Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
Razorbill / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Mila is a teenage witch with a mission. When her best friend Riley dies by drowning, it is assumed that her death is linked with the suicides of two other highschool students and that they must have formed a suicide pact. Mila doesn’t buy this and decides to use a spell to bring Riley back to find out who killed her. Unfortunately she doesn’t just bring back Riley, but the other two girls, June and Dayton, as well. Now saddled with three undead teenagers who can’t remember how they died and who have the attention span of toddlers, Mila is determined to find out who killed them and why before the girls return their graves at the end of seven days.
Although the premise may sound bleak, the book is funny and sometimes poignant. The murder mystery is central to the story and has several twists that keep the plot moving. Teens will also relate the main character Riley as she is a fiercely unique individual who puts on a brave exterior, but faces many of the same insecurities as a typical teen. Teens would also enjoy the friendship between Mila and Riley, as well as with her love interest, who also happens to be Riley’s brother.
Teens who enjoy the silliness and quirkiness of “My Lady Jane” by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows would be a great fit for this book. Also teens who are into books about witchcraft such as the “Hex Hall” series by Rachel Hawkins would enjoy the magical aspects of this book. This would also be great for those who like the 1996 classic movie “The Craft” and the T.V. show “Supernatural.”
Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong
Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Skye Gilchrist returns to her hometown three years after a tragic school shooting. She finds that she is villainized and harassed…and she knows why. Skye’s brother, Luka, was one of the shooters.
The cover image of a dimly lit school hallway with blood spattered lockers sets the tone for the grim setting that shattered so many lives. This ripped from the headlines topic certainly seizes attention, with a plot that intensifies in pace and keeps readers speculating as Skye attempts to uncover the series of events that lead to that fateful day. Readers will find themselves rooting for the sympathetic main character as she seeks to rebuild her friendship with Jesse, and to reflect upon and reconcile the brother she knew and loved with the person who committed this heinous act.
This thought-provoking book has broad appeal for teens and includes diverse, compelling characters. The alternate perspective from the sister of the shooter is fodder for productive classroom or book club discussions. Readalikes include This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp and Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau.
Royals by Rachel Hawkins
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Daisy is not royal. Her sister’s fiancé however is the Crown Prince of Scotland. When the press catches wind of Daisy’s existence she is forced to spend her summer in Scotland learning how to not embarrass her sister’s future in-laws, AKA the Queen and King. Thrust together with the troublemaker Prince Sebastian and Miles, the Sebastian’s attractive friend assigned to teach Daisy the ropes of all things royal, Daisy is in for a summer unlike anything she has experienced before in her home state of Florida.
This book is fun, with a quick hook of Daisy’s life being turned upside down very quickly and whisked away to a Scottish royal adventure full of paparazzi, snobby aristocrats, and clumsy mishaps. While having a sister engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland is not a reality that teens can relate to, they will relate to Daisy’s geeky and charming personality and would love to relate to the love triangle of between Daisy and the bad boy Prince Sebastian and the always loyal Miles.
“Royals” is a must recommend to teens obsessed with the upcoming royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Fans of “The Princess Diaries” series by Meg Cabot, as well as the movies would find “Royals” just as charming and funny as those books and movies. This title would also be great for those who enjoyed the romance and cheesy goodness of the Netflix original movie “A Christmas Prince.”
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Illustrated by Jenn St. Onge and Joy San
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
In 1963, teenager Hazel met new girl in town, Mari, while playing bingo with her grandmother. The next day at school, the two sit with each other and quickly become the best of friends. When they finally admit their feelings for each other, they are torn apart by families and a society that is not accepting. Almost 50 years later, after marriages, children and even grandchildren, Hazel and Mari reconnect at another bingo night and realize that those feelings have never gone away. Although the times have changed, are they willing to tear their families apart in order to finally be together and happy?
It’s not often that we find great stories, much less comics, with strong, beautiful and queer women of color. It’s a love story, but also a reflection of changing attitudes towards sexual identity and family structures and the strength and courage it takes to do what makes you happy. Besides a great, unique story, the artwork is colorful, bold and shows a diverse cast of characters.
There isn’t much out there similar to Bingo Love, but give to fans of women empowering graphic novels with similar artwork, like Lumberjanes or other graphic novels with great LGBT characters like Backstagers, Giant Days, Goldie Vance and My Brother’s Husband.
The Promised Neverland, vols. 2-4 by Saiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu
Publication Dates & ISBNs:
Vol. 2 – February 6, 2018 – 978-1421597133
Vol. 3 – March 3, 2018 – 978-1421597140
Vol. 4 – June 5, 2018 – 978-1421597157
In the first volume of this manga series, eldest orphans Ray, Norman and Emma learned the truth about their idyllic children’s home: they are being raised as food for monsters, and the more exceptional the child the tastier the meal. Now that they know their real purpose, volumes 2-4 follow this trio who are determined to save all the children of Grace Field House. As they begin to recruit others into their escape plan, including the foolish Sister Krone, new truths and betrayals are revealed including a spy, a code, and a map. As the children inch closer to freedom, the depths of Mother’s duplicity are revealed. She will cajole, capture, and even worse. If they want to survive, it’s up to Ray, Norman, and Emma to stay three steps ahead.
This sophisticated manga blends genres of mystery, sci-fi, horror, and dystopia. In volumes 2-4, Shirai leads readers further into this monstrous world by crafting a complex web for both protagonists and readers alike. The careful pacing, strong world building, and distinct characters create a compelling story that is hard to look away from. Filled with allusions, tension, and suspense, readers are taken through an emotional roller coaster with unnerving results. The creep factor is high.
This unique and heart pounding mystery is a perfect fit for fans of Sherlock, Tokyo Ghoul, and The Maze Runner. Put this in the hands of experienced manga readers looking for an atypical story or rabid puzzle fanatics with a taste for the macabre.
–Silence Bourn & Kate Covintree
America, vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez by Gabby Rivera, Illustrated by Joe Quinones and Ramon Villalobos
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
America Chavez is a multiverse-travelling paramedic who can save everybody but herself. America balances studying at Sotomayor University with the dramatic relationships around her: there’s her ex-girlfriend, Lisa, a superfan who is a little too close, a best friend in Hawkeye whom she doesn’t see often enough, not to mention the conditions of her moms’ mysterious disappearance when she was a child.
The celebrations of queer culture and communities of color inside of a Marvel volume make this volume a hit, though experienced Marvel readers will probably enjoy the story and its spread of characters more than Marvel first-timers. There’s a Bayard Rustin High School, named after an openly gay civil rights leader, and Sotomayor University has a hologram of Sonia Sotomayor (why not?) as well as “The Department of Radical Women and Intergalactic Indigenous Peoples.”
Writer Gabby Rivera is also the author of the acclaimed YA novel Juliet Takes a Breath. Give this volume to readers interested in inclusive representations of superheroes as well as readers drawn to punchy, relationship-driven series like Ms. Marvel.
There’s lots to love in Canadian YA, but in the United States, we tend to focus more on authors originally published here. As a dual citizen, I am always pleased to see Canadian authors recognized in the United States too. This article describes selected titles by two award-winning Canadian authors. Expand your collection with Canadian titles that explore mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, trauma, and more through nuanced characters, humane writing, and even humor!
You may have discovered Toronto writer Teresa Toten when she won the 2016 Schneider Award for a Teen Book for The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (Delacorte/Random House, 2015). In Unlikely Hero, Adam, while attending his teen Obsessive-Compulsive support group, falls hard for Robyn. There’s a lot going on in this story; many characters are holding onto secrets and it’s not always clear who is protecting whom. This engaging narrative, which sheds light on living with OCD, is grounded in a city I recognized as Toronto, though I don’t think the setting is named.
Canadian readers had access to Unlikely Hero two years before readers in the U.S. First published by Doubleday Canada in 2013, the book had already won the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People’s Literature – Text and a number of other Canadian awards when it was published by Delacorte.
I’ve been intrigued by Toten’s work since the publication of her first book, The Onlyhouse (Red Deer Press, 2003, c1995), a tween book with plenty of heart. The plot drew on Toten’s own experience as a Croatian immigrant in Toronto who didn’t fit in, and was a finalist for the 1996 Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Awards. The Game (Red Deer Press, 2001), a hard-hitting look at physical and emotional trauma, shortlisted for the GG, is one of Toten’s best-known novels. She also has a funny and poignant trilogy set in the mid-1970s called The Blondes that chronicles Sophie Kandinsky’s attempts to keep her crazy family separate – and secret – from life at school. The first book, Me and the Blondes (Puffin Canada, 2006), was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. Toten’s latest is the psychological thriller, Beware that Girl (Delacorte/Random House, 2016 in the U.S.; Doubleday Canada, 2016 in Canada).
Winner of the 2013 Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award, High River, Alberta writer Martine Leavitt’s My Book of Life by Angel (Margaret Ferguson/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012, in the U.S; Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2012, in Canada), has been successful in both the U.S. and Canada. In this luminous novel in verse, Angel, a sixteen-year-old prostitute, has resigned herself to sleepwalking through life – the drugs help — when she is suddenly put in charge of a much younger girl and told by her pimp to show her the ropes. This challenges Angel to save eleven-year-old Melli from sexual exploitation in a way that she could not save herself. Excerpts from Milton’s Paradise Lost function as part of the plot and a commentary on the action. An author’s note explains that the book is set during the time of the infamous Pickton murders. Beginning in 1983, sex workers and other women disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in alarming numbers. Finally in 2002, Robert Pickton was arrested and admitted to killing forty-nine women. In her fictional portraits of Angel’s friends and the listing of their real names in the back matter, Leavitt restores dignity to these women who were so poorly treated in real life. It is an absolutely gripping read that you could easily pair with Patricia McCormick’s Sold or Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy.
In Leavitt’s Calvin (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015 in the U.S.; Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2015 in Canada), the eponymous protagonist is a teen who carries on hallucinatory conversations with Hobbes, the orange tiger of the comic strip. When Calvin was a child, Hobbes was his imaginary friend. Now that Calvin is 17 and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, the reappearance of Hobbes is not so benign. Calvin is convinced that if he can just meet the cartoonist, Bill Watterson, and get him to draw Hobbes out of his life, the hallucinations will stop. Calvin emails Watterson to say when he’ll be arriving, buys winter camping equipment, and decides to walk across frozen Lake Erie from Leamington, Ontario, to Cleveland, Ohio, accompanied by his friend and neighbor, Susie – yes, like the girl in the comic. There’s some light romance and a lot of soul-searching along the way in this beautifully written novel, couched in the form of a letter to Watterson. Calvin won the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People’s Literature – Text.
In addition to her realistic fiction, Leavitt has written quite a few fantasy novels, the earlier ones released under the name Martine Bates. Her most recent, Keturah and Lord Death (Boyds Mills Press, 2006 in the U.S.; Red Deer Press, 2006, in Canada), features a young woman who uses storytelling to bargain with Death. Keturah was shortlisted for the 2006 National Book Award in the U.S., and in Canada was a 2008 White Pine Award winner – an Ontario Library Association reader’s choice award for high school fiction.
Pairing Leavitt’s Heck Superhero (Front Street, 2004, in U.S.; Red Deer Press, 2004, in Canada), which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, with Toten’s The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B showcases two fine writers playing with a superhero trope. Heck fantasizes that he has the superpower, through one Good Deed, to find his dysfunctional mother, who is missing, while Adam sees himself as Batman to Robyn’s Robin.
Canadian YA Book Awards and More!
Where is the best place to find the awards? There are links to individual awards, but the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (the other CCBC, in case that acronym only means the UW-Madison Cooperative Children’s Book Center to you) maintains a complete list of Canadian children’s and YA awards on their Resources page. They also have a searchable database, Best Books for Kids & Teens – a real treasure trove!
Annette Y. Goldsmith is a GLLI contributor to The Hub and a Los Angeles-based Lecturer for the University of Washington Information School.
The post Dark and Bright YA Fiction: Spotlight on Two Canadian Authors appeared first on The Hub.
Sunny by Jason Reynolds, narrated by Guy Lockard
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: March 10, 2018
Sunny, the third title in Jason Reynolds’ Track series follows almost-13 year old Sunny, a reluctant track star, wannabe dancer, and self-described “weird” kid with too many things going “boing boing” in his brain. On the day Sunny was born, his mom died from an amniotic embolism. Neither Sunny or his dad (who Sunny refers to as Darryl) has every really recovered. Sunny still feels tremendous guilt, so although he finds track boring, he runs because it pleases his father, and because his mother, a former runner, cannot. Sunny’s real passion is dancing, and with the help of his teacher Aurelia, his coach, and his teammates, Sunny discovers a way to show off his best dance moves on the track. When Sunny finally discovers a way to express himself to the world with his body, his words, previously only shared in his diary, follow suit, offering hope that he and Darryl may finally begin to heal.
Guy Lockard’s masterful performance brings Sunny to life. Lockard imbues Sunny with such personality, charm, and empathy, that Sunny truly dances off the page. His narration is perfectly paced, and manages to convey a great deal of emotion without going over the top. He authentically captures Sunny’s anger, confusion, and grief, but also his wonder and joy. Interviews with both Jason Reynolds and Guy Lockard at the end of the recording reveal that the two are close friends who grew up together with many other creative “weirdos” like Sunny, and it’s clear that they both worked to conceive this character and relate this story with great care and compassion. Sunny is a great choice for middle schoolers, whether or not they are already fans of the series. Fans of stories about young athletes with family struggles such as The Crossover and Booked by Kwame Alexander, or stories about creative kids dealing with grief like Orbiting Jupiter and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt will fall in love with Sunny.
–Jessica Hilbun Schwartz
Hub readers, I have a confession to make.
I have a really hard time getting into most fantasy.
I understand why people love fantasy. I have the potential to enjoy fantasy; I definitely tore through A Shadow Bright and Burning and A Poison Dark and Drowning earlier this year. But, typically, the conversation goes something like this.
“Stephen, you have got to read this fantasy book!”
Me trying to look excited even though I’m just thinking about contemporary fiction or magical realism:
But this is the magic of the Hub Reading Challenge! This challenge is designed to encourage people to read outside their comfort zone. So, in the spirit of that, I have decided my next book will be a fantasy book. I’ve looked through the sortable spreadsheet (PS, have you seen the beautiful and amazing sortable spreadsheet!?!?!?!) and I’ve picked out a few options. I’ve heard amazing things about Strange the Dreamer (Printz Honor, #BFYA2018) and Girls Made of Snow and Glass (Bloomer). I’ve also been wanting to dive into the 2018 Alex Award winners, so maybe an urban fantasy like An Unkindness of Magicians would be good?
What do you think? Which fantasy is for me? Have you warmed up to any genres during the challenge you’d written off (no pun intended) in the past? Share in the comments! And be sure to tag any social media posts about the Hub Reading Challenge with #hubchallenge!
We’ll check in one more time towards the end of June, so keep on reading! Here’s a quick reminder of the challenge guidelines:
- The goal of the Hub Reading Challenge is to read 25 books over the next four months from a list of the most recent award winner and honor books and YALSA selected lists.
- Format matters: a title that has been recognized for both the print version and the audiobook version can be both read and listened to and count as two books, but a book that has won multiple awards or appears on multiple lists in the same format only counts as one title.
- Books must be read/listened to (both begun and finished) between the date the award winners and selected lists have been released and June 30, 2018 at 11:59pm EST. If you’ve already read/listened to a title (before the winners/selected lists were announced), you must re-read/listen to it for it to count. The challenge ends on June 30, 2018 at at 11:59pm EST.
- Just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to participate. Non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible. Non-US residents/citizens are eligible. (More eligibility questions? Leave a comment or email us.)
- Once you finish the challenge, we’ll contact you with details about creating and publishing your response.
- If you’ve already finished, let us know here! The grand prize winner will be selected by 11:59pm EST on July 1, 2018. The winner will be notified via email.
–Stephen Ashley, Hub Member Manager
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu
Publication Date: March 5, 2018
Some of history’s most spirited and inspiring women overcome difficult odds in this graphic novel representation of girl power at its best. Some of these include actress Margaret Hamilton, a.k.a. the Wicked Witch, performer and activist Josephine Baker, journalist and women’s rights activist Nellie Bly, and many more.
French author/illustrator Bagieu incorporates vivid, cartoony images that include women from varied cultures and circumstances all over the globe. Accessible short chapters concisely depict highlighted brazen women, and the book as a whole is highly browsable. Each candid memoir chronicles challenges faced by each rebel lady, with anecdotes of how she overcame adversity that will warm hearts and empower readers.
Recommended for those who enjoy biographies about strong women, such as I Am Malala by Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai, or books that are less text-heavy. The theme of conquering all odds to succeed is uplifting not only for girls and women, but for readers of all types, everywhere.
Scales and Scoundrels, Vol. 1: Into the Dragon’s Maw by Sebastien Girner and Galaad
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Adventurer Luvander has a taste for gold but a nose for getting into trouble. After fleeing yet another village after an inexplicable blaze consumes the local tavern, she meets up with a motley group in the forest: a prince, his bodyguard, and a cheerful dwarf. They are all in search of gold, and the best place to find it is in the fabled Dened Lewen–if the angry villagers, giant insects, and sorcerous bounty hunters don’t get them first.
This comic has bright and stylish art. The quest storyline is familiar but moves along at a brisk pace, supported by a cast of diverse and likeable characters. Luvander is a quirky, spunky heroine with an intriguing mix of as-yet unexplained abilities. The hint in the first few pages that she may be a dragon, or at least has dragon-like abilities, is a great hook. Scales and Scoundrels is a fun spin on Dungeons and Dragons and the classic hero’s quest.
The art in this book is reminiscent of Studio Ghibli with a touch of classic anime. Fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona will enjoy Luvander’s roguish charm. The overall diversity and positive, upbeat, feminist take on the classic sword-and-sandal story will appeal to fans of Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Allen, and Shannon Watters, and The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks.
Silver Spoon, vol. 1 by Hiromu Arakawa
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Yuugo Hachiken has always been great at academics. It surprises everyone when he decides to enroll in Ooezo Agricultural High School instead of a regular high school. Yuugo’s plan is to coast through high school, since an agricultural school must be easier than a regular academic school, right? Wrong! Instead of doing math problems, and reciting poetry, Yuugo’s waking up at 5AM to do chores, raise animals, and learn to ride a horse. All the other students have been doing farm work their entire lives, and Yuugo is playing catch up. Can this city boy adapt to farm life, and survive high school?
Many readers will relate to Yuugo’s desire to escape stressful academic expectations. There’s plenty of fish out of water humor and educational moments about farm life. The story gives a lot of respect to agricultural industries and rural life. The art is clean and does a good job of portraying the energy of an agricultural high school. This is a great series for fans of high school stories in unusual settings. Recommended for fans of Food Wars! And Haikyu!
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
First Second Comics
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Fitting in has never been easy for Vera. After a disastrous birthday party sleepover, Vera decides she must take action to fit in better. She begs her mom to let her go to sleep away camp like the “popular girls” at school. They can’t afford a fancy camp like the other girls and things don’t quite go as planned when she and her brother end up at a Russian Heritage Camp. Vera thinks she’s finally found a place where she might fit in, because of her Russian heritage, but camp isn’t at all what she expected. Will she survive a summer filled with girl drama, shifting camp alliances and an outhouse from hell?
This semi-autobiographical graphic novel is filled with heart and spirit. In addition to being laugh out loud funny, teens will relate to the school/camp drama and the need to fit in versus the need to be true to yourself. Brosgol’s artwork is fun and heartfelt and her use of a limited palette adds to the light-hearted but realistic portrayal of her characters. Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale, Raina Telgemeier and Brosgol’s other work including Anya’s Ghost.
Black Hammer, vol. 2: The Event by Jeff Lemire, Illustrated by Dean Ormston, David Rubin, and Dave Stewart
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
When Black Hammer’s daughter Lucy arrives at the Farm, it encourages superheroes Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, Barbalien, and Talky-Walky to think maybe there is a way to escape their strange prison. Unfortunately, Lucy can’t remember how she got there. As Lucy explores the farm and small town, the reader is treated to flashbacks of several of the characters, including Black Hammer’s story and “The Event” that led to our heroes being stuck in this rural place with none of their super powers. All is not lost though, and the surprise ending is quite the cliffhanger!
Like the first volume in this series, the artwork is a modern take on classic comics and the story is thoroughly engaging. Each of the characters has a different backstory and reaction to their current surroundings that give them depth. For example, we learn that Abraham Slam was an aging superhero trying to fit in with younger, more adept heroes back in Spiral City, but on the farm, he’s a protective father figure with a love life and no desire to return to his old life. Golden Gail on the other hand, would do anything to return to her old life where she had been retired and happy.
This great series isn’t just for classic superhero fans. Readers looking for a great story with interesting, fully fleshed out characters (and a dose of science fiction) will be hooked.
Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Claudia prefers to stay on the periphery of the social scene at her private girls’ school, where no one knows how remarkably funny, caring, and wonderful she truly is. That is, until she accidentally witnesses the very awkward breakup of the school’s “It Couple” Iris and Paige, an incident which triggers a series of events that culminates in her forced participation in the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in conjunction with adjacent boys’ school Danforth. Thus thrust into the thick of all the things she had tried to avoid, Claudia must learn to navigate new dramas of her own, from her tentative, grudging friendship with prickly Iris to her budding feelings for Gideon Prewitt, the goofy, kindhearted, larger-than-life boy who is friends with everyone, but might want to be more than friends with her. Outside of school, Claudia is lucky to have the support of a wonderful family and a loyal best friend, with whom she nerds out over her favorite MMORPG and shares a lifetime of inside jokes. But when cracks begin to appear in her relationships, Claudia must reconcile her two worlds and realize, at long last, the profound value and worth she brings to them both.
Populated by a cast of complicated, whip-smart, immensely likeable characters and rife with hilarious banter, this is a feel-good, relatable novel sure to delight readers in the mood for a good story and a good laugh. Hand this to fans of big-hearted, funny high school contemporaries such as Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Tash Hearts Tolstoy, Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here, and Saving Francesca for a guaranteed good time.
A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan
Publication Date: February 27th, 2018
Zarin fights to survive. Porus fights for love. When both are found dead in a car accident, the police of Saudi Arabia are only able to see the taboo of a boy and a girl alone together. What they don’t see, are the events that led up to Zarin and Porus’s tragic deaths. Zarin is a smart and courageous girl who has persevered through her parents abandoning her, her abusive aunt, and the slut shaming of her peers. She has learned to rely solely on herself to survive. That is, until Porus falls for her and see’s what others choose not to: Someone worth looking past the rumors and stereotypes. Someone who is worth it. Someone who is strong.
Though many instances are specific to Saudi Arabian culture, the themes of sexual assault, abuse, bullying, and fighting to be yourself and not who the rumors say you are, are universally relevant to any teen. Told in alternating viewpoints, this raw and sobering novel is a culturally diverse experience that highlights tolerance in an assortment of situations. This tragic and haunting story will stay with you for months to come. Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault and physical abuse.
Fans of the show Thirteen Reasons Why will appreciate the non-linear timeline of the story, as well as the poignant and heart wrenching moments of loss and stereotyping. Fans of The Hate U Give will enjoy a similar window into the lives of underrepresented cultures in teen literature.
When Light Left Us by Leah Thomas
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Teenagers Hank and Ana and their younger brother Milo are still staggering from the sudden abandonment by their father when they are infected by an alien creature that appears in the desert near their home. Through Hank’s hands, Ana’s eyes, and Milo’s ears, the alien they name Luz experiences this new world. At the same time, Luz’s presence heightens the children’s senses. However, when Luz suddenly leaves, he seems to take the abilities of these parts of the Vasquez children with him, leaving them to struggle with both his and their father’s abandonment without all of their senses intact.
This is a complex and imaginative merging of science fiction with a contemporary, character-driven look at family dysfunction. Told through the viewpoints of the three Vasquez children and their mother, this slowly evolving story realistically portrays the aftermath of a family trauma and the individual and collective struggles that follow. The multiple narratives are well-written, giving a poignant perspective into each character’s mind, including Hank’s open acceptance of his homosexuality and Ana’s struggles with self harm. Metaphors, parallels and symbolism contribute to a beautiful narrative on forgiveness, family, friendship, and identity.
Hand this to teens who enjoy unusual, complex reads. Fans of Andrew Smith and Shaun David Hutchinson’s unique brand of science fiction should enjoy this.
–Carol Maples and Jenny Zbrizher
What the Night Sings: A Novel, by Vesper Stamper, narrated by Deborah Grausman with afterword read by the author
Audio published by Listening Library
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
At fourteen, Gerta’s dream is to become an opera singer and her life revolves around music; at the opera house with her stepmother, and viola lessons with her papa at home. Since Hitler came to power, she and her father having been living an invisible life in Germany with Gerta unaware that they are Jewish. Then she and her father are betrayed and sent to the concentration camps.
When she is liberated in 1945, Gerta must regain her humanity after the humiliations and degradations of being imprisoned for two years; rediscover the music that is intertwined with survivor’s guilt as playing in the women’s orchestra at Auschwitz kept her alive; and rekindle faith in the religion she never knew. It is a painful experience, “This is what it cost us to survive. We all paid with some part of ourselves. None of us escaped unbroken.” With the help of other survivors, including one who will teach Gerta not only of Judaism but also of love, Gerta begins to hope for a new life. The survivors must then decide if they will remain in Europe or take on a dangerous journey to the newly established Jewish state in Palestine. Facing these choices about her future, Gerta tries to find again the music and the beauty in the night.
Deborah Grausman gives an authentic voice to Gerta as a young girl with haunting vocalization of the songs interspersed throughout the story, and seamless integration of the German and Hebrew words. Grausman’s soft, quiet voice focuses the listener on the descriptive language of the story with all the horrors of the concentration camps vividly described, and her singing captures the pain and hope of Gerta’s life. Each chapter begins with a musical selection that sets the tone for the narration as the story moves back and forth in Gerta’s life.
Recommended for all readers, ages 14 and up, an important addition to Holocaust literature, give to fans of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay or The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. (Note: Bonus PDF with glossary and references not seen.)
Don’t Cosplay With My Heart by Cecil Castellucci
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Edan Kupferman’s life sucks–or at least it does now. Her father is being “sequestered” as his bookkeeping practices for some major motion pictures are pending trial, her mother is too depressed to leave the bedroom, and her grandma has swooped in to try and pick up the slack. Fortunately, Edan has Gargantua, the antihero of her favorite graphic novel/cartoon Team Tomorrow.
Edan is thoroughly bitten by the cosplay bug after attending her first comicon and running into the crush of her life, Yuri, who–it turns out–is interested in her. The question is, would she rather be with Kirk, another guy who joins her new cosplay club and seems to be a hero of epic proportions.
This is a romance that is sure to appeal to undercover superhero nerds, and it is fun for both the niche cosplay readers and suckers for a good romance. Castellucci deftly deals with issues of dating, feminism, and self-worth without graphic discussion about sex or use of strong language, which makes this a book that is as developmentally appropriate for middle school students as for high school readers. This is a great read alike for the more grown up The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Shusterman.
People Like Us by Dana Mele
G.P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
When posh boarding school student and soccer star Kay Donovan stumbles upon the body of a dead classmate floating in the school’s lake after a school dance, she finds herself the target of a digital revenge scheme left behind by the murdered girl on Kay’s computer. With the help of the class outcast, Kay follows the clues in an to attempt to clear her name in the police’s murder investigation and to save her sinking reputation. She discovers dangerous secrets and motives about her fellow classmates, and exposes her own past demons, all of which seem to lead right back to Kay as the murderer.
People Like Us is a fast-paced dark psychological thriller that will hook readers immediately and keep them engaged with its twisted and suspenseful digital “Clue” plot. The large cast of unique characters from various backgrounds and experiences adds depth and wide appeal without overly complicating this already twisty narrative. Filled with love-triangles, gossip, murder, and secrets, teens will devour this one.
Hand to viewers of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Riverdale or fans of Karen McManus’s One of Us is Lying, Teresa Toten’s Beware That Girl, or April Henry’s The Girl I Used to Be.
— Kaitlin Troch
Expelled by James Patterson and Emily Raymond
Jimmy Patterson Books/Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October, 23, 2017
It’s not enough that Theo Foster’s dad killed himself after being diagnosed with ALS, now Theo finds himself the subject of an expulsion for tweeting a photo of the school’s star quarterback holding a bottle of alcohol, hand around a topless (and headless) girl’s waist, and the school’s mascot peeing on a jersey. To be fair, Jude–his bisexual, virgin friend AND the school mascot–is also being expelled along with Parker, the aforementioned quarterback. The problem is, Theo is innocent. As he takes stock of his circumstances, he realizes that this expulsion will utterly wreck his chances to get out of his small town and get into college. That is enough to motivate him to begin a student-directed documentary that will prove his and Jude’s innocence. All of this is set against a crush on the brilliant, but manic pixie dream girl, Sasha, whose expulsion for a different infraction significantly frees up her schedule to help in this escapade.
The cover doesn’t do the story justice, since it is told in first person by Theo, and the girl on the cover is far more wholesome in appearance than the sophisticated Sasha, but that won’t matter much to readers. The first page will grab them, and the twists and turns of the plot will keep them hooked. Jude’s witty banter injects humor into what could otherwise be a pretty dark story. Reluctant readers will find themselves flying through the short chapters just to get to the bombshell ending. Fans of Gordon Jack’s The Boomerang Effect and Karen McManus’s One of Us is Lying will enjoy this realistic thriller.
With the latest Star Wars movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story, coming to theaters later this month, it seems like a great time to explore Star Wars comics. In the years since the first Star Wars movie was released, there has been a huge range of licensed books and graphic novels set in the Star Wars universe and many of these stories have been created by women. This list features a few of these comics. Star Wars fans will see some familiar characters and a few new ones as well, but throughout there is the same sense of adventure that is found in the movies. Whether you and your patrons are getting ready for the new movie or want more stories after seeing it, this list will have something to fit your need.
Han Solo by Marjorie Liu with art by Mark Brooks – Let’s start the list with a perfect read for Han Solo fans waiting for the new film to come out. In this action packed story, Han is convinced to help the Rebellion one more time and has a chance to compete in a race along the way. Liu’s story captures everything fans love about Han Solo and offers a thrilling addition to his legend. Brooks’ art captures the action perfectly contributing to a sense of tension and suspense throughout the story.
Captain Phasma by Kelly Thompson with art by Marco Checchetto – Captain Phasma was a fan favorite character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so it isn’t surprising that she has her own dedicated comic. In this volume, readers find out what happened to Phasma after the end of the movie. This action packed story offers an opportunity to understand Phasma a bit more and is filled with exciting action sequences. This is a great read for those who love Phasma and particularly those who think she has been short-changed by the movies.
Rogue One by Jody Houser with art by Emilio Laiso, Paolo Villanelli, and Oscar Bazaldua – It would be easy to assume that if you’ve already seen Rogue One the movie, you don’t need to read a graphic novel version of the story, but this graphic novel is much more than a simple retelling of the movie. Woven throughout are new scenes and details that weren’t included in the film. Best of all, fans of Cassian and K-2SO will enjoy the extra story about how they met.
Star Wars: Legacy by John Ostrander with art by Jan Duursema – Set 125 years after the events in Return of the Jedi, this story offers readers a chance to check in with what is happening long after the time of the characters they know and love. But, that doesn’t mean that the story is a completely unfamiliar one. In this distant future the Empire is once again on the rise and the Jedi must seek out the final Skywalker heir if they want to keep darkness from permeating the galaxy. Filled with compelling fight scenes and a range of engaging new characters, it is great for those who want to know what happens after the movies end.
Star Wars: Legacy II by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman with art by Brian Albert Thies and Gabriel Hardman – This sequel to Star Wars: Legacy is a thrilling story that stars a descendent of Han and Leia who is thrust into an adventure she never expected. Bechko and Hardman create a story that will keep you turning the pages to the very end and Hardman and Thies’ striking art style creates gorgeous scenes that will stick with you after you’ve finished the story. The final volume of the series also includes additional artwork and information about the history of the galaxy, the Empire’s war machines, and the characters.
Do you have other favorite Star Wars comics that were created by women? Let us know in the comments!
– Carli Spina, currently reading Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir with art by Steenz.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Philomel Books / Penguin Books USA
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Beautiful Xifeng is destined to be the Empress of Feng Lu, but only if she abandons those she loves and gives into her darker impulses. Escaping her abusive aunt, Xifeng uses her cunning and understanding of magic to make her way to the capital of Feng Lu. Each step along the way is complicated as a dark and powerful force encourages her to become Empress while those around Xifeng to accept another fate, be it less glorious.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a retelling of Snow White where you simultaneously are rooting for and against the future “Evil Queen”. The tone is that of a legendary tale mixed with a tragedy. The mixture of a Western fairy tale and Eastern myths create a fascinating setting and story. The prose is lush and descriptive while at the same time keeps a steady pace that will make readers want to turn the page to find out what happens next. Xifeng is a clever and angry character who many teens will relate to in the difficult choices she must make to protect those she loves.
This book is for fans of The Lunar Chronicles, The Forbidden Wish, the Once Upon a Time TV Show, and the Snow White and the Huntsman franchise.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Ellingham Academy is exclusive, secluded, and the scene of a long ago unsolved murder. For mystery buff Stevie Bell transferring to Ellingham is a dream come true. She’s there for one reason – to solve the case. But a tragic death on campus forces her to put her deductive reasoning to the test to discover if one of her new classmates is a murderer. She going to need all of her sleuthing skills because everyone seems to have a motive.
Johnson seamlessly weaves two timelines, each with an identifiable style. Stevie’s narrative is playful, as if daring the reader to take her seriously. The past is atmospheric and almost noir-like. Stevie has a fanatic’s view of murder having been untouched by tragedy while the Ellingham’s story is filled with grief. The timelines stand in stark contrast yet complement each other well.
The large cast of characters are diverse and well developed, including the adults. Stevie is a likeable and believably quirky character whose battle with social anxiety disorder is realistically portrayed through awkward encounters and self-deprecating thoughts. Ellingham Academy itself is so vivid that it serves not just as a setting but as another character.
Fans of atmospheric novels such as In the Shadow of Blackbirds and Out of the Easy will enjoy Truly Devious.
A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
A dark historical fantasy in which a girl named Makepeace is forced to flee her birth father’s ominous family and their strange birthright.
The Felmottes are a powerful aristocratic family harboring a secret so sinister that Makepeace’s mother fled from them as a young woman to protect her unborn child. As a young girl growing up in a Puritanical English village, Makepeace senses ghosts fighting to claw their way into her head but doesn’t understand why. When she finds herself suddenly orphaned and driven half-mad by unknown spirits, she is sent to live with her late father’s family, the Felmottes, at their ancient estate Grizehayes. There, she meets her bastard half-brother, and together they begin hatching plans to escape. However, their plans soon fall awry as the country plunges into a chaos of betrayals that ultimately leads it into a civil war. Makepeace finds herself on her own, fleeing to escape the sinister designs the Felmottes have on her life. She is not entirely alone, however, for she is possessed by the spirit of a great Bear, her greatest ally, who infuses her with the ferocity of spirit to fight for their mutual survival. Along the way, they are joined by others on their mad adventure: a colorful coterie of spies, vengeful spirits, and wayward humans who fight their way into Makepeace’s mind and heart. Makepeace is no mere vessel though, as the Felmottes would like to believe; over the course of the novel she grows into a fierce, compassionate heroine who takes control of her own story.
Brimming with originality, atmospheric imagery, and plenty of intrigue, this historical yarn is part ghost story, part adventure, and part coming-of-age tale. Fans of sophisticated historical fantasy, dark adventure, and strong heroines are sure to devour it on any given dark and spooky night.
Birding is My Favorite Video Game by Rosemary Mosco
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Panels from the webcomic Bird and Moon have been compiled to create this entertaining environmental science anthology. Divided into five thematic sections, the comics explore various topics including newts, fake bees, flora of the New England woods, and pygmy owls. The book brings a light touch to complex concepts like natural selection and climate change.
These comics makes one laugh. Mosco takes her science seriously, but never ruins the punchline. While filled with interesting facts and informational tidbits, Mosco’s drawings humorously depict the natural world. The book encourages the reader to move, explore, and invest time in the out of doors. As the title suggests, games can be played outside. Her choice of intentionally pixelated illustrations quietly serve as a reminder of what can be lost when we focus on our phones instead of the sky. With pieces on extinctions, invasives, and rising sea levels, Mosco also makes a strong comment on climate change. Schools with an environmental science curriculum could easily integrate this text into lessons and projects. The species index at the end, for example, provides proper names for all of her illustrations, a great help for budding naturalists. Recommend this title to teens already reading The Unstoppable Wasp and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur as well as to those teens interested in biology or environmental issues.
A Polar Bear In Love by Koromo
Publication Date: November 21, 2017
When a lonely polar bear spots the gleaming white seal pup, it’s love at first sight (no matter that they are different species, natural predator/prey and both male). Li’l Seal is lost from his mother and frightened that Mr. Polar Bear is only tricking the seal and wants to eat him (the poor guy spends most of the story trembling uncontrollably). When Li’l Seal tries to escape, Mr. Polar Bear insists on coming with him and when the seal tells the polar bear that he doesn’t like being near the bear and the bear turns to leave sadly, the seal immediately apologizes. Li’l Seal eventually lets Mr. Polar Bear travel with him and takes comfort from him, but remains wary of his intentions.
This sweet story of loneliness and finding someone to love no matter who they are or how different they are from you will appeal to all teens, as well as relating to the feeling of being misunderstood. It’s a sweet natured, humorous manga, but with underlying deeper themes to make readers think. Teens will also enjoy the simplistic and kawaii artwork.
Readers who like shojo, yaoi romance and/or cute animals in their manga, like Chi’s Sweet Home, will be rooting for Mr.Polar Bear and Li’l Seal.
Behind You: One-Shot Horror Stories by Brian Coldrick
Publication Date: Oct 31, 2017
Behind every human figure in this book is something else: a mysterious apparition, tall and gaunt, or a horrific mishmash of teeth and eyes, or a creature hovering in the darkness, claws outstretched, about to strike. Readers have only a single line of text in which to figure out what’s happening, and what happens next is left to the imagination. Conflicts are never resolved, and tension is constant, because each monster is succeeded by another, and the unsettling snippets of story will have readers looking over their shoulders, just in case…
Unsettling art accompanied by a single line of text makes each two page spread collected here a standalone scary story. Every illustration is a compelling blend of chiaroscuro and muted colors, with the eye drawn to the character being menaced by a creature they can’t quite see. However, readers get the sense that each protagonist is about to turn around and see what’s behind them, for better or worse.
Horror lovers and reluctant readers will enjoy this haunting collection, particularly fans of Junji Ito’s manga and Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods.
Your Robot Dog Will Die by Arin Greenwood
Soho Press / Soho Teen
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
After a viral outbreak that turns all “organic” (i.e. real) dogs into vicious, hyper-intelligent creatures, robotics company Mechanical Tail creates robot dogs for families. Nano Miller’s family lives on Dog Island, where the robot dogs are made and home to the last remaining living dogs. While helping with her mother’s work, Nano finds an organic puppy that doesn’t seem to be hostile to humans, and in trying to save its life she sets off a chain reaction that leads to her FINALLY discovering what happened to her missing brother and the truth about Mechanical Tail, Dog Island, and everything she has been taught to believe is true.
This short books clocks in at only 208 pages, and skirts the line between science fiction and speculative fiction. Your Robot Dog Will Die has a bright, eye-catching cover and illustrations of dogs throughout, and is sprinkled with increasingly desperate advertisements from the Mechanical Tail dog company which provide short intermissions from the text. Some characters are more well-developed than others, but the terminology and setting descriptions are concise and easy to grasp. A budding romance, sibling camaraderie, and a strong-willed, warm-hearted main character add to the interesting subject matter to create a unique story well-suited to reluctant readers.
Teens who enjoy Your Robot Dog Will Die may also enjoy Landscape with Invisible Hand and other titles by M. T. Anderson, as well as quirky stories like Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens and selections by Andrew Smith.
American Panda by Gloria Chao
Simon & Schuster / Simon Pulse
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Mei’s life is completely planned out. She will be pre-med and become a doctor, marry the Taiwanese boy her parents have picked out for her, and basically be the perfect daughter. The problem with this plan is that she is afraid of germs, has fallen for a Japanese boy, and has disobeyed her parents by reconnecting with her estranged brother Xing. The story follows Mei at her freshman year at MIT as she struggles with trying to find a way to please her parents, but also live the life she wants and not the life that has been planned for her.
American Panda is a fast paced read with great characters. There are enough new plot points to keep the reader interested and entertained throughout the novel. The family dynamics are key to this story and keep the reader emotionally invested in Mei. Teens will be inclined to be sympathetic to Mei and her overbearing parents, although her parents do tend to take helicopter parenting to a whole new level.
Teens who enjoyed the family dynamics and romance of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon will enjoy this novel. Also teens who watch the Freeform TV Show Grownish will appreciate the college experience portrayed in this book.
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson, narrated by Candace Thaxton
Audio Published by Simon and Schuster Audio
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Elena Mendoza is the product of parthenogenesis, or virgin birth. It’s a fact; proven by a doctor and peer-reviewed medical journals. Because of this information, Elena grows up with her classmates and community thinking her an oddity, students at her school calling her “Mary” to persecute her difference. Her best friend Fadil, is really her only friend. One day while on her break at Starbucks, Fadil literally pushes Elena into taking to her crush Winifred “Freddie” Petrine. Elena approaches just as another student at their high school, David Combs, shoots Freddie. This leads the Starbucks siren to inform Elena of her healing capabilities and encourages her to save Freddie’s life. In the aftermath of the healing, David is “raptured” by a bright light and disappears. This chain of events sets off an apocalypse, one in which Elena is cast in a starring role. Elena then learns that her healing capabilities are not limited to Freddie alone, as she heals a neighborhood stray and an elderly neighbor. Should she listen to the voices that tell her to use her healing powers to save humanity, to her friends or family that provide conflicting viewpoints, or to her intuition? Elena is confounded and paralyzed with indecision but inevitably has to choose a course of action.
The audio narration of this story elevates the characters and highlights their complexity and ever-changing viewpoints. Thaxton does a fantastic job evoking personality into all of the characters and reading Elena’s internal monologues in a way that keeps the listener engrossed and interested. Elena’s voice is quirky and compelling and Freddie has this great gravel and grit that adds to her depression and grief.
This audio is recommended for listeners 13 and up. Listening to Elena talk with inanimate objects may remind readers of the short-lived television series Wonderfalls. Readers who enjoy this book will also like Hutchinson’s other work; We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe. They may also enjoy the humor and sci-fi twist in Lance Rubin’s Denton Little books.
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
- Women in Comics: Fairy Tales
- Teens’ Top Ten Giveaway
- Hub Reading Challenge April Check-In
- 2018 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees Announced!
- 2018 Teen Read Week Initiative Launched!
- YA books set in New Orleans
Selected Lists from April:
- Quick Picks 2019
- Amazing Audiobooks 2019
- Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2019
- Best Fiction for Young Adults 2019
- PBS released their list of America’s 100 most-loved novels before the premier of their new show The Great American Read. Not surprisingly, many YA titles show up on this list (including The Book Thief, Hatchet, Ghost, and Looking for Alaska)!
- The Hunger Games books get 10th Anniversary special treatment
- Cover reveal and an excerpt from Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman coming this October
- Hypable’s YA book releases for April 2018, including titles by Veronica Roth, Melissa De la Cruz, and the Simon sequel: Leah on the Offbeat, from Becky Albertalli
- Cover reveal for Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars coming January 2019
- James Comey is getting his own comic book of his “origin story”
- 12 Queer Webcomics You Can Read For Free Right Now some of which have been published in physical form for your collection needs
- Wicked Deep bought by Netflix
- A Court of Thorns and Roses coming to the big screen
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before coming to Netflix this summer
- Audiofile’s Sync started up again last week, if you haven’t participated before, jump in now for two free YA audiobooks each week all summer long
- The Office for Intellectual Freedom released the Top 10 list of most challenged books for 2017 Unfortunately, not surprisingly, many YA titles grace this list
- An opinion piece on why YA literature gives her hope
- An interview with Michael Cart in the Los Angeles Review of Books
- Teen Read Week site is up
- LGBTQ+ Diversity In YA Novels Is Getting Better, But Queer Girls Are Still Being Left Behind
— Cathy Outten, currently reading The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Living in the 125th Street neighborhood of Harlem, Lolly’s life is populated by a vibrantly drawn, diverse cast of characters: his ma and her girlfriend Yvonne, his best friend Vega, the neighborhood kids at the community center where he attends after-school, and the young thugs who populate his neighborhood, pressuring him to join up in the wake of his older brother Jermaine’s gang-related death. Amidst these pressures and his still-raw grief at Jermaine’s death, Lolly finds solace in building fantastical, epic cityscapes out of the Lego bricks Yvonne brings home from her job as a security guard at a toy store. When his outsized buildings and imagination outgrow his apartment, community center director Mr. Ali lets him expand into the basement of the rec center. There, his Lego building attracts the attention of the other kids and especially Big Rose, a bullied girl with a prickly manner and a big heart, who may be on the autism spectrum but has no interest in being labeled autistic. Lolly and Big Rose form a tentative but meaningful bond based on mutual respect, even as he feels Vega withdrawing from him towards the pull of the streets.
These spirited, authentic characters give a vibrant voice to their Harlem neighborhood and speak to the transformative power of family and friendship. Lolly’s personal crossroads between childhood innocence and adult reality is poignantly depicted amid the colorful backdrop of his lively and diverse intersectional community. Though no child should have to grapple with the tough decisions that Lolly and his friends face, the fact is that many do; this lively, warm-hearted book will surely serve as both a powerful mirror and a window to young teen readers. The Stars Beneath Our Feet is a promising debut should find a welcome audience with fans of Jason Reynolds’ and Kwame Alexander’s books.
–Carol Maples and Jenny Zbrizher
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Swoon Reads / Macmillan
Publication Date: January 23, 2018
When 19-year-old Alice’s girlfriend dumps her before what was supposed to a fun-filled summer, she swears off dating for the time being, not just because she’s hurt, but because being asexual is not something most of her romantic partners have understood. That all changes when Takumi enters the picture as her story time knight in shining armor, who she might be more attracted to that anyone else she has had feelings for. Throw in parents who are threatening to cut off her college funds if she does not follow their future plans for her, and her best friends leaving her behind while they move on with their lives, Alice is in for one interesting summer.
With a light-hearted tone and strong and relatable characters, Let’s Talk About Love, while an older teen read, is still relatable to today’s teens. With a LGBTQIA main character, something not typically seen in YA, this book also tackles issues teens will being facing in their lives soon, if they are not already.
Fans of romances such as The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon and Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee will enjoy the various dynamics within friends/family/and romantic relationships. Fans of the newly released Love, Simon will also enjoy another story about a character figuring out what love means to them.
The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
Harper Teen / HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Asha is the Iskari, the death bringer, and the daughter of the King of Firgaard. Chosen at a young age to destroy the old ways by killing the oldest dragon, Kozu, Asha lures dragons to their deaths by telling the forbidden stories of the old one. These same stories also give dragons their power to produce fire, thus making the slaying that much harder. As Asha connects with the old one through a series of gifts which includes her very own dragon, she is sent on a quest that defies her original charge. A chance encounter with the brutal commandant’s slave challenges the rules of society she has always lived by, and a forbidden love has the potential to bring the empire to its knees.
A fast pace and lots of action keep this story moving. Forbidden love, destiny, and issues of class and privilege are handled deftly. Although familiar fantasy tropes will be found in this novel, the author keeps them fresh. World building is accomplished through the use of stories and storytelling (a device also used beautifully to move the action) interspersed between early chapters of the book.
Hand this first book in a new series to fans of Eragon by Paolini, Seraphina by Hartman, Talon by Kagawa, or Ember in the Ashes by Tahir.
Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman by Box Brown
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
This cultural biography documents comedian Andy Kaufman’s life, from his early childhood fascinations with Elvis and professional wrestling to his untimely death. Andy’s obsession with verisimilitude launched him into a career as a professional Elvis impersonator before he became better known as “that guy on Taxi” and somewhat well-known for a professional wrestling career.
Interwoven with Andy’s story is the story of Jerry Lawler, professional wrestler who would go on to be Andy’s archrival on the wrestling circuit. Readers get an insight into the closely guarded and secret society of professional wrestling before it became mainstream, where wrestlers maintained character on and off stage, carefully scripted storylines and fight sequences in back room conversations and had an entire slang to describe their simulation fighting.
Box Brown’s use of three colors gives this story a distinctive retro feel, and his use of close-ups minimal line work helps readers focus on dialogue and character expressions. Not only does this book work as an introduction to 1970s popular culture, but it also, in a play on the title, challenges readers to think of art and artifice as real.
Give to fans of Box Brown’s other books, like Andre The Giant: Life and Legend and Tetris: The Games People Play.
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
In Brazen, Penelope Bagieu presents a brief portrait into the lives of women in various countries and cultures throughout history, who stood in opposition to what society deemed an appropriate way for women to behave. The women range from more modern and well known trailblazers, such as Temple Grandin, and Mae Jamison, to lesser known historical figures, such as 4th century B.C. Grecian gynecologist, Agnodice, and 7th century Chinese empress, Wu Zeitan. Both the stories and illustrations range from light and humorous to emotional and powerful. From actors, singers, and rappers to mermaids, volcanologists, and crime miniaturists, the women have little in common individually. However, Bagieu shows how each one revolutionized their fields, changed lives, and showcased the strength and capabilities women possess even in the face of unimaginable hardships. Each entry offers only a brief glimpse into the lives of the women presented, yet Bagieu manages to depict the achievements of the women in way that fully demonstrates their strength, resilience, and perseverance.
The illustrations are drawn in comic strip style, using brightly colored hues to enliven the panels and the character’s images with humorous illustrations and asides to compliment the narrated text. The magnificently detailed two-page illustrations at the end of every biography, beautifully captures the spirit of each woman. This narrative and illustrative style mixed together, creates a book that both highlights the remarkable achievement each woman made to history, while also being a highly enjoyable and inspiring book for teens. Highly recommended for budding feminists especially those who are new to non-fiction, or who are interested in strong female role-models.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Mia, a young woman just out of school, becomes the newest member on a spaceship that travels to historical ruins, reconstructing the sites for their new uses. She is quiet, unsure of her new job, but fits in with the crew, immediately gaining their trust and friendship. As the crew becomes closer, Mia reveals that she is on a mission to find her long-lost love, a fellow student she met at her inter-galactic boarding school, and asks for their help in finding her.
The use of black and white with splashes of color makes the reader feel as if they are floating through space. The adventure aspect really ropes the reader into the atmospheric world the story is set, and fully brings it to life. Characters are well-rounded, likeable, and the reader can’t help but root for them. The author uses two characterization points that hasn’t been seen much, if at all, in Young Adult literature: the absence of male-identifying characters, and the discussion and importance of they/their pronouns.
Give to fans of Tillie’s previous graphic novels and science fiction and adventure genres with some romance, such as The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Macmillan / Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
After years of living as transients to escape their bad luck, Alice and her mother Ella think they can finally settle down and have a normal life in New York. But people claiming to be “Hinterland”, characters from Alice’s grandmother’s collection of dark fairy tales, kidnap Ella. Alice and her classmate Finch travel to The Hazel Wood, her grandmother Althea’s estate, to rescue Ella and discover the truth about The Hazel Wood, The Hinterland and Alice herself.
The Hazel Wood manages to create a rich fantasy world for stand-alone book. The engaging world-building style brings each setting to life, from the very authentic feel of modern-day Brooklyn to the atmospheric and creepy Hazel Wood and Hinterland; all while maintaining a fast-paced plot with plenty of action. Alice’s sarcasm adds a touch of humor and irreverence to her adventure into this dark fairy tale world.
The Hazel Wood is great for any teen interested the dark origins of our own world’s fairy tales. Fans of the television shows Once Upon a Time and Grimm may enjoy a new set of dark tales to examine. Readers who enjoyed Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series and Holly Black’s Tithe will enjoy the similar writing style, without the long series commitment of the former.
Cold Hard Truth by Anne Greenwood Brown
Albert Whitman & Company
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Emmie is back home with her dad after being arrested a testifying in court against her ex-boyfriend (and her mother’s drug dealer) Nick. After her painful past year, all she wants is to blend in, do her community service, and get her life back on track. Max can’t seem to get in control of his anger these days. Something snapped in him after the wreck that killed his girlfriend, and suddenly he feels surrounded by injustice and unable to stop himself from lashing out. Emmie isn’t sure she’s ready to commit, but Max is persistent, and when her past comes back to haunt her he may be just the person she needs.
Cold Hard Truth escalates quickly, in terms of both the romance between Emmie and Max and the drama that threatens to tear them apart. The characters are well-defined and likeable despite being deeply damaged by their past experiences. Plenty of sweet, steamy moments are mixed with high-intensity action and short chapters, wrapped up with a tidy, happily-ever-after ending.
This book is comparable to titles by authors Abbi Glines and Gayle Forman, and fans of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything (and the movie version) or Sara Zarr’s Gem & Dixie will also enjoy Cold Hard Truth.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Macmillan / First Second
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
A graphic novel on friendship, family, and being true to yourself.
Francis, a young, talented dressmaker in Paris, is frustrated by the lack of creativity her current employers allows in her dressmaking. When one of her scandalous original pieces gets public attention, Francis gets swept away by a mysterious new client who ends up being the Prince himself. Prince Sebastian and Francis soon develop a friendship full of excitement, secrets, and fabulous fashion. But when outside pressures weigh heavily on both of them, Francis and Sebastian must decide what secrets are worth keeping.
With its pastel neon color pallet The Prince and the Dressmaker is a modern fairytale that breaks gender stereotypes. This stand alone graphic novel allows the characters to discover their true selves without the limitations of specific sexuality and gender labels. Family and friendship relationships are tested with the notion that self identity may not be as black and white as we are often taught, but ultimately realized that love is love is love.
This story nudges readers to open their minds to identities beyond LGBT and what it means to be the truest version of yourself. Pair with Molly Ostertag’s graphic novel The Witch Boy, and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.
Frau Faust vols. 1-4 by Kore Yamazaki
Publication Dates & ISBNs:
Vol. 1 – September 26, 2017 – 978-1632364807
Vol. 2 – November 14, 2017 – 978-1632364814
Vol. 3 – January 23, 2018 – 978-1632365491
Vol. 4 – March 6, 2018 – 978-1632365507
Dr. Johanna Faust has been dead for over 100 years, but she is cursed with immortality by her demon, Mephistopheles. The demon was quartered by the church to stop him from giving others immortality, and now, in order to break the curse, Dr. Faust must find all of his pieces and put him back together. With the help of the young, education hungry Marion and her homunculus, Nico, Dr. Faust is well on her way to putting her demon together again in the first 4 volumes of this new manga series.
Teens will be drawn to the detailed manga style artwork as well as the creepiness of the situations that Dr. Faust and her friends encounter. Although the conflict of the story is often dark and disturbing, the lack of graphic details still makes it accessible for teens of all ages, and the complexity of Dr. Faust’s character will keep readers wanting more. Most books and movies about immortality have characters striving for it, so readers will find it interesting that the conflict of this manga is about trying to rid oneself of eternal life.
Fans of Black Butler, Full Metal Alchemist, or Yamazaki’s previous manga, Ancient Magus Bride, will surely enjoy this series as well.
–Amanda Melilli & Loren Spector
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur vol. 4: Girl-Moon by Brandon Montclare
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Lunella Lafayette goes off to help Illa, the Girl-Moon who also happens to be the moon — the WHOLE moon. In her absence, Lunella has pre-programmed Moonbots, each with a slightly different outfit, to take over tasks like eating dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Lafayette and attending P.E. class. It turns out that it’s much easier for Lunella to solve others’ problems than her own.
The series has spunky, vibrant artwork that emphasizes the of purples and pinks across Manhattan and across the solar system. Lunella also has a distinct voice and developed character that’s part inconsolable tween and part Sheldon Cooper: “I built a transdimensional teleportation craft and all it gets me is nowhere fast.”
Readers who enjoy cheering for the outsiders in Victoria Jamieson’s graphic novels or are looking for fun female leads like in Lumberjanes will appreciate this addition to Marvel’s catalog.
Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir
Publication Date: March 06, 2018
After losing her job at the local library, Celeste starts working at the creepy Logan Museum as an archivist. When strange occurrences start to happen, she realizes that the museum may not be the best place for her to recover from her mental health issues or her relationships. She really needs the job, so even after the spirit of a desperate girl continues to haunt her, she tries to solve the mystery rather than give up and leave. With the help of some of the museum staff, will she discover the truth about the building’s dark past before it’s too late?
Weir’s artwork is beautiful and the subtle color shifts deftly express changes in mood, tone and time. The drawings also provide a visual expression of diversity, depicting a broad spectrum of ethnicity, sexuality and body types in a way that doesn’t feel pandering or forced. Though this story’s paranormal elements veer into creepy territory, it’s ultimately a story of self-acceptance and growth that will resonate with teens.
For fans of Taproot by Keezy Young and Kim Reaper by Sarah Graley