Boldly going where young adult books rarely go

One of the things I like about young adult books is their willingness to explore serious and difficult issues in sensitive and interesting ways. So I was very excited to find two new books to recommend to the young people I work with.

all bright places art being normal

Two new young adult books crossed my path earlier this month. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. They deal with different issues, but both tackle difficult territory that probably don’t register on the average teen’s radar.

With Bray Youth Service having started a youth group for LGBT young people and their friends, the issues faced by young people growing up feeling they inhabit the wrong gender body are something we in the service are slowly learning about. The Art of Being Normal adds to our knowledge in a sensitive, sometimes entertaining, but occasionally heart wrenching way.

Depression is an all too common part of life for some young people, and bipolar disorder a condition that I guess is a confusing and misunderstood form of depression, particularly to anyone looking from the outside in. All The Bright Places has at its heart a love story, but the fact that when ‘boy meets girl’, it’s at the top of a bell tower where one or the other or both are considering jumping, drops a major hint that there might be more to this story than meets the eye.

These books are very different, but have some common themes. Loss, bereavement, identity, self discovery, families and the pressure to conform in school feature in both. But don’t think either book is full of doom and gloom. I won’t lie – there may be tears. A quick flick through twitter, particularly about All The Bright Places will discover tweet after tweet from distraught young people, but all of these people also love the book.

We blogged before about staying ahead of the crowd and reading books before they become films. All The Bright Places presents an opportunity to do just that. It has been pencilled in for development with Ellie Fanning in one of the lead roles. It’s being touted as the new Fault In Our Stars, and it should appeal to the same audience, but it is a very different story.

If you like reading, put both these books on your ‘to read’ list. They will cheer you up and horrify you in equal measure. I got my copies in Dubray bookshop in Bray, but I’m sure they can be easily found in most decent bookshops.

Extra info- If you would like to read more about Transgender issues or about bipolar disorder, below are two links to websites that work with young people.
http://www.belongto.org/group.aspx?contentid=2918
http://spunout.ie/health/article/bipolar-disorder

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Staying safe online

Young people’s offline & online worlds intertwine in almost every aspect of their day to day lives. They share huge chunks of their lives online through social media. it helps form their identity, it plays a huge role in their social interactions and it influences their educational outcomes for good and for bad. 

Its hard to keep track of the numerous apps and platforms that young people use to share photos or update followers on their latest news.  But this week, to mark Safer Internet Day, Spunout have launched an Online Safety Hub that has put easy to read information about staying safe on different apps, all in one place.

February 10th was Safer Internet Day – but really it is an issue that raises it’s head frequently through they year. Sometimes, because cyberbullying develops into something tragic and makes the national news, maybe because a celebrity or politician has been trolled on twitter, or because a photo or video has gone viral that has a major negative impact on someone’s life. When this happens parents freak out about what their teenager is up to online.

Safer Internet Day 2015 – I Like It [Official Music Video] from PDST Technology in Education on Vimeo.

A future blog post will discuss some of the issues around young people’s use of social media, but for now, this post is to flag up the availability of online support.

At the launch of the hub there was some interesting speeches from young people like Youtuber Melanie Murphy and young people involved with Spunout. They were keen to point out the usefulness in having all of the safety information in one place, rather than having to hunt for the information on each app.

Along with the SpunOut Hub, a number of other organisations had resource available, either in the run up to Safer Internet Day, or launched on the day.

The SpunOut Hub can be found at http://spunout.ie/onlinesafety

Webwise, an Irish organisation that is really useful when seeking online safety information and help, launched resources to mark Safer Internet Day. They can be found at http://www.webwise.ie/teachers/celebrate-safer-internet-day-2015/, and have a number of ‘explainers’ or guides to different apps. Included on their site is a nice downloadable primary school cyberbullying pack called MySelfie

WebWeWant is a European initiative http://www.webwewant.eu/web/guest

Ask.Fm have launched their own safety centre to beef up their own safety features.

The Net Children Go Mobile 2015 report was released this week too, detailing how children and young people used and accessed the internet in Ireland and across Europe. The Irish report can be found here. A useful summary can be found on the webwise site.

Googling Safer Internet Day will bring up sites from around the world, including UK, America and Australia, where you can find resources and information

The internet is a sometimes wonderful and sometimes scary place. It’s easier than we would like it to be to find trouble. Its great to see organisations taking online safety seriously, but all the tools in the world won’t matter if behaviour and attitudes don’t change. We need to take a look at digital literacy and digital citizenship and decide what kind of place we want it to be.