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YA Book Banter: Episode Two

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Welcome to Book Banter!  Two of our librarians read the same YA book and sat down for a discussion on what they thought of it.  Did they both like it, love it, or hate it?  Would they have changed the ending?  Read on for the transcript or watch the video to find out!


SARAH: Hi, everyone!  I’m Sarah.

AMY: I’m Amy.

SARAH: And welcome back to Book Banter!  Amy and I have read the same book again, and we’re going to discuss our thoughts on it today.  So this time we read Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis.  It is available as an e-book and e-audiobook on Overdrive and as an e-audiobook on Hoopla.

AMY: Okay.  So this book is about Ashley, who is a teenager who has always been outdoorsy and after one night she accidentally leaves the trail and is lost in the Smokey Mountains.  And this is her story about survival and trying to find civilization again.

SARAH: Yeah, it…it’s a lot.

AMY: It’s a tough read!

SARAH: Are we ready to see what we both thought of the book?

AMY: Yes!  I’m curious.

SARAH: Alright.  Ready?  1…2…3…

THREE THUMBS UP! (Sarah gave two!)

AMY: Ah!  Two thumbs up?!

SARAH: Yes!  Two thumbs up!

AMY: Okay!

SARAH: I absolutely love Mindy McGinnis!  She can do no wrong in my eyes.

AMY: I agree.

SARAH: Even her books that, like, I may not like as much as others, I still like better than a lot of other books.

AMY: I know.

SARAH: This one…I absolutely loved it.  I could not put it down.

AMY: I agree. Because at times it was really, really rough.  But then I didn’t, like you said, I didn’t want to put it down.  I wanted to keep reading to see what was going to happen.

SARAH: Yeah, absolutely.  You know, there were…sometimes when I read a book I have to set it down because it’s like, “Okay, I just need a break from you for a minute.”  But this time it was like I would need to put it down because I needed to process everything and kind of deal with everything.  But then, five minutes later I was like, “I need to know what happens next!”

AMY: Well, it wasn’t only that because I would pause for a minute.  My brain would go to wild places that hadn’t gone yet but there was, like, little hints of, “Oh, this possibly could be really bad,” or, “Uh-oh, this is suspicious,” and…but then, yeah, I had to pick it right back up to see what exactly happened.

SARAH: Yeah, I had this book finished in a day.  Which, you know, working from home and two kids with online schooling right now, that says a lot for a book that I want to finish it that fast.

AMY: Definitely!

SARAH: At the same time, it is a quick read.  It is relatively…I don’t want to say short, but it’s just not as thick of a book as some others that I’ve read.  But it was.  It was a quick read but it was amazing.

AMY:  It really was.

SARAH: But, yeah, Ashley was…I loved Ashley!

AMY: Ashley was an interesting character because I tend to like books in which I can see myself in the characters.  And I saw myself absolutely not in Ashley!  Ashley was completely different than I would be.  I’m not an outdoorsy person.

SARAH: Me, either.

AMY: She’s tough as nails.  And, I mean, she kind of made the best of the situation.  I mean, there were moments that were really rough and she’s just like…how she processed it…

SARAH: Yeah, she really never lost her cool.  I mean, she’s very unapologetic about the fact that she enjoys being outside and she’s not that girly girl.  So when she’s in this situation, she doesn’t think a lot about what she doesn’t have.  She thinks about, “Here’s what I have.  Here’s my situation.  How can I fix this?”

AMY: Yeah, I mean, it was awesome.

SARAH: I would have lost my mind from the beginning, so…

AMY: Yeah, I hate to say it but I don’t what I would have done.  Probably curled up in a ball and cried!

SARAH: Yeah, me, too!

AMY: But one thing that I really did appreciate in this book was the friendship between Ashley and her friends.  And we really only get glimpses through her memories as she’s lost, but, as I said, she’s not sorry about the fact that she is not a girly girl.  And her best friend, one of her best friends, is absolutely the girly girl.  And then there’s a third one who’s kind of in the middle of them, it seems like.  They seem to respect each other, that they have their zones where they’re comfortable and they don’t try to change the others.

AMY: I feel like that’s such an important message in YA.  I feel like sometimes, a lot with contemporary books, sometimes the friendship gets lost in the romance of the book and the friendships aren’t as strong.  Or there’s actually, like, fighting within friendships.  And while that’s not unrealistic, it is nice to see friends supporting friends.  And, yeah, Ashley has two great friends who are completely different.  I mean, you don’t want carbon copies of yourself, so the fact she has these awesome friends…yeah, it was great to read.

SARAH:  It really was.  And, I don’t know, just that part really stuck with me.  Like you said, I like seeing empowering friendships, especially among girls in YA because that’s not always something that we see.  And there really weren’t any toxic relationships that I could see.  It was just very, you know, this is how things are.  She kind of compartmentalized.

AMY: Yeah.

SARAH: I did also think it was interesting that…you know…she has to grieve the relationship between her and her boyfriend and then even her and her mom.  Which, I think, is not always addressed even in adult books I’ve read.  When a relationship ends, no matter what the reason, you do kind of go through a grieving process.

AMY: Oh, for sure.  And I think she did it in, like, a very healthy way.

SARAH: Right.

AMY: I appreciated reading that, once again, from a YA perspective of seeing, like, “Yes, this was difficult.” And there were times in which she was upset about it, but she was also able to forgive and…be an adult about it almost.

SARAH: Right.  Exactly.  There were just so many little things, aside from the amazingness of the book, just so many little things like that I felt were just so well-written and well-handled.  Again, this is why Mindy McGinnis can do no wrong in my eyes.  The writing, though…she does not hold back!

AMY: No!  Not at all!  And as someone who just could not even imagine that situation, it was hard to read and…oh, man!  I feel like anyone who likes survival stories, the people who have read Hatchet growing up and want to see a teen girl have to deal with the dirt and grit…it was an amazing read.

SARAH: Not for the faint of heart!

AMY: Brian from Hatchet never had to deal with this!

SARAH:  Right! Yeah, this book is not for the faint of heart.  Not for the squeamish.  The times I did have to put it down it was usually because I’d read one of those parts.  My husband would look over at me, and he’d be like, “Are you okay?” And I’d be like (covering half of face), “I’m fine!  I’m fine.”

AMY: Oh, no!

SARAH: Yeah, it’s, you know, the way you kind of watch the movie through the fingers, I was kind of reading that way.

AMY: I mean, that would be kind of difficult to read, but…

SARAH: Yeah, that’s why I just had the one eye covered with my hoodie because I still needed to read and see what happened.  But I was exhausted after reading this book because…just all the, not necessarily cliffhangers, but you’re just so on edge because you want to know what happens.

AMY: Yeah, because you know this could possibly…it’s going to go one of two ways.  With Mindy McGinnis you never know which way it’s going to go!

SARAH: You really don’t!  You do not always get a happy ending.  But, at the same time, you get a very realistic ending.

AMY: Yes.  And I feel like it was.

SARAH: I agree. Yes.

AMY: I appreciate that.

SARAH: Yes, I can appreciate a realistic ending even if it is not the, you know, sunshine and daisies at the end.  But it’s not gloom and doom, either.  It’s a very realistic ending, and I’m always happy when a book has a realistic ending as opposed to one extreme or the other.

AMY: I agree.

SARAH: Yeah. And going back to the writing real quick, too, I just want to say it’s not there for shock value.  I could actually see this happening.  And, you know, my family and I, we do watch some of these survival shows periodically, and it’s nothing that I haven’t seen on there. I’m still kind of watching like this (covers face), “Tell me when it’s over!”  But, it’s not there for shock value.  It is actually what could happen.

AMY: Yeah.  I was just going to say how I felt about the writing is we are staying with one character basically the entire time.  And to get that many emotions and to get the flashbacks from the memories and…it’s this really inner narrative.  I mean, to write one that is so compelling that it makes you want to keep reading.  Mindy McGinnis is a genius!

SARAH: She is!

AMY: I can’t imagine, because I’m someone who thinks that I get a lot characters and I understand a lot of characters through dialogue.  And there’s rarely any dialogue in this book because she’s by herself, so unless she’s talking out loud to herself…

SARAH: or the squirrel…

AMY: I got a great understanding of who she was through the memories we felt for her friends, her father, and her strained relationship with her mom.  I think it was so cleverly done and done well.

SARAH: I agree.  This was amazing, so I’m glad we both liked it!

AMY: I am, too!

SARAH: Again, we read Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis.  It is available as an e-book and e-audiobook on Overdrive and an e-audiobook on Hoopla.  So thanks for joining us for Book Banter and we’ll see y’all next time! Bye!

AMY: Bye!


Sarah is a youth services librarian in Canfield. She pretty much only reads YA books, but she is easily distracted by a good picture book or anything Doctor Who related. Sarah loves to crochet and knit and can usually be found with a pile of yarn in her lap with one of her three dogs nearby. Originally from Texas, she still says “y’all” all the time and refuses to call carbonated beverages “pop.”


Hello everyone! I’m Amy and I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. When I’m not trying to reach my reading goal for the year, I like to talk about what I’m reading to my family, friends, and coworkers. You could say I am a little obsessed with reading Young Adult books. I enjoy most genres, but my favorites include: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Mystery. I am always looking for the next great book that makes me connect to its characters and hits me in the feels.