Using Social Media to Find New Books

I don’t about you, but every once and a while I go through a reading slump. It’s like when you can’t decide what movie to watch, but instead you can’t pick a book to read. When I have moments like this, I look to social media for some inspiration.

Facebook groups– These are amazing! Not only do participants post books they’re reading, they also ask for suggestions and often engage in a quick book discussions. One of my favorite parts of being a member of these groups is how honest people are. It also keeps me up to date on the new releases are current best sellers.

Following authors on Instagram– Personally, this is one of my favorite things to do in general. Authors are incredible people and love to share their love of reading. They will often post stories about what they’re currently reading, or share information about an author friend’s new book.

Friends on Goodreads- As a true bookworm, I love Goodreads. It’s such a great way to see what your friends are reading, how they rated books, and to see what authors are doing. I’ve been a member of Goodreads for years now and I have to tell you my absolute favorite part about it…THE GIVEAWAYS!! They are free to enter and you can add books to your To Read list. It’s kind of amazing.

Finding pins on Pinterest– Pinterest is the most addicting thing ever. The amount of boards I have with different recipes, teaching activities, and future office decor is insane. Some people create really great reading lists for each season, holiday or new releases. I love that you can get super specific with book lists, like apple picking for preschoolers, so I can find exactly what I’m looking for.

Swimming Sideways Book Review

It’s no secret that I LOVE a good YA novel. I’ve realized that I tend to gravitate towards dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi work, so it was nice escaping into a a realistic fiction piece.

Swimming Sideways, by C.L. Walters, is a relatable YA novel that focuses on the importance of family, love and friendship.

Our main character, Abby, has just moved from Hawaii to Oregon with her family (parents and twin brothers). Her parents are hoping for a fresh start so they can work on their marriage. Abby is hoping for a fresh start because of events that were out of her control in her old school (that involved social media).

As an older sibling myself, I love how protective Abby is when it comes to her family. Even though she is hurting from her own social media situation, she hides it from all the members of her family so they don’t have to worry, suffer, etc. She carries her secret alone and deals with the emotional side effects. Her pain is felt in the first few pages and readers question why there’s a Good Abby and a Bad Abby.

Abby’s home life is also not as clean as one would hope. It’s clear that her parents are having marital problems and the family is struggling emotionally. Usually, the YA books I read only focus on the love part of being a teenager, but Swimming Sideways also tackles the reality of problems at home. The realness that Walters created with this conflict not only puts readers in Abby’s shoes, but also shows adults how children are affected by words and actions. The use of Abby’s point of view really does shed light on how a teenager interprets experiences.

As with any great piece of literature, there’s a little bit of a love triangle. Abby spent time in Oregon growing up with her grandma, who happened to be neighbors with Seth. The two of them pick their friendship right up and start to date. Meanwhile, Abby is fascinated by the school “freak” Gabe, and makes friends with him. And just to thicken the plot, Gabe and Seth used to be best friends. If I say anymore I will give away some of the plot, but Walters does a beautiful job of showing readers that friendship is the foundation of a good dating relationship.

One of my favorite characters was Abby’s new best friend Hannah. Hannah approaches Abby in the cafeteria on her first day of school and goes out of her way to make Abby feel welcome. Through all that happens over the course of the novel, Hannah never leaves Abby’s side, providing a safety blanket that teenage girls need, especially in social situations. This reminds readers that it isn’t the quantity of friends, but the quality that is most important. There were a few times I wanted to reach through the pages and hug Hannah for being a true friend.

As a teacher, I know some of the situations my students have dealt with in their personal lives. What really drew me into this story was how so many real life situations are woven into this text. Dealing with relationships, family problems, abuse, social media, and the social pressure of being a teenager all come together in such a realistic way. The ending does leave readers on an intense cliff hanger, so be prepared.

This was one of those books that I stayed up all night reading. I messaged C.L. Walters on Instagram the next day because I had to tell her how sucked in I was (and that I was grateful the second book was already out).

I would recommend this book for students in grades 9-12, parents of teenagers, and teachers working with high school students.

For more information check out the author’s website here

Girls Like Me Book Review

The last few months have been a little crazy, but with summer here things have finally calmed down (well, kind of).

Last week I had a chance to read a new book, Girls Like Me by Lola StVil. I saw the book post on HMH Kids’ Instagram and thought I would give it a try. I’m so glad that I did!

Shay is an overweight 15 year old young lady. She is coping with the death of her father, trying to co-exist with a step mom, dealing with bullying by the Queen Bee (Kelly) at school, and working on making it to her 16th birthday. Like many teenage girls, Shay has a crush on the popular boy in school, Blake Harrison, but he doesn’t know she exists. Shay relies on her best friends, Boots (dying from a brain tumor) and Dash (the amazing gay sidekick) to deal with every day life.

Shay’s life completely changes when she starts talking to a boy from her high school online. Suddenly she is able to open up and be herself with Godot and begins to experience teenage love.

The structure of this text is very different from the traditional YA novels, it’s written in prose/poetry style! I will admit that there were a few parts that confused me because I couldn’t tell who was talking, but re-reading it once or twice cleared that up. Without the presence of paragraphs and dialogue, the reader is able to truly feel what Shay is writing. The first person narrative literally puts the reader in Shay’s head and feel her pain and confusion right along with her.

I was very similar to Shay as a teenager, and StVil’s writing was spot on. She was able to grasp the humor, drama, and fears of a 15 year old girl perfectly.

I’m currently teaching an Intro to Social Media class, and one of the topics we’ve discussed is how many teens’ lives revolve around technology and social media. This book is a clear example of this concept. Shay’s whole mood completely changes when she gets a message from Godot, and when they don’t message she is completely crushed. Shay’s enemy, Kelly, uses a website to bully Shay during the climax of the novel, further demonstrating how teenagers use cyberspace to live their lives.

Overall, this book is a fabulous quick read! I devoured it in about 2.5 hours in one sitting because I simply couldn’t put it down. I recommend this book for high school students because of the mature content and sexual references. I plan on suggesting this as a summer read for my high schoolers.