Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Will Holloman knows the rules.
Crying: Don’t. No matter what. Don’t.
Snitching: Don’t. No matter what. Don’t.
Revenge: If someone you love gets killed,
find the person who killed them,
and kill them.
After his older brother, Shawn, is gunned down, the rules now fall to Will’s shoulders…the forbidden broken middle drawer calling his name. Finding the lethal piece within, he tucks it down the back of his pants and steps into the elevator, beginning the long way down seven floors.
Ripped from the headlines issues of gangs and gun violence immediately grab attention, and the thought-provoking dilemma Will faces is highly compelling. The dialect-filled writing is genuine and supports the gritty nature of the story and authenticity of the characters. The elevator ride takes place in a 60 second time frame. The intense pace heats up with visitors from the past boarding at each floor as the elevator stops, in the vein of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Suspense escalates as readers wonder what Will’s choice will be when they reach the ground floor. Is 60 seconds enough time for him to reflect on the impact his actions could have? The rhythmic, staccato verse enhances the story and propels even the most reluctant of readers forward.
Reynolds masterfully tackles the issue of gun violence that cannot be ignored in today’s world. Long Way Down is a must read for fans of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore, and Dear Martin by Nic Stone.
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
The daughter of the pirate king is held prisoner on a rival pirate lord’s ship, but all is not what it seems in this high seas tale.
A swashbuckling romance that sweeps you in from the first page. Alosa is a strong heroine that readers will enjoy getting to know. Twists and turns are cleverly revealed but not hard to follow. An adventurous read for younger teens.
Hand this title to fans of the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer.
Firewall by Sean Rodman
Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
If the slightly disturbing cover doesn’t attract reluctant readers, the gaming subject matter will certainly pull them in.
Josh and his father have left the big city of Chicago to move to a boring small town, and that means Josh has left his best friend/love interest behind. That makes the computer game, Killswitch, all the more appealing. It’s a great game that allows participants to modify it…and someone has. Inside Killswitch is an exact replica of the small town in which Josh lives populated by creepy copies of every person in the town–avatars that look like they have had photos copied and pasted onto avatar bodies. It’s not enough for Josh to go through that world, he wants to make changes to it, so, with the help of his erstwhile best friend and uber hacker from Chicago, he overrides the administrative rights on the town and begins to add to it. What follows is a chain of events that alienates Josh from his one friend in his small town and potentially makes him an accessory to a planned bombing.
Don’t let the hi-lo format fool you. Though the story gets a little rushed at the end, Rodman spins an engaging tale that continually ups the ante for his main character. This short book packs a lot of big ideas into a plot that is perfectly palatable and appropriate for reluctant readers in both middle and high school.
The Enemy: Detroit 1954 by Sara Holbrook
Calkins Creek Books
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
When we first meet Marjorie, she and her friend Bernadette are fighting Nazis in the street. In Detroit at the beginning of the Cold War, the “Nazis” are Bernadette’s little brother, who would rather be Al Capone. This slice-of-life novel sees the prejudices and misconceptions that prevailed in a time of political stress in America through the eyes of a young girl who believes deep-down that people are good, but hears every day from her family and her friends that there are enemies all around. As she navigates snow drifts and ethical quandaries, Marjorie teaches us a lot about love and trust and learning to think for yourself.
Give this well-written and very accessible historical fiction to young teens who enjoy a good mystery.
Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor
Dials Books / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: August 23,2016
Skip O’Rourke thought he finally left his thieving weasel relatives behind him. He has gone legit, using his “good” name, Cameron Smith, to attend an elite school and get into Princeton. That is, until he is pulled back into the family business for one last heist.
Fast pace with lots of action and dialog. A single point of view and linear storyline makes this story easy to follow. A fun novel that will appeal to teens who like crime stories that feature con men and mobsters.
Give this to readers who enjoyed Con Academy by Joe Schreiber, Heist Society by Ally Carter or Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman.
Blood, Bullets, and Bones by Bridget Heos
Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: October 4, 2017
Murder most foul is a perfect fodder for reluctant readers and the cover of this book is the come hither invitation that will prove irresistible to many.
I’m an avid reader who bores quickly with nonfiction, so this foray into the development of forensic science was a pleasant surprise. Heos traces criminology from the first poison tests all the way through DNA testing. If the stories of murder are the salt of this delectable morsel, then the pictures that are peppered throughout provide the perfect kick.
Granted, the chapters are, on average, about 15 pages long, which can be a challenge for reluctant readers, and the font is smaller, but there is ample white space and plenty of fascinating facts to keep a reader’s attention. The biggest draw of this book will be the content. Heos has done her historical homework, but she doesn’t offer it up in the dry style of a textbook. Instead, she cloaks the technical information in engaging narrative that provides a context that is so desperately needed for readers who can’t visualize what they are reading on their own. Forty-three pages of end matter (including a glossary, endnotes, photo credits, and an impressive bibliography) are evidence of a serious body of work that is accessible to a wide audience of readers from those who don’t like reading fiction to those who don’t usually enjoy reading, period.
42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero by Doreen Rappaport
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Baseball, basketball, football—Jackie Robinson excelled in every game! But opportunities were closed to Jackie for one reason: he was African American. Like many other outstanding African American athletes, Jackie played in the Negro Baseball League. In 1946, Branch Rickey, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Jackie Robinson. It was a brutal, violent time and Jackie faced terrible hatred and discrimination. Jackie showed superhuman restraint and was a phenomenal player. This is a short, very accessible biography.
Teen readers will compare many aspects of the story of Jackie Robinson to issues and challenges faced by today’s professional athletes.
Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Stephen Biesty
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Today’s teen readers may be the first generation to space travel in large numbers. We have just started exploring deep space: landing on the moon, robots on Mars, and space probes sent billions of miles to the far reaches of our solar system.
Cutaway illustrations offer precise detail including riveting depictions of space gear and craft with every last scientific instrument and structural element visible and labeled.
Teens interested in astronomy will pore over this amazing, intricate and accessible book about exploring space. Readers will be drawn to the detailed illustrations and the clear writing.
Karina Garcia’s DIY Slime: 15 Cool, Easy, Borax-Free Recipes! by Karina Garcia
Publication Date: May 23, 2017
YouTuber Karina Garcia shows readers how to make their own DIY slime with this book full of 15 fun, and unusual recipes. Ranging from your basic slime, to crazy slime with outside the box ingredients. Examples include Fruity Chewy Slime made with Starburst candy, and Hot N’Cheesy slime made with Red Hot Cheetos. Each recipe includes a list of ingredients, step by step instructions with illuminating pictures, and a short paragraph with a extra info about the slime you just made.
Karina Garcia’s YouTube star status, the current slime fad, and the simplicity of the recipes and directions will draw readers to this short book.
Recommended for fans of super easy DIY projects, and slime.
Unstoppable: True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals by Nancy Furstinger
HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Braces, prosthetics, orthotics and wheelchairs help the animals in Unstoppable. Teens will meet vets, caretakers, prosthetists and families that help animals recover.
Cutting edge technology and scientific advancements are featured including 3D printing and brain controlled prosthetics! These incredible new inventions are helping both animals and humans.
Teens will be eager to check out this book with a cover that features an endearing dog.
Warcross by Marie Lu
G.P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Bounty hunter by day and hacker by night, Emika Chen launches herself into accidental overnight viral fame by projecting herself into the Warcross Championship, a global virtual reality/video game sensation. Emika’s luck finally seems to be looking up when game creator Hideo Tanaka invites her to join the championship as a spy for him, but the answers she finds may cost her everything.
Warcross covers a lot of territory very quickly but easily–the world-building and game descriptions are succinct but detailed, and the characters have depth without being over-explained. The twist at the end of the story ensures that readers will be back for the second volume of this fantastic series.
Jumped In by William Kowalski
Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Rasheed’s life is pretty rough. He lives in a dangerous neighborhood. School isn’t something he likes, but the E Street Locals (the gang that runs his street) isn’t something he likes, either. He manages to avoid both by hiding between the dumpsters at the 7-Eleven and shuts the world out with earbuds and his music. It’s not that he’s disconnected; he knows what the world is like. With a disabled sister, paralyzed by a gang shooting, and a mother who has escaped through drugs, he’s pretty sure that the police are no protection either since he’s a “brown kid.”
His outlook on life begins to change when he meets a campus cop who feeds him rather than frisks him. The tentative relationship is one that changes the course of Rasheed’s life–and possibly even his neighborhood.
Kowalski effectively captures the disenfranchised voice of a teen in poverty. Though not as intricately plotted as Jason Reynolds’ work, it will appeal to the same kind of reader. The end, like many hi-lo books, wraps up perhaps a little too quickly and doesn’t delve quite as deeply, but there’s no question that it has appeal and offers the promise of deep discussion points. Reluctant readers will be attracted to the cover and and will likely find points of identification with Rasheed’s world view.
Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older
Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Sierra and her friends love making art in their new lives as Shadowshapers. But now they have to deal with police harassment and brutality on the streets of Brooklyn and at school. Shadowshapers are fighting against oppressive systems of racism and white supremacy.
When Sierra receives a card with an image from the Deck of Worlds she knows that this is the Shadowshapers next fight. It is an ancient struggle between enemies, and Sierra must defeat the master of the Deck of Worlds.
Teens will be drawn to this gripping and magical world.
Trell by Dick Lehr
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
On a hot summer night in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury, a twelve-year-old African-American girl is the innocent victim of gang-related gunfire. During the manhunt, an African-American man was quickly caught, charged, and convicted of the crime. Dick Lehr reported on the actual crime as a journalist for the Boston Globe in the late 1980s.
Trell is the fictionalized story of this real crime. Trell is the daughter who seeks to prove her father’s innocence. She asks a reporter and a lawyer to help find pieces of evidence that were not considered.
Readers will learn many important details about this crime and find parallels between the failures of public policy and the court system to uphold justice 30 years ago as well as today.
Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 4, 2017
Adam knows that some of the people he sees aren’t real because he’s got schizophrenia, so of course he says yes when he gets a chance to try a new experimental treatment for his condition. It seems like he might get a chance at the kind of life he wants, including the love of brilliant, beautiful Maya. But when the drug begins to fail, Adam’s newfound happiness begins to disappear and he must come to terms with the fact that his condition will never truly go away.
Words on Bathroom Walls follows a similar storyline to the classic Flowers for Algernon and is a gripping, gritty trek through the reality of being a teenager with a severe mental illness. Despite heavy subject matter, Adam is hilarious and infinitely lovable, and the ending is hopeful and realistic rather than happily-ever-after and contrived.
Freya by Matthew Laurence
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Sixteen-year-old Sara Vanadi has been hiding out in a quiet little hospital where she gets three square meals a day and is basically left alone. Her peace is shattered when Garen, an agent of a vicious corporation that is abusing forgotten deities, comes to her with an offer she wants to refuse: work for us or die. Suddenly outed as Freya, Norse goddess of love and war, Freya turns on the charm, enlists a hapless orderly (Nate), and goes on the lam. Since deity power is fueled by worship, Freya charms herself a job as a Disney Princess where she is able to gain power from the adoration of little fans visiting Disney World. Alas, her escape is short-lived, and before she knows it, Garen has trundled her off to the hidden corporate compound where he tempts her with unlimited adoration and power. The more she learns about the corporation, the more determined Freya is to bring it down.
Freya is a delightfully surprising first novel in a series. From Garen’s violent debut at the care center to Freya’s covert forays into the innards of the corporation, the action is nonstop. Reluctant readers will be drawn to the pacing that mimics that of an explosive superhero/action movie as well as to the capricious, but tough, character of Freya. This is a great readalike for fans of Cashore’s Graceling series, Sanderson’s Steelheart trilogy and Childs’ Sweet Venom trilogy.
Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
After Kacey moves into her new home with her blended family, she desperately wants to make friends and be part of a group. New besties Bailey and Jade convince Kacey and her younger sister to participate in a séance at the site of an old massacre in a local barn. When Bailey goes missing, fingers point in different directions…some of them at Kacey, who finds herself trying to explain some pretty sketchy behavior to the police.
The plot is gripping from beginning to end and is sure to entice reluctant readers with the disturbingly dramatic and creepy premise. The cast of characters range from likable and flawed to twisted and snarky. Plot turns presented in short, nail biting chapters, keep readers in suspense as to who the real Little Monsters are in this psychological thriller. Cynics who think they’ve figured out “whodunit” will find themselves reading way too late at night—with the lights on—just to see if they’re right. Think along the lines of a young adult version of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Hand this one to fans of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, and selections by Neal Shusterman.
–Lisa Krok and Jodi Kruse
The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz
Publication Date: October 8, 2016
Chance Rain and his older brother Patrick live in a small town. Everything is peaceful and a little boring, until one night everything changes. All the adults turn into horrifying monsters. Nobody over the age of 18 is unchanged. Now Chance and Patrick must help their fellow youths survive a world where monsters are trying to kill them.
On top of that Chance is chaffing at constantly being compared to his older brother. Patrick is tall, athletic, kind, and cool. And Patrick has a beautiful girlfriend, Alex, that Chance happens to be in love with. But with Patricks 18th birthday only weeks away, Chance must put all that aside in a bid to end this apocalypse before his brother gets turned into a mindless monstrosity.
Full of body horror, action, and daring feats of survival layered on top of a complex sibling bond this book is a riveting entry into the survival/horror genre. Ideal for a teen who likes action, body horror, complex characters, and a bit of a plot twist.
What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
David Drucker is socially awkward, so much so that his older sister, Miney, has helped him create a notebook of classmates he can trust and classmates he can’t. Kit Lowell is David’s opposite. Popular and friendly, pretty much everyone at their school likes her, but that popularity is strangling. Kit’s father was killed in a car accident, and all of her worried friends are asking questions she just doesn’t want to answer. That need to get away provides the meet-cute for Kit and David. He’s so shocked that he blurts the first thing he can think of that relates to her: your dad is dead. The bald declaration is refreshing to Kit whose other friends are tiptoeing around the monumental absence. As the story unfolds, David offers to help Kit fill in the blanks of her dad’s fatal accident, but his brilliant calculations and tenacious persistence provide answers that Kit isn’t sure she wants to face.
Buxbaum brilliantly captures both grief and Autism in this tenderly written story that is as much about family relationships as it is about discovering love. Reluctant readers will be drawn to both the characters and the situation, the humor of the interactions between characters is an added bonus. This is perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and is a little less explicit than (but equally as humorous as) B. T. Gottfred’s The Nerdy and the Dirty.
Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Wren Clemmens has found herself on a path of self-destruction without quite understanding why – she only knows there’s a deep underlying unhappiness that colors her days and her actions. She finds herself being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and shipped off to a desert survival camp for troubled teens. Angry and bitter, Wren resists the lessons to be learned for as long as she can go without fire for cooking and warmth.
Van Draanen builds a tale of self-discovery that is as dry and gritty as the desert itself. Painstaking details of the landscape make the reader realize what heroes are out there who take on damaged kids and teach them how to get through the night, to depend on themselves and to want to help others. Wren sobers up both physically and emotionally, and learns that she can shape herself into a person she can live with. This is part family drama, part survival tale, and part celebration of the desert and its denizens. It’s sad and uplifting, disturbing, edifying, and impossible to put down.
Though comic books may not be the first place you consider looking for sports, the way that they combine powerful stories with powerful artwork makes them a great vehicle for telling sports stories. Many creative teams have taken advantages of what the format has to offer to tell exciting stories of athletes, competition, and teamwork. This list highlights just a few of these comics that are perfect for fans of sports and the competitive spirit.
Play Ball by Nunzio Defilippis and Christina Weir with art by Jackie Lewis – When Heather “Dashiell” Brody has to move across the country to a new school with her mom and sister, she finds at least one silver lining: Now that she is at a coed school, she’ll finally be able to play on a baseball team! Once she manages to fight her way onto the team, she realizes that she’ll still have to prove herself to her teammates and their opponents. Will her efforts to be a baseball pioneer be worth it? Or will it all be for nothing? This is a great read for any baseball fan or athlete, particularly those who feel left out of America’s National Pastime.
Spinning by Tillie Walden – As a child, Tillie Walden spent years as both a solo figure skater and a member of a synchronized skating team. In this memoir, she details her life on the team, offering a very personal look at her skating career and her teenage years. Readers learn about the commitment that Walden showed for the sport, the relationship she had with her family, and her own process of coming out through this honest autobiography. In an author’s note at the end, Walden notes that she focused more on exploring her memories of this period of her life than fact checking all aspects of those memories, but this in no way detracts from the story, which is a deeply personal, relatable and compelling read.
Slam! by Pamela Ribon with art by Veronica Fish – Written by a retired member of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls who also happens to be one of the authors of the Disney movie Moana, this comic captures the spirit of the rough and tumble sport of roller derby where there are strong friendships, plenty of competition, and maybe a little bit of blood. The story focuses on a diverse group of women who compete on two opposing teams, including Jennifer Chu and Maise Huff, best friends who find themselves on competing teams. The comic make readers want to put their skates on and join a team for sure.
Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu – If you’re a fan of hockey or Tumblr, you’ve probably already heard of the webcomic Check, Please, but if you haven’t and you like sport, it is definitely worth checking out. It follows two players on the hockey team at the fictional Samwell University. The main character is Bitty, a figure skater who turned to hockey for a college scholarship. He’s a vlogger and the comic frequently focuses on his vlogging and baking, but most of the time the story focuses on his burgeoning relationships with his teammates, particularly the captain of the team, Jack. The story mixes the best parts of sports stories and romantic comedies to be a very fun read. It is well worth checking out online and, it has been announced that First Second will be releasing the comic in print starting in the fall of 2018, so soon enough you’ll even be able to add it to your shelf.
Fence by C.S. Pacat with art by Johanna the Mad – Set in the world of competitive high school fencing, this series, which debuts this month, follows Nicholas and Seiji, who are both 16-year olds on the fencing team at their private boys school. Though the series is a love story, the focus on fencing will remain central with a lot of time and devotion spent to getting the technical details right. It promises to be a great series, particularly for serious fans of fencing.
Buzz! by Ananth Panagariya with art by Tessa Stone – In Buzz! readers are confronted by a world where there are “unsanctioned street level spelling bees” and even the sanctioned spelling bees are more like MMA fights than academic affairs. It may not be a traditional sport, but played this way, it definitely captures the intensity of athletic competitions. The story follows Webster, who really just wants to survive high school, as he falls into the world of spelling bees without really trying and gets tangled in intrigue and lawbreaking along the way. The story is a fun romp with art that perfectly complements the story and brings these competitions to life using a color palette of just black, grey and yellow.
Hopefully this list will offer plenty of options for any sports fans you might know. Add your own favorite sports comics to our list in the comments!
– Carli Spina, currently (re)reading Syllabus by Lynda Barry
Scooby Apocalypse Vol. 1 by Keith Griffen
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
What if you took the characters from Scooby-Doo, re-imagined them as badasses in the modern day, and pitted them against a mystery where the monsters are real and horrifying? Then you’d get Scooby Apocalypse.
This isn’t your parent’s Scooby gang. Shaggy is a hipster, foodie dog trainer paired with mutant science experiment Scooby at a top secret lab. Daphne and Freddie are renegade paranormal reality show hosts. And Velma is a research scientist for an evil corporation. In volume 1 we see how a variety of strange clues bring these misfits together. Leading them to a terrifying mystery that threatens the world.
Pick this up if you like dark and gritty re-imaginings of classic characters. Recommended for anyone who grew up watching Scooby-Doo, and are fans of horror comics.
My Hero Academia vol. 9 by Kohei Horikoshi
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
My Hero Academia vo. 10 by Kohei Horikoshi
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
In a world where most people have some kind of superpower, called a “quirk”, it really stinks to be the one guy without any. That’s Midoriya. He’s has all the makings of a great hero: brave, compassionate, and driven. But no quirk. Then one day he meets his superhero idol, All Might, and is given the chance to inherit the powers of the world’s greatest hero. Now he is enrolled in a prestigious academy for future heroes where he must learn to control his power, prove himself to his classmates, and become the world’s greatest hero!
In volume 9 the students of U.A. High School go to summer camp where they must work on controlling and harnessing their quirks.
In volume 10 Midoriya’s rival/bully, Bakugo, has been kidnapped by villains. It’s up to Midoriya and his classmates to save him.
This action manga has excitement and endearing characters. Great for fans of Naruto, Bleach, and Attack on Titan.
The Water Dragon’s Bride Vol.1 by Rei Toma
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
The Water Dragon’s Bride Vol.2 by Rei Toma
Publication Date: July 4, 2017
In the manga series The Water Dragon God’s Bride, a modern day girl named Asahi is suddenly transported from a happy life to a strange, cruel world. Her only friend is a boy named Subaru. When the locals decide to offer her up as a sacrifice to the Water Dragon God the ever cheerful Asahi must learn to survive a world where the people are superstitious and callous, and where her life is at the mercy of the distant and unfeeling Water Dragon God. The story has an optimistic tone that compliments the darker elements. Deeper depths are hinted at for all characters, including the crotchety Water Dragon God. The illustrations range from cute to beautiful. The mix of innocence and darkness makes for a compelling story that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next volume. Great for fans of fantasy and manga.
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Vol.1 by Ukyo Kodachi
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Boruto is the sequel manga to the wildly popular Naruto series. It follows the new generation of ninja as they train and battle enemies. Many of the characters are children of ninjas from the first series. The main focus is Boruto, son of Naruto from the first series. He yearns to step out of his father’s shadow and is resentful of how his father puts work before family. He’s placed on a team with Sarada (daughter of Sasuke and Sakura) whose dream is to be the next Hokage, and has her own issues with a often absent father. This sets up new characters with room to develop, and hints at future story arcs. The illustrations are dynamic and similar to the original series. This volume introduces new characters and expands on the world of Naruto with new ninjutsu, villains, and personalities. Recommended for fans of Naruto, action manga, and anime.
The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains by Jon Morris
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Move over Superwomen (see the book by Hope Nicholson), there are new villains in town! Well, not quite NEW villains. From the very first pages, Morris makes his premise clear: “What good is a superhero without a decent supervillain?” Digging deeply into the archives, Morris breathes new life into some of the “most forgotten floes and oddball blackguards.” Diehard graphic novel/comics fans and reluctant readers alike will delight in the beautiful color graphics and the compendium of esoteric meanies.
Each new villain is introduced with an epigraph of their cheesiest taunt or most notorious line. Sidebars introduce readers to the villain’s nemesis, their creator, debut information and an author’s choice piece of trivia. Morris chooses to organize his parts as the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the Modern Age and then presents the villains, in all their glory, alphabetically. This is a tongue in cheek companion to Morris’s other entry in Quirk Books’ stable: The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History. Reluctant readers with a taste for vintage villains will appreciate the format that can be skimmed, skipped through, and returned to without having to keep tangled plots clear in their heads.
The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History by Hope Nicholson
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Hope Nicholson has demonstrated that she is the ultimate comic nerd and feminist in this compilation of diverse female characters under alliterative title with the kind of sheer cover that fascinates teen readers. Nicholson has clearly scoured the comic nether regions to assemble a cast of female characters–both fabulous and flawed–and present them to readers.
Organized by decade, with an introduction to what was going on in the comics/graphic novel publishing industry and a conclusion that features an iconic character from the decade, Nicholson has created a nonfiction book that will appeal to a specific niche of reader: the comic fan. Each superwoman is given her own profile which includes her name, a snappy description of her character, a defining quote by the character, her creators, and the issue in which she first appears. Nicholson then proceeds to analyze each of the 100 characters in terms of their development and the characteristics that make each of them a worthwhile contribution to the world of comics. Each character’s profile is wrapped up with an “Essential Readings” blurb that tells readers where they can locate the actual comic. Profiles are augmented by either the cover or a panel from the original comic book in which the superwoman was featured.
This is clearly a labor of love for Nicholson who fills around 200 pages of content, an index that spans over five pages and art credits that take up two. Her audience is clearly not just intended to be comic curious teens in search of girl power. Her narrative is cheeky and informed, but she doesn’t shy away from commenting on a character’s overt sexuality and–in the case of the seventies characters of Pudge: Girl Blimp and Zelda the Witch–including panels that feature feminine nudity that are sure to get less mature readers tittering, not that the miniscule costumes of the bodacious superheroines of the nineties leave much to the imagination, either.
Overall, this is a title for the diehard comics history fan. The one-page profiles are filled with trivia and analysis, but readers can pick it the book up, read it, and put it down without fear of losing the plot. The feminist lens used to evaluate the characters provides the added bonus of a weightier substance to a title could otherwise be as easily dismissed as the artists and characters it celebrates.
The post #QP2018 Nominees Round Up: Manga and Graphic Novels appeared first on The Hub.
What happened in YA this month? Here is a quick round up of featured posts on The Hub and other links to keep you up to date when collecting for your teens.At the Hub
Nominees abound this month, click for a look at Hub posts in October
- Amazing Audiobooks include two funny audiobooks , stories of real life, historical audiobooks featuring fiction and true tales of teens making history, charming and engaging coming of age narratives, and a few unusual story styles.
- Quick Pick nominees coming fast with round ups here and here and here as well as Non-Fiction and Graphic novel nominees. Plus Sports Stories that feature characters with grit and tenacity.
- Stories featuring teen activists to inspire the teens in your library
- Women in Comics – Monsters, Ghosts, and the Supernatural
- Some pop-culture podcasts for teens
- Teen’s Top Ten announced
- Some picture books for young adults
View more happenings around the web below:Books & Reading
- As we contemplated Banned Books Week, I reflected on Why the Best Kids Books are Written in Blood by Sherman Alexie
- Watch the Teens’ Top Ten Announcement
- Wonderstruck based on the book by Brian Selznick came out October 20. See the trailer.
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’s movie is coming out March 14, 2018 with the sweet title: Love, Simon
- Audible’s interview with Jason Reynolds (I absolutely loved the audiobook of As Brave as You)
- Audiofile’s round up of YA Audiobooks
- Young adult literature is under siege
- What stories get told, and by whom?
- We live in the dystopia YA fiction warns us about
— Cathy Outten, currently reading Wonderwoman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
One of the most exciting reveals from NYCC was the official trailer for season 11 of The-X Files. This winter Mulder and Scully will be back on the case, searching for the truth that still lies within the X-Files. If you are like me, you are jumping up and down with delight at the thought of seeing your favorite duo on screen again. What on earth will we do until 2018 – throw pencils at the ceiling? Sorry Mulder, but no! Grab a pack of sunflower seeds and settle in with these great reads. Mystery, conspiracy, magic, and mayhem abound in these 10 titles that will surely prepare you to trust no one.
Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia
Have you ever wondered what Mulder was like as a teen? It’s 1979 and seventeen-year-old Fox Mulder is the new kid in school. Just after his family moves to escape the heart ache of his sister Samantha’s disappearance, a local boy turns up dead and another child is abducted. Mulder is drawn to the case, and he soon finds himself hunting a serial killer.
Devil’s Advocate by Jonathan Maberry
What was Scully like as a teen? It’s 1979 and fifteen-year-old Dana Scully is the new kid in Craiger, Maryland. Dana has had dreams in the past come true, but now she is having vivid dreams of a different nature. Her dreams are disturbing and haunted by a mysterious figure which could be an angel, or the devil. One teen death leads to another in Dana’s new town, and she begins to investigate. She soon discovers evil is very real.
Truthers by Geoffrey Girard
Katie Wallace was only a year old when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. Her father was institutionalized for claiming to know what really happened on that day. Katie’s father adamantly believes the attacks were part of a government conspiracy and that Katie is the lone survivor of a massive cover-up. Katie begins her own investigation into her father’s claims in the hopes to clear his name.
Girl with a Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
Ellie Baum unintentionally time-travels to 1988 East Berlin by red balloon. She finds herself caught up in a conspiracy of magic and history. She encounters members of a secret society in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Berlin Wall, but she must risk everything to stop an individual from using dark magic to change history.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Over a stormy Irish summer, Olive and her best friend, Rose meet Hazel, Rowen, and Ivy, and the five teens discover a spell book that may have caused their possessions to go missing. The teens discovered they are connected in ways they could not have imagined and they must lean on each other when the spell they cast does not go as planned.
Nemesis by Brendan Reichs
An enormous asteroid called the Anvil threatens to end all life on Earth, and Min, a sixteen year old from Fire Lake, Idaho, begins to unearth a menacing conspiracy involving all of the students in her sophomore class.
Recruits by Thomas Locke
Sean and Dillon are twin brothers who discover they have the ability to transfer between worlds. With their newly discovered ability, they soon become recruits to the planetary Assembly.
Brik by Adam Glass and Michael Benson
12-year-old Drew loses his grandfather to gang violence, so he turns to Kabbalah to serve vengeance. Drew conjures a supernatural defender to protect his city, but creates power he is not able to control.
The Lost Causes by Jessica Koosed Etting and Alyssa Embree Schwartz
Five teens are given a dangerous serum by the FBI to erase their troubled pasts and give them new psychic abilities. In return, the teens must help find the killer who is terrorizing their small town.
Sage Alexander and the Hall of Nightmares by Steve Copling
Sage Alexander is a 14-year-old who is descended from humans and angels. The human race is in danger and will soon need his help. The Seven Princes of Hell are controlling the world. When Sage’s father comes under their control, he must face death as he battles his way through time in order to save his family.
—Megan Whitt, currently reading I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
In this adorable and fascinating book readers learn about the true stories of amazing cats and their owners. Each story is short and features National Geographic quality pictures. Standout tales include: Dodger, a cat who learned to ride the bus, Humphrey, the official government mouser for the United Kingdom, Pudditat, a cat that became a seeing eye cat for a blind dog, and Bubba, a cat who attended school so often he got his own ID card. In between stories are fun facts and cat information. The short sections, captivating pictures, and interesting stories make this a perfect quick read. Recommended for fans of animals, National Geographic fact books, and Animal Planet TV shows.
Creative Pep Talk: Inspiration from 50 Artists by Andy J. Miller
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Do you enjoy creative ideas and projects? This beautiful book is full of ideas AND lots of encouragement, too! Creative Pep Talk provides words of wisdom from 50 of today’s leading creative professionals. Readers are encouraged to stay excited, experiment boldly, and conquer fear: “Create curiosity,” “Learn to say no,” and “If you can’t be good, be different.”
Teen artists will find inspiration and plenty of pep talks. Browsing readers will also enjoy the art and design of Creative Pep Talk.
Heavy use of illustrations and sparse text are major selling points for reluctant readers.
Recommended for any reader who enjoys art or creative pursuits. Great for those thinking of a career as an artist, graphic designer, or animator.
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
Steve Sheinkin has done it again! Ever popular with reluctant readers for his pacing and his exposure of little known facts, this time his focus is football and two indomitable forces in the development of the game as we know it: Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner.
Jokes about lousy reffing take on new meaning as Sheinkin sets the historical context not only of the game of football, but also for the prejudice that was leveled at the Carlisle Indian School players when they made the decision to take on the “Big Four”: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania. In a struggle that can only be defined as epic, Pop Warner and the Native Americans who made up the Carlisle Indian School football team changed how the game was played. The squabbles of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in determining which college football team is the greatest will pale in comparison to the down and dirty game played in Thorpe’s time. Diehard fans of football will relish Sheinkin’s descriptions of plays that seem commonplace today, but were revolutionary when unrolled by Pop Warner and Jim Thorpe. Readers will come away with a whole new appreciation for the courage and tenacity demonstrated by the Carlisle Indian School Indians.
Short chapters supported by fascinating historical photos, illustrations, and play diagrams keep the story moving. Reluctant readers may not be as entranced with the exhaustive end noting, bibliography, and end matter as educators and librarians, but it is reassuring to know that Sheinkin has grounded this historical analysis of the good, the bad, and the deadly of football and some of the most influential men in the game in solid research.
Sandwiches! : More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering, illustrated by Bob Lentz
Capstone Young Readers
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Illustrated, easy-to-follow sandwich recipes, accompanied by fun facts will make stomachs growl! From simple Level 1 “Plate and Knife” to Level 2 “Toaster and Microwave”, on up to “The Big Time” Level 5, teen chefs of all skill levels will be satiated.
The bold, colorful cover design is first to grab audience attention, followed by the amazingly vibrant and detailed food images on each page. The introduction includes an illustrated table of contents, along with tools and safety tips. The leveled format from one through five makes this book very accessible for beginners, skilled chefs, and everyone in between. Fun facts such as History of the PB&J, along with “We Dare You” add-in ingredients make even the most basic sammies more special. Other culinary delights include a Chicken and Waffles sandwich, “The Gobbler” for turkey leftovers, and even a sampling of dessert sandwiches. Over fifty recipes contain ideas for many customizable add-ins, along with allergy-friendly substitutions and vegetarian options. Hand this to Food Network fans and teens wanting to start simple and build their confidence in cooking.
Tie & Dye by Lizzie King
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
In this how to Tie Dye book Lizzie King leads readers through a variety of tie dye projects. An introduction includes a brief cultural history of tie dye in Japanese culture, info about the dyes, different ways to fold the cloth, how the color wheel works etc. Projects range from dying socks, to plant hangers, to shoes. Each project includes a visual representation of what materials are needed, and step by step photos and instructions are included making each project easily accessible for readers. King’s light and friendly tone help to make the instructions even more engaging. This book acts as a great intro to tie dye with a little extra depth for those who want to explore different techniques.
Great for fans of DIY culture, and tie dye.
Teens are often their own guides into how they consume pop culture and news media, and like their adult counterparts, they love the discussion of the art as much as enjoying the art itself. This kind of discussion reinforces school curriculum that also is about evaluating and discourse, and hones those life skills of understanding the world around them, and how they can contribute. Podcasts are an accessible form where one can tune in, and can be enlightening as they dig deeper into elements of culture, while also enhancing their own narrative skills, giving them language to better discuss and understand them.
There are often blurred lines between pop culture and current events. Better understanding the world from which something has arisen offers better understanding of the object, and the cultural climate it has arisen. Here are list of pop culture podcasts that will appeal to teens. Many offer humor and most look at the world through a social justice lens.
Still Processing from The New York Times with hosts Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. Insightful and timely, in this podcast Times writers break down current events and pop culture discussing everything from Barbecue (its culture and its appropriation) to sports (the power of tennis’ Williams sisters), the NPR’s list of 150 greatest albums by women, and what true self care really looks like, especially after events like Charlotteville.
Rookie Podcast from MTV with the creators of the online Rookie magazine and spearheaded by its teen creator Tavi Gevinson. Here they interview a person of interest and have had guests such as Lorde, Janet Mock, Roxanne Gay and do a podcast version of “Ask a Grown” where teens can ask adults questions about life. Also, in the spirit of the magazine, listeners are given prompts to send in content that will be part of the podcast.
It’s Been A Minute from NPR (National Public Radio), host Sam Sanders delivers two weekly podcasts looking at the week’s events meshing pop culture and news. The first podcast of the week he does what he calls a “deep dive” where he interviews someone, or looks into a recent issue. He has had interviews from previous Saturday Night Live actors Sasheer Zamata and Taran Killam, a tour of The Onion, and Lena Waithe from Master of None. At the end of the week he sits down with two other folks, usually other NPR voices, and they go through the week’s events in a variety of ways, and always ending with the montage “The Best Thing That Happened this Week,” where listeners call in and say the best thing that has happened in their life (just try not to cry, I dare you).
Nerdette Podcast also from NPR, hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen geek out on a variety of things from books, movies, and television whether it is science or science fiction. Recent guests have been Alex Kingston from Doctor Who, Everest climber, guide and mountaineer Melissa Arnot Reid, The Office’s star Rainn Wilson talking about bassoons, and Tom Hanks geeking out over typewriters. Each episode ends with their guest giving some “homework” that can vary from reading a specific book, listening to a song, or going outside. If you have a teen that is obsessed with Game of Thrones, during the television season they have another podcast where they recap each episode with the NPR host of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me Peter Sagal called Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal.
Represent from Slate host Aisha Harris looks at film, television, and streaming content created by women, people of color, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. Recent podcasts have delved into the most recent season of The Bachelorette that had its first Black star Rachel Lindsay, while looking at what it means today to be a person of color in the modern dating world, breakdown Netflix’s controversial 13 Reasons Why, and Netflix’s new comedy Atypical about an autistic character, but not an autistic star. Guests on the show speak from personal experiences offering listeners a chance to look at pop culture through a variety of lenses.
KollabCast: A Pop Culture Podcast from an Asian American Perspective from Kollaboration hosts Christine Minji Chang and Marvin Yueh look at pop culture and offers social commentary from an Asian American perspective. They along with one or two guest focus in on the the creative arts and current events. Recent podcasts have included professional dancer Ben Chung, also known as BTEK, Leonardo Nam, from HBO’s Westworld, and Traci Lee, the editor of NBC Asian America. They have taken on the newest from Taylor Swift and the casting of the live-action Aladdin.
Lady Problems from MTV hosts Rachel Handler, Teo Bugbee, and Hazel Cills along with rotating guests look at pop culture through a feminist lens. Funny and on-point, episodes from their past season have discussed the International Women’s Day strike, Kylie Jenner’s pop-up shop, a new look at romantic comedies, and Carrie Fisher. The podcast is currently on hiatus, but past episodes are still resonating months later.
Who Charted? from Earwolf hosts Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack along with a popular comedian or two look at what is hitting the charts in both music and movies while giving funny commentary and playing a variety of games like Chart Roulette. Listeners can send in audio questions for upcoming guests.
Homophilia also from Earwolf this newer podcast hosts Dave Holmes and Matt McConkey interview and discuss with LGBTQ+ celebrity guests what they are are loving in the pop culture. There are usually plenty of dating stories along with dating advice.
–Danielle Jones, currently reading Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
It’s finally here! The 2017 Teens’ Top Ten titles have been announced!
Without further ado, here are the winning titles!
- Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan. Sourcebooks Fire. 9781492630142.
- Scythe by Neal Shusterman. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 9781442472426.
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Penguin Random House. 9780553496680.
- Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 9781442468351
- This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. Sourcebooks Fire. 9781492622468.
- Heartless by Marissa Meyer. Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. 9781250044655.
- P.S. I Like You by Kasie West. Scholastic. 9780545850971.
- Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 9781481432542.
- Genius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout. Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. 9781250115270.
- If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. Flatiron Books YA. 9781250078407.
Check out a list of the winners, with annotations here.
Thanks to all the teens for voting and congrats to all the winners!
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Tash Zelenka is head-over-heels in love with Leo Tolstoy. She channels her passion and her prodigious snark into the Web series she creates with her best friend Jack, a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina called Unhappy Families, which boasts a modest following. When a famous Internet personality gives their series a shoutout online, Unhappy Families experiences sudden overnight fame, resulting in overwhelming helpings of accolades, inevitable trolls, and pressure to deliver like they’ve never experienced before.
To further complicate matters, Tash finds herself engaged in an intense cyber-flirtation with another well-known vlogger. The problem is that while Tash knows perfectly well how to express her love for Tolstoy, she is less sure about how to articulate her feelings towards boys. She identifies as romantic asexual, a fact which she has a hard time talking about with the people closest to her, let alone a guy she has never met before. It doesn’t take long for tensions to develop between her and her best friends, one of whom has been nursing an unrequited crush on her for a long time.
Tash and her friends’ whip-smart, snappy banter will quickly draw readers into their orbit, making their story accessible to readers who have zero familiarity with Tolstoy’s repertoire. Tash and Jack, the two best friends at the heart of the novel, are both refreshingly flawed and relatable. Their wise-cracking dialogue is often hilarious, propelling readers headlong into their world of inside jokes and nerdy references. The supporting cast of characters is also vibrant and well-developed, representing a variety of colorful personalities and a spectrum of sexualities. Tash’s representation is particularly noteworthy, being a both a nuanced and explicit representation of a romantic asexual character. Readers looking for nuanced representation of underrepresented, diverse sexualities will be sure to find it here, wrapped in an irreverent, earnest package that is full of humor and heart.
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
After tough as nails teen orphan Jule befriends adopted wealthy socialite Imogen, Immie goes missing and is presumed dead. When a chameleon-like Jule takes on Imogen’s style and demeanor, some close to Immie begin to wonder if Jule is simply genuine, or a genuine fraud. Her hard-core combat skills could allude to her being an undercover agent, or a criminal… a protective best friend, or a conspirator.
The unconventional reverse chronological order totally works in this novel, which begins with Chapter Eighteen. Readers become instantly absorbed in Jule’s jet-setting itinerary, flying through the twisty, suspenseful pages, itching to know what facilitated her actions. The striking cover catches the eye and gives a hint as to the intriguing premise of the book. Issues such as adoption, religious diversity, and social classes/entitlement are featured.
Lockhart acknowledges the nod to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, while keeping her own distinct style and techniques to make this remain a very original story. Hand this one to fans of books with unreliable narrators, such as Lockhart’s We Were Liars, Allegedly by Tiffany L. Jackson, The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, or selections by Nova Ren Suma.
Danny Blackgoat: Dangerous Passage by Tim Tingle
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Have you heard of the Long Walk of the Navajo? During the Civil War, the United States Army forced Navajos off their land and families struggled to survive in the unsafe prison.
Danny Blackgoat is a wanted criminal, charged with stealing a horse from Fort Davis. In the 1860s, the penalty for horse theft is death by hanging. Danny’s old friend, Jim Davis, stole the horse to help Danny escape. Danny must choose to help his friend or remain free.
Readers will be interested by the red cover, which features a silhouette of a person on horseback, a sun setting and a noose. This story is filled with history-based action, as the Diné people first are imprisoned and later return to Navajo country. In the Afterword they will learn of 1868 Treaty and that the Navajo Nation today has “the largest Indian population in America.”
Readers will find the story of Danny Blackgoat an easy to read adventure with a unique historical setting during the Civil War. Issues with the soldiers and their (un)justice system will remind readers of current social problems with law enforcement. Loss of family & the power of friendship will resonate with teens in foster care, group homes & juvenile justice programs.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, cover illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Meet Miles Morales, a half black, half Puerto Rican high school junior in Brooklyn, New York. Only his father and his best friend, Ganke, know the truth: Miles is Spider-Man. The problem is, Miles’ spidey-sense seems off. The buzzing makes it difficult to focus in class, where his teacher, Mr. Chamberlain, drones on about the “benefits” of slavery and incarceration. Miles wants to do well in school and please his parents, but he is fighting internal battles that may require him to suit up and take care of business.
Kadir Nelson’s realistic skin tone rendering, use of light, and splayed out, web like fingers combine for a masterful cover that appears to have an almost three-dimensional aspect. Miles and his buddy, Korean-American Ganke, are a highly amusing character duo that will entertain readers instantly. The novel format takes nothing away from typical comic graphic representation, as Reynolds’ lifelike characters seem to breathe on the page. Strong voices emerge from multiple characters…some menacing and disturbing, others likeable yet flawed. Miles’ banter with both his father and Ganke will have reluctant readers rolling on the floor laughing from references such as gold-plated farts and bedwetting. Dialect provides an authentic feel to the narrative. Pacing intensifies as Miles comes closer to the ultimate cause behind his spidey-senses gone wild. Thought provoking and reflective, this is so much more than a superhero story with issues such as racism, poverty, and family secrets that surface, woven together seamlessly by Reynolds. The exploding conclusion lends itself to a possible sequel.
Naturally, Marvel comics readers will eat this book up, but the audience range is actually much broader. The humor, battle of good vs. evil, multicultural characters, and the superhero factor have appeal for a wide variety of readers. Teens craving more of Miles Morales can be directed to the several other Marvel comics featuring this character. Additionally, this would be a fabulous book club or classroom discussion book to encourage dialogue for tackling the issues of racism, family, internal struggles, and more.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
After Justyce McCallister tries to do the right thing by assisting his biracial ex-girlfriend in a parking lot, he ends up handcuffed on the ground. He then reflects upon the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and begins keeping a journal of sorts with letters to Martin. When a needless shooting takes the life of someone close to him, Justyce questions whether Martin’s visions of peace are possible.
The simple, yet eye-catching cover of an African-American male teen in a red hoodie sets the tone for the stereotyping that unfolds within. The believable treatment of the characters by police and others is unfortunately a ripped-from-the-headlines reality in today’s world, and many teens will be able to relate to the introspective thoughts Justyce candidly reveals in his letters to Martin. Topping out at just over 200 pages with short chapters, the content and format holds strong appeal for reluctant readers. Fans of All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon will devour this book. Dear Martin is also an outstanding choice for a classroom or a book club discussion for teens focusing on social justice, racism, and police brutality.
These graphic Quick Picks nominees are sure to draw in readers.
Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo: The Road to Epoli by James Parks
Illustrated by Ben Costa
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
In this graphic novel readers join the overly chatty skeleton bard, Rickety Stitch, and his best friend, a gelatinous Goo (a la Dungeons and Dragons). Freshly fired from their jobs as low-level dungeon goons, the two friends end up making their way through a zany fantasy world. The story cuts between the bright, mostly goofy world of our heroes as they encounter other eccentric characters, and darker almost sinister visions from Rickety Stitch’s dreams. Rickety is an endearing comedic protagonist. Simultaneously easy going, charming, and so naive you can’t help but roll your eyes. So much so that a literal sound effect is written as “eye-roll” when a character reacts to one of Rickety’s quips. The eye-catching illustrations paired with a comedic adventure plot make for a fun first installment in a series that hints at a deeper story line.
The story hooks readers right away with screwball characters and fun twists on a fantasy world. A typical video game dungeon that feels like an office from a sitcom, and a gnome that offers Rickety commemorative spoons celebrating the eighty-seventh annual Kraken Bisque Eating Contest is par for the course in this graphic novel. The mix of adventure and comedy tones with hints at a deeper darker story line will please fans of the Bone series. The colorful, vibrant, and occasionally haunting illustrations will appeal to Amulet fans. Recommended for both teens who just want a funny goofy story, and teens who like fantasy comics with the promise of a bigger darker story line.
Superman Science the Real World Science Behind Superman’s Powers by Agnieszka Biskup and Tammy Enz
Capstone Young Readers
Publication Date: March 1, 2017
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! NO, it’s SCIENCE!!!
Superman keeps the world safe with super strength, lightning speed, laser vision, and the ability to fly. Now readers can learn about science behind strength, speed, sight, and flight.
Superman Science explores how real life science and engineering relates to Superman’s powers and the surprising real-world connections.
Lots of graphics combine information in a fun visual layout on each page.
Many of the concepts could be difficult to comprehend, but in this format are accessible and easy to read.
Readers will find this a fun title to read over and over for both historical information, practical application of scientific knowledge and important advances for the world.
Champion: the Graphic Novel by Marie Lu
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Readers will be drawn into the world of the Republic in this vivid graphic book based on the final book of the Legend trilogy.
June and Day have sacrificed so much for the Republic — and each other — and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June works within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect and Day has been assigned a high-level military position. A peace treaty is planned but then a plague causes panic. The new plague is deadlier than ever before. Suddenly a war threatens the border cities.
The cover offers a glimpse of the two main characters, who face different directions, just as they must make difficult decisions throughout the story.
Garbage Night by Jen Lee
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Anthropomorphic dog Simon and his two best friends, a raccoon, and deer live in a suburb mysteriously abandoned by humans. The friends’ group dynamic is disrupted by the appearance of a newcomer named Barnaby. The group sets off in search of food and a city where humans are still rumored to live. Their explorations prove more dangerous than any of them could have anticipated, and friendships are tested. The graphic novel features appealing illustrations that balance a cartoonish style with a hipster cool aesthetic. The story is light on text and is assisted by the images which add depth and atmosphere to the story.
Teens will relate to the friendship issues with Simon and his group . The odd world, with the absence of humans and unexplained anthropomorphized animals, is an effective hook. The appealing cute/cool illustrations paired with an engaging theme of friendship enduring in the face of peer pressure will appeal to readers.
Recommended for grades 6-9. Great for fans of dramat/fantasy mashups like Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, and fans of quirky graphic novels with heart like Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.
everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too by Jomny Sun
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
In this quirkily titled book, Jomny, a lonely alien, finally finds a place he belongs when he lands on Earth. He makes friends with all manner of creatures, who teach him about deep abstract concepts like life, art, and nothing. Full of simple black and white illustrations with sparse text. Jomny and his friends are all super cute and fun to look at. The adorably innocent Jomny is endearing and relatable in his confusion and delight at learning about life on earth. His thoughtful conversations with earth creatures strike a profound and positive tone.
The minimal text and cute illustrations make this an easy read. And the weighty themes of what makes one human, and what it means to be alive, make it meaningful. Jomny’s status as a well known Twitter account adds to it’s appeal.
Recommended for fans of short quirky comics and books based on internet memes. Perfect for fans of Sarah’s Scribbles by Sarah Andersen and Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.
Today’s Quick Picks nominees are filled with thrills and chills.
Breaking by Danielle Rollins
Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Charlotte has never been a top student at her prestigious, expensive, academically rigorous boarding school. Her best friends Ariel and Devon, however, are true Weston Prep material – freakishly smart and incredibly talented at a multitude of things. Understandably, Charlotte is reeling after they both commit suicide within weeks of each other – they were pretty much her only real family. Then she discovers a clue… and realizes that Ariel has left her a trail of breadcrumbs right to the answer to all her questions. If she’s brave enough and clever enough to figure out the puzzle, what she learns will change everything. Breaking is a companion novel to Rollins’s first book, Burning, and reading them in order may provide more details and context about situations mentioned in Breaking, but it is not strictly necessary.
Breaking travels at breakneck speed through a winding trail of problems, deaths, twists, and revelations. It’s a little bit sci-fi, a lot of suspense, and a heap of seriously dysfunctional parenting and adulting. Reluctant readers will appreciate the fast pace and razor-sharp language, and lots of teenagers will identify with the pressure Charlotte and her classmates feel to do better and be more, both from their parents and themselves. The darkly cynical tone carries some humor despite the creepy, often violent situations the characters find themselves in, and characters not prone to too much deep introspection make the plot’s wild ride easier to follow. A twisted story with a “to be continued…” ending, Breaking is perfect for fans of TV shows like Pretty Little Liars or the new Teen Wolf, plus titles such as Lauren Oliver’s Replica, Suzanne Young’s The Program series, and the Virals series by Kathy Reichs.
— Allie Stevens
Dream Fall by Amy Plum
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
The cover alone is enough to pique the interest of teens with a fascination for horror. What follows is a psychological thriller/sci fi story that will keep readers guessing until the very end.
Cata is one of seven teens who have severe sleep issues. These racially and geographically diverse characters have been invited to become part of a study that is designed to change their brain patterns with the ultimate goal of relieving them of their sleep disorders. That’s the plan. Plans can change. A power surge in the medical room means that now the seven teens must survive their nightmares in order to survive the treatment.
Plum’s thriller is told from three perspectives: Cata, Fergus, and Jaime. Cata and Fergus are test subjects, and while Cata has survived abuse sufficient to leave her with PTSD, Fergus is a rich kid with a history of carefully concealed sadism. Jaime is a lucky med school intern who gets to participate in this study, and it is his perspective that narrate the events transpiring outside the subjects’ comatose dream state.
Plum has tapped into the horror genre to create nightmares that can kill subjects in both their dream and waking state, and it is that instant recognition of those horror tropes that will raise delicious goosebumps for teen readers. The cliffhanger ending sets this short tale up for a sequel that is likely to be equally well received, since subject 7 appears to be a killer, and the ending suggests the killer’s identity. Just when readers think they know their characters, it turns out, they may have to rethink their preconceptions. Teens who have shown an interest in Stephen King thrillers like It, and Christine, or who have enjoyed Gordon Alexander Smith’s Lockdown series or Michael Grant’s Gone series will find this an easy, but spine tingling, read.
— Jodi Kruse
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Cemetery Dance Publications
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
It’s 1976, and our protagonist is Gwendy, a teenager in a small Maine town. One day a stranger gives her a mysterious box with buttons to press. Pressing the buttons causes good things to happen to Gwendy, but as time passes she begins to suspect that there may be a sinister cost to her good fortune. Gwendy’s story is a coming of age tale, full of mystery and horror with a frenzied climax. Stephen King and Richard Chizmar have crafted an eery story, reminiscent of King’s Eyes of the Dragon. Readers will be drawn in by the Stephen King brand, a short 164 page story, and the promise of a haunting tale.
Recommended for fans of horror who want a quick read.
The Special Ones by Em Bailey
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
How special is it to be stolen from your life and forced to live in isolation, taking on the identity of someone else under pain of punishment or worse? How special to have to train, again and again, young frightened girls who have been ripped from their homes to become someone else – to look and dress like another person from another era, to talk like them and be them while being watched at every moment and terrified to slip up?
The Special Ones are four young people who must live in a fantasy world created by a monster – known to them only as him. He steals them, imprisons them on a farm that’s like something from the 1940s, gives them daily instructions – and punishments. Every night they go into the special room with the computers and talk to the thousands of lost souls who believe in them, giving them advice and validating their worries and fears. Until, finally, one of them sees a way out.
Fans of Stephen King and Gail Giles will love this creepy, unbelievable and yet somehow very believable tale about a group of imprisoned kids fighting for survival and desperate for freedom.
The Possible by Tara Altebrando
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Kaylee is a relatively ordinary teenager, playing on a softball team and crushing on boys… until a podcast journalist runs a series on her imprisoned birth mother, Crystal. Rumors spread like wildfire…does Crystal really have telekinetic powers that resulted in the death of Kaylee’s two-year-old brother thirteen years ago? After Kaylee pitches a perfect game and some other unusual occurrences seem to follow her, friends and teammates begin to believe Kaylee herself has telekinetic abilities.
The cover design illustrates a girl encased in a lightning bolt-filled snow globe. The composition of varied textures includes a glossy circular laminate surface that mimics the glass of a snow globe, definitely catching the eye and focusing viewers on the lightning. Teens will instantly be engrossed by the idea of possible telekinetic powers, and will keep turning pages as the pacing intensifies. While Kaylee and her adoptive parents are believable enough characters who are easy to like, Crystal is seriously twisted and readers will loathe her on the spot. Kaylee is haunted by the past, especially her birth mother. With the podcast series bringing up old ghosts, nothing is certain anymore.
This title will appeal to admirers of books with telekinetic or other paranormal activities, such as Pulse by Patrick Carman or Burning and companion book Breaking by Danielle Rollins. Additionally, hand this to devotees of some prototypical book to film adaptations such as Matilda by Roald Dahl, Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander H. Key, or Carrie by Stephen King.
Guest post by Jessica Ormonde
Picture books aren’t just for kids anymore. They can be for all ages. Even a graphic novel is a picture book if you think about it.
There are quite a few titles that while packaged in the traditional picture book format feature twisted humor or complex themes that will appeal to young adults.
At the last meeting of YALSA’s Picture Books For Young Adults Interest Group, members discussed how they use picture books with their young adults. Here are some ways you can incorporate picture books into your teen programming and collections.
- Read a picture book before and/or after book talks.
- Incorporate picture books into book club. Try passing a picture book with YA appeal around the book group, having each person read a page. Be sure to offer the option to pass if they’re uncomfortable reading aloud.
- Use them as an ESL teaching tool. Picture books have fewer words and more visual context clues than chapter books, and can help build confidence with language for ESL students.
- Encourage young adults to check out picture books for younger siblings or children they babysit.
Ready to try out picture books with young adults? Here are some picture books with YA appeal.
A Hungry Lion, or, A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummin
Members of a large group of animals, including a penguin, two rabbits, and a koala, disappear at an alarming rate but the hungry lion remains. Hmmm… I wonder what could be happening to them? Young Adults will enjoy the situational irony and twist on the typically sweet picture book ending.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
A bear almost gives up his search for his missing hat until he remembers something important. A darkly funny ending. Older readers are more likely to appreciate the awkward stares and subtle humor in this story.
Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis
When a caterpillar meets her perfect love, a tadpole, she begs him never to change, but their relationship is doomed. Another darkly funny twisted ending that teens will love.
Mr. Maxwell’s Mouse by Frank Asch
While celebrating his new promotion at his favorite restaurant, Paw and Claw, Mr. Maxwell orders the “live” mouse special and gets more than he bargained for when his dinner arrives with a little garnish–and quite an attitude! The juxtaposition between such a fancy restaurant setting and anthropomorphic cats is humorous enough. But the way the mouse eloquently and apologetically talks himself out of being eaten is humor older readers will appreciate.
The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman
Lucy is sure there are wolves living in the walls of her house, although others in her family disagree, and when the wolves come out, the adventure begins. Effectively creepy illustrations, paired with an unsettling premise make for a great picture book with YA appeal. This is another one with a bit of a twist on the expected ending.
It’s a Book by Lane Smith
Two readers compare a print to digital media, and learn books are still valuable. Older readers will relate to and/or understand the humorous depiction of a device obsessed individual, and there’s also a play on words using the word “jackass” which often makes teens giggle.
This edition of Amazing Audiobooks nominees features two funny stories!
Kill All Happies by Rachel Cohn, narrated by Lauren Ezzo
Audio Published by Dreamscape Media, LLC
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Kill All Happies is Cohn’s newest solo title. Cohn is well-known for her collaborative titles with YA author David Levithan, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, the Twelves Days of Dash and Lily and Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List. In Kill All Happies, Victoria “Vic” Navarro or “General Navarro,” as she is called by peers, is determined to give the seniors of Rancho Soldado one last party they won’t forget. Like most of the townspeople of Rancho Soldado, Vic is devastated that the local restaurant Happies has closed and is being sold to developers. Vic gets permission to host the party in the Happies restaurant, with the understanding that the party will in no way overflow into the abandoned Happies theme park behind the restaurant, and that Annette Thrope, a.k.a. “Miss Ann Thrope,” Vic’s arch-nemesis, teacher, and real estate agent for the Happies property, will not find out. Vic is assisted in this endeavor by her two best friends, Genesis “Fletch” Fletcher and Mercedes “Slick” Zavala-Kim. But Vic also has another goal for the evening, to hook up with her number one crush, Slick’s older brother Jake. At first, the party seems to be going on without a hitch, but soon Happies from all over arrive to celebrate the “last night at Happies.” The night begins to veer off course and Vic has to decide to try and fix the problems the party is causing or give up and join in the fun.
This book is fast paced, especially once the party starts and unpredictable with all of the hijinks that ensue. Lauren Ezzo is what really makes this story enjoyable enthusing all of the sarcasm and biting acerbic wit that these teens express. This wacky hilarious story is not to be taken seriously, but to be savored for its silliness. This story is stuffed with strong language and does contain talk of sexual situations.
This book will appeal mostly to older teens. Fans of this book may also like Cohn’s other work, or other comedic titles such as the Denton Little’s Deathdate and Denton Little’s Still Not Dead by Lance Rubin (who reads the audio himself!).
— Erin Durrett
Benjamin Franklin: You’ve Got Mail by Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel, narrated by Nick Podehl, Tom Parks, and Lauren Ezzo
Audiobook published by Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Time travel and America’s founding fathers get an over-the-top, hilarious skewering in this sequel to Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My…
Seventh-grader Ike Saturday time travels in a cardboard box to 1776 hoping to find Benjamin Franklin and save the country that will become America. Ike wants to help right the wrong he and girlfriend Claire Wanzandae inadvertently set in motion while trying to help in the war against the British.
However the road to saving American independence is filled with potholes. Hilarity ensues. Ike comes up with the idea of a medicine show to raise money, with Ben as a doctor hawking a fake cure for coal miners cough. Ben protests: “‘Have you not heard my famous maxim stating that honesty is the best policy?’ he demanded. ‘All Sales Final’ is the best policy,’ I answered. ‘And if you want to have a maxim battle, here’s one for you: There’s a sucker born every minute.'”
Claire suggests to Ike that Ben convince King Louis XVI of France to get on board with the colonies because, according to their history teacher, “the French love [Ben] for some reason, the way German people love David Hasselhoff.” Thus, Ike and Ben book passage for France and on the ship they meet Thomas Jefferson and John Adams performing as clowns and telling very bad jokes. They too are on their way to see the King.
B-Freezy, T-Jeff and Johnny Adrock (the b-boy monikers Ike has given them) agree to collaborate on a proposal to the King. But a meal of bad oysters threatens to doom their epic presentation and it’s up to Ike to save the day and save America.
Nick Podehl performs Ike’s off-the-wall caper with youthful humor and lively snark, sure to appeal to young teens who relish broad comedy and anything gross. Tom Ezzo presents Ben’s journal entries with the pomp and stuffiness befitting an indignant founding father stuck with an exasperating teen from the future. Lauren Ezzo reads Claire’s time-traveling letters to Ike which keep him posted on events back home.
Benjamin Franklin: You’ve Got Mail recalls the audio wackiness of Dr. Cuthbert Soup’s A Whole ‘Nother Story series, another wild and humorous time travel adventure.
— Beatriz Pascual Wallace
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Grace’s life is already pretty difficult, honestly. Between her extremely controlling stepfather, her cleanliness-obsessed mother, caring for her young brother, school, work, and theater she barely has time to breathe. Grace has had a crush on a senior from her drama club named Gavin for a while, and when brooding, tortured Gavin seems interested in her, at first she thinks it may be a turning point. Finally – she’ll have someone other than her two best friends who support and encourages her, and she’ll be the girlfriend of THE Gavin Davis. From the very beginning, though, Grace lets the reader know that this fairy tale love does not have a happily-ever-after ending.
Not long into their relationship, Gavin becomes extremely controlling, mentally and emotionally abusive, and creepily obsessed with Grace. He follows her, watches her while she works and sleeps, freaks out if she speaks to anyone but him, demands all of her attention, and even threatens to repeat the suicide attempt from his last break-up. Grace loves Gavin, but she finds herself faced with a really difficult decision – take care of herself and force him to let her go, or stick around to try to keep him safe and happy even though it isn’t what she wants?
From the decaying flower cover art to the Spotify playlist curated by the author that includes all the songs referenced in the book (it’s called “Bad Romance,” and is highly recommended), this one is a well-rounded creation. It’s full of pop culture references (especially music), true friends, icky manipulation masquerading as love, and confusing emotional turmoil. Written almost as a letter to Gavin from Grace (Grace is “I”, and Gavin is “you” in the text), it feels utterly personal and believable. The dialogue is witty and humorous, and the situations Grace finds herself will be immensely relatable to many teenagers, girls and boys alike, who are trying to learn what is and isn’t acceptable to them in romantic relationships. The ending will leave readers satisfied and feeling empowered. Bad Romance read-alikes include Die for You by Amy Fellner Dominy, Sarah Dessen’s Dreamland, and Amanda Grace’s But I Love Him.
–– Allie Stevens
Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi
KCP Loft/Kids Can Press
Publication Date: May 3, 2017
Quick: You receive a letter from your older sister telling you she is going to kill herself. What do you do? In the case of Kai, you race to your sister’s apartment only to discover you are too late. What follows is the story of Kai’s self-destruction interrupted by the intervention of her best friends. The implosion of their second daughter spurs Kai’s parents to enroll her in grief camp–whether Kai wants it or not. There, Kai discovers that she can find a life outside of her beloved older sister, and that she is even allowed to find love.
Just a Normal Tuesday is a book that grabs readers by the heart and shakes them. The author’s note following the story describes Turrisi’s own experience with the same situation faced by her main character sans the grief camp. It is that raw, personal connection that imbues Turrisi’s writing with credibility. It is that same authenticity that will allow readers to pardon her for the seemingly abrupt transition between Kai’s loss and her healing. From the description of Kai’s participation in planning her sister’s funeral to the gradual scabbing over of her heart through sharing the grief of her camp mates, reluctant readers will be irrevocably hooked into Kai’s journey. It’s a topic that is especially timely given the resurgence of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why via the Netflix series, but ends a little more hopefully than Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places.
— Jodi Kruse
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
When the book starts out with the line, “This is how I kill someone,” you know the full weight of violence is coming. Alex is no stranger to violence. Her older sister was murdered when Alex was pretty young. With a mother who has mentally checked out of life and into an alcoholic haze, Alex has honed herself to a killing machine who exacts vengeance on the predators who are tacitly accepted in her small town.
Jack is in love with Alex. He’s been Branley’s boyfriend for as long as anyone can remember, but the on again-off again relationship has him looking for something a little more substantial, and Alex is nothing if not substance.
Peekay has a hard time remembering that her name is Sara. She was given the PK moniker that all Preacher’s Kids seem to carry, and she is upholding the PK reputation. One of the hallmarks of this book, however, is the portrayal of Sara’s parents, not as religious wackos, but rather as grounded, loving people who are deeply concerned about their daughter and their community.
Like many of McGinnis’s stories, this one is not short on gore,violence, or profanity, but the honest exploration of alcohol, drugs, and partying and their implications on sexual behavior is a stark reality check for teen readers. While readers may cheer Alex’s violent response to being treated like a sex object, the end of the story provides a chilling cautionary tale about the fruits of vengeance. Each of the three characters provides a unique voice and perspective. Alex is a strong young woman. Sara grapples with the infidelity of her first love. Jack must navigate the minefield of lust versus intimacy. Chapters are short, staccato, and packed with content. Make no mistake, this is a mature story for mature readers, but it will generate opportunities for rich conversations about the choices we make. . .and their consequences.
— Jodi Kruse
Vigilante by Kady Cross
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
A Halloween party goes terribly wrong when Hadley’s best friend, Magda, is drugged and raped by four classmates. When graphic images from the rape appear on social media, the four boys are not held accountable, thanks to their affluent and powerful families. Magda is painted as a promiscuous girl who gave consent, and the fallout leads to her tragic suicide. Hadley sees the rapists in school daily, and is determined to obtain justice for her friend…her own way.
The harsh and gritty opening chapter grabs the reader with news of the rape and subsequent suicide. The issue-oriented storyline of rape culture intensifies as the book progresses. Hadley recruits female classmates to join her in martial arts training, and they become a support to each other as they discover other victims of rape by the same four boys. Although somewhat disturbing, readers may find themselves rooting for the courageous but misguided “Pink Vigilante”, who uses unconventional methods to make sure Jason, Brody, Adam, and Drew suffer the consequences of their actions. Female relationships are also highlighted as Diane, the detective who was not able to convict the boys, is also the instructor training the girls how to defend themselves and fight back using Krav Maga, which combines martial arts with street fighting techniques. Compelling writing engages readers as the vigilante fights for justice, while simultaneously falling in love with Magda’s brother, Gabriel, as they bond over their grief.
This thought-provoking look at rape culture is an important one for teens of both sexes. Additionally, hand this to readers of Asking for It by Louise O’Neill or What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler. All three books appear to have been inspired by the real life Steubenville, Ohio rape case of 2012.
— Lisa Krok
Grendel’s Guide to Love and War by A.E. Kaplan
Penguin Random House
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Fierce old ladies, artisanal stoned pigs, and existential angst mix with a dash of romance and plenty of humor (see: hilarious hook) in this tale of rivalry and wacky hijinx loosely based on Beowulf.
Tom Grendel and his PTSD-stricken father live in a quiet retirement community surrounded by little old ladies; however, the predictability of their summer is disturbed with the sudden arrival of the Rothgars next door. Rex Rothgar makes life for Tom’s father a living hell when he starts throwing nightly ragers in the adjacent backyard, which prompts the elder Grendel to run off on assignment to Florida to escape the triggers of his PTSD. Consequently, Tom’s self-appointed mission becomes to rid his neighborhood of the scourge of Rex’s parties before his father returns home, and restore peace to his neighborhood.
What results is an escalating series of prank wars that become increasingly more daring and creative as the summer wears on. Tom counts on his best friend Ed and Rex’s younger sister Willow (whom he can’t help liking, despite the questionability of her loyalties) to help him wage war against Rex, a foe who refuses to back down at any costs. When the Rothgars’ cousin Wolf shows up on the scene and Tom’s hotheaded older sister Zip returns home, old tensions flare and the stakes become even higher and more outrageous.
Threaded amidst all the humor and absurdity of this story lies a fair dose of well-earned existential angst, not to mention a small army of fierce old ladies to lighten the tension. This amusing, heartfelt novel does a fine job balancing the absurd with the poignant as our heroes grapple with traumas from their pasts and their current predicaments. Clever, sympathetic characters combined with over-the-top comic situations make this book a winning Quick Pick. Readers interested in other fresh new (and funny) takes on ancient classics may also want to check out Bull by David Elliot, also a #QP2018 nominee.
— Jenny Zbrizher
This round of Amazing Audiobooks nominees are great stories told in unusual formats.
Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess, narrated by Kwame Alexander and Randy Preston (original music)
Audio Published by Zondervan
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Solo tells the story of seventeen year old Blade Morrison. Blade, like his father, is a talented musician; but unlike his father, he’s steadier, sober and less haunted by his mother’s death. Blade has a comfortable yet difficult life. His dad is wealthy, so he never needs to worry about money or how to pay for his future. He has a girlfriend, Chapel, with whom he plans to attend college. Yet Blade is constantly in the public eye, because his father is not only famous, but infamous for the stunts he pulls when he’s under the influence. Blade, who is more self-possessed that most teenage kids with famous substance abusing fathers and self-involved sisters, is learning truths about himself that are throwing his world into a tailspin. His relationship with his girlfriend, which had to be secret due to her parent’s disapproval, falls apart after her parents catch them together. Then, during a fight with his sister and father, his sister reveals that Blade is in fact adopted. Once he learns this, Blade decides to track down his birth mother. He discovers that his mother works for a nonprofit that helps people in third world countries. Determined to find his mother, he visits Chapel to say goodbye and discovers her with her ex-boyfriend. Blade heads to Ghana heartbroken from the breakup with his girlfriend and the feeling of betrayal since his adoption was kept secret from him for so long. Once in Ghana, Blade meets Joy, a local girl his age who helps him understand the difficulty and beauty in a simpler life. Blade’s father surprises him by showing up in Ghana with a film crew to film his big comeback in the music industry. Ghana has enough magic to eventually reconcile Blade and his father. Blade is able to meet his birth mother, Lucy, and fill in some gaps about his own personal history.
This book is meant to be listened to, not read. The experience of listening to Kwame Alexander read his own lyrical poetic story and incorporate originally performed music should not be missed. While short in length, this story has great impact and touches on a lot of themes, such as finding oneself, learning forgiveness, understanding the world around oneself and discovering what’s truly important. Critics have chastised how un-relatable Blade is, being the kid of a famous wealthy rock star. What they fail to realize is that substance abuse, loss, grief, and general turmoil are universal topics that affect us all. This is a great short novel about making the decision to confront your past and let yourself grow past it.
The arching self-discovery in this book will appeal to all teens. Unlike The Crossover and Booked, the target audience of this story is truly young adult, not middle grade. Fans of this book may also like Alexander’s other work due to his unique writing style, or other musically inclined titles such as Wonderful Feels Like This by Swedish author Sara Lövestam.
Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash, narrated by a full cast
Audio published by Dreamscape Media
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
I was fairly skeptical about listening to the audiobook version of a graphic novel. When reading a graphic novel, the illustrations provide as much information, if not more, than the text. I wondered how this would translate into audio format. What would Maus be without the Nazis portrayed as rats? The Honor Girl audiobook is just over two hours long, so I figured I could try out this unfamiliar format without investing a lot of time. Surprisingly, Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash was a treat to listen to.
Honor Girl is a memoir by author Maggie Thrash of her time at Camp Bellflower, an all-girls camp, which focuses on a summer of burgeoning sexuality as she falls for one of her counselors. A 15 year-old Maggie spends the summer coming to terms with her sexuality while worrying others will see her as weird, much like the “horse girls” from a previous summer. I quickly became engaged in Maggie’s story.
I found this audiobook to be amazing because of the way the sense of summer fits into the narration. The sounds of camp are wound throughout the story. A full cast reads the book, bringing life to the many characters. Maggie’s emotions are conveyed through the capable narrator. The sounds and clearly articulated characters were able to fill in for the artwork that would otherwise communicate the narrative. With the sound of hairspray, we are in the cabin as the girls prepare for the visit from the boys’ camp. Maggie’s a talented shooter and the listener can hear the rifle range as though they were witnessing her shots themselves. After I finished the audiobook, I read the graphic novel to see how they compared. To me, the audio version was superior. The performance was fabulous. I can’t recommend it enough.
In February, when you are longing for summer, along with Honor Girl, try the anthology Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, which will fill the void caused by winter. Last year, the YALSA Amazing Audiobooks committee selected Nimona by Noelle Stevenson as one of their Top Ten. It, like Honor Girl, is a graphic novel, so if you’re willing to give them a try, there are some great graphic novel audiobooks (as much of an oxymoron as it sounds) out there.
–Kennedy Penn-O’Toole, Young Adult Specialist, Albany County Public Library, Wyoming
What happened in YA last month? Here is a quick round up of featured posts on The Hub and other links to keep you up to date when collecting for your teens.At the Hub
- Amazing Audiobooks, Volume 3 – featuring fantastic characters and a dash of magical realism
- QuickPick Immigrants and Refugees – new books are being written to inform the public of the realities of those seeking sanctuary
- QuickPick Science Fiction – four science fiction stories with fabulous hooks
- Banned Books: International Edition -international books that have found their way onto our Banned Books List
- QuickPick Novels in Verse – four titles with four very different approaches
- Romantic Comedies – escape into a fun-filled romantic comedy when you could use a little levity, love, and fun
- QuickPick Social Media in YA Fiction these titles serve as fascinating yet cautionary tales of social media
- Amazing Audiobooks Volume 2 – featuring historical LGBTQ romance, nonfiction, a murder mystery and more.
- Women in Comics – Refugee Experiences – Graphic novels featuring refugee stories from around the world.
- Monthly Monday Poll – Which YA book referencing modern or historical child-labor issues is your favorite?
- For those looking for an October spooky read, Feral Youth a short story collection edited by Shaun David Hutchinson
- Take 5: Some of the Best Feminist YA on Rape Culture in Quotes
- For fans of the Grishaverse, and lovers of Nikolai, preview Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars, coming 2019
- Kirkus Collections aims to make it easier to find diverse YA
- September 12 saw the release of Shadowhouse Fall, the anticipated sequel to Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
- Need some Non-Fiction Graphic Novels for your teens?
- Lots of YA titles rounded up by Penguin Random House
- House Votes to Save Library Funding, NEA and NEH
- Teen Read Week coming up October 8
- National Book Awards announces long list titles for Young People’s Literature were announced including The Hate U Give and American Street
— Cathy Outten, currently reading They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
During Banned Books Week, libraries take the time to celebrate stories that some thought shouldn’t be told, and the right of everyone to read those same stories. It is a celebration of the rights the First Amendment protects and the wonderful insights and narratives that those protections have enabled libraries to share and for people of all ages to learn from. However, the very existence of Banned Books Week demonstrates that this freedom of expression is still contested, and it is often youth who stand up and protect their own access to their rights. Stories like those that follow help give insight into the emotional realities of taking a stand as a young person. They are invaluable resources for youth trying to understand the importance of this time of year in particular, and the value of their voices all year round.
Americus by M.K. Reed and Jonathan Hill (2011, Great Graphic Novels 2012)
Sharp, colorful cartoon illustrations lend a wonderful sense of urgency to this graphic novel about a young, reserved “bookworm” named Neal and his struggle to protect his favorite series of fantasy novels from attempts at censorship by some members of his small-town community. Partnering with a local librarian, Neal launches a community movement to ensure that the newest volume of his favorite series is not barred from the library. This book attempts to accurately represent what it takes to face a book challenge, and provides a strong cast of characters to discuss all sides of a book challenge issue. Most uniquely, it focuses on Neal’s challenges balancing the everyday challenges that already exist for him because of his youth with his new role as a leader in the quest to protect The Chronicles of Apathea Ravenchilde.
The Day They Came To Arrest The Book by Nat Hentoff (1982)
While it may seem dated, this book still has a lot to say on debates surrounding books and free speech in today’s world, as observed by Alyssa Rosenberg in this editorial for The Washington Post. In his narrative about students and teachers debating the censorship of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Hentoff speaks deftly of the various perspectives on the issue, and clearly on the value of considering a work completely and closely before beginning to proselytize about or judge This is a helpful reminder for all of us, and a key understanding to equip youth to be activists and advocates for their own interests.
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano (2012)
A fictional narrative set in 1969, Evelyn Serrano gets caught up in protests in Spanish Harlem alongside her grandmother, visiting from Puerto Rico. Dealing with issues of Latinx identity, Puerto Rican independence, family, and protest, this is a rich and compelling narrative that is sure to spark conversation and to encourage young people to consider the various ways they can express their rights and share their opinions and beliefs, as well as the consequences of such actions.
The Year They Burned the Books by Nancy Garden (1999)
While some aspects of the story may seem dated, and books that deal with sexual identity and expression are becoming wonderfully more and more abundant, the narrative presented in Nancy Garden’s story of a high school newspaper reporting on changes to the sex-ed curriculum still feels relevant. Access to information about sexual identity is important to the central characters of this story, as they begin to self-identify as gay and lesbian. Their efforts to preserve this access are reminders of the importance of providing timely, nuanced, and unfettered resources to all people, and are a strong example for students who are advocating in their own communities for their right to access the information they need.
Hero Type by Barry Lyga (2009)
This novel about an unlikely teen hero explores issues of patriotism, free speech, religion, and political engagement. Kevin, the protagonist, is thrust into the limelight when he saves a local girl from a terrible fate. However, his community’s adoration soon turns to anger when a local reporter photographs him throwing away some “Support the Troops” magnets. Kevin wrestles with what it means to be “American” and how to authentically live out his beliefs in a story that should make teen readers examine their own feelings about democracy and activism.
What other books would you recommend for teens interested in getting an inside look at First Amendment issues and activism? Please share your recommendations in the comments section.
–Trent McLees and Casey Rawson
This post is part of the YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement