August 27, 2015

by Audrey,

Being a teenager can be tough. It is one of the most difficult phases of your life. As you grow up, there are more responsibilities: more homework, more expectations, and more pressure. On top of that, you’re trying to figure out who you are are, searching for your purpose - your true identity. It’s not easy, and it’s more difficult for some than for others. Many teenagers suffer with mental illness, and it is a constant struggle. I have very close friends that suffer with depression and anxiety. Some of them even turn to self harm. For the past few months, I’ve read a few coming-of-age stories, and all of them touch upon mental illness among teengers and the hardship that results. These books can give readers who are suffering with these types of mental issues a sense of hope, letting them know that they are not alone and that other people have to deal with the same issues every day.

It's Kind of a Funny StoryThe first book I read was It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. Stressed about growing up and having to deal with suicidal thoughts, 16-year-old Craig Gilner decides to check into a mental-health clinic and ends up staying at an adult psychiatric unit. During his stay, Craig meets a group of patients that help him overcome his anxiety and find his true self.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is another one of my favourite coming of age novels that deals with the issue of mental illness. Charlie, a socially awkward teenager, struggles to make friends on his first day of high school, until he meets Sam and her stepbrother, Patrick. Together, they develop an unbreakable friendship, allowing Charlie to discover first love, the joy of being young, the escape music can give you, and the thrill of doing something new.

The Catcher in the RyeThe next novel I am going to recommend has been compared many times to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, due to its writing style and the similar struggles the main characters in each novel face. And this classic book is none other but The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger! Expelled from Pencey Prep (a private school), Holden Caulfield leaves campus two days earlier and heads out to New York to explore. Meeting people of the past and present, Holden struggles with the idea of growing up and losing innocence.

Finding Audrey The last book I’m going to talk about is a book that caught my eye due to its title - Finding Audrey. Honestly, I actually only picked it up for the reason that my name was on the cover of the novel. I did read the summary in the inside cover though, so I didn’t entirely judge the book by its cover. Anyways, that doesn’t really matter! Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella is about a teenage girl named Audrey, who has developed an anxiety disorder due to an unfortunate incident. Her family and Dr. Sarah are there to help her, but she is making slow, steady progress. Then she meets a Linus and a deep relationship develops between them, helping not only Audrey, but her family as well.

These books capture not only the real struggle of growing up and trying to find yourself, but the mental issues that many teenagers experience (whether it’s anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD etc.). I highly recommend reading all of these books. These novels illustrate the reality of being a teenager and the difficulty of overcoming adolescence.

 Do you have a book that helped you figure out some aspect of your life? What was it?

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August 20, 2015

by Rena,

UnwindWhat kind of weird word is "dystology"?  In this case, it refers a series of four books.  The Unwind series by Neal Shusterman was suppose to only have three books in it (a trilogy), but when the third book surpassed 600 pages, Shusterman and his editor wisely decided to create a fourth book to end the series.  "Dystology" has no actual meaning in the dictionary, and is most likely a play on the word 'trilogy' and 'dystopian'.

UnDividedThis series took seven years to be completed.  Unwind (the first book) was published in 2007 and the final book, UnDivided, came out just last year; but believe me, it was worth the wait.  I just finished UnDivided and it was an incredible, heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, brilliant end to the series.

The Unwind Dystology takes place in an alternate world where parents have the option of "unwinding" their children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen; through the process of "unwinding", the child's organs are harvested for donations.  However, because every piece of the unwound is transplanted into someone in need, it is believed that the child's life does not truly end.  The series centers on three teens: Conor, who's parents have chosen to unwind him due to his difficult behavior; Risa, who is a ward of the state and is being unwound due to budget cuts; and Lev, a tithe, someone born and raised to be unwound.  These three characters are brought together in unlikely circumstances during the first book and must seek safety from the horrors of unwinding.  However as the series progresses, many unique and wonderful characters are introduced and the plot intensifies until the entire process of unwinding is called into question.  This series has truly believably characters, beautiful writing, and an exciting plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

EverlostHowever, I have had some people tell me they couldn't get through it because it was too dark or disturbing.  If this isn't your thing, Neal Shusterman has many other amazing books to his name.  He has written over thirty books by last count and the library has a good number of them in their system. 

The Skinjacker Trilogy is an equally fantastic series about the strange half-way land between life and death called Everlost, filled with all the places that no longer exist and inhabited by children.  Although this series is should be equally dark, given that it deals with death, it is actually a light and fun series.

Challenger DeepShusterman's newest book, Challenger Deep, focuses on issues of mental health.  It is an incredibly touching and real look at schizophrenia and a book I truly recommend to everyone.

HungerOr, if you are interested in this idea of a 'dystology', here are some other four-book series of the none dystopian variety;

The Eragon Series by Christopher Paolini (fantasy)

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Series by Jackie Kessler (teenage issues/ urban fantasy)

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvator (urban fantasy.  Unfortunately the fourth and final book won't be out until 2016, but it is never too early to start this amazing series).


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August 13, 2015

by Megan

You’ve heard the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? I know it’s got deeper metaphorical meaning intended to encourage us to look below the surface of what we see, but I won't lie to you; I judge books by their covers. At least, the chances that I’ll pick up a book are greatly increased by a clever title or interesting cover art.

When a book is really popular and goes through many reprints, the cover is often updated, and it's always exciting to see the new cover unveild. For example, let’s compare the original cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with the reworked cover from 2014:

 Harry Potter and the Philosophers StoneHP 2014








 And now the adult version:

 HP adult








 Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, anyone?

 The Golden CompassThe Golden Compass 2014








Or how about Garth Nix’s Sabriel:









Of course, new doesn’t necessarily mean better. I own about three (maybe four… ok, five) copies of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, mainly because I love the variety of covers. Each image gives the story a different flavour and focus, making it feel like a different book.

The HobbitThe Hobbit










 The HobbitThe Hobbit








 And don’t even get me started on international book covers! If you’ve never checked out the international covers for some of your favourite books, give it a try. It’s interesting to see what scenes or characters are given pride of place in other countries, and can really impact your perception of the story.

That being said, what do you guys think? Undoubtedly the story behind the cover is what is most important, but which book would you be more likely to display on your bookshelf, or proudly read on the bus?

 Jules VerneLord of thunder









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August 10, 2015

Get Schooled with the Fort Garry YAC

It’s summer. Like, it’s really summer; smack dab in the middle, so hot it fills your lungs, never-want-to-get-out-of-the-pool type summer. So, why are you still having dreams (read: nightmares) about school? It’s a real bummer waking up in the middle of the night suffering from ‘forgot about a test’ panic, ‘naked for no reason’ terrors, or ‘can’t speak to save my life’ shakes (see also: falling endlessly/can’t open my eyes/teeth falling out). But there are good things about school, one of them being the great variety of book titles you learn about because you saw someone reading in the hall, or your best friend recommended them, or your teacher (who you grudgingly admire) suggested you might like them. So, what are you to do in the summer? Take a breather from summer vacation to walk through the halls of the Fort Garry YAC School and see what they’re reading!


Before we get back to school you have to make it through the summer:

I'lll Give You The SunI itched for freedom, an escape to a world that was clear of family sing-alongs and minivans stuffed with camping gear. I longed for a compassionate story that allowed me to get lost in its pages, a novel of emotionally intense situations faced by people just like me. A book so captivating that no torturous summer road trips would seem even the slightest bit annoying. I wanted the twins, Noah with his sentimental nature and Jude with her spontaneous personality. I needed I'll Give You the Sun.

Written by Tia D. – book title: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson


The Lightning ThiefAlthough Dan lived the same life everyday, in and out, sleeping and waking up, he didn't in his own reality. In his mind, his world is a fantasy where he could find a sense of thrill, adventure, and purpose. In his world, he could do much more than just be invincible: he was someone. And if he isn't in his own world, he's in the world of other characters, like Percy Jackson -a demi-god that embarks upon multiple quests, fighting demons and other monsters from Greek legend through a series of five books, beginning with The Lightning Thief. The suspense and exhilaration- paired with a set of perfectly likable and moral characters - left him constantly on the edge. 

Written by Vanessa – book title: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan


The first day back at school is always exciting – seeing old friends again & meeting new ones:

FangirlAs I'm walking down the crowded halls filled with new, hopeful freshman; I remember what it was like my first year, those precious yet anxious years. I'm walking past the lockers and spot my favourite group of friends: the artists, as they like to call themselves. I see one girl reading Fangirl, a book about a teenage girl who loves to write fanfiction, and one of my favourite books. The plot is romantic and intense, and displays, very well, the issues of most teenagers.

Written by Emma – book title: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


“Hey, Dan!”

I turn towards the other side of the hallway where Lisa is waving frantically at me. I grin and head towards her, waving back. 

“How was your summer?” I ask.

“Pretty good… Alice and I hung out a lot.” She replies, blushing a little. 

AshI laugh. Lisa and I have been friends since preschool and, for most of our lives, people have assumed we're dating. But I don't her like that, and Lisa’s interests tend towards the more feminine side of things. When she and Alice had started dating at the end of last year the rumours of our supposed relationship had finally died out. 

“Whatcha got there?” I ask, indicating the book she’s holding. Its cover depicts a girl in a white dress curled in upon herself, with the word ‘Ash’ written in cursive over her. 

“Oh, it’s amazing!” Lisa gushes. “It’s a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, and it even has POC representation! Isn’t that cool?!” 

I laugh again. “That sounds great, Lisa,” I tell her as the bell rings to start the school day. I say goodbye before heading off to my first class. Time to really begin my first day back at school.

Written by Elinor – book title: Ash by Malinda Lo


And, finally, it’s time to settle back into the old familiar patterns:

WarriorsI come home every day after school to the same clean, straightened, untouched environment. Except today, there are a bunch of books left on the floor of my room. Must have been the friends I had over last night who forgot them. I look over and see Warriors, the book I had recommended to my group of friends. We are kind of a fantasy-loving, nerdy group. I had recommended the Warriors series because it is a fantasy about talking cats who live in clans in the forest, respect the warrior code to protect their clan and clanmates, and to keep out the other clans with whom they have tensions. You can relate to the characters, and feel as if you are a part of their life. You will laugh and cry with them throughout the series.

Written by Emma – book series: Warriors by Erin Hunter


I push through the high school doors, mentally getting ready for another day of learning, talking and hanging out. Smiling and greeting my fellow peers and teachers, I make my way to my locker and grabmy binders for the day. Heading into homeroom, I see my friend Stacy reading a book. Considering the fact that Stacy hates, and I do mean hates, reading, I decide to go see if her brain has been taken over by any chance.

 “What you readin’ there, Stace?” I ask. She looks up at me with excited eyes.

Revenge of the WitchThe Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch. It’s a really cool series. There’s, like, thirteen books in it and it’s full of action, horror, suspense, mystery and it’s so descriptive. I mean, I hate reading and I’m loving this series. It’s amazing! I get goosebumps with every page, you have to read it!” she gushed. I chuckle and sit down next to her. I look at the cover; a cloaked man carrying a lantern and a staff seemed to be walking through a graveyard with an eerie look on his face. Looks pretty creepy, I thought to myself.

Maybe I’ll check it out.

Written by Sachini – book title: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney


We hope these recommendations help you breeze throughout the hot, hot, heat of summer. What kind of characters would be reading your favourite titles?

 - Fort Garry YAC


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August 6, 2015

by Coral,

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

MegaphoneThe end of one of the most famous poems ever written, most people have heard Robert Frost's beautiful words at one time or another. I could not tell you how many times I've heard those words and thought so many different things. I have been writing many different kinds of poetry for quite some time now, but the words that inspire me are different than most. I have much appreciation for Maya Angelou, Edgar Allen Poe, and Emily Dickinson, but my favorite poet of late is either Blink-182's Tom Delonge or Vancouver citizen Duncan Shields. Famed lyricist aside, Duncan Shields is not famous and no, he hasn't written anything you would likely recognize. Duncan Shields is a slam poet. Last year, I started going to poetry events in the city and I even participated in a few. I went to one in September featuring a guest artist known as CCommand. After looking online for some of his work, I discovered the unimaginable community that is slam. After listening to poem after poem with my best friend, he and I discovered Duncan Shields. Duncan creates everything from pieces reflecting world issues to robot suicide notes and a Canadian Harry Potter parody. No matter who you are or what your interests may include, I guarantee that there is a slam poem for you. If you don't know where to start, I would recommend (This is Not) A Revolutionary Poem by 2 Dope Boys in a Cadillac. You'll fall over laughing and then stop to think about the problems society has created.

Happy listening and maybe we'll see you at one of Winnipeg's poetry readings!


Interested in learning more about slam poetry? Check these out:

Take the micTake the mic: The art of performance poetry, slam, and the spoken word by Marc Kelly Smith

Stage a poetry slam :  creating performance poetry events by Marc Kelly Smith

Sister Slam and the poetic motormouth roadtrip by Linda Oatman High

Louder than a bomb (DVD) by Greg Jacobs



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