Teen Young Adult Favorites of 2021

When teens visit the library and want to talk about a book that they really loved, it makes a librarian’s day! At least it makes my day! As COVID restrictions have been lifted and we have had more in person programs here at my library, I have seen and talked to more teens. I have heard of a few repeat favorites of 2021 so far. Let me share them with you!

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley -this is such a good representation of Indigenous people and such an intense but needed read.

We are Inevitable by Gayle Forman (Gayle is always a favorite)- this one that involves bookstores and books, has become a favorite.

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli- this one has received mixed reviews but a lot of teens loved the theater aspect of it.

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart- this one is one that we can’t keep checked in! The teens are loving the magic, the rivalry, and the fantasy in this one

Firekeeper's Daughter

We Are InevitableKate in WaitingWitches Steeped in Gold (Witches Steeped in Gold, #1)

A few others that aren’t 2021 published but teens have been discovering and raving about.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater- as many teens read her other series’ they branch out and try some of her other works and this has been a favorite among many teens. A little bit of magical realism with Stiefvater’s amazing voice.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco- this series has been topping the charts of teen reads this summer with mystery and thriller vibes the teens love.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy- this series has become popular again as Murphy continues to add books. And with the movie on Netflix.

The Scorpio RacesStalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)Dumplin' (Dumplin', #1)

If teens out there know of more books that are sparking their interest this year, old or new, please tell us about them! We love to hear about what you are reading and to hear about books that need more attention or have fallen through the cracks. Enjoy!



YA Set During the Summer (Surprise!)

Summer is my least favorite season. However, I do enjoy reading outside, especially at the beach or under a shady tree. If you, and your teens like books set during the summer, here are ten recommendations:

Camp Cool for the summer Juliet takes a breath Loveboat, Taipei Only mostly devastated
Summer of salt The summer of everything The summer of Jordi Perez : (and the best burger in Los Angeles) The way you make me feel This one summer


CAMP by L.C. Rosen: “At Camp Outland, a camp for LGBTQIA teens, sixteen-year-old Randall “Del” Kapplehoff’s plan to have Hudson Aaronson-Lim fall in love with him succeeds, but both are hiding their true selves.”

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler: “Larissa Bogdan spent her summer vacation with her mom on the Outer Banks, working on her tan and making new friends like Jasmine Killary. Now back at Stratford High, and has attracted the attention of superstar quarterback Chase Harding, the guy she’s crushed on since middle school. Then Jasmine shows up, a transfer student who entices Stratford’s student body with her glittering beauty and casual-cool style. Jasmine isn’t even acknowledging their friendship– much less the hot summer nights they spent together. It was supposed to be a playful fling, but now that Larissa’s got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?”

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera: “Juliet, a self-identified queer, Bronx-born Puerto Rican-American, comes out to her family to disastrous results the night before flying to Portland to intern with her feminist author icon–whom Juliet soon realizes has a problematic definition of feminism that excludes women of color.”

Loveboat Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen: When Ever Wong’s parents sent her away for the summer, she’s expecting Chien Tan: a strict, educational immersion program in Taiwan. Instead, she finds the infamous “Loveboat.” There, Ever is surrounded by prodigies, like Rick Woo, Chinese American wonder boy and longtime bane of her existence; Ever’s roommate, the confident and clever Sophia Ha, as glamorous as she is sharp; and the intimidatingly cool Xavier Yeh, heir to an international tech empire. But her classmates are more interested in the nonstop Taipei nightlife than anything to do with the curriculum. Hookups abound, snake-blood sake flows, and adult supervision is nonexistent. For the first time ever, Ever is discovering what freedom tastes like and it’s exhilarating. But summer will end and Ever will be back to her parents and the future they’ve planned for her. Will she let this glimpse of freedom go – or will Loveboat give her the courage to pursue the future she dreams of, and the Ever Wong she wants to be?

Only Most Devastated by Sophie Gonzales: Will Tavares is the dream summer fling, and Ollie thinks he’s found his happily ever after. Then Will stops texting him back, and a family emergency has Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school in North Carolina. Turns out Collinswood High is where Will goes to school– but here he is a class clown, closeted– and a bit of a jerk. When Will starts popping up in every area of hiss life, Ollie would be an idiot to trust him again. Right?

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno: “No one on the island of By-the-Sea would call the Fernweh women what they are, but if you need the odd bit of help, such as a sleeping aid concocted by moonlight, they are the ones to ask. Georgina Fernweh waits for the tingle of magic in her fingers– magic that has already touched her twin sister, Mary. But with her eighteenth birthday looming at the end of her last summer on the island, Georgina fears her gift will never come. She meets and falls in love with Prue Lowry, a visitor to the island. When a three-hundred-year-old bird, Annabella is found violently murdered, suddenly the island doesn’t seem so magical. Georgina turns to the Ouija board to discover the dark secrets of Annabella’s death.”

The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters: “Adulting is hard. Just ask Wes Hudson. An avid comic book geek, Wes excels at two things: slacking off and pining after his best friend, Nico. Advice from his friends, ‘90s alt-rock songs, and online dating articles aren’t helping much with his secret crush. And his dream job at Once Upon a Page, the local indie bookstore, is threatened when a coffee shop franchise wants to buy the property. To top it off, his family won’t stop pestering him about picking a college major. When all three problems converge, Wes must face the one thing he’s been avoiding-adulthood.”

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding: “Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maureen Goo: “Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?”

This One Summer by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki: Rose and her parents have been going to Awago Beach since she was a little girl. It’s her summer getaway, her refuge. Her friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had, completing her summer family. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and Rose and Windy have gotten tangled up in a tragedy-in-the-making in the small town of Awago Beach. It’s a summer of secrets and heartache, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

Display Idea: Beloved Books and Their One-Star Amazon Reviews

Girl holding sign that says "read good books"

When creating book displays, my number one goal is to get books circulated, of course, but my second goal is to catch a patron’s attention enough that they stop and engage with the display. I had success with both goals when I created a display featuring popular books in which I put a bookmark that shared a funny or polarizing blurb from a one-star Amazon review.

I work in a high school library, so my collection contains various titles: YA, adult, classics, contemporary, and even some middle-grade selections. As I do with any display, I chose a wide range of titles and reading levels to face out for this one. I chose books that are popular at my school and books that are popular with the general public.

For the most part, I enjoyed tracking down blurbs to feature on the bookmarks. Still, I definitely had to search through many cringe-worthy “reviews” to find a sentence or two I thought was funny enough or would provoke the right amount of literary rage in my students.

Here are some of the blurbs and books I chose:

  • “Who I would recommend this book to is nobody.” (The Hunger Games)
  • “Charles Dickens is for old people that had nothing else to do.” (A Tale of Two Cities)
  • “To say that the writing style resembles supermarket romance novels is an insult to supermarket romance novels.” (Divergent)
  • “One star because it was a page-turner–that’s it. It was like eating a bag of Cheetos that you don’t even like because you want to get rid of them.” (Twilight)

If you’d like to recreate this display, feel free to use the documents I created or get creative and make your own. (I used Canva, my digital BFF.) Happy reading and display-ing!

Display Signs: One-Star Reviews Signs
Display Bookmarks: One-Star Reviews

Teen-planned Pandemic Programming

I started a Teen Advisory Board (TAB) at my branch a few months after I joined my system in 2018. Our numbers were small but steady, and we had just started planning Teen Summer Reading programs when the library system shut down due to the pandemic. During the pandemic, TAB could no longer meet in person so we meet over Zoom. We lost some members but kept a few.

When the Teen Programming budget was announced for my branch, I asked my TAB what they wanted to spend our $500 on. Here’s what they said!


Virtual Classic Film Party!

We used to select a movie to watch. They chose My Man Godfrey because they wanted a comedy. The event was hosted over Zoom and ran smoothly, and there were only a few technical difficulties (Amazon Prime was sharing sound but the screen was black, so I found the movie on YouTube). I created 15 Goody Bags for registrants. Goody Bags included snacks, a canned drink, and themed buttons. We spent about $80 on the Goody Bags. When people registered online, I called them to schedule their Goody Bag pick-up. We didn’t get a full house of 15 participants but the event was a lot of fun and gave us an opportunity to examine and discuss some parts of the movie that were not okay, namely racism and sexism.


Virtual Trivia

My library system recently purchased Crowdpurr. My branch’s Teen Advisory Board has hosted 3 trivia events so far via Crowdpurr, and we have another trivia event planned for this month. The program does not use any of our budget but it is something TAB has hosted monthly since April! TAB members come up with the categories/rounds (usually 6) and the questions for each category/round (usually 5). There aren’t any prizes but participants keep coming back and our attendance keeps growing!


Teen Mystery-Writing Contest

This event hasn’t happened yet but has been approved by my supervisor. Teens in the community will write a short mystery story of no more than 1,000 words that follows a prompt created by TAB. Three judges (two staff, one teen) will read the stories and select 3 winners.  The winners will be featured in our branch’s Gazette and each will get a prize basket. Prizes total around $70. Prize baskets will also include items we already have on hand at the branch.


Now that our branch is open at limited capacity and with limited hours, we are saving some of our budget in case we do in-person programming soon.

More Outdoor Programs

In late April, Bethany posted some great Outdoor Program ideas and I’m going to add some of my recent and upcoming offerings to her excellent list!

For summer, my library’s also doing outdoor programming (although a lot less than usual summers) and I’ve got a handful of ideas, some have been successful and some are still coming up and I hope will be successful!

First, I’ve moved my Dungeons & Dragons outside to the lawn. We’ve got some shade in the afternoon, and doing D&D outside adds an element of LARPing to it (especially for my younger participants who don’t like to sit still that long). It does involve a few added considerations as well: what do they roll dice in? My solution was copy paper box tops for a communal rolling area. I asked them to bring chairs or blankets and I’ve provided water bottles but most have brought their own. Overall, it’s worked really well and the kids have enjoyed it.

Second, I did a Stop Motion program outside. We were lucky enough to just get five iPad minis to use, but the app Stop Motion (logo an old fashion reel camera) is free and extremely easy to use on any device so if the teens have phones or devices they can use them easily. The kids paired off (most wearing masks but also outside) and I brought out some of our legos for them to set up things. They made great use of the background – grass or our brick plaza – and what I found was that although the advice is to keep the camera still, even moving the cameras freestyle made for some pretty cool videos.

Next, I did Minute to Win it. This one was a little harder outside, because I don’t have the tables the same way I do inside (and I have my inside set up down to a T) but I was able to use a combination of the tables we have outside and the ground to set up all the challenges and the kids loved doing some new challenges because we were outside, like a water sponge relay. I steered clear of any challenges that involved eating (no cookie face!) but did have them blow up their own balloons for two challenges.

Upcoming, I have a few more outdoor programs:

My messy science program is always run outside because it makes clean up so much easier! This year, I’m doing lava lamps, exploding sandwich bags, mentos & various kinds of colas a few others. I find most of my experiments for it off Science Bob’s site. I’m trying a new one this year with a homemade water fountain!

I’m going to do an Animal Craft Wars (Wars is a bit of a misnomer but the kids like the idea of feeling they’re competing) where each kid will get a bag of recyclable supplies plus masking tape and scissors. They will then have to make a toy for an animal using those supplies – whether a wild animal at a zoo or their pet or an animal in nature to help them with something – and describe to the others what their contraption does. Usually I have a common table they can take additional supplies from but this year I might not to maintain distancing and not touching all the same things.

Tie Dye and sidewalk chalk is another one of my usual summer programs that I do outside and I’m doing it again this summer. My plan is to use the sharpie and spray version so again, there’s no sharing of materials.

Like Bethany mentioned, I’m going to make ice cream, using the bag shaking method later in the summer too.


And that’s what I’m doing outdoors for the summer. Fall will be a different thing (although it’s been hard enough in the northeast with all our rain and/or extreme heat!)