YA Smackdown Winners

Round 3: March 27, 2017

Match 1: March: Book 3 vs.  The Good Braider

Match 2: Ms. Marvel vs. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

For me this was an easy decision. While Ms. Marvel is fabulous, and features lots of shout-outs to some of my favorite Marvel heroes and villains, Aristotle and Dante’s friendship is one for the ages. The issues they faced in their time are still relevant today. They both experience a huge amount of inner conflict and personal growth. It’s just a beautiful book.

—Margaux Deutsch, Children’s Librarian




Round 2: March 20, 2017

Match 1: Salt to the Sea vs. March: Book 3

I loved listening to Salt To The Sea and thought it was one of the most compelling stories I’ve read in years. But because I couldn’t listen to March, I decided to judge them both on the print version. The visual presentation of March may well have done for that book what the excellent performances did for the audiobook of Salt to the Sea. It brought the words to life, creating an immersive experience. Both books portrayed struggles for life and liberty filled with pain, triumph, and hard decisions, but I’m voting for March because it felt more present.

—Heather Booth, Teen Librarian




Match 2: Bone Gap vs. The Good Braider

For the 2nd round, two vastly different works of fiction battled it out.

The Bone Gap by Laura Ruby had intriguing characters and plot twists and frankly, left me a little wary of cornfields. I appreciated a local author writing about a small Illinois town and eagerly anticipated how the book would end.

The Good Braider by Terry Farish stared Viola, a Sudanese refugee, sharing her experiences in a war-torn country, her escape to a refugee camp and later resettlement in the United States.

While both books were worth reading, only one can move on to the next round. Therefore, moving on to the next round is… The Good Braider. Opening a book allows its reader to experience a different world, perspective and insights. Farish’s research provides an honest, if not at times incomprehensible, experience of life as a refugee. “You do braid. In your very young life, you’ve braided together the few good things you’ve been granted so far on your journey.” I highly recommend this book so you, too, many follow Viola on her journey.

—Catherine Dudley, Youth Services Assistant

Match 3: Ms. Marvel vs. Dumplin’

I did the odd thing and listened to the audiobook as well as reading the hard copy of Dumplin.’ While I will say that the traditional text version is better than the audio, I still have to go for Ms Marvel: No Normal.

Kamala Khan is one of those characters that somehow embodies the “every-girl” while still being a supremely atypical comic book star: she’s not only trying to reconcile her superpowers, she’s going through life as a Muslim in your typical Jersey City school. Her life on the outside does appear “normal,” but like every teenager she has her secrets and her dreams. It’s a beautiful story. I understand the importance of Dumplin’, but Ms. Marvel really got to me on a more emotional level.

—Margaux Deutsch, Children’s Librarian



Match 4: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe vs. Just One Day

After reading Just One Day by Gayle Forman I found myself thinking about just how much travel can change one’s life. (I also found myself wanting to re-watch Shakespeare’s plays and remembering how it felt to be a young adult!) Allyson, the main character in this book, is relatable to many but she and the other characters felt stereotypical. The story didn’t feel as deep and affecting as the characters and events in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Just One Day is a great becoming-an-adult, falling-in-love, getting-a-good-taste-of-what-travel-can-do book. A great summer read, a relatable walk down memory lane for some. But Aristotle and Dante wins because of the sheer force of the journeys that they go through as they struggle to Become, Accept, and Rejoice in themselves.

—Laura Goldsborough, Tween Librarian & Youth Services Assistant







Round 1: March 13, 2017


Match 1: Moments in African American History

Choosing between these two books was difficult but March: Book 3 presents the events of the Civil Rights struggle in an accessible, powerful, and vivid way that inspires the reader and makes this book the winner.

March does a better job of presenting complex issues by using its format to present information on multiple levels. The “dialogue” style of Day of Tears does not add anything to the story.

Day of Tears is highly fictionalized and less visceral and dynamic than March.

Young readers will respond to the high-impact visuals and intensity of March.

—Ted Bodewes, Library Director


Match 2: Here and Gone

I loved Bone Gap because it was magical and surreal, but the characters really kept it grounded. They had real-world problems, and compelling relationships. It felt like a modern rural folk tale, and the twist at the end was truly surprising.

—Rachel Hoover, Adult Services Librarian





Match 3: Untold Stories of WWII

The book I choose is Salt on the Sea, because you have more of a diverse perspective on the characters.

—Aaron Wheeler, Circulation Assistant






Match 4: Outsider Stories

And the winner is (drum roll, please)……………… The Good Braider By Terry Farish. I really enjoyed both books! Starbird Murphy and the Outside World By Karen Finneyfrock was a great book, but it didn’t provoke my emotions the way The Good Braider did. This book brings you into the life of a young girl during war and immigration; Viola flees her home to come start a life in the United States, a life like ours. Terry Farish’s beautiful, poetic writing and storytelling of a life that I don’t think I will ever completely understand made me feel, for a mere 213 pages, as if I was Viola; tearing up when she felt loss/lost, scared and angry when she was abused and surround by war.

—Gianna Ziccarelli, Circulation Assistant


Match 5: Secret Identities

You don’t have to be a fan of comics or superheros to connect with this new Ms Marvel. Meet Kamala, a teen dealing with the usual issues -identity, family, purpose- whose life takes an extraordinary turn. Fantastic Art!!
I wanted to love This Song will Save Your Life because I believe songs (and books) have that superpower. But the story felt flat for me. Points for fantasy fulfillment and sound track (OMG).

—Kat Lewandowski, Administrative Aide


Match 6: Beauty Pageants

A charming tale about courage and self-confidence set in the world of small-town Texas beauty pageants. Great characters, snarky humor, and lots of Dolly Parton references.

—Matthew Wenslauskis, Head of Adult Services





Match 7: 24 Hours
My choice is Just One Day by Gayle Foreman! Love, travel, family, growing up. You’ll get it all in Just One Day, an enthralling read about a young women’s life-changing summer abroad!

This book made me want to buy a plane ticket and go back to Italy ASAP (or really anywhere else in Europe), I love that the reader gets to go to so many places in this book! The love story wasn’t cliche/stalker-ish (which as good and what I did not like about Every Day). None of the characters were unlikeable — I could understand why everyone did what they did, at least on some level. I haven’t read anything else by Foreman, but I want to now!

—Sarah Mungai, Youth Services Page/Sub


Match 8: Identity in the West

This one goes into my top 10 books ever.
Aristotle, Dante, their families, and their lives hijacked my heart. It’s one of those rare books that never lets go, that takes you on a journey of revelation after revelation and drops you off with a deeper understanding of the secrets of the universe.

—Laura Goldsborough, Tween Librarian & Youth Services Assistant