Teen Book Club members turn the pages on favorite novels

Feb. 10, 2013 @ 09:34 AM

"Do not even compare Bella to Katniss!" said Evie Gray, 11.

The topic that day was another young-adult novel. But when book-loving kids get together, the talk is bound to turn to "Twilight," "The Hunger Games" and their respective heroines.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, nine girls and boys ages 11 to 14 gathered in a meeting room at the King Family Library. Members of the library's Teen Book Club, they were there to discuss John Corey Whaley's "Where Things Come Back." They munched on chips and cookies.

"It's the first book by this author," said Danielle Smothers, the librarian who runs the club. "It's very dark, and very beautiful, too."

"I read it last night," said Joshua Goldstein. "It was interesting."

"I enjoyed it," said Evie. "But there are a few things I would cut."

Smothers asked what club members thought of the characters.

"They were not believable at all," Evie said.

"Not at all," agreed Adaline Morgan.

Morgan Crockett didn't like the opening sentence: "I was 17 years old when I saw my first body."

"Why would you start a book like that?" Evie said.

"It's a grabber," Tarrah Dodge pointed out.

The Teen Book Club has met monthly for the past year. Meetings start at 3:30 p.m. "They keep showing up at 10 after," Smothers said in an interview.

When she leads the discussions, Smothers takes a relaxed approach. "I try to type up some questions, and sometimes I refer to them, sometimes not," she said. "I want to let things flow naturally."

Smothers does not want the kids to feel as if they're being graded. "I want them to feel like this is their club, this is their safe area to talk about books," she said. "As the adult, I'm not there to say, 'This is how we have to discuss it.'"

The kids are not afraid to jump in and say what they think, Smothers said. "They know what's important in the story, what's exciting, what made them angry."

Past Teen Book Club selections include Melina Marchetta's "Jellicoe Road" and Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." Last year the club indeed read "The Hunger Games," Suzanne Collins' phenomenally popular science-fiction novel.

The club typically reads young-adult literature, which is more sophisticated than juvenile books. "That's why we recommend kids be seventh grade and up," Smothers said.

The teen group is one of several book clubs the library hosts. Most are for adults, including the Fireside and Classic Literature  clubs.

The book club is one of Smothers' favorite activities. "It reminds me of when I was a teen, except I didn't have anyone to talk about books with, so my parents got to hear everything," she said. "If I had been in a teen book club, it would have meant a lot to me."

The Teen Book Club next meets at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the library, 408 High St. The group will discuss Patrick Ness' young-adult novel "The Ask and the Answer."

kburns@themountainpress.com