Humans of New York: Stories
St. Martin’s Press
Read for The 2016 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge
Alex Award winner
What started out as a jobless guy wandering the streets of New York City with a camera became an Internet sensation – Humans of New York. You’ve read the blog, followed the Facebook posts, and now you can own the book. The stories and photos in the book are taken directly from the blog, so there’s no special content that you couldn’t find online. It is curated and loosely organized by theme. There are no headings or chapter distinctions, but if you read it from cover to cover, you’ll notice that similar stories are grouped together. The layout is clean with only one or two stories per page. Bottom line, it’s a great coffee table book, but if you follow HONY closely online, you’ll probably have read most of these stories.
What I find more interesting about HONY is the similar online communities, websites, and Facebook accounts it has spawned in other cities around the world. I occasionally check out Humans of Jerusalem and have actually recognized people on the street who were profiled on it. There’s also some good parody accounts, my favorite being Pigeons of Boston, which sadly appears to have stopped being updated last fall.
Brandon Stanton has had a huge impact on online story-sharing landscape by compassionately promoting others’ humanity, celebrating diversity, and interacting face-to-face on behalf of an Internet community, all of which I think is awesome and is the recipe of his success. Here’s a short NPR interview where he explains the beginnings of HONY and what it takes to walk up to strangers in New York City.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Balzer + Bray
Simon, a closeted teenage boy, is carrying on a secret email relationship with another boy, code name Blue, at his school but neither one knows the other’s true identity. That all threatens to crumble when their classmate Martin takes a screenshot of one of Simon and Blue’s emails and starts blackmailing Simon into setting him up with Simon’s friend Abby. Between being in the ensemble of the school production of Oliver, keeping up with his ever-changing sisters and cooky but cool parents, maintaining his friendships, and daydreaming about which of his classmates could be Blue, Simon mulls over coming out to friends and family until one day the choice is made for him.
Every once in a while a YA book and its main character are so good, so true, that it actually makes me want to go back to high school to be friends with them. The last time I felt this way was with Gabi in Gabi: A Girl in Pieces. Now I want to be Simon’s BFF. His obsession with Harry Potter, Oreos, and Waffle House, his painfully chill yet still believable parents, his friends – dancers and singers and musicians and artists who reminded me of my old high school crowd – I want to climb into this book to be with all of them. While all isn’t sunshine and Oreos – that school gossip Tumblr is the stuff of teenage nightmares – the drama is believable and the fallout of Simon’s forced coming-out is painful at times, but it is all manageable for Simon who has a great support network in his life. There’s so little melodrama – no one dies or is disowned or gets catfished (I was convinced this would be the case with the email relationship) or even loses their virginity. It ends up being a kind of sweet story about the possibilities in being brave and being yourself.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green