Author Archive : Abby

The Hate U Give

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I waited for what felt like a full year to read this book. I put it on hold as soon as it came out and dropped everything when it arrived on my shelf. The hype for it was insane… but so well-deserved.

The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in two worlds. She spends her days in a predominantly white private school, where she watches what she says and how she says it. But when school is over and all her friends go home to their fancy houses and gates communities, Starr returns to Garden Heights, where she no longer has to worry about appearing a stereotype but she also has to deal with the realities of living in “the hood”.

Starr’s two worlds collide one evening when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Between riots, protests, allegations and assumptions, Starr discovers that her actions and words are more powerful than she ever thought. Speaking up could change her life and her community for ever. Speaking up will come with a price. But so will staying silent.

Tupac said that Thug Life means “The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everyone” and, as Starr learns and so many of us know, those words are still heartbreakingly relevant. This line reverberates through every page of Angie Thomas’s genius debut novel. Everyone needs to read this book and take its message to heart.

Hate begets hate. Violence leads to more violence.  And staying silent in the face of injustice changes nothing.

We need more books like this one. We need more diverse books, diverse protagonists, diverse authors writing in their own voice about what they know.

I won’t lie. This was not an easy book to read. I read it through tears and with an aching heart. But I would read it again in a second and I urge you all to read it too. It is one of the most important books written in our time.

Ready Player One שחקן מספר אחת

by  | Category: It's here!, Movie Madness, Must-Read Fiction, Pop Culture, Reading Lounge
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Hebrew to follow עברית בהמשך…

Hello friends!

I do this on For Your Leisure sometimes, but haven’t here yet. So welcome to the Teen Vortex’s first ever English-Hebrew post!

One of my responsibilities at VPL is the library’s Hebrew collection. The collection is housed at Bathurst Clark Resource Library, Dufferin Clark Library, and Pleasant Ridge Library (our three east area libraries). It’s an awesome collection and we are constantly adding to it, which is to say that if you want to read a book in Hebrew look no further than this link to find it. And if it’s not there, send out a request here and we will try to get it for you.

Okay. Enough shop talk. What I really came here to talk about is Ready Player One.

As you might know, this book by Ernest Cline has been adapted into a major motion picture that will be in theatres soon. Yay! I am so excited about this! Can you tell?

For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is the trailer for the film:

I highly recommend reading this book before the movie comes out (and also just in general because it’s great!). And now, if you wish, you can read it in Hebrew.

And that was basically the point of this post…

So, without further ado, the Hebrew portion of our day.

שלום חברים/ות!

אני כותבת פוסטים כאילו לפעמים בבלוג הראשי, אבל פה עדיין לא יצא לי. אז ברוכים/ות הבאים/ות לפוסט האנגלי-עברי הראשון של בלוג הנוער שלנו.

דבר ראשון, קצת קונטקסט: אחד התפקידים שלי בספרייה הוא האוסף העברי של הספרייה. האוסף נמצא בספריית בת’רסט קלארק, ספריית דפרין קלארק וספריית פלסנט רידג’ (שלושת הספריות באיזור מזרח). יש לנו אוסף מעולה ואנחנו מוסיפים ומעדכנים אותו כל הזמן, משמע אם יש משהו בעברית שאתם רוצים לקרוא או לראות כל שעליכם לעשות זה ללחוץ על הלינק הזה ולהתחיל לחפש. בנוסף, אם אתם/ן לא מוצאים/ות משהו שאתם/ן רוצים/ות תלחצו פה, תמלאו את טופס בקשה ואנחנו ננסה להוסיף אותו.

אוקיי, אז מספיק ענייני עבודה. מה שבאמת רציתי לדבר עליו זה שחקן מספר אחת.

ייתכן שכבר שמעתם/ן את השם הזה. מדובר בספר של ארנסט קליין שבקרוב מאוד הגרסה הקולנועית שלו יצא לאקרנים. יאיי!! אני ממש מתרגשת מזה!! שמתם/ן לב?

אם לא ראיתם/ן או אם בא לכם/ן לראות שוב, הטריילר לסרט נמצא למעלה.

אני ממש ממש ממש ממליצה על הספר הזה. גם אם אין לכם/ן רצון לראות את הסרט, כדאי לכם/ן לקרוא אותו. הוא מרגש, כיף וסחוף ומליון דברים אחרים!! ועכשיו אפשר לקרוא אותו גם בעברית.

וזהו… בעקרון זה כל מה שהיה לי לומר.

Ronit & Jamil… & my disappointment

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I usually don’t write about books I didn’t love. I get very uncomfortable using my (modest) platform in a negative way, or even a less than positive way. But I feel like I need to make an exception in the case of Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin.

I was so excited about this book. The subject matter spoke to me on so many levels that I was almost bursting at the seams when I got it.

Ronit & Jamil is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (get it?) set in present-day Israel. In this version, the star-crossed lovers are an Israeli daughter of a pharmacist and the Palestinian son of a doctor. And the whole story is told in verse or poems written by the protagonists.

I want to be clear: I didn’t hate this novel, I was just disappointed with it.

I wanted Ronit & Jamil to be amazing. I wanted it to move me and make me think. Sadly, it did not.

I mostly just felt that Laskin was hindered by the narrative structure she chose. The subject matter is so dense and so charged that a series of poems felt like a disservice. There is only so much a person can related in 14 lines of rhyming couplets.

I also felt, too often, that Laskin’s personal voice and politics weaseled their way into the text, making it difficult to believe the characters.

But I think the thing that was most upsetting to me was that it was clear in the writing that she was not actually from the region. She did a lot of research, that was evident. But you could tell she didn’t really know. It was in little things. It was in Ronit only knowing one Israeli singer, and it being the one who sings in English. In was in Ronit living in Ma’ale Adumim and saying it’s in the West Bank (regardless of whether it is or not, no one who lives there would say that). It was in Jamil quoting classic Muslim poets but no contemporary ones. At a time when so much emphasis is put on diversity in publishing, on authors of colour writing characters of colour, it felt out of place to have an outsider write something that requires an insider’s understanding.

I felt that Laskin skimmed the surface of a subject that deserved much more. Her book left me starving for more and I am eager to find it. We need more stories like these, stories that acknowledge the difficult reality we live in but recognize the glimmer of hope. But we need these stories to dig deep, to go the extra mile and represent the issues, we can’t just slap flowery language on the ugly bits and call it a day.

So no, I didn’t love Ronit & Jamil. But (!!) I urge you to read this book. You can do it in an hour (though that is another issue I have with it). Read it with an open mind and then please tell me what you think. And if you feel so moved, do me a favour and write your own version on our Write It blog because we need more stories about this and things like it.

Why I keep participating in NaNoWriMo even though I always fail

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I’m sure you’ve all noticed that it’s August. Which means that it’s the last month of summer (good news in my book but I know I’m not in the majority here). It means the TSRC party is coming up (BTW have you signed up yet? You really should).

For me, August also means that Camp NaNoWriMo just ended.

If you don’t know what that is, allow me to explain. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, proper occurs every November. As the title suggests, the goal is to write a whole novel in one month. Camp NaNoWriMo is an extension of this that takes place in July, but the goal is the same.

People have been extremely successful with NaNoWriMO. I’ve heard E. K. Johnston and Rainbow Rowell (both of whom I love beyond words) praise it and the work they results they achieved while participating. And so I was inspired to try.

To date I have taken part in NaNoWriMo and it’s ilk a total of 4 times. And, as the title of this post implies, I have technically failed a total of 4 times. So… you know… every time I did it.

But come November I will be taking part again. Any here’s why:

It’s an amazing experience regardless of the outcome. I don’t want to get all mushy and clichéd and be all “it’s not the destination that matters but the journey,” but in this case (for me) that’s actually true. So while I never actually reached my goal, I learned a lot and achieved a lot. And at the end of each month I had written a lot, and there was more of my work than there was before. And that’s something.

This year’s Camp NaNoWriMo was the best yet. Yes, I “failed” again. My goal had started at 50,000 words, and I adjusted it to 20,000 halfway through (because 50,000 words in one month is insane and I am an awe of anyone who can achieve that) and still only wrote 10,000.

But at the same time, I wrote 10,000 words of a novel that I’ve been tinkering with for the last 10 years. That’s almost 2 full chapters that a month earlier only existed in my brain. I roughly outlined my entire novel and half of it in detail.

So while technically, I only achieved 50% of my goal, I actually managed so much more! So basically, I no longer think about it in terms of failing. It’s not just about the goal, it’s about the process and the work and the thrill you get while you’re writing.

Now, why have I just spent all this time praising my achievement? Well, because I think everyone who has ever thought about writing anything should try it out. And I know that a lot of you have. There’s time, you have until November to make up your mind. You can write whatever you want. It can be as private or as public as you want. You can keep it in a drawer or publish it on your blog, our Write It blog, on SELF-e or on Wattpad (like me). It’s completely up to you.

As for me, I just wanted to challenge you to take a leap with your writing. And no worries, I’ll remind you when November draws nearer.

 

 

 

Get Gloomy

by  | Category: It's here!, Randomness
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I know it’s exam time and everyone’s stressed and miserable, so I thought I’d share something fun with you guys. And I figured since misery loves company I’d share the best, most miserable thing I could think of… a card game.

I’m sure you’re wondering how a card game can be awesome, fun, hilarious and miserable all in the same time, so let me explain.

This is not just any old card game. This is Gloom: The Game of Inauspicious Incidents & Grave Consequences. (BTW, did you know you can check out games from the library now?)

Gloom combines character cards, action cards and storytelling, and in a wonderfully gloomy twist the winner of the game is the person with the least amount of points.

So how do you play?

Each player gets a family of characters (five character cards per family). All the characters and families are unique and weird and wonderful, but my personal favorite Dark’s Den of Deformity, (for no other reason than I used to want to run away and join the circus…though maybe not this circus). You decide who goes first by determining who has had the worst day.

Now that you have your family and you know whose day sucked most the game can begin. On your turn you make two plays, which at face value means you play two cards. The cards you play could be modifiers which effect your Self-Worth (or someone else’s if you so choose), event cards which make things happen, or untimely death cards…I think you know what those do. But what makes your two plays, and the whole game, so great is that you are obligated (and the rules state this) to explain how these things happen.

For example: If on my first play I put down the “was beaten by beggars” modifier on my character Samson O’Toole, The Bearded Man, not only does her Self Worth drop to -15 but I have to explain how she got into that situation. So I would tell you that the beggars came to the circus gates to, you know, beg for food and Samson challenged them to a game of cards and the beggars won which made him really sad because up to that point he thought he was quite the card shark. See What I did there? And if my second play is to put down the “was delighted by ducklings” modifiers on one of your characters, giving a self-worth of +10, you have to figure out how that happened (MWAHAHAHAHA mine is an evil laugh).

The game ends when a player successfully kills his or her entire family and the winner is the player with the lowest Self Worth.

All this to say that this is the BEST game on the planet and if you don’t believe me here is Will Wheaton and friends delightfully torturing characters: