The Safe Lands series by Jill Williamson

Reviewed by Mary A. Hake, Wagner Community Library

This dystopian trilogy transports readers to 2088 America, where much destruction has devastated the earth and many people suffer from a plague. Citizens ensconced within the area known as the Safe Lands cannot bear unaffected offspring. In fact, their reproduction and child-rearing methods are not what we’d call “family friendly.” The people there pursue pleasure before being “liberated.”

Their only hope is to bring in outsiders who are uninfected. Brothers Levi, Mason, and Omar each play a major role in the story but are often antagonistic to each other. Schemes, betrayal, kidnapping, murder, and advanced technology add drama. Can those imprisoned be rescued or do they even want to return to their simple, old-fashioned lifestyle?

In the second novel, the women from Glenrock have escaped from the harem, including sixteen-year-old Shaylinn, who is expecting twins from the implant procedure.

Mason, Omar, and Levi strive to help their community and plan to free the children who are being held as the “future” of Safe Lands. Mason has discovered something strange going on in the medical treatment for the plague, for which he hopes to find a cure, and tries to uncover hidden history and suspicious agendas in this supposedly “safe” land. Omar can’t overcome his addiction to stimulants, which could compromise his ability to effectively complete his mission. Levi struggles to find his way as leader and in relating to his brothers.

Romantic threads play a role in the unfolding story too. Red wants Omar, but he’s growing tired of her demands. Shaylinn wonders if she and Omar could ever work as a couple, but he now has the plague. Kendall, the former “queen” who recently birthed baby Promise, also competes for Omar’s attention. Mason and Ciddah, his supervisor, are attracted to each other, but this relationship might prove dangerous. Who can be trusted?

Award-winning author Jill Williamson leaves us majorly hanging at the end of the first two books, Captives and Outcasts. The third one, Rebels, released in August, so readers can now devour the entire series without having to wait while yelling at the author for the cliffhanger endings. In the concluding volume, the scattered remnant fights to survive and overthrow the “safe” government. Will this rebellion mean their deaths or the end of the “safe” way of life?

This series is from Blink and available in print and e-book.

STEM programming for the non-scientist, thanks to the MythBusters

by Sonja Somerville, Salem Public Library

I made a magical discovery that saved (one day of) my summer and engaged eager teens in learning fun.

mythbusters building

After my Teen Advisory Board suggested “something like MythBusters” would make a good program to go with the Spark a Reaction Summer Reading Club, I thought I might have to call in reinforcements to get it done. Venturing out online for a few ideas, I quickly discovered that the MythBusters themselves had already come to my rescue.

Right there at my fingertips were 10 fully formed activities with complete instruction, supply lists, and explanations about what makes them legitimately “science-y.” Better yet, they hit on different areas of science and different skill sets and used easy to find, inexpensive materials.

I chose the five that seemed most do-able with a large group and prepared for the 40 middle and high school students that I thought were coming. When 55 showed up, I found myself very grateful that I tend to over-purchase supplies.

Here are some thoughts about the activities I chose that might be helpful to someone planning a similar program:

Spin It – Paper helicopters – Deceptively simple, really cheap, and lots of fun. Kids really got into thinking up creative modifications to improve (or not) their tiny helicopters.

Reflexes –Catching a falling ruler – Too easy, too fast, and not very interesting. Better to find another activity.

Airspeed –Balloons traveling down strings – Blowing up balloons and letting them go is just plain fun – even when their movement is controlled by a string track. I ramped up this one by setting up tracks with several different kinds of string.

Superhero Strength–Endurance test with a rubber band across your fingers – another simple, cheap activity that the participants enjoyed a great deal. Best quote of the night from a kid with crazy long endurance, “Finally, all those hours playing video games are paying off!”

Stable Structures –Building and testing marshmallow and toothpick structures – Hands down, the best activity of the bunch. The participants built some amazing structures. Some kids would have happily spent the rest of the week designing and building.

mythbusters strength

2014 ALA Annual Las Vegas Highlights and Celebrating the Alex Award

By Danielle Jones, Multnomah County Library-Hollywood

ALALasVegasThere is nothing like 13,000 library folk descending on Sin City during 110-degree weather. How is one to don their favorite cardigan in that? Outside of the conference, 110-degree weather makes for some interesting fashion choices, or should I say complete lack of fashion choice, it is amazing what you do with a little duct tape, (and I wish I could say a little goes a long way, but not always).

OYAN was kind enough to give me scholarship to help fund the cost of attending the conference. This year I am currently serving as administrative assistant to the Alex Award Committee, so most of my time spent at the conference was in committee meetings. Still, there was enough networking and tapping into the buzz to know what the big takeaways of the conference were.

If you haven’t had a chance to read through YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action already, you can start with the executive summary, but it is worth your while to delve deeper into the full report. Many workshops focused on supporting libraries in the ways outlined in the report in “How will we get there? What do libraries need to do?” The steps it sees are:

Embracing our role as facilitator rather than expert.

  1. Refocusing beyond our traditional roles and traditional measurements of success.
  2. Partnering strategically to reach beyond the library’s walls.
  3. Creating a whole-library and whole-school approach to serving teens in physical spaces and online.
  4. Supporting library staff in gaining new skills.

Colleagues that were able to attend workshops commented that many focused on supported Connected Learning. Traci Glass of the Eugene Public Library commented during the Summer OYAN meeting in reference to the conference and Connected Learning is that “many of us are already doing this.” We all care about creating interesting, thoughtful programs for our teens that meet their interests and information needs. For myself, getting a better understanding of the philosophy behind Connected Learning has really helped to put my work with teens into focus, and has given me better tools to advocate for the work that we do.

Alex-AWARDSWinner_lowres Serving this year as the administrative assistant to the Alex Award Committee has been an enlightening experience. I am not an actual voting member, my main duties so far have been to serve as liaison between the committee and publishers, keep the group organized, support the chair, and research eligibility. As a fairly new youth librarian, I have spent a lot of time focused on learning all that I can about the books published as YA that I have forgotten how as a teen it was mainly adult books that I read outside of school that showed me that there was more out there to look forward in life, and showed me the power of writing. Books like Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Tan’s The Joy Luck Club are all books that I remember being pivotal to me as a teen reader. I see the Alex Award as fostering that. Turning teens into lifelong readers by highlighting some of the best books out there that they can find beyond the teen bookshelves in the library and bookstore.

Past Alex Award are great to be familiar with for those harder reader’s advisory moments where you have the teen that has read everything. It is exciting to see a couple of past winners (Ready Player One and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore) on this year’s Oregon Battle of the Books. The 2014 titles is another fantastic list with my personal favorites of Abigail Tarttelin’s Golden Boy, John Searles’ Help for the Haunted, and Lucy Knisley’s Relish just to name a few. To read more on the Alex Awards Presentation from ALA Annual, Paige Battle, 2015 Alex Award Chair and Grant High School Librarian in Portland wrote a great piece for YALSA’s Hub The Alex Award winners are so important to teens to bridge the transition from teen reader to lifelong reader and have a place in all collections serving teens.

Alex Awards Collage




OYAN Review – 2014 Fall Issue Released

The OYAN Review  – Fall 2014 is hot off the press!

Check out all the exciting articles by your fellow OYANers. You will find author interviews, book reviews, ALA Las Vegas and Alex Awards review, new program ideas and much more.

Download your copy here. 201410-ReviewFall

And don’t forget we are always taking submissions for the next OYAN Review. So if you have a great story, program, book or audio review, or insight into being a teen librarian that you would like to share, send them to oyanpublicaitons (at) gmail dot com.


2015 Book Raves Nominations

by Sonja Somerville, Salem Public Library

We have the promising beginnings of a list of nominations for the 2015 OYAN Book Rave list. All we need now is a nomination (or two or three …) from YOU!

Nominations should be for excellent fiction or non-fiction young adult books published between

November 1, 2013 and October 31, 2014.

(Graphic novels will be addressed separately through the Graphic Rave nomination process.)

Please tell us about any book you think is worthy, but I will note that we have a particularly lively interest in hearing about books that represent cultural diversity, books suitable for middle-grade readers, and non-fiction selections.

The books nominated to date can be viewed on GoodReads at:( )or in an Excel can be emailed to you.

When you send a nomination, please include:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Month and year of publication
  • Genre
  • 2-5 suggested tags
  • A brief synopsis (not required, but encouraged!)

Nominations will be accepted until December 1.

Please send all nominations to

An Open Invitation to the OYAN Fall Workshop & Quarterly Meeting

An open invitation to the Oregon Young Adult Network (OYAN) Fall Workshop and Quarterly Membership Meeting …

A Focus on Non-Fiction for Young Adults:
Selection, Suggestions, and How It All Relates to Supporting the Common Core
10 a.m.-12 noon Friday, October 24
US Bank Room at Multnomah County Library’s Central Library
801 SW 10th Ave., Portland

The OYAN Fall Workshop brings a focus on building stronger, more useful non-fiction collections, responding both to the interests of teen readers and the changing needs driven by the adoption of Common Core in the schools. At this FREE workshop, presenters will discuss best practices for assessing non-fiction texts for young adults, highlight excellent non-fiction graphic novels and narrative non-fiction, and discuss the impacts and realities of Common Core adoption. Presenters include:
• Jen Maurer, School Library Consultant, Oregon State Library – The Low-Down on the Common Core and How Non-Fiction Selectors Should Respond
• Ruth Allen, Multnomah County Library – Assessing Non-Fiction Texts for Young Adults
• Sonja Somerville, Salem Public Library – Narrative Non-Fiction Booktalks and Booklist
• Traci Glass, Eugene Public Library – Non-Fiction Graphic Novels Booktalks and Booklist

So we can be sure to have the right number of seats and handouts prepared, please email OYAN Chair Sonja Somerville ( if you plan to come!

After a break for lunch (plenty of great options in downtown Portland!), the Fall Workshop will be followed by the OYAN Quarterly Meeting from 1-4 p.m. Stay for …
o Resource sharing—programming and other great ideas
o Discussion: How is your Teen Summer Reading program structured?
o Vote on the annual budget
o Reports and updates