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2018 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with S. K. Ali

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 07:00

S. K. Ali  is a finalist for the 2018 William C. Morris YA Debut Award for her novel Saints and Misfits. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.


Smart, funny, and incredibly hard-working Janna Yusuf, an Arab American hijabi teen, is dealing with the usual teen issues of crushes, family, and friends. She finds her life thrown into personal upheaval after she is sexually assaulted by the seemingly devout cousin of her close friend, someone revered at her local Mosque. She grapples with the challenge of coming forward about the assault and not sure who or whether she can tell. She starts relying on unlikely friends, and finds the strength to stand up for herself.

Congratulations on your first novel and being selected as a Finalist for the William C. Morris Award for debut authors!

Thanks so much for your congrats on being a Morris finalist — a dream I dared not dream coming true!

There is such great representation in this book of fully realized female characters full of their own agency. Characters like Sarah and Sausun feel really established in their identity when we meet them, but we get to watch Janna grow into herself in ways that are so universal. Can you talk a little about the inspiration for her?

Janna is a character who understands some things about herself really well, like what she’s interested in (doing well at school, going to a good college, guys with big foreheads), and then is completely figuring out other things, including how to speak up when you’re suffering. The inspiration for her was teendom in general. I see it in my daughter and her friends, my sons, my nieces and then I remember it from my own teen years: that period when we are extremely self-assured and self-unsure simultaneously. It’s when these two states rub against each other that a sense of cohesive self emerges. I guess then my inspiration was the coming-of-age period — in particular, a Muslim-American teen’s. And yes, I did set Janna’s coming of age amidst a background of very strong women, mostly older than Janna. I have to specify here that the strength of these women were modeled on the ones I’ve seen around me in the Muslim communities I belong to.

Many teens identify as religious, yet so many YA books are centered on teens bumping up against their religious upbringing. It is refreshing in your book to get to see teens that embrace their faith, and how it looks different for each individual. Was this important to you?

Yes, this was important to me because we often shy away from approaching religiosity in contemporary YA (though there are fabulous writers who do so and have been doing so for a while) and I thought this was weird. I mean I understand the reluctance because being religious is seen as outmoded in popular culture generally and breaking the mold is a hard thing to do. But writing contemporary means you write reality. And the reality remains that many teens are proud of their religious identity, especially if it’s an identity that’s under some scrutiny as Islam happens to be in the current climate. The fierce embrace of what it means to be Muslim is all around us, something I’ve seen from my own teen years until now. But because I don’t see this reality reflected much on the page, I knew I’d write it.

I also find it fascinating that you have so much of that search for deeper meaning, otherworld elements and transcendence going on in YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s like the truth of our spiritual searching is being captured through SF/F. I’d love to see it being captured more in contemporary YA.

Janna’s story was published before the #MeToo movement started on the internet this past October. Hers is a powerful #MeToo story. Do you think that Janna would participate on social media? If so, what would she write?

I definitely think she would participate but it would not be from her personal instagram or twitter account. She’d have an alter-ego account that would be a no-holds barred, in-your-face, inner-Sausun raging against the machine type of an account. (She’d have way more followers on that account.) To participate in #MeToo, Janna would write a short message: One by one, we’ll take you down EVERYWHERE. #TIMESUP #MeToo

You have a background as a teacher, how has this influenced your writing?

I actually try very hard to keep those two circles of my life very separate. It’s not a Venn diagram at all (oops, sorry for sneaking that teacher talk in there). I’m very much a single-task focused person so when I’m in writer mode, I take my teacher hat off and fling it hard across the room. I have to. Because if you’re passionate about it (and I am), teaching requires so much of you – you give your all to your students and their voices dominate your headspace long after you’ve left school. To transfer to a state of mind where you listen to your characters and the story, there has to be a switching of gears. I do writing rituals to get me ready and also make sure my jobs are distinguishable visually – like making specialty teas and having an elegant, pristine writing workspace that is so different from my mountainous teacher desk at school. (My classroom desk is a school legend.)

That said, there’s one way teaching has influenced me as a writer: I’m motivated to continue telling stories, diverse stories, because being around the openness of young people makes me hopeful for a more inclusive future.

I have so many favorite characters in this book, but one of my favorite relationships is the one between Janna and Mr. Ram. Is there someone that was inspiration for Mr. Ram?

Mr. Ram, like many of my characters, is a blend of people but he does have some of the same qualities as one of my favorite people in the world: my dad! My father is very well read and has introduced me to books and ideas throughout my life that no one else has. Ideas that, when I was younger, I didn’t want to necessarily listen to at the time he shared them, but then, soon enough, for some class assignment or other, I’d invariably be knocking on his study door asking him to show me that book or two again. He seemed to know the core of what would be interesting to a growing mind. I value that greatly and wanted to incorporate that mentor relationship into Saints and Misfits.

You do such a great job balancing humor and serious issues. What authors have influenced you as a writer?

This was actually a surprise to me! That I wrote with humor when some of the topics were quite heavy. Surprising because most of my short fiction while doing my Creative Writing degree were quite pared-down, serious affairs. When I really think about it, maybe it’s because I have three children and nieces and nephews who are into everything with a big side of humor; they often get into a groove just riffing on topics, sometimes going on and on for a long while. Maybe being surrounded by that kind of symphony instills a light-hearted cadence into the voices-palette of a writer?

As for the authors who have influenced me, I would have to say one from my youth was Judy Blume, especially when she had a Jewish character (I loved those books because I could identify a bit more then!), and her frank approach to things. I knew I’d go that course too when I wrote my own novels.

More recently, an author that I look up to a great deal is Rebecca Stead. Her Newbery winning novel, When You Reach Me, just blew me away with its writing, story and characters. I felt immediately at home in the community she built in that book and I remember the long sigh I let out at the end, thinking, now that’s a story.

From this reading experience, I knew that, for writer-me, incorporating a community of characters was important as well. And I hope I did that in Saints and Misfits.

What’s next?

I’m working on editing my second novel. It’s about a girl who goes to Istanbul to take an art course and falls in love with an artist, amidst a sprinkling of cats, a Turkish wedding, Turkish coffee and lots of good food. The artist is a boy who cooks said good food. And, again, it has an ensemble cast like Saints and Misfits does. Additionally, I’m participating in an anthology called Hungry Heart which is made up of interconnected stories set in one culturally diverse, super foodie neighborhood. Oh, I also have an unannounced picture book coming out that I’m super excited about!

One more thing. I love following you on Twitter, and I am excited about the campaign you have started #MuslimShelfSpace. Can you tell a little about that?

The  #MuslimShelfSpace campaign is an annual call to consider whether we’re making space for narratives authored by writers from Muslim communities, in light of the predominance of stereotyping, misrepresentation and marginalization of Muslims in popular culture.

Here is a video about it:

Danielle Jones is currently reading City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

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2018 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Akemi Dawn Bowman on Starfish

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 07:00

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman is the powerful and sometimes heartbreaking story of Kiko, a half-Japanese teen who hopes that her artistic talent will help her escape her toxic home life with her white mother who is alternately neglectful and abusive. After Kiko’s dream art school rejects her, she is forced to consider other options. When she reunites with her childhood friend Jamie and embarks on a completely unexpected journey with him, Kiko starts to realize that sometimes second choices can lead to second chances. Starfish is a finalist for YALSA’s 2018 Morris Award. Today I’m thrilled to have Akemi Dawn Bowman here to answer some questions about her debut novel.

Congratulations on Starfish’s selection as a 2018 Morris Award finalist! Where were you when you heard the news? Who was the first person you told about the big news?

Akemi Dawn Bowman (ADB): Thank you so much! I was sitting on the couch with my three-year-old when I read the email. It had actually been sent hours before, but we had been out all day and I wasn’t checking my phone. When I finally did, I had all these messages from my editor and agent. I totally started crying and jumping around the living room, and then my three-year-old asked what was wrong. When I told her my book had been nominated for an award, she looked very unimpressed and said, “That’s not a good thing to cry about.” But my husband got home about fifteen minutes later, and his response was a lot more enthusiastic. And then I had to keep it a secret until they announced it publicly a few days later!

Your debut novel follows Kiko’s journey both literally across the country and figuratively as she tries to figure out how to break away from her toxic home life. What was the inspiration for this novel? What was the first thing you learned as an author about Kiko?

ADB: Starfish is very much the book I needed as a teen. I wanted to write a story that would’ve made me feel like I wasn’t alone—a story that would’ve made me feel like everything was going to be okay. I really wanted that for other readers, because hope is such an important part of healing.

I think the first thing I learned about Kiko was how resilient she was without even realizing it. She has no idea how strong her heart is, because it’s covered in bruises and scars and it constantly aches. And part of her journey is realizing that she has the strength to do things on her own—to make changes on her own—and I could see that in her early on, but she needed thirty chapters or so to figure it out for herself.

Art plays a huge role in Starfish as Kiko describes her paintings and sketches to readers (and dreams of attending art school). Kiko also interacts with other artists including Jamie who is a photographer when they meet again at the start of the novel. I loved these extremely visual and evocative moments in a prose novel. Did you turn to any pieces of art for inspiration while writing this novel? Who are some of your favorite artists? Does Kiko share your artistic tastes?

ADB: None of the artwork Kiko creates was inspired by any specific piece of art. It’s sort of the style that exists in my imagination (and also stays there, because I am laughably bad at drawing and even worse at painting). So I think it’s fair to say our tastes are similar, even if our talent for art is at opposite ends of the scale. But with Hiroshi, his style was inspired by my love of pop surrealism and artists like Mark Ryden and Anne Angelshaug.

Starfish is filled with a lot of empowering moments as Kiko begins to gain confidence and learns about her own resilience and strength. Did you have a favorite scene to write in this novel? Is there one you are excited for readers to discover?

ADB: I really enjoyed writing all the early scenes with Kiko and Jamie. The romance in Starfish very much takes a backseat to Kiko’s journey of self-acceptance and finding a way to move forward, but it’s still such an important part of her growth. Because one of the things Kiko worries about as a biracial teen is that she’s “too Asian” for people to find her beautiful or desirable. She had a couple of bad experiences where people told her they weren’t “into Asian girls,” and it really affected the way she saw herself. And it’s something that hits so close to home for me, because that way of thinking is so difficult to unlearn. I wanted Kiko to have unmistakable proof that the feelings she had for Jamie were mutual, and to show that his affections for Kiko had zero to do with her being half-Japanese. Writing their scenes brought me a lot of joy, because I was letting Kiko essentially unlearn these fears she had about the way others see her. And as for a scene I’m most excited for readers to discover, it would probably be the scene where the meaning of “starfish” is revealed. It’s a pivotal moment for Kiko, and I think it’s the point where she really starts to look at the future differently.

There’s no right or wrong way to write a novel, but there’s lots of advice to be had. What’s the best piece of writing advice you received when you were starting out? Now that your debut is out in the world, do you have any advice that you would share with aspiring authors?

To always be writing the next book. And it’s the same advice I would give aspiring authors now. Because there is so much in this business that will be completely out of your control. But that next book? It’s the one thing you have complete control over. In a lot of ways, the “next book” is my anchor. It keeps me from getting completely lost in the excitement, anxiety, and terror that comes with getting an agent/getting a book deal/seeing your first trade reviews/etc, etc. So ignore the noise, stay focused, and work on the next book.

Thank you to Akemi for taking the time to answer my questions about Starfish. Be sure to watch for the Youth Media Awards ceremony at 8 a.m. MT on Feb. 12, 20l8 to see which Morris Award finalist will be selected as this year’s winner.

— Emma Carbone, currently reading Warcross by Marie Lu

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January 16th is National Day of Racial Healing (#NDORH)

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 07:00

National Day of Racial Healing is a day to “Focusing on ways for all of us to heal from the wounds of the past, to build mutually respectful relationships across racial and ethnic lines that honor and value each person’s humanity, and to build trusting intergenerational and diverse community relationships that better reflect our common humanity.” (From the W.K. Kellogg foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation page.)

Below you will find links to previous Hub posts with information about materials with themes relating to racial healing, social justice, and activism. 

20 Books to Inspire Social Change

Activism Starts with You: 20 Books to Inspire and Instruct

Diversify YA Life: Social Justice League—Readers’ Advisory for Teens Dealing with Social Justice Issues

Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes

Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes, Part II

Racial and Social Justice Podcasts for Teens

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Another Year, Another Mock Printz

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 07:00

As the year begins to wind down, so do Mock Printz selection teams! With the Michael L. Printz Award just over 2 months away, we begin to narrow our choices and seriously discuss our contenders.  As a member of my library system’s selection team, I read many amazing and beautiful books this year. The experience was fun, engaging, and exposed me to books and authors I may not have otherwise picked up.

Does your library host a Mock Printz? What is your set up?

My selection team consists of 6-8 Teen Librarians and support staff with interests in teen literature. Our two team leaders set up a Goodreads group where we could add potential titles to our shelf and discuss titles we read throughout the year. We narrowed down our contender pool via a few face to face meetings and plenty of Goodreads discussion threads.  Because of the sheer volume of books we needed to read, we required three team members to give a title “contender” status before it was made a contender. We also required two team members to deem a title “DNR – Do Not Read” before we could scratch it from our lists. Let me tell you, it is challenging! Many passionate discussions were held over the past 12 months.

Because of the time it takes our system to process books, our plan was to choose a few titles published between January and June that we thought were definitely contenders. Then we met again in November to choose a few more titles we felt were worthy of the award. That way, everyone participating in the final mock award selection has time to check out and read all the contenders before the final meeting. This year my team chose seven titles to be discussed at our library’s annual Mock Printz in February. From those seven titles we will chose one to win our mock award. Naturally we base all of our decisions on the criteria set forth by the actual Printz committee. Those can be found on the YALSA website!

If you’re considering setting up your own Mock Printz, here is a little list to get you started!

  1. Select your committee. Send out an email to librarians in the area and gauge interest.
  2. Use a tracking method to add books to a “to read” list (whether that is on a social site like Goodreads, or just a spreadsheet your team can share). We sifted through professional magazines, starred reviews, Goodreads reviews, word of mouth, and our gut instincts to find books.
  4. Discuss! Make sure you are constantly discussing the merits of all the titles you are reading.
  5. Narrow down your titles as you go.
  6. Select your winner!

If your system does not host a Mock Printz, check out this Mock Printz group on Goodreads!

–Megan Whitt, currently reading La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

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Women in Comics – Looking Ahead to 2018

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 07:00

As another year begins, it’s time to look ahead to the exciting new comics and graphic novels by women that we can expect in 2018. Hopefully this list will give you something to look forward to as the new year starts!

All Summer Long by Hope Larson – Hope Larson’s latest graphic novel is all about summer break. Bina’s not so sure about spending her summer without her best friend Austin, but while he’s gone she’s able to forge a new friendship with Austin’s sister and spend plenty of time on her music. When Austin gets back from his time at camp, will their friendship still be as strong as ever?

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol – As an immigrant from Russia, Vera really just wants to be like everyone else. And part of that is going to summer camp, though her mom’s budget means that her only option is to attend a summer camp for Russian kids. But, it turns out that camp may not be everything Vera had hoped for after all. This story is sure to be relatable for kids who’ve attended summer camp and fun for those who have only ever dreamed of a camp experience.

Moonstruck Vol. 1 written by Grace Ellis with art by Shae Beagle and Kate Leth – Set in a town full of fantastic citizens, including werewolves, centaurs, and more, this story follows werewolf barista Julie through work, relationships, and more. With cute artwork and a fun plot, this is a great read for fantasy fans.

Heavy Vinyl written by Carly Usdin with art by Nina Vakueva – When Chris gets a job at a record shop, she just thinks she’ll have a cool workplace. Little does she know that her coworkers are all part of a secret fight club. This book offers a very different take on the typical comic about vigilantes and has a lot of great female characters.

Fab 4 Mania by Carol Tyler – This memoir, based on the author’s own teenage diary, recounts her excitement about the Beatles as a 13-year old. Perfect for those who want to see what fandom was like in the 1960’s and fans of graphic memoirs.

Losing the Girl by MariNaomi – When Claudia disappears, her classmates have no idea what to think, but one option is definitely alien abduction, right? Though this book is concerned with Claudia’s sudden disappearance, it is also about much more than that, tackling relatable teen topics such as romance, friendship, and facing sudden and unexpected changes to one’s life.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang – Prince Sebastian leads a busy life. His parents are eager for him to marry and are looking for a wife for him. But, at the same time he is leading a secret double life as Lady Crystallia, who becomes a fashion icon with the help of his friend and personal dressmaker Frances. But, how will Sebastian’s need for secrecy work with Frances’ desire to become a famous fashion designer?

Algeria Is Beautiful Like America written by Olivia Burton with art by Mahi Grand – This autobiographical work about Burton’s travels to her grandmother’s native Algeria offers an interesting view not only of the country but also into her quest to understand her family history.

Niki de Saint Phalle: The Garden of Secrets by Sandrine Martin and Dominique Osuch – This biographical comic introduces readers to Niki de Saint Phalle, an important female sculptor. With a striking art style and an important story to tell, this is a perfect suggestion for art enthusiasts whether they typically favor graphic novels or not.

Fence written by C.S. Pacat with art by Johanna the Mad – Regular readers of this feature may recall Fence from the November post, but the first collected volume of the series will be released in the summer of 2018. This series has it all, sports, competitions, high school drama, romance! It is well worth adding to your collection, particularly since fencing doesn’t typically get much attention in comics or young adult literature.

The Altered History of Willow Sparks by Tara O’Connor – This book is for anyone who has ever dreamed about having the power to change their life through magic. Willow Sparks is just trying to make it through high school despite her questionable social status. But, when she discovers a book that gives her the power to completely change her life, she has a chance for more than that. The question is will magical popularity be all that it is cracked up to be?

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz – Former librarian Cel finds herself working as an archivist at a museum when she loses her library job. When Cel meets a ghost from the museum’s past, she begins to question herself, but eventually partners with the ghost to help her tackle the problems that still hang over her. With its focus on mental health topics, this book is more than just a fun read.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide written by Isabel Quintero with art by Zeke Peña – This graphic biography of Graciela Iturbide will introduce readers to a photographer whose work they may not be familiar with. The book chronicles Iturbide’s start as a photographer and her travels around the world taking the photographs that would make her an icon in the field. This is a great example of graphic biography.

The City on the Other Side written by Mairghread Scott with art by Robin Robinson – Set in San Francisco in the early 1900’s and in the fairy kingdoms that connect to the city, this book follows Isabel, a dutiful daughter, who accidentally finds herself in a magical city. There she must find her place and role in a war between two groups of fairies. A fun adventure for anyone who enjoys fantasy tales.

This is only a selection of the great comics and graphic novels by women that are being released in 2018. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any or which ones you are most excited for!

– Carli Spina, current reading A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

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Month in Review: December 2017

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 07:00

Just a quick round up of December, a month that just seems to keep getting shorter and shorter!

At the Hub Books & Reading Movies & TV In the News

— Cathy Outten, currently reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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Translated YA of 2017: a Year-End Roundup of the Latest Titles

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 07:00

At the beginning of this year we blogged about the newest translated YA titles of 2017 and the importance of reading across borders. As the year winds down, cultivating global appreciation and understanding remains more important than ever. Help your teens expand their personal borders by checking out the titles below, a roundup of translated YA titles from the remainder of 2017 hailing from far and wide, from China to Spain, France, and Sweden.

Bronze and Sunflower; by Cao Wenxuan; translated by Helen Wang; Candlewick Press, 2017 (China)

Taken in by a poor family in a rural village after the death of her father, Sunflower bonds with the family’s only child, Bronze, who has not spoken since being traumatized by a terrible fire. This title, written by Hans Christian Anderson winner and celebrated Chinese author Cao Wenxuan, has been nominated for YALSA’s 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. It is the first of his books to be translated into English.

“In Wang’s translation of his leisurely, languid prose, Hans Christian Andersen winner Cao captures both the infinite joys and harsh realities of rural farming life…While seemingly idealized, the story and its protagonists reflect the Confucian values of filial piety and society above self—the very foundation of Chinese culture. Readers of all ages should be prepared to laugh, cry, and sigh with satisfaction.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“Written by a cultural insider, this story provides a window into life as a child in rural China near the end of the Cultural Revolution…Helpful back matter provides additional insight into this specific time in China’s history.” ―Booklist, starred review


City of Sand by Tianxia Bachang; translated by Jeremy Tiang; Delacorte Press, 2017 (China)

A multimillion-copy bestseller in China, this adventure story centers around teens Tianyi, his best friend Kai, and Julie, a wealthy American, who join with Professor Chen and local guide Asat Amat to seek the lost city of Jinjue, hindered along the way by lethal creatures and an evil force.

“Filled to the brim with ancient and modern Chinese history, this translation is a fun and spooky ride. It’s not hard to see how Bachang  became a best-seller in his home country.” ―Booklist

“Chinese author Tianxia ’s English-language debut is a richly imagined and artfully translated tale of  history, adventure, and magic. Coincidences power the plot, but they’re offset by  a strong sense of  place and a wealth of  information about Chinese myth and legend.”  ―Publishers Weekly

“Translated from Chinese, this rollicking adventure rarely pauses. Tianyi is reminiscent of  Indiana Jones, escaping from one cursed trap after another utilizing feng shui, quick thinking, and plain old luck. He is an engaging narrator.” ―School Library Journal


The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe; translated by Lilit Thwaites; Henry Holt and Co., 2017 (Spain)

Based on the true story of Dita Kraus, a fourteen-year-old girl from Prague who, after being sent to Auschwitz, is chosen to protect the eight precious books that prisoners have smuggled past the guards. This book has been nominated for YALSA’s 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

“Iturbe’s astonishing novel spares readers none of the details of [the abominations of the Holocaust], but its focus is on the relatively unknown family camp located at Auschwitz, which featured a school for the children…The novel was originally published in Spanish in 2012, and this translation, by Thwaites, captures both the transcendence of Dita’s story and the deeply disturbing reality of the concentration camps. Like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (2006), it’s a sophisticated novel with mature themes, delivering an emotionally searing reading experience. An important novel that will stand with other powerful testaments from the Holocaust era.”  ―Booklist, starred review

Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali; translated by Penny Hueston; Roaring Brook Press, 2017 (France)

Born in Nazi Germany in 1936 as part of Hitler’s Lebensborn program, Max is raised as the perfect Aryan but questions his teachings upon learning that his friend Lukas, a Polish boy snatched from his home to be “Germanized,” is secretly Jewish.

“Chilling and thought provoking, Cohen-Scali’s novel contemplates the legacy of Lebensborn, Hitler’s mandated mating of “racially pure Aryan” men and women…A mature, provocative perspective on a harrowing history, the effects of which reverberate today.”―School Library Journal

“This story, originally published in France—where it won the prestigious Prix Sorcières—is no doubt provocative. But Cohen-Scali straddles the lines between poignant and profane, humorous and horrific with extraordinary poise and unmistakable panache. Peppered with Polish and German phrasing and appended with an informative author’s note, Konrad’s musings, as wide-eyed as they are wise, are staggeringly singular. A heartrending portrait of unlikely friendship and fierce defiance, and an impeccably researched glimpse into a deeply disturbing point in history. Unforgettable, bizarre, and brilliant.” ―Booklist, starred review


Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lövestam; translated by Laura A. Wideburg; Flatiron Books, 2017 (Sweden)

Steffi, a bullied misfit, finds solace in jazz music and befriends Alvar, a senior citizen jazz musician who endured persecution in World War II. Their developing friendship provides Steffi with the ambition to audition for Stockholm’s prestigious music school.  This book has been nominated for YALSA’s 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

“The period details of the war years and bits of Swedish culture are rich and evocative, and Steffi’s story is universal and will appeal to music lovers and outsiders anywhere. This is an offbeat (in a good way) and engaging novel that riffs on issues of bullying, gender identity, self-esteem, and life choices. It is ultimately a coming-of-age tale of a young artist and is as soulful as it is triumphant.” ―School Library Journal

“The translation from Swedish is smooth, and the culture, though different, will feel recognizable and relevant to American readers. Sensitive and deeply moving: outstanding.” ―Kirkus, starred review

— Jenny Zbrizher, currently reading We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Jenny is a librarian at Morris County Library in New Jersey, specializing in YA and foreign language collection development. When she’s not reading, she’s thinking about the next place she’d like to travel while listening to showtunes. Follow her on Twitter @JennywithaZ

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All About the Books – 5 Bookish Podcasts to Keep You in the Know

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 07:00

Trying to stay on top of what is coming out in the world of books for teens can be a daunting task. Podcasts about books can be a great way to stay on top of things, and you can listen while multitasking. Listening to bookish podcasts not only has kept me more current with what is coming out, alerted me to movie adaptations, and grown my own TBR list, it has also improved my own booktalking game by hearing other folks’ enthusiasm and descriptions about titles.

Here are five podcasts that tend to focus on the latest releases in teen books. A couple also focus on books published for adults and younger readers that are often worth knowing about.

Hey YA

One of Book Riot many great bookish podcasts, this focuses on all things young adult. Produced every other week, hosts Kelly Jensen and Eric Smith discuss what’s new, exciting, and interesting in the world of teen books. They discuss new releases, what they are excited about, books to film, and usually dive into a topic or theme around teen literature such as books with older protagonists, talking about YA with YA skeptics, and what favorite adult authors they’d love to see write a YA book.

Books and Boba

Hosts Reera Yoo and Marvin Yueh record twice a month, once as a book group and the other to deliver book news and updates. Focusing on books written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent they discuss a different book each month in a lively and thoughtful discussion. The other monthly podcast is full of current information that is extremely valuable to anyone wanting to stay on top of what is happening in the publishing world. They discuss all the books (children, YA, and adult) published of that current month by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, what recent publishing deals have been made, books to film news, and other current topics. There is always great YA news, as well as getting to hear about other titles that might not fall into the YA category but that teens will still might want to know about.

All the Books

Another noteworthy podcast from Book Riot. Each Tuesday, hosts Rebecca Schinsky and Liberty Hardy discuss the week’s new releases. There are often young adult titles in the mix with a few middle grade titles as well. They booktalk their favorites, and will let you know what they are excited about next. On Fridays, Hardy releases another podcast discussing backlisted titles that are worth remembering.



The Librarian Is In

From New York Public Library, this weekly podcast host Gwen Glazer and Frank Collerius tackle various subjects of the book world. Many of their podcasts focus on literature for youth. Some recent podcast to note is the discussion of the NYPL’s 2017 Best Books for Kids and Teens list and a Where Are the Fat-Positive Children’s Books?



Adventures in YA

Not the most regular podcast, but when they do publish they have good content. Hosts Kristen and Sara cover trending topics, do deeper book discussions, and list new releases reading their descriptions.  It can be a great way to hear about new books you have been meaning to look at, but haven’t had a chance.



Bonus! Videos

Book Nerds from SLJ TV

Though not a podcast, following School Library Journal’s SLJ TV has a new series Book Nerds that is worth keeping an eye on. They have discussed topics such as the difference from middle school and middle grade, the emotional benefits of horror novels, and their best books of 2017.



What are some of your favorite book podcasts?

Danielle Jones, currently reading Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

The post All About the Books – 5 Bookish Podcasts to Keep You in the Know appeared first on The Hub.

#QP2018 Nominees Final Round Up

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 07:00

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
ISBN: 9780316384933

“The dead have stories to tell. They just need the living to listen.”

Rowan Chase and William Tillman have stories to tell. Rowan lives in present day Oklahoma. William Tillman was a seventeen year old living in 1920s. Their stories intertwine when skeleton bones are discovered in Rowan’s backyard. Rowan, along with her best friend James, investigates. Together they solve a mystery, a murder and learn more about the Tulsa race riots of 1921.

Told in alternating viewpoints, Rowan delves deeper into solving the mystery, while William is carefully crafting his story. Together Rowan and Will’s stories tell of family history, secrets, race, social inequalities, and injustices.

Dreamland Burning, by Jennifer Latham, is a page-turner. Readers will love the short chapters with cliff-hanging endings that will keep them reading until the end. Latham adds enough surprises, twists, and turns in the story to keep readers engaged while learning some history. Latham’s description of time and place, both historic and contemporary, helps readers to make connections with the past and the present. Both Rowan and William are incredible characters, displaying strength and courage during some very dangerous and life-threatening times. Yes, William told his story and Rowan listened. Teens who read this story will be listening, too.

–Karen Lemmons


Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: September 26. 2017
ISBN: 9780545944472

 What started out as a typical work day in November for best friends Sara Zapata and Linda Fuentes did not end typical. On that day, Linda Fuentes disappeared.

In Juarez, Mexico, crime, corruption, kidnapping, and drugs are regular concerns for Sara, Emiliano, her brother, and other citizens. Sara, a reporter for El Sol, the local newspaper, writes profiles about the missing girls, including Linda. It is a promise she made to Linda, to remember her and others who have disappeared. However, when Sara receives an email threatening her and her family, Sara decides to find out who is kidnapping all these girls.

Meanwhile, Emiliano, who works hard selling his folk art, is considering a proposition to work with some unsavory businesspeople. Emiliano is attracted to Perla Rubi, the daughter of a wealthy lawyer, and if Emiliano accepts, he and Perla can possibly be together.

But something happens forcing Emiliano and Sara to make a decision. A decision that will irrevocably change their lives forever.

Francisco Stork’s suspenseful and powerful story brings readers up close and personal to the poverty, corruption, and greed in Juarez, Mexico. But even more, Stork makes readers aware of the global issue of missing women and the people who risk their lives to find them.

Karen Lemmons


Keys to Freedom by K. D. Gennaro
Saddleback Educational Publishers
Publication Date: September 17, 2017
ISBN: 9781680210569 

“What a week. I caught my mom using heroin. My boyfriend dumped me for some slut. Burning with desperation, I agreed to Genie’s plan to steal a car.”

Not just any car, a Rolls Royce. This decision to steal a $400,000 car costs Darlene’s freedom. She and Genie were caught. Genie lied to avoid prosecution. Darlene, however, was sent to a minimum security correctional facility in Ohio.

Darlene’s first few days in the facility is worse. She meets Sophie, a bully, and a handsome correction officer name Darius. She gets into a fight with Sophie and is thrown into solitary confinement. Then she gets the news that her mom is in the hospital and that her brother Jesse is taken into foster care. Now, more than ever, Darlene is determined to do whatever it takes to get her freedom and be united with her family.

K. D. Gennaro, who has taught in correctional systems in Ohio, writes an authentic story about incarceration. Teens will love reading this action-filled, fast-paced story, with lots of drama and believable characters. Reading this book is a good decision!

–Karen Lemmons


I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin
Wednesday Books
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
ISBN: 9781250129321 

Gen and Ava, who are inseparable BFFs, move across the country from each other for college. The two girls begin to figure out who they are as mostly independent adults, and what that means about who they are to each other. As it turns out, long distance relationships are really hard, even when they’re not romantic.

Label-resistant Gen frequently calls Ava out on her insensitive comments about gender and sexuality, and Ava suffers from an anxiety disorder, so the book doesn’t shy away from heavy subjects but deals with them in a realistic and non-sensationalized way. I Hate Everyone But You is at times both raucously funny and deadly serious. The quick format of text conversations interspersed with emails of various length keeps pages turning quickly, and there is some of every type of drama that comes with freshman year at college. This one is sure to be a favorite for many older teens.

Allie Stevens


Killers Series by Nicole M. Taylor
EPIC Press
Publication Date: 2017
#freenattypage – ISBN: 9781680764857
No Faith in Cats – ISBN: 9781680764871
Our Lady of the River’s Mouth – ISBN 9781680764888
Reconstructed – ISBN:9781680764895
The Extra Girl – ISBN  9781680764840
The Hunting Party – ISBN 9781680764864 

EPIC Press has been churning out some substantive hi-lo books since its inception. A publishing house that has been willing to push the boundaries of YA lit, their editors have selected authors who write stories that are accessible enough for reluctant readers and engaging enough that even my AP students who try them have to admit the books are good.

One of EPIC’s practices is to have the same author write the entire series. It works to good effect, because readers can pretty much predict the quality of the story they will get, and murder most foul is generally a topic of high interest among my reluctant readers.  Nicole M. Taylor skillfully plays with format, time period, and perspective in these six thrillingly gory tales. #freenattypage explores the obsession of two teen girls with Natty Page, a murderer who hacks his extended family to bits Lizzie Borden style, through the use of documentary scripts, interviews, and the social media postings of the girls themselves. In No Faith in Cats, readers  get the story from the murderer herself as she proudly explains how she killed her husband.  Our Lady of the River’s Mouth is narrated alternately by one of the recently deceased serial killer’s victims and by Frannie, a determined eighteen year old waitress who won’t let the disappearance of a transient girl go uninvestigated. Andrea Ward, an African American young woman who helps with crime scene investigation by using her art skills to create age-progression photos of missing children, narrates her search for her kidnapped brother in Reconstructed. In The Extra Girl, Miller brings the challenges young women in Hollywood faced to light as Mona McKee’s murder is investigated by a precocious doctoral student and his unwanted sidekick. Finally, The Hunting Party rounds out the series with a chilling story set in Madalane, Kansas in 1872 and told in the alternating perspectives of Emmaline Drake–the brilliant sociopathic prodigy of a murderous adoptive family–and Lawce Gibbon, a young man who is coming of age in a time of suspicion of foreigners.

Each of the books is labelled with a warning about explicit content, and though the publisher indicates the interest level between grades 6 and 12, the descriptive nature of the murders combined with some strong language and protagonists who are generally in their upper teens make this series more developmentally appropriate for older readers. Perhaps just as blood curdling are the Author’s Notes that conclude each book in which the author lets readers in on a secret: each of these books has been inspired by real events. The covers may look innocuous, but readers who venture into this series will be hooked from the first chapters.

Jodi Kruse


Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Roaring Book Press
September 19, 2017

Vivian Carter is tired…tired of disrespect, “bump and grabs,” and a principal who turns a blind eye to her school’s glorified football players, who treat girls inappropriately. When Vivvy finds an old shoebox full of evidence from her mom’s feminist exploits as a teen, she is inspired to start her own Moxie girl rebellion.

This issue-oriented, timely topic of sexism and fighting back grabs the reader’s attention immediately. When spunky, spirited Vivvy creates anonymous zines to place around school, her entourage of Moxie girls grows with each peaceful protest. From showing solidarity with designs marked on their hands, to wearing bathrobes to school over their clothes to protest the dress code, each act becomes more edgy and thought-provoking. When the Moxie girls stage a walkout, an unlikely supporter joins their ranks.

Funny, irreverent, and inspiring, Moxie is an anthem of sorts for strong females. Perfect for classroom discussion, both boys and girls can dig deep into the issues. This would also be a fantastic mother-daughter book club choice.

Lisa Krok
Scary Out There edited by Jonathan Maberry
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
ISBN: 9781481450706 

Asked “What scares you?” twenty-one writers of horror responded with stories and poems demonstrating their personal ideas about the meaning of terror. The contributors include well-known authors, such as R. L. Stine, Neal and Brendan Shusterman, and Ellen Hopkins; the topics range from supernaturally creepy to realistically trauma. Readers should have no problem finding something to enjoy–and to keep them lying awake at night.

Some stories include depictions of violence, but there’s little gore. Recommended for high school fans of Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series.

–Carrie Richmond


The Boomerang Effect by Gordon Jack
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
ISBN: 9780062399397

When high school junior Lawrence Barry learns that he will be mentoring a new student in order to not be expelled, he figures it will be an easy task to phone in and get the principal off his back. But Lawrence is assigned to Spencer Knudsen, an exchange student from Norway who is more robot than human. The relationship turns out to be mutually beneficial as they navigate their way through a high school full of bullies, a rogue band of vengeful renaissance LARPers, a prankster in the school’s Viking mascot costume, trying to secure dates for the homecoming dance and an affectionate chicken named Mr. Winkles.

Lawrence narrates this laugh-out-loud farce with a cool and snarky voice, and the situations he gets into skate the line between realistic fiction and farce. Fans of authors like Gordon Korman and Andrew Smith will enjoy the fast-paced absurdist humor.

–Laura Lehner-Ennis


The Road to Winter by Mark Smith
Text Publishing Company
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
ISBN: 9781925355123 

Finn is a survivor–he has managed to stay alive all by himself in this future weather-ravaged Australia after everyone he knows and loves is taken by a deadly virus. At fifteen, he and his dog Rowdy spend their days combing the beach for useful items to wash up, hunting rabbits and diving for clams. Once a month they make the trek to trade with Ray, the only other survivor they know. Then one day he hears something he barely recognizes – a girl’s voice. From that day on, everything changes.

This post-apocalyptic survival adventure moves along as fast as Finn himself can run–he doesn’t ever think of himself as a hero, but he’s incapable of turning his back on anyone who needs his help, which could turn out to be a fatal flaw.

Fans of series like The Fifth Wave and Ship Breaker will appreciate the unique setting and characters.

Laura Lehner-Ennis

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Booklist: Read-a-Likes for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 07:00

Beck Albertalli’s debut novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda took the book world by storm when it was published in 2015 earning Albertalli a National Book Award nomination. and winning the William C. Morris YA Debut Award in 2016. The movie adaptation (retitled “Love, Simon”) will hit theaters in March 2018 and Albertalli’s companion novel Leah on the Offbeat will release in April. Any fan of this book knows you can’t have too much Simon, but in the meantime these books can fill that Simon shaped hole in your heart until 2018 rolls around.

If You Want a Book with Blackmail or Mystery:
  1. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus: All of them were caught using cell phones during school hours. All of them claim they were framed. On Monday afternoon the five of them walk into detention at Bayview High. Only four of them walk out alive.
  2. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (2009 Teens’ Top Ten, 2009 Michael L. Printz Award, 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners): Frankie embarks on a path of unprecedented mischief, mayhem, and intrigue during her sophomore year at boarding school.
  3. The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby: Charlie and John have nothing in common except for art and ambition. They are both determined to win and they won’t let anything stand in their way. Not a soul-killing job at Salad Stop or an unsympathetic girlfriend. Not a dad’s girlfriend’s drug-addicted ex-boyfriend. And definitely not a very minor case of kidnapping.
  4. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed: They start as nobodies. Three misfits trying to find their way. Bound together by shared outrage new girl Grace, queer punk girl Rosina, and nerdy loner Erin become the Nowhere Girls as they try to seek justice and change in their small Texas town in the aftermath of Lucy’s attempt to report her gang rape–a crime most of the town chooses to ignore.

If You Want a Book with a Musical (or a Play):
  1. The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (2017 Best Fiction for Young Adults): Quinn doesn’t know how to deal with his sister’s death but his best friend insists that it’s time for Quinn to rejoin the living. One haircut later Quinn meets a hot guy at his first college parts and starts to think the movie version of his life might have a happy ending after all.
  2. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (2011 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2011 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production, 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults): Two boys, one name, and one collision course that sets both Wills on the path of love, friendship, and an epic high school musical.
  3. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills: Already on the wrong side of her school’s worst mean girl, Claudia doesn’t know what to think when they’re both forced to try out for the school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But mandatory participation might be exactly what Claudia needs to broaden her horizons.
  4. Anything Could Happen by Will Walton: Tretch knows his dads will support him if he comes out. But he’s not sure what it would mean for his quiet small town life, or his painful crush on his straight best friend. But practicing dance routines alone can only go so far. Tretch will have to put himself center stage if he wants to get his due.
If You Want a Book with Pen Pals:
  1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2015 Teens’ Top Ten): No one was ever supposed to see Lara Jean’s love letters except for Lara Jean. They were never meant for anyone else. With all of her feelings laid bare for these five boys, Lara Jean isn’t sure how to go back to the girl she used to be before the letters were delivered.
  2. In Real Life by Jessica Love: Hannah thinks the Nick she’s known online can’t be that different from Nick in real life. But she only has one night in Vegas to figure that out and decide if she’s ready to risk her heart trying to make their friendship into something more.
  3. The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty: When Cassie, Emily, and Lydia join their school’s pen pal project they don’t expect to make friends–let alone fall for–they boys they’re writing to at a neighboring school. But taking their written correspondence to real life proves more challenging than any of them realize and might even put the rest of the pen pal project at risk.
  4. Dear Martin by Nic Stone: Justyce hopes to find some answers in the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after he is profiled and unfairly detained by the police. But as Jus tries to follow his teachings and writes to Dr. King to try and make sense of his life, Justyce starts to wonder if those teachings have any place in the modern world where boys like Justyce are still dying.
If You Want a Funny Story:
  1. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsburg (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults): When Rafe moves to a new all boys’ boarding school he decides to start with a clean slate where he isn’t “the gay kid.” Except keeping a secret like that isn’t easy. Especially when he might also be falling in love.
  2. Who’s That Girl by Blair Thornbough: Nattie is fine with blending in, joking with her friends, and possibly, sort of, flirting with Zach the Anarchist. But when local pop star Sebastian writes a hit single called “Natalie,” Nattie suddenly finds herself at the center of speculation about “Natalie’s” identity and wondering if she might have a future in the limelight, after all.
  3. The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne: Enthusiastic Daisy is more than ready to support her best friend, Hannah, when she comes out. But Daisy’s can-do attitude backfires when her efforts to end her school’s ban on same-sex dates at dances goes viral and pushes Daisy’s efforts to support her best friend to the sidelines.
  4. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde: Three friends, two love stories, one wild convention, and fandoms galore.
If You Want a Story About This Crazy Thing Called Love:
  1. One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva: Alek Khederian’s summer school nightmare starts to look up when he meets confident, irreverent Ethan and realizes he might be exactly what Alek needs.
  2. You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan (2017 Best Fiction for Young Adults): Mark and Kate don’t know each other beyond adjacent seats in class. They’re both in love, they’re both scared, and they just might be able to help each other face what comes next.
  3. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2015 Michael L. Printz Award): Both Noah and Jude are haunted by old ghosts and past mistakes. With the help of a curmudgeonly artist and a spectacularly messed-up boy, Jude thinks she can put the pieces of her family back together. Except she only has half of the pieces. It will take both Jude and Noah, together, to make things right.
  4. Fan Art by Sarah Tregay: As senior year wraps up, Jamie is forced to admit he has a problem: he’s fallen hard for his best friend. Jamie might be able to get together with Mason with help from the girls in his art class. But is the chance at romance enough to risk a lifelong friendship?

— Emma Carbone, currently reading Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali

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#QP2018 Nominees Round Up: More Nonfiction!

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 07:00

Project You: More Than 50 Ways to Calm Down, De-Stress, & Feel Great by Aubre Andrus with Karen Bluth, PhD
Switch Press, a Capstone imprint
Publication Date: September 1, 2017

Project You, More Than 50 Ways to Calm Down, De-stress, & Feel Great, written by Aubre Andrus with Karen Bluth, offers a variety of ways for young people to take care of themselves, manage their lives, and feel great.  The authors explain how to use the book which has a wellness checklist for young people to examine their level of wellness. However, if young people suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, the authors suggest seeking professional help.

Young people can begin to take control by choosing a way that interests them. There is a list of suggested activities for certain struggles or challenges.  For example, if a teen struggles with stage fright, they can turn to a certain page. If a teen struggles with organization, there are ways to help the teen become organized. Teens can meditate, practice yoga, and even give themselves mini massages. They can also plan their future by creating a vision board, learning how to make decisions, and more.

Each technique has illustrations and/or photographs and highlighted text that helps the teens follow the directions. Supporting text details the technique and offers additional suggestions.

Project You has techniques for everyone—from teens to young adults. Take care of you by using this book.

–Karen Lemmons


The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
ISBN: 9780374303235

Two Oakland teenagers’ lives intersect in devastating ways while riding the 57 bus home from school one afternoon. Sasha, an agender white teenager, naps at the back of the bus while wearing a gauzy white skirt. Richard, an African-American teenager, boards the bus joking around with his friends. Their joking takes a dark, irrevocable turn when Richard sets Sasha’s skirt on fire with a lighter, setting in motion a tragic series of consequences for both teenagers that will reverberate throughout the country and change both their lives.

Brief, riveting chapters probe sensitively into the complex lives of both teenagers, spanning the time leading up to the event and the subsequent months afterwards as Sasha recovers from their burns and Richard awaits his trial and sentencing. Slater employs a clear, journalistic style to inform readers about various sides of the multifaceted and complex issues at play in the case–from the injustices of the criminal justice system, to issues of race, class, and gender–in a nonjudgmental manner that invites readers to think deeply about social justice issues and the ways in which they intersect. Some chapters are presented as short free-form poems, letters from Richard, or excerpts from instant message conversations between Sasha’s friends; these perspectives help to enhance readers’ understanding of the individuals at the heart of this true-crime story, and to engage with them as real people whose lives were affected in myriad ways by one fateful, irreversible event.

–Jenny Zbrizher


Life Hacks for Kids by Sunny Keller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
ISBN: 9781328742131

Sunny Keller, host of Life Hacks for Kids on YouTube, chooses 35 hacks from her show and compiles them into a book appropriately titled Life Hacks for Kids. She hopes these projects will encourage and motivate young people to make some creative projects from ordinary items.

The book is divided into eight sections: Hacktivites, Hack That Snack Attack, Hackcycle, NiftyThrifty Gift Hacks, Hack Your Room, The Arts Hacks, Hacks for all Seasons and Let’s get Pranked Hacks. Each section has about five to six projects young people can do. Some projects included are inside-out indoor s’mores, groovy lava lamp, duct tape earrings, Jamaican steel drums, invisi-paint and more. In between sections, Sunny includes information about herself and a behind the scenes look at her show.

Each activity reads like a recipe. She lists the “ingredients” needed and the steps. Beautiful colorful illustrations, and short simple directions, makes each activity easy to follow and complete. At the conclusion of each activity, she writes words of encouragement for a job well done.

These hack activities will appeal to teens of all ages. The variety of activities certainly offers something for everyone. Get hacking with Sunny!

–Karen Lemmons


It’s Great to Create: 101 Fun Creative Exercises for Everyone by Jon Burgerman
Chronicle Books
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
ISBN: 9781452155326

Do you like to draw with your eyes closed?

Doodle artist and illustrator Jon Burgerman shows there are no mistakes, just fun and creative ideas for everyone.

It’s Great to Create is a very small book, packed so many ways to draw, doodle, make, and have fun with unexpected art projects.

Every page has new ways to make awesome art.

Teens will grab this little, tiny book for inspiration for 101 fun creations!!

–Kay Hones


Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Shawn Harris
Chronicle Books
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
ISBN: 9781452162812

Why is the Statue of Liberty moving forward with her right foot in mid stride?

This small fact is investigated in this humorous nonfiction book. Readers will learn about the history and art of this famous symbol, as they read about the real message of immigration.

Dave Eggers says, “I think it’s important that we talk about it. It’s especially important that we talk about it with our kids. The news these days is volatile and unsettling, and our kids are scared. We need to show them how to be brave. We need to learn from their tolerance and curiosity and open minds. We need to teach them what this country is supposed to stand for. And that’s why I wrote this book for them.”

Kay Hones

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2018 Nonfiction Award Finalists Announced

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 10:56

The 2018 finalists for our Nonfiction Award have been announced! Congrats to the finalists and thank you to the committee for all of their great work!

The 2018 finalists are:

  • “#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women” edited by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Lisa Charleyboy and published by Annick Press
  • “Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism” written by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos and published by Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
  • “The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives” written by Dashka Slater and published by Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
  • “Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers” written by Deborah Heiligman and published by Godwin Books/Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
  • “The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found” written by Martin W. Sandler, and published by Candlewick Press

Check out the annotations for the Nonfiction Award finalists now and remember to share them with your teen patrons!


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2018 Morris Finalists Announced!

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 10:52

The 2018 finalists for our Morris Award for a debut work in YA literature were announced! Congrats to the finalists and thank you to the committee for all of their great work!

The 2018 finalists are:

  • Dear Martin” written by Nic Stone, published by Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House, a Penguin Random House Company;
  • “Devils Within” written by S.F. Henson, published by Sky Pony Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing;
  • “The Hate U Give” written by Angie Thomas, published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers;
  • “Saints and Misfitswritten by S.K. Ali, published by Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing;
  • “Starfish” written by Akemi Dawn Bowman, published by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

View them with annotations and be sure to share them with your teen patrons!


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We’re looking for a few more selected lists bloggers!

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 07:00

Hello Hub readers!

Just a quick update–we have some space for a few more bloggers on next year’s Amazing Audiobooks, Best Fiction for Young Adults, and Great Graphic Novels teams. We’re looking for enthusiastic current YALSA members who are able to work with a team and write blog posts on nominees in each category.

To apply, please fill out a volunteer form by December 10. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at

–Stephen Ashley, The Hub Member Manager

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Women in Comics – Pets

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 07:00

For pet owners, their beloved animal companions can be loyal friends, family members, and a never ending source of humorous stories. All of these characteristics make them great characters for comic books, so it is no surprise that many authors have chosen to write stories about them. Below are just a few great fictional and nonfiction reads about pets and the role they play in our lives.

Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J. Georges – In this memoir, Nicole Georges brings readers into her life with Beija, the shar-pei/corgi mix that was her constant companion from her teenage years to her early 30’s. Though Beija has a number of difficult behaviors, including a deep distrust of most people, Georges is devoted to her through relationships of various length and successfulness, multiple moves, and her own bouts of depression. Georges does not sugarcoat either Beija’s behavior or her own life, which means that this memoir offers a very realistic picture of their relationship. Older teens who love animals will likely find this a compelling read.

Garbage Night by Jen Lee – Set in a dystopic world where animals have been left alone in a community that has been abandoned by humans, Garbage Night follows a dog (Simon), a raccoon (Cliff), and a deer (Reynard) as they struggle to stay alive in a world with an ever decreasing food supply. When a strange dog named Barnaby appears and tells them of a nearby town where humans still live and food is therefore still plentiful, the trio agrees to follow him on his quest to find this paradise. But, the trip is more dangerous and challenging than expected and their relationships are tested. Despite this dark backdrop, at its core, this is a story of friendship and loyalty that feels very real. Lee’s strong artwork complements the story and will keep readers engaged.

FukuFuku Kitten Tales by Konami Kanata – This collection of standalone stories about a little kitten named FukuFuku and the older woman who owns her offers an adorable look at life with a rambunctious kitten. Told mostly through illustrations punctuated by sound effects, many of the stories will be relatable to cat owners, and even if you’ve never had a cat, you’re sure to fall in love with FukuFuku’s antics. If you enjoy this manga, you might also want to check out Kanata’s other cat manga, Chi’s Sweet Home, which is probably even more famous than FukuFuku Kitten Tales.

The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson – Victoria Jamieson, who some readers might remember for Roller Girl and All’s Faire in Middle School, wrote an adorable story about some classroom pets set on escaping from their cages to resume their lives of crime and adventure. The group includes a hamster, a bunny, and a Guinea pig, who have known each other for ages before they find themselves trapped as the classroom pets of several classes of elementary school kids. Their ringleader, GW, can’t let this stand, so he devises an elaborate plan to free them. But, when they are confronted by a mouse with an evil plan, will they abandon the school or stay to save the children? This comic is definitely aimed at younger audiences, but its humor and cute artwork will give it wider appeal, particularly for those who love animals or Jamieson’s work.

Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us: A Johnny Wander Collection by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota – From the authors of Lucky Penny and the new webcomic Barbarous, this collection is taken from their autobiographical online comics gathered over many years. It focuses on Ananth and Yuko’s lives with their roommates across several apartments and cities. Though not at the very center of the story, their cats Rook and Cricket, as well as the cats that they meet in other settings, are an important piece of the comics earning their place in the title of this collection. This is a fun read for both cat fans and those interested in autobiographical peeks into the life of young comic creators. Given Ananth and Yuko’s age during the comic (and a couple of instances of slightly mature content), this comic will appeal more to older teens than young teens.

Animosity Vol. 1: The Wake by Marguerite Bennett with art by Rafael De Latorre – For a very different take on pets that is perfect for any action or horror fan, try Animosity. This series is set in a world where all animals suddenly gained a human type of consciousness (including the ability to speak) at a single moment in time. Along with this consciousness came not only consciences for each animal, but also a very human approach to their relationships with both humans and other animals. Unsurprisingly, this sudden occurrence leads to conflict between humans and animals and even between different groups of animals who have taken more or less militaristic approaches to their interactions with humans. Sandor, a Bloodhound, and Jesse, the 11-year old girl who loves him, are thrust into this world and the story revolves around Sandor’s efforts to protect Jesse at all costs. Told through flashbacks and time jumps, this story packs an emotional punch and will make many readers think about animals in a very different way. The level of violence in the story may make it a bit scary for younger readers, but older teens who enjoy intense stories with action and horror elements will enjoy it.

Whether you are a pet owner or just an animal lover, this list should have the perfect comic for you, but I’m sure there are lots more I haven’t read. What are your favorite pet comics? Let us know in the comments!

Carli Spina, currently reading Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson with art by Andrea Offermann

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#QP2018 Nominees Round Up: More Fiction!

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 07:00

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
ISBN: 9781524701246 

Wallace “Lolly” Rachpaul and his family are attempting to go through the motions, preparing for their first Christmas without his older brother, Jermaine… a “street pharmacist” gunned down in the neighborhood. The crew is now trying to recruit 12-year-old Lolly and others close to him to join them. Lol wants no part of that life and finds a reprieve engineering intricately detailed Lego creations that result in over 250,000 followers online.

Lolly’s physical journey down gang infested streets is depicted on the vibrant cover, with Legos guiding his way, metaphorically. The painful, heartfelt Christmas season introduction grabs attention as readers empathize with Lol’s family. His Trinidadian lineage and divorced mom who has a girlfriend bring diversity to the story, with likable characters who do the best they can with what they have. When Lol begins working with “Big Rose”, another misfit of sorts, they bond over their mutual love of Legos, and pursue architectural visits together. Lolly has to decide between being his authentic self, or succumbing to the pressure to join the crew, like Jermaine had wanted him to do. “The folks you hang out with can raise you up or bring you down low. Over time, they can make you think a certain way- change who you really are.”

This thought provoking book skews a bit younger…more of a middle school pick than for older teens. This would be a perfect fit for kids who may not be quite ready yet for books like Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds or The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Lisa Krok


Mr. 60% by Clete Barrett Smith
Crown Books for Young Readers / Random House Children’s
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
ISBN: 9780553534665 

Matt is a notorious drug dealer who maintains precisely a 60% average in all of his classes, although his counselor knows he could do better. What no one knows, though, is that Matt spends all of his time not dealing or being stuck at school taking care of his uncle Jack, who has cancer. When Matt is forced to do an extracurricular activity that lands him working with overly cheerful, overly motivated Amanda, what seems like an absolute nightmare may turn out to be not so bad after all.

Smith’s book is sparse but very sharp, and there is much more to both of the main characters than meets the eye. While there is hard-won friendship, there’s no romantic interaction between Matt and Amanda. At just 182 pages, Mr. 60% is a short read that packs a big punch.

–Allie Stevens


When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
ISBN: 9781101994733

Ben Gibson is not sorry and he’s not a liar. It started on a school camping trip in the mountains.  It becomes a story of survival: who lives, who dies, and who is killed. There are many secrets and complications. Can there be perfect cruelty and perfect love?Ben says, “This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering.” Ben will take his time telling about what happened.  After what happened on the mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.

Teen readers will wonder what it really means to do the right thing in this intense thriller!

–Kay Hones


He Who Dreams by Melanie Florence
Orca Limelights
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
ISBN: 9781459811027

The sound of the drumbeats changes everything.

He Who Dreams is a contemporary story about John and his biracial family. John is trying to figure out everyday teen concerns as well as what he wants for his future.

Readers will enjoy the fast past story of John and his family. Current issues of Indigenous culture in Canada will interest readers, too.

This story will be fascinating for anyone who is interested in Indigenous dance, drumming and powwows.

Kay Hones


No More No Name by Tim Tingle
7th Generation
Publication Date: July 15, 2017
ISBN: 9781939053176

Bobby Byington is on a winning basketball team, his dad has stopped drinking and his mom is back home. But there are real problems with bullying. Lloyd’s dad swings a chair and breaks the window in the coach’s office.  The coach listens but does not react until Lloyd is threatened. Then Bobby’s girlfriend is being bullied at school.

As he deals with these issues and reconnects with his father, Bobby gains confidence from a Choctaw legend.

Teen readers will enjoy the basketball action and the leadership of Coach Robinson.

–Kay Hones


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Month in Review: November 2017

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 07:00

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

Books & Reading Movies & TV In the News


— Cathy Outten, currently reading Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor


The post Month in Review: November 2017 appeared first on The Hub.

Selected Lists Transition Update

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 07:00

We are working hard to continue to make the transition of YALSA’s selected lists to the Hub a smooth one. You can read more about the status of that transition in this post from 17-18 YALSA president Sandra Hughes-Hassell on the YALSAblog.

I wanted to give an update on things from the Hub side. You have hopefully noticed quite a few posts in recent weeks with 2018 Amazing Audiobooks and Quick Picks nominees. We’ve been working hard to get through a backlog of posts on these nominees. Both of those blogger teams and their coordinators, Ariel Cummins for #AA2018 and Dana Hutchins for #QP2018, have done amazing work in helping us get these nominees out quicker so librarians can learn about and purchase these titles throughout the year, which was one of the goals of transitioning selected lists to the Hub.

Dana had this to say about her time coordinating #QP2018:

“Coordinating Quick Picks during this transitional year began with a bit of trepidation not knowing exactly what was expected. With the guidelines set forth by YALSA and working with a fantastic blogging group, that was willing to make mistakes and learn, we were able to find our groove.  Some of us were able to meet at Annual Conference in Chicago to get to know one another socially.  We soon bonded as friends and colleagues and continued to meet and discuss books nominated for Quick Picks every two weeks via Zoom meetings.  This virtual face to face interaction allowed us to discuss the nominated titles and keep our blogging schedule on track.  Being a transitional team can be challenging, but I think everyone on the Quick Picks team would agree it has been rewarding. ”

Next year, we’ll be continuing the transition, adding Best Fiction for Young Adults and Great Graphic Novels into the mix. Those blogging teams and coordinators have been selected and folks should be hearing very soon. We’re using what we learned from this transition and we are optimistic things will move along smoothly next year.

I moved into my role as the Hub Member Manager only a few months ago, so thank you for bearing with me during that transition. I’m looking forward to working with the new blogger teams and coordinators, and also providing more content related to teen collections. I’m going to be sharing a bit about the kind of content I’m hoping to add into the fold in the very near future, so keep an eye out, particularly if you are interested in contributing to the Hub!

–Stephen Ashley, currently reading The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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#QP2018 Nominees Round Up: Graphic Novels and Manga

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 07:00

Scorpia by Anthony Horowitz and Antony Johnston
Candlewick Press
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
ISBN: 9780763692575 

Glossy, full color graphics and an Alex who is drawn like an older teen make this fast-paced action-adventure graphic novel an excellent choice for reluctant readers.

It starts in Venice. Alex, following a tip from his nemesis, is doing a little digging into the death of his father. That digging leads him straight to Mrs. Rothman, head of band of mercenaries who identify themselves using the acronym SCORPIA:  Sabotage, Corruption, Intelligence, and Assassination. It is through Mrs. Rothman that Alex discovers how MI6 betrayed his father, and through her that Alex receives an invitation to join SCORPIA in its mission to disrupt relations between the UK and the USA by killing first a popular soccer team and then thousands of school children. Mrs. Rothman’s invitation is especially enticing as it is coupled with a video of Alex’s father apparently being shot by MI6 operatives. Will Mrs. Rothman and SCORPIA succeed? Will Alex be fully turned? Diabolical villains, explosions aplenty, and several near death experiences are gorgeously rendered in panels that keep the eye moving on pace with the action. This is a book that needs no book talking to capture and hold the attention of readers in both middle and high school who just don’t care much for reading–and it might be the push those readers need to transfer their affections to the narrative version.

Jodi Kruse


The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Vol. 1 by Akira Himekawa
Viz Media LLC
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
ISBN: 9781421593470

When the idyllic world of Hyrule is threatened by a villain from a world of darkness, a hero must rise. Our hero Link thinks he can hide from destiny and his past mistakes by living in a simple farming village. But when dark monsters overtake the land and Hyrule’s Princess Zelda is threatened he is confronted by the impish Mina and turned into a wolf. How can he save the world if he isn’t himself?

This series adapts the story from the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess video game. Non-fans should be able to follow the basic story and enjoy the action and manga art style.

Recommended for fans of Zelda video games, and action/fantasy manga.

–Jessica Ormonde


Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld
First Second / Macmillan
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
ISBN: 9781596439368 

Addison ventures into the Spill Zone, a toxic wasteland filled with frightening creatures, to obtain an item for a mysterious benefactor. Is Addison a pawn in a nefarious plot? Things are not what they seem in and around the Spill Zone.

A perfect blend of horror and science fiction. Beautiful full color illustrations change tone and color palette in and out of the Spill Zone. Not text heavy but a compelling story line. This one will have readers rereading and anticipating volume two.

–Dana Hutchins


The Manga Cookbook 2 by Koda Tadashi (The Manga University Culinary Institute)
Japanime Co. Ltd.
Publication Date: June 30, 2017
ISBN: 9784921205362 

This cookbook is more than a simple collection of ingredient lists and instructions! Each of the 26 recipes are presented in the style of a manga comic, with line drawings illustrating a group of friendly characters demonstrating preparations and providing friendly tips and advice. The dishes are grouped into categories such as Festival Food, Meals for Two, or Seasonal Sweets, and they range from the simple (such as Zarusoba, boiled noodles in a homemade broth) to deliciously complex.

The quirky presentation, including gorgeous color photographs of the food, will appeal to manga lovers and teens interested in broadening their cooking skills into Japanese cuisine.

–Carrie Richmond


Older Than Dirt: A Wild but True History of Earth by Don Brown and Michael Perfit
HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
ISBN: 9780544805033

Looking for a quick read? Looking for fun facts?

This 100 page, nonfiction graphic book explores fourteen billion years of the Earth!

The conversations between the groundhog and worm are a fun, entertaining, and engaging history of Earth.

Readers who love science will have fun reading this very comprehensive book.

–Kay Hones


Ali-A Adventures: Game on by Ali-A and Cavan Scott, illustrated by Aleksandar Sotirovski
Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 24, 2017
ISBN: 9781524770952

Ali is one of the best online gamers, and a new, exciting videogame is about to be launched. Ali is invited to be the guest of honor but the game turns too real when terrible alien robots show up.

Can he defeat the Tyantor robots? Ali has to transform from a gaming champion to a real life hero!

Teen readers will be rooting for Ali, his fans and his wonderful dog, Eevee, as they fight to keep the game from infecting the real world.

–Kay Hones

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Booklist: Surviving Middle School

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 06:58

Middle school is the time of greatest change for teens. It is when you go from from 11 to 12-years-old to becoming an actual teenager. It is a time changing friendships and changing bodies, becoming more aware of yourself and of others. It is a time when identity is being explored, but also a time of growing empathy and sense of social justice. Books about the middle school experience are tricky to categorize, some speak to the younger side and some to the older, and choosing books for middle schoolers can be difficult because they are reading everything.

The halls of the actual middle school are often the perfect setting for a story about these early teen years. So much of what kids are exploring are those external relationships outside of the home. Here is a list of recent books for younger teens that explore the middle school experience.

Alan Cole Is Not A Coward By Eric Bell

Seventh-grader Alan Cole isn’t ready to be outed as gay. His older brother has discovered that he has a crush on another boy, and to keep his secret attempts blackmails Alan into doing a ruthless list of nearly impossible tasks.

All’s Faire in Middle School By Victoria Jamieson

Imogene, who has been homeschooled, is attending public school for the first time. Used to the community and environment of the Renaissance Fair where she and her family spend most of their days, she has to learn to navigate the halls and relationships of Middle School.

Armstrong and Charlie By Steven Frank

Set in the 1970s in Los Angeles, California, Armstrong, an African American from South Central L.A., and Charlie, white, Jewish, and from the Hollywood Hills, meet in middle school  when Armstrong starts attending Charlie’s school as an effort to bus in students from other neighborhoods. After a rough start, the two strike up a friendship that explores issues facing them around racism, bullying, and grief.

Brave By Svetlana Chmakova

Jenson wants to be a hero, but is usually the target of the school bullies. Always picked last, and struggling in math, Jenson remains hopeful. Soon he is pulled into the world of the Berrybrook Middle School’s newspaper’s social experiment, and what starts off as a story about someone not fitting in, turns to a hopeful way of finding your place in the world.

The First Rule of Punk By Celia C. Pérez

Malú is starting seventh grade in a new school in a new city, and taking her love of all things punk with her. She would give anything to be back in Florida with her father and his record shop close by instead of the cold and dreary Chicago with just her mother who is always trying to push her Mexican roots on Malú. School gets off to a rocky start when she immediately get into trouble for violating the dress code with her dyed hair.  A book about finding yourself and your voice.

Halfway Normal By Barbara Dee

Norah Levy is entering seventh grade after a two year hiatus from school while she was in cancer treatment. Norah very much wants her peers to notice her for her talents, and not as “Cancer Girl,” but her parents restrictions, though well intentioned, keep her from feeling that she can integrate back into a “normal” world, and be a “normal” girl.

Patina By Jason Reynolds

Patina, nicknamed Patty, is navigating several new situations. She is one of the newbies on a track team, where she is dealing with coming in second place – even though she is the fastest, being the new student at an elite private middle school, where everyone seems vapid, and being adopted by her godparents after her father’s death and her mother becoming a double amputee due to complications from diabetes.

Posted By John David Anderson

After cell phones are banned at the middle school, what harsh words about other classmates that were once passed around via text, are now more overt with comments now being posted around the school via sticky notes. Eighth grader, Frost feels secure within his established circle of all-boy friends until a new girl comes to their circle and tries to join their group.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet By David Barclay Moore

Seventh-grader Wallace, a.k.a. Lolly, is trying to pick up the pieces after his brother’s gang related death. After being given two large bags of Legos from his mother’s girlfriend, Lolly embarks on a creating a Lego city at this nearby Harlem community center – one where he can imagine a better world.

Things That Surprise You By Jennifer Maschari

Emily is facing her parents’ divorce, her sister’s struggles with anorexia, her dad having a new girlfriend and starting middle school where girls are starting to wear makeup and talk a lot about boys. There are just too many changes, and Emily isn’t quite sure where she fits into all of them.

The Way to Bea By Kat Yeh

Seventh grade has found Beatrix (Bea) Lee without her group of friends now that a new girl has taken her place in their ranks. Bea has always found solace in writing haiku, but now writes it in invisible ink leaving notes for her former best friend. Oblivious to the fact that there are others around her that admire her, Bea feels alone. She starts spending her lunches in the school’s newspaper office where she meets Will, another loner.

Well, That Was Awkward By Rachel Vail

Cyrano de Bergerac for the middle school set. Gracie and Sienna are best friends. AJ. and Emmett are also best friends. And they have all been friends together for pretty much their whole lives. But 8th grade is making things weird. Gracie kind of likes AJ. AJ likes Sienna and Sienna kind of likes AJ, but has no idea how to talk to him. So Sienna and Gracie hatch a plan – Gracie will answer AJ’s texts, without telling him it’s her. That way she can help her best friend, and help her friend AJ, and everyone will be happy. What could possibly go wrong?

–Danielle Jones, currently reading Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

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