer it was 5th grade.  That was when everyone at school called her “Jennifer Fattifer, and her only friend was Cameron.  

Strong memory-involved bits of flashbacks continue through the book...including some parts of that memory that Jennifer can’t face yet...including some parts that she has never shared with anyone but Cameron. Then things change dramatically - Cameron disappears.  Everyone says he was killed.  

Now flash-forward to when Jennifer is 17.  Jennifer’s mother is remarried and they move- and Jennifer remakes herself into the thin, fun Jenna with the gorgeous football player.  But you know that strong memory?  It keeps coming back in bits and snatches.  Then Cameron reappears, and he says they must face that memory together.  

Sexual and physical abuse; coarse language; ages 14 up

Be More Chill

Be More Chill  by Ted Vizzini

Jeremy, class geek, lusts after girls.  But how can a dweeb like him even approach them? 

With a new "pill"!  The pill is actually a computer device that implants into the brain, telling step-by-step how to score with a girl.  At first, the voice in Jeremy's brain is pretty funny--the reader even agrees with him:  "First we need to fix your clothes, your body odor, and your work-out regime."  It becomes funnier when, as a part of meeting and just being with girls, the voices advises him as he is talking.  Jeremy pulls back words, restates things, and seemingly is listening to a voice in his head.  How could that be?

It becomes unfunny when we remember, and plot for, the single-purpose conquest.  Well,
maybe it's just me being a female and reading this....   Nevertheless, this funny, quirky, great story contains some bad language and some plot twists that could make it problematic for junior high. 

Sexual comments, situations; coarse language; ages 14 up
But it's hilarious!


After  by Amy Efaw
When Devon's mother finds her home from school on the couch, she is delighted:  with her job schedule, she doesn't have much time to spend with her daughter.  When the police arrive to ask questions about a newborn baby found in the trash nearby, Devon's mom would rather flirt with the officer and ignore his question.  When the policeman questions Devon, however, he notices blood on the sofa...and everything falls apart.

Devon has been pregnant, hiding the fact from everyone with bulky clothes and jogging pants.  Most of all, she hides it from herself.  She is in a complete denial that becomes very believable.  Devon is an honor student and a top soccer player.  Everyone around her accepts her easy lies.  The trial that follows allows Devon to go back in time to the first sexual encounter that led to the pregnancy, and to the horrible re-enactment of the birth. It is this scene that will place the book squarely in the hands of more mature readers. 

A complex book, full of suspense, and a realistic plot will keep readers going.  Devon't character will pull readers in; certainly the subject matter will foster endless discussions.  Not to be missed.  Flash-back sex scenes handled well; violent birthing scene; ages 14 up

The ABC's of Kissing Boys

The ABC's of Kissing Boys by Tina Ferraro
Parker has lost her place on the soccer team, being relegated to junior varsity. In a lame-brain but zany scheme to get back on the team and not make the coach angry, Parker sets up her elaborate plan that involves a kissing booth at the fund raiser/beginning of school fair. She includes her brother, now in law school, also a favorite of the coach, who adds a choice parking spot for the coach as a prize into the mix.

Only problem?

No kissing skills.

Parker therefore enlists the aid of her neighbor and longtime friend Tristan. Do we see where this is going? Yes, but only because it climbs out of the "I can see this a mile ahead" hole.

As Parker juggles Tristan, her best friend, girls on the soccer team who hate her, and the coach, she realizes that she is losing control over them all.

Not intense, just plain fun. Will you learn to kiss by reading this? Maybe.  Some allusion to sex, ages 12 up

A good companion book to Confessions of a Serial Kisser (Van Draanen).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How to Get Suspended and Influence People

How to Get Suspended and Influence People
by Adam Selzer
14-year-old Leon sarcastically narrates the events that result when he decides to make an avant-garde sex education movie as an assignment for his "gifted and talented" class. Leon's video is weird but comforting, irrational but informative...and very quickly, banned at school.

Leon and his classmates address some common contradictions found in public school where masturbation is often called normal but more often considered vulgar, where nudity may be classical but still censored, and where kids and adults will never see eye-to-eye.  Although the story is relatively predictable, the writing is quirky, engaging, and funny.

This fast-paced novel will appeal to middle-readers who wonder what "normal" is and if they will ever be it. No violence, some cuss words, frequent references to nudity, body parts, and all the other things that absolutely fascinate 14-year-old boys. The book has a few on-page kisses, but everyone stays fully clothed, even when the garage blows up. Ages 12 to 16.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Photo shoot

We need a new photo for the sidebar!   Please express preferences in the comments.

the photographer surprised us

Star Trek-esque soft focus

Mary Jo laughs at everything, while I am much more serious

Coyness = virtue?

trading "good parts" in the stories

Trading the REALLY good parts of the stories

Our wickedness : it shows up on film sometimes

The caption overhead sez it all

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sex in the....Microsoft Store!

Come have Sex with us!

Mary Jo and Aarene will host a live SEX IN THE LIBRARY
at the Microsoft Store in Bellevue Washington

Wednesday, July 27th

We'll talk about some steamy titles and give some books away to lucky members of the audience.

Join us!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

When Janie was nine years old, she thought that that living on a farm and milking goats every morning was fun and cool and exciting. Now that she's a freshman in high school--in a city, where nobody else milks goats or gathers eggs before getting on the school bus--she thinks that living on a farm is weird.

Janie doesn't want to be weird. She wants to be normal. Then she joins the school Jam Band, meets an elderly man who turned a burned cross into yard art, makes friends with a sweet boy named Monster, and agrees to help her mother host a hootenanny. Before she knows what is happening, Janie has left "normal" ten miles behind her.

No cussing, no on-page violence (the civil rights activists do relate their fears of violence in Missippippi prisons during the 1960's but those events are far removed from the present action), no sex, but there are some very enjoyable romances and one romantic fail.

Recommended for ages 12 to adult.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Half Brother

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

13-year-old Ben Tomlin is accustomed to to parents making important decisions without any regard for his preferences or feelings. They've done it his whole life. But it seems to Ben that he might at least be asked if he wants to move across the country from Toronto, ON to Victoria BC so that his parents can pursue a new research project. Ben isn't very enthusiastic about adding a baby chimpanzee to the family at first. Gradually, however, teaching Zan sign language becomes Ben's project.

And then, the project funding fails.

Thoughtful and sweet, the story explores the boundaries of scientific ethics as well as the relationship between animals and people. The emotional sub-plot of Ben's experiences with his family and his first girlfriend are funny and pertinent as well.

Highly recommended for ages 12 to adult.

Minimal cussing; some tame sexual situations between young teens are tactfully addressed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Feeling Wrong in Your Own Body

Feeling Wrong in Your Own Body: understanding what it means to be transgendered by Jaime A. Seba

In clear, non-emotional terms, this text (and others in the Gallup Guide to Modern Gay Lesbian and Transgender Lifestyle series) outlines the issues, facts, and myths about transgendered persons. Information for the book was gathered from the medical community, the transgendered political community, and from individuals who identify themselves on the specturm of transgender, as well as parents, siblings, and spouses of transgendered people.

With vocabulary defined in context and also in adjacent sidebars, "extra info" boxes of related information, and plenty of quotes from people who deal with the confusion of transgender on a daily basis, this book will be useful for questioners of all ages. Each chapter also contains a bibliography of books and internet resources for further inquiry.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Dreadnought  by Cherie Priest
Mercy Lynch is a recently-widowed nurse working in a Confederate hospital during a strangely-elongated American Civil War when she gets news that her long-missing father is injured and possibly dying in the distant state of Washington.  Mercy immediately leaves the hospital and journeys West aboard the locomotive Dreadnought, surrounded by all kinds of characters:  a Texas Ranger, a spy, hostile Indian warriors, Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers, Mexican bandits, ladies of easy virtue, and a huge army of zombies.

Steampunk fun in the altered American West : it doesn't get better than this!  Don't look for historical accuracy here--the history of this  America has taken a sharp turn away from our reality, and into a very interesting place of its own.  Dreadnought is the sequel to this author's Boneshaker (another steampunk story, set in gold-rush Seattle), but stands alone beautifully.

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.  Some romance but no on-page sex (the ladies of pleasure go off-stage for business purposes), some drugs (including the drugs that turn soldiers into zombies!), some wartime violence, plus a few bloody scenes of amputation in a Civil War-era hospital.

The Painted Boy

The Painted Boy  by Charles de Lint
When Jay Li was an 11-year-old kid living in Chicago, the image of a dragon appeared embedded on the skin of his back.  The dragon is not a tattoo, it is, rather, an outward sign of Jay's true inner power as a member of the Yellow Dragon Clan.  Jay's grandmother Paupau trains the boy for six years, and then turns him loose in the world to find his place in it...or possibly, to die in the attempt.

Jay ends up in a small barrio town in Southern Arizona which is dominated by bandas (gangs). With his new friend Rosalie,  his love-interest Anna, a jackalope/girl called Lupita, and a rock band called "Malo Malo", Jay draws on his immature dragon power to drive violence away from town.  However, the bandas are not going to leave without a fight.

Fans of the author will welcome this new tale of contemporary magic; newcomers to the genre may be lost among the confusing powers of the animal clans.  For a better introduction to DeLint's wonderful alternate-universe, readers may want to explore the recent short-story compilation The Very Best of Charles DeLint.

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.

Five Flavors of Dumb

Five Flavors of Dumb   by Antony John
Piper is a high school senior in Seattle who just might be the best possible manager for the rock band called "Dumb".  After all, Piper is deaf, and can't hear how bad the band sounds.  Besides, since her parents dipped into Piper's college funds to pay for cochlear implants for her baby sister, Piper needs money.

Piper's business savvy is the real key to success for Dumb: she recognizes their strengths, and helps them to strengthen their weaknesses.  However, Piper's savvy stops at "business"; she is remarkably dense when it comes to recognizing that one of the musicians loves her. 

Piper is not a "deaf character"; instead, she is a terrific character with strong opinions, a terrific sense of sarcastic humor (she names her terrible old car the USS Immovable), a deep connection to her family, and a connection to deaf society that may be new territory for many readers.  The Seattle setting is integral to the plot, as Piper and Dumb chase around the city in search of the musical history of rock and roll icons Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. 

Extra stars are awarded for the author's note acknowledging the definitive biographies of Hendrix and Cobain written by Richmond Beach resident Charles R. Cross.

Highly recommended for readers ages 14 and up.  The narrative contains references to the rock-and-roll drug/alcohol culture, but there is no on-page drug use or sexual situations.  The romance is sweet and satisfying. 

Geek Fantasy Novel

Geek Fantasy Novel  by E. Archer
Geek-boy Ralph joins his British cousins on a series of mad quests through twisted fairy-tale landscapes populated by a wicked sorceress, thousands of enslaved sparkle-flinging fairies, and some bunnies that belch fire.

Fun, right?


Despite forcing myself to read half the book, I never actually believed that Ralph is a geek (using a cell phone to send a text message is not tremendously geeky, honestly).  The soceress (who also sells aerobic equipment on cable TV) is unconvincing.  The quests are random and nonsensical--not in a hilarious, mind-bending  "Monty Python" way, but more in a "I wrote this book in a month and then didn't do anything else with it" way.

The bunnies really do belch fire, but only for a page or two.

For best results, I recommend that readers just pick up a copy of the book, look at the terrific cover art, read the amusing blurb on the back, and then read something else.  Because truthfully, this review of the book is funnier than the book itself.

Not recommended.

Maybe Never, Maybe Now

Maybe Never, Maybe Now  by Kimberly Joy Peters

Caitlyn has survived an abusive relationship with her former boyfriend Tyler, and is now trying to move on with her life.  She embarks on a semester-long study abroad program in Quebec, immersing herself in the French language and the life of a daughter in a friendly, overcrowded host family.  Also in Quebec is Caitlyn's faithful friend Connor, who wants to be more than a friend.  But how much more?

Caitlyn's reactions to Connor (who is admirably respectful) border sometimes on panic-stricken.  She recognizes that, despite time and therapy, she has not completely recovered from her time with Tyler, and is clearly unready for intimacy. Adding to Caitlyn's angst (there is a lot of angst in this book) is the letter from her long-missing father, who wants Caitlyn back in his life. 

While most professional reviewers liked this book, Caitlyn's angst-y reliance on horoscopes, mood rings, and coin-flipping to make decisions made my teeth itch a bit.  Still, the intended audience will probably lap it up.  The book is second in a series about Caitlyn and her family and friends, but stands alone adequately.  Appropriate for middle-school and high school audiences, especially reluctant readers.

In a Heartbeat

In a Heartbeat  by Loretta Ellsworth

This is the story of two girls. 

16-year-old Eagan, a figure skater bound for the Olympics, is dead after she hits her head on the boards during a competition.  In life, she loved to skate, loved her boyfriend, and loved her parents--even though she frequently fought with her mother.  Now Eagan experiences a series of flashbacks in a "grey between-place". 

Shy 14-year-old Amelia has lived with a failing heart for several years, and knows that in order  to receive a heart transplant, somebody else has to die.  She wants to be normal, but has been so ill for so long that she doesn't know where to begin.  After Eagan's heart is transplanted into Amelia, the girl is able to walk, and even run...and she begins to dream of Eagan's life, to act like Eagan, and even to crave Eagan's favorite purple lollipops.

The concept of "cellular memory" has plenty of anecdotal support, but real research is still pending.  Still, the idea is interesting enough to keep readers turning the pages to see the many ways that Eagan is able to assist Amelia from beyond the grave.  No sex, drugs, or rock and roll, but there are a few tactful scenes of teen snuggling.

Recommended for middle school and high school readers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sex in the Library celebrates St. Valentine's Day--with booktalks!

The SITL librarians, ever-poised for action, leaped into February 14th's sugar-laden mushiness.

Armed with two gigantic boxes of teen books, stacks of booklists printed on pink paper, and a big tin of chocolate kisses, we invited 8th graders to listen and talk about the topic that simultaneously fascinates them and scares them spitless:


We talked about books that feature Star Trek Sex (Shiver, by Maggie Steifvater)...and full-frontal on-page nekkidness (Forever, by Judy Blume)...

...and lots of other books from all parts of the subtle-to-nekkid spectrum.

In the talkback portion of the program, kids told us which books they thought were appropriate--and not appropriate--for a school library.
As usual, they surprised us.

In ten years of presenting Sex in the Library booktalks, we've seen student opinions change dramatically.

Students in late June 2000 told us that on-page sex in books was not okay for school library books, but on-page violence was fine.

Their reasoning?

"We see violence on television news all the time, but nobody ever shows people having sex on the news."
Their perspective changed dramatically in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Suddenly, the teen violence in Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden was not as acceptable...because the kids in the book are, essentially, terrorists.

For several years we saw the "T" word being almost more objectionable than the "G" word.

Oh yeah, the "G" word?


Until recently, sexual content between fictional gay characters was very squinchy territory among our middle school audience members.

When Brent Hartinger's book Geography Club was banned at nearby University Place School District in 2005, nobody seriously believed that the challenge was supported by the school superintendent because the protagonist meets up with a stranger that he'd encountered online.

Everybody, including the students, understood that the book was targeted because the main characters are gay teens.

Until recently, many 8th graders told us that banning a book about gay teens from school libraries was, probably, a good idea.

The topic was not appropriate for kids their age, they said.
This year, we noticed that students not only publicly support books about gay teens, they support books about gays AND about lesbians AND transgendered persons, AND they think that these books should be in the school library.The current class of 8th grade students is remarkably different from their peers 10 years ago...and remarkably similar as well. They are fascinated, they are embarrassed, they are intrigued.

They want sex.

Significantly, they want sex in the library

Who can blame them?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Stork by Wendy Delsol
16-year-old Katla did not want to leave her father and sunny, fashionable California behind when the divorce was finalized, but her mom gave her no choice and off they moved to Norse Falls, Minnesota. There, she becomes an outcast almost immediately because of an impulsive night with another girl's boyfriend...but there is some other reason that the town views Katla with suspicion.

Adding to the mystery is Katla's new and mysterious power: she is a Stork, one of the mysterious band of women who work to unite a "baby-to-be" with the correct "mother-to-be."

The novel combines a quirky, modern protagonist with "norse mythology lite"; the result is not a classic but is fun and fluffy enough to appeal to teens who want a book about unusual relationships with a bit of supernatural romance. No cussing, some kissing and some off-page sexual situations.

Recommended for ages 14 to adult.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Maddy and Rogan come from a line of Shakespearean actors. They are the children of brothers; Maddy's family consists of only daughters and Rogan's family has only sons. Both families live in the family compound, and the houses are close to each other. Much comment is made about the "kissing cousins", and Maddy and Rogan have always been inseperable.

When Rogan finds an intricate toy theatre locked away in a storage room, the room becomes a refuge where he and Maddy can have peace...and eventually, sex. Rogan pulls away from real life as Maddy begins to embrace us.

This is a tragic novel that never pulls the reader into the characters. Although the form will appeal to literature teachers, teens will shrug after completing this (fortunately) short novella.