Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Instagram Challenge

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduces Miles Morales, a half African-American/half Puerto Rican teen from Brooklyn, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the mask.  Spider-Verse celebrates diversity and individuality, providing an opportunity for teens to imagine they or someone they admire is a Spider-Hero.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Instagram Challenge — “What Makes You Different Is What Makes You Spider-Man.”

Sony Pictures challenges teens to create and document their very own Spider-Hero from their own universe/neighborhood in celebration of the upcoming release of Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse on December 14. Teens can make an image or video, up to 30 seconds long, of what their Spider-Hero would look or sound like and post it on Instagram with the following hashtags #SpiderVerse and #everydayspiderhero.

Additionally, any teen librarian who would like to promote the Challenge can contact Rachel Breinin at rgbreinin@gmail.com, who can send them free bookmarks and great raffle prizes including Spider-Verse headphones, beanies and backpacks!

 

Happy Arguing, a guest post by Arwen Elys Dayton

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is a novel in six parts that looks at the unlimited possibilities of biotech advances and the ethical quandaries they will provoke. Arwen Elys Dayton shows us a near and distant future in which we will eradicate disease, extend our lifespans, and reshape the human body. The results can be heavenly—saving the life of your dying child; and horrific—the ability to modify convicts into robot slaves. Deeply thoughtful, poignant, horrifying, and action-packed, this novel is groundbreaking in both form and substance. Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful examines how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimen, and what it means to be human at all.

 

strongerThe librarian of my middle child’s high school got wind of my upcoming novel on the topic of human genetic modification and asked if I had a few ARCs she could use for a book group. And would I like to come talk to the students while they were reading it? I’ve done many school visits, often to huge schools where I speak to hundreds of kids. But I was excited all out of proportion by this particular invitation—possibly because I thought it would make me seem fascinating and popular to my middle child. (Side note: I think it might have worked!)

 

Here’s what I loved about discussing Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful with eight teenage girls: there was a lot to argue about. The book is full of debatable scenarios. Semi-identical twins, both dying. When one lapses into a vegetative state, the decision is made to harvest the healthy parts of her organs to give her brother a chance at life. A girl who is hiding the extent to which her body has been rebuilt, knowing that many of her friends, and in particular the boy she cares about, will not approve of the artificial parts that are now keeping her alive. A child who had been designed to have high intelligence, with disastrous results. And more.

 

The theme of Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is this: What will it be like to grow up, to fall in and out of love, to figure out who you are, when the very essence of “you” may be changing? Before writing the book, I’d done lots of research about how scientists are using CRISPR to edit DNA, how they are attempting to grow human-compatible organs in livestock, how they are delaying old age, and how they are pursuing countless other near-miraculous advances. The point of the research was to fill me up to my eyeballs with the realities of bioengineering until I could dream of how it might play out into the future. But the actual writing of the book involved pushing those details into the background and letting the six main characters walk out onto stage and invite us into their stories.

 

On the days when I joined the book club, we talked about the science, sure. (I’d sent a list of recent articles on gene editing, and the students had read those alongside the book.) But we didn’t argue about the science. We argued instead about what the characters were doing with the science. We debated the book’s sticky decisions. Do parents have a right to manipulate their child’s brain? Should anyone be allowed to make a piece of a dead loved one live on…in a place they were never meant to be? Should a government be permitted to physically modify convicts if it makes them more “useful” to society? What makes us human? What keeps us human?

 

The students didn’t always agree with the choices my characters made—nor do I. And that is by design. As we become more and more able to alter the human species, we will often disagree. And yet we must all be a part of making those choices. It was invigorating to discuss why the characters made the decisions they made and to challenge eight outspoken, contentious, and thoughtful teenagers to explain what they would have done differently, and why. Soon the dispute was being carried on without me.

 

And that is what I hope people will take from Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful. Characters they understand, even if they can’t agree with them. Some appreciation of what lies ahead in genetic manipulation and human evolution. And, of course, arguments with friends. What would you do? What should we do?

 

The future of our species is already unfolding around us. Sometimes it’s easier to understand it in fiction. If we start telling ourselves stories now, maybe we can fashion that future into what we’d like it to be.

 

Meet Arwen Elys Dayton

ARWEN ELYS DAYTON’s new novel is Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful, out on December 4, 2018. She is the best-selling author of the Egyptian sci-fi thriller Resurrection and the near-future Seeker Series. She spends months doing research for her stories. Her explorations have taken her around the world to places like the Great Pyramid at Giza, Hong Kong, and the Baltic Sea, as well as down many scientific rabbit holes. Arwen lives with her husband and their three children on West Coast of the United States. You can visit her and learn more about her books at arwenelysdayton.com and follow @arwenelysdayton on Instagram and Facebook.

 

19 2019 Middle Grade Books To Have On Your Radar

Like many of you (I’m guessing), I keep multiple reading-related lists. I keep track of what I read each year. I keep track of what ARCs I’ve gotten and hope to read. I keep track of what books I either want to get when they come out or hope to track down as ARCs but haven’t yet. There’s the list of 2019 LGBTQIA+ books. Look, I like lists. Even just listing my lists was fun for me. So anyway, I scanned through all my various relevant lists and pulled together this new list (yay!) of 19 middle grade books I can’t wait to read. In some cases, it’s because I liked the author’s previous work. In some cases, it’s a debut that’s caught my attention. In some cases, it’s just that I like reading my friends’ work. My list could have easily been much longer.

Hop in the comments or catch me on Twitter @CiteSomething and tell me what you are anxious to read in 2019!

All descriptions from the publishers.

 

 

 

genesisGenesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams (ISBN-13: 9781481465809 Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books Publication date: 01/15/2019)

 

This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

 

 

the year i didn't eatThe Year I Didn’t Eat by Samuel Pollen (ISBN-13: 9781499808087 Publisher: little bee books Publication date: 02/12/2019)

 

This heartfelt, captivating novel chronicles a year in the life of 14-year-old Max as he struggles with anorexia.

Dear Ana,

Some days are normal. Some days, everything is OK, and I eat three square meals, pretty much, even if those squares are ridiculously small squares.

Some days, I can almost pretend there’s nothing wrong.

Fourteen-year-old Max doesn’t like to eat, and the only one he can confess his true feelings to is Ana—-also known as his eating disorder, anorexia. In a journal that his therapist makes him keep, he tells Ana his unfiltered thoughts and fears while also keeping track of his food intake. But Ana’s presence has leapt off the page and into his head, as she feeds upon all of his fears and amplifies them.

When Max’s older brother Robin gives him a geocache box, it becomes a safe place where Max stores his journal, but someone finds it and starts writing to him, signing it with “E.” Is it a joke? Could it be the new girl at school, Evie, who has taken an interest in Max? Although Max is unsure of the secret writer’s identity, he takes comfort in the words that appear in his journal as they continually confide in one another about their problems.

As Max’s eating disorder intensifies, his family unit fractures. His parents and brother are stressed and strained as they attempt to deal with the elephant in the room. When Robin leaves home, Max is left with two parents who are on the verge of splitting up. Max thought he could handle his anorexia, but as time goes on, he feels himself losing any semblance of control.

Will anorexia continue to rule Max’s life, or will he be able to find a way to live around his eating disorder?

The Year I Didn’t Eat is an unforgettable novel that is haunting, moving, and inspiring.

 

 

 

lost girlThe Lost Girl by Anne Ursu (ISBN-13: 9780062275097 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 02/12/2019)

 

Anne Ursu, author of the National Book Award nominee The Real Boy, returns with a story of the power of fantasy, the limits of love, and the struggles inherent in growing up.

When you’re an identical twinyour story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark.

Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, however, it’s decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both.

Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace.

As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.

 

 

good enoughGood Enough: A Novel by Jen Petro-Roy (ISBN-13: 9781250123510 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 02/19/2019)

 

A young girl with an eating disorder must find the strength to recover in this moving middle-grade novel from Jen Petro-Roy

Before she had an eating disorder, twelve-year-old Riley was many things: an aspiring artist, a runner, a sister, and a friend.

But now, from inside the inpatient treatment center where she’s receiving treatment for anorexia, it’s easy to forget all of that. Especially since under the influence of her eating disorder, Riley alienated her friends, abandoned her art, turned running into something harmful, and destroyed her family’s trust.

If Riley wants her life back, she has to recover. Part of her wants to get better. As she goes to therapy, makes friends in the hospital, and starts to draw again, things begin to look up.

But when her roommate starts to break the rules, triggering Riley’s old behaviors and blackmailing her into silence, Riley realizes that recovery will be even harder than she thought. She starts to think that even if she does “recover,” there’s no way she’ll stay recovered once she leaves the hospital and is faced with her dieting mom, the school bully, and her gymnastics-star sister.

Written by an eating disorder survivor and activist, Good Enough is a realistic depiction of inpatient eating disorder treatment, and a moving story about a girl who has to fight herself to survive.

 

 

game of starsGame of Stars (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #2) by Sayantani DasGupta (ISBN-13: 9781338185737 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 02/26/2019)

 

Saving the multiverse is no game

When the Demon Queen shows up in her bedroom, smelling of acid and surrounded by evil-looking bees, twelve-year-old Kiranmala is uninterested. After all, it’s been weeks since she last heard from her friends in the Kingdom Beyond, the alternate dimension where she was born as an Indian princess. But after a call to action over an interdimensional television station and a visit with some all-seeing birds, Kiran decides that she has to once again return to her homeland, where society is fraying, a terrible game show reigns supreme, and friends and foes alike are in danger. Everyone is running scared or imprisoned following the enactment of sudden and unfair rules of law.

However, things are a lot less clear than the last time she was in the Kingdom Beyond. Kiran must once again solve riddles and battle her evil Serpent King father — all while figuring out who her true friends are, and what it really means to be a hero.

 

 

 

moon withinThe Moon Within by Aida Salazar (ISBN-13: 9781338283372 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 02/26/2019)

 

Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend’s exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.

But most of all, her mother’s insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexica ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?

A dazzling story told with the sensitivity, humor, and brilliant verse of debut talent Aida Salazar.

 

 

 

salSal and Gabi Break the Universe (A Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 1) by Carlos Hernandez (ISBN-13: 9781368022828 Publisher: Disney Press Publication date: 03/05/2019)

 

How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany’s locker?

When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared.
Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken—including his dead mother—and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk.
A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.

 

 

good kindA Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee (ISBN-13: 9780062836687 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/12/2019)

 

From debut author Lisa Moore Ramée comes this funny and big-hearted debut middle grade novel about friendship, family, and standing up for what’s right, perfect for fans of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and the novels of Renée Watson and Jason Reynolds.

Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.)

But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what?

Shay’s sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn’t think that’s for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum.

Shay is scared to do the wrong thing (and even more scared to do the right thing), but if she doesn’t face her fear, she’ll be forever tripping over the next hurdle. Now that’s trouble, for real.

 

 

 

afterwardsThe Afterwards by A.F. Harrold, Emily Gravett (ISBN-13: 9781547600441 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 03/19/2019)

 

From the acclaimed team behind The Imaginary comes another powerful, poignant, and darkly fantastical story about friendship, perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl.

Ember and Ness are best friends, completely inseparable. Ember can’t imagine what life would be without Ness. Until Ness dies, in a most sudden and unexpected way. Ember feels completely empty. How can this even be real?

Then Ember finds a way into the afterworld-a place where the recently dead reside. She knows there must be a way to bring Ness back, so she decides to find it. Because that’s what friends do: rescue each other. But the afterworld holds its own dangers. How far will Ember go to make things the way they were again?

Paired with enchanting illustrations from Emily Gravett, A. F. Harrold’s powerfully woven tale explores the lengths we go to for the people we love.

 

 

 

the mightyThe Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake (ISBN-13: 9780316515535 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/26/2019)

 

Twelve-year-old Sunny St. James navigates heart surgery, reconnecting with her lost mother, first kisses, and emerging feelings for another girl in this stunning, heartfelt novel–perfect for fans of Ali Benjamin and Erin Entrada Kelly.


When Sunny St. James receives a new heart, she decides to set off on a “New Life Plan”: 1) do awesome amazing things she could never do before; 2) find a new best friend; and 3) kiss a boy for the first time.

Her “New Life Plan” seems to be racing forward, but when she meets her new best friend Quinn, Sunny questions whether she really wants to kiss a boy at all. With the reemergence of her mother, Sunny begins a journey to becoming the new Sunny St. James.

This sweet, tender novel dares readers to find the might in their own hearts.

 

 

last last dayThe Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles (ISBN-13: 9781328460837 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 04/02/2019)

 

The Hardy Boys meets The Phantom Tollbooth, in the new century! When two adventurous cousins accidentally extend the last day of summer by freezing time, they find the secrets hidden between the unmoving seconds, minutes, and hours are not the endless fun they expected.

Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town—and each other—before time stops for good.

 

 

 

where the heartWhere the Heart Is by Jo Knowles (ISBN-13: 9781536200034 Publisher: Candlewick Press Publication date: 04/02/2019)

 

If home is where the heart is, what would happen if you lost it? Compassion and humor infuse the story of a family caught in financial crisis and a girl struggling to form her own identity.

It’s the first day of summer and Rachel’s thirteenth birthday. She can’t wait to head to the lake with her best friend, Micah. But as summer unfolds, every day seems to get more complicated. Her “fun” new job taking care of the neighbors’ farm animals quickly becomes a challenge, whether she’s being pecked by chickens or having to dodge a charging pig at feeding time. At home, her parents are more worried about money than usual, and their arguments over bills intensify. Fortunately, Rachel can count on Micah to help her cope with all the stress. But Micah seems to want their relationship to go beyond friendship, and though Rachel almost wishes for that, too, she can’t force herself to feel “that way” about him. In fact, she isn’t sure she can feel that way about any boy — or what that means. With all the heart of her award-winning novel See You At Harry’s, Jo Knowles brings us the story of a girl who must discover where her heart is and what that means for her future.

 

 

other wordsOther Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (ISBN-13: 9780062747808 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/07/2019)

I am learning how to be

sad

and happy

at the same time.
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind her, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her home town start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the U.S. –and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home, and most importantly, finding yourself.

 

 

pie in the skyPie in the Sky by Remy Lai (ISBN-13: 9781250314109 Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) Publication date: 05/14/2019)

 

A poignant, laugh-out-loud illustrated middle-grade novel about an eleven-year-old boy’s immigration experience, his annoying little brother, and their cake-baking hijinks!

Sometimes life isn’t a piece of cake . . .

When Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao.

To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she’s at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they’ll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama.

In her hilarious, emotional middle-grade debut, Remy Lai delivers a scrumptious combination of vibrant graphic art and pitch-perfect writing that will appeal to fans of Real Friends.

 

 

my fateMy Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva (ISBN-13: 9781338310504 Publisher: Scholastic Publishers Publication date: 07/30/2019)

 

Light and deep, smart and funny, crushing and hopeful all at the same time, My Fate According to the Butterfly will open your eyes to both the world’s potential for magic, and to its harsh realities.

When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly, an omen of death, she knows that she’s doomed!

According to legend, she has one week before her fate catches up with her–on her 11th birthday. With her time running out, all she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her sister, Ate Nadine, stopped speaking to their father one year ago, and Sab doesn’t even know why.

If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears–of her sister’s anger, of leaving the bubble of her sheltered community, of her upcoming doom–and figure out the cause of their rift.

So Sab and her best friend Pepper start spying on Nadine and digging into their family’s past to determine why, exactly, Nadine won’t speak to their father. But Sab’s adventures across Manila reveal truths about her family more difficult than she ever anticipated, and get her into real trouble.

Was the Butterfly right? Perhaps Sab is in danger after all!

 

 

image notMaybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee (Publisher: Aladdin/S&S Publication date: 9/03/2019)

 

For  seventh grader Mila, it starts with an unwanted hug on the school blacktop.

The next day, it’s another hug. A smirk. Comments. It all feels…weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature, overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?

But it keeps happening, despite Mila’s protests. On the bus, in the halls. Even during band practice-the one time Mila could always escape to her “blue-sky” feeling. It seems like the boys are EVERYWHERE. And it doesn’t feel like flirting–so what is it?

Mila starts to gain confidence when she enrolls in karate class. But her friends still don’t understand why Mila is making such a big deal about the boys’ attention. When Mila is finally pushed too far, she realizes she can’t battle this on her own–and finds help in some unexpected places.

From the author of STAR-CROSSED, HALFWAY NORMAL and EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT YOU comes this timely story of a middle school girl standing up and finding her voice.

 

 

gutsGuts by Raina Telgemeier (ISBN-13: 9780545852500 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 09/10/2019)

 

A true story from Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York Times bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of SmileSistersDrama, and Ghosts!

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.

 

 

 

stargazingStargazing by Jen Wang (ISBN-13: 9781250183880 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 09/24/2019)

 

Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.

When Moon’s family moves in next door to Christine’s, Moon goes from unlikely friend to best friend―maybe even the perfect friend. The girls share their favorite music videos, paint their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around, and make plans to enter the school talent show together. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she sometimes has visions of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs.

But when they’re least expecting it, catastrophe strikes. After relying on Moon for everything, can Christine find it in herself to be the friend Moon needs?

New York Times–bestselling author-illustrator Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.

 

 

friend or fictionFriend or Fiction by Abby Cooper (Publisher: Charlesbridge Publication date: 10/08/2019)

Jade wishes her family could leave their no-name town in Colorado already. What kind of place can’t keep a few nice flowers alive or considers three stores a mall, anyway? Everybody else made sure to move away sooner than later, including every best friend Jade’s ever had. But it’s tricky to leave when her dad’s recovering from cancer. So, stuck in a dead-end town with absolutely zero friends, Jade makes one up. In the pages of her notebook, she writes all about Zoe—the most amazing best friend anyone could dream of. The stories flow around-the-clock, especially during boring science lessons or lonely lunch periods. But the plot really thickens when Jade loses her notebook and an actual girl named Zoe shows up at school. In real life. Jade notices that new Zoe seems to have an awful lot in common with made-up Zoe. But who could pull off something this incredible? More importantly, are Jade and the real Zoe destined to be best friends, regardless of how or why Zoe turned up in the first place?

 

 

 

 

Take 5: Things I Learned at the Library Journal Directors’ Summit

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I had the honor last week of attending the Library Journal Directors’ Summit although I am not, in fact, a library director. I was invited to attend and speak about doing a collection diversity audit and I challenged the library directors in attendance to put some intentional effort into building equality in their collections by asking their staff in one way or another to engage in diversity audits. If we don’t audit our collections – or at a bare minimum our book orders – how do we know that we are in fact building inclusive collections? Far too often we rely on good will, gut feelings, and this idea that because we believe in diversity that we are doing the work. I would argue, and my own experience auditing my collection supports this belief, that even those of us with the best of intentions can find ourselves falling far short of our stated goals. In fact, because the state of children’s literature is so far from diverse, building inclusive collections takes a lot of very intentional work.

directorssummit

Intentional equity was a big theme of this year’s Directors’ Summit, and it was inspiring to hear about what other libraries are doing to meet the needs of their local communities and to help make the world a better place. Here are just a few of the things that I heard talked about this past week.

San Francisco Pop Up Care Village

If you are engaged in the professional discussions in any way, you are probably aware that the city of San Francisco, like many cities, is struggling to meet the needs of a large homeless population. San Francisco began hosting pop up care events that includes inviting LavaMae mobile shower units to come provide free showers, inviting local barbers to come give free hair cuts, providing free food and more. What an amazing service this is and I was moved by the care in which participants talked about what they were doing and why to help serve their homeless population.

lavamae

Outreach to New Citizens, Immigrants and Refugees

Both the San Diego Public Library and the San Francisco Public Library shared stories about how they did outreach to immigrants and refugees in a variety of ways, including being present at citizenship graduations and swearing in ceremonies where they handed out free books and celebrated the new citizenship status of their patrons. Although there is a lot of divisive rhetoric happening in political discussions regarding refugees and immigration, both of these libraries have made it part of their mission to be sanctuaries to these marginalized groups and they are actively working to engage and meet the needs of immigrant and refugee families and their children in profoundly moving ways. You can get examples of the work they are doing here and here.

Narcan in the Library

I have personally been against the idea of asking or requiring staff to provide first aid measures of any sorts to patrons outside of calling 911 and handing out bandages. I felt very strongly when my library installed AED devices and required all staff to receive training. My argument has been simple: I purposefully chose to become a librarian as opposed to a first responder or nurse or other medical care provider because I didn’t want the high responsibility that came with it and, if we’re being honest, because I have the highest gag reflex you’ve ever seen. Michelle Jeske from Denver Public Library talked about libraries as first responders and how her libraries staff had saved 22 lives using Narcan in the past couple of years by administering this drug. One of the things I liked best about it was that staff were allowed to take the training if they wanted to, but they were in no way required to do so. She talked a lot about the realities of the opioid crisis, something that I have seen first hand working in public libraries in Ohio, and the emotional trauma of witnessing someone die in your library, something I have thankfully not experienced. The big point she mentioned is that whether we want to be or not, public libraries ARE in fact first responders and that has to change how we respond to community crisis. It was an interesting presentation that left me with a lot to think about regarding this issue.

A Seat at the Table and Emergency Response

One of the themes that came up repeatedly in the various discussions among those present was the idea of having a seat at the table in communities when it came to budgets, planning, and responding to crisis. Some libraries discussed how they were partnering with outside and city organizations to help make sure that they were assured a seat at those tables. Palm Beach County Library System is working with city organizations in crisis response, for example. When a crisis happens, library staff are sent to shelters to provide storytimes and information services. At the same time, other staff are sent to the response hub to help provide timely research regarding issues that come up and to archive data as it’s coming in. This was a creative way to network with outside agencies and meet the needs of a local community in crisis.

Going Fine Free

One of the sessions was specifically about the need for libraries to go fine free. There were three presenters and each of them talked about how they did the research and it showed that fines were keeping the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in our socety, the very people who needed the library the most, from using the library. They crunched the numbers regarding the local service populations and blocked cards and found that the largest percentage of those blocked cards were from households living in poverty, where paying even a small fine would be a huge hurdle. This meant that those households weren’t using the library. But more than that, they had developed a negative view of the library. Each of the libraries stated that they first implemented automatic renewals to help alleviate this problem but eventually went to fine free. This resulted in many positive outcomes: staff were happier because they didn’t have to fight with patrons about small fines, circulation went up, the public had more positive feelings about the library, and the most vulnerable populations were once again able to use the library resources and services that they needed to. Going fine free helped these libraries better meet the library’s mission and goals. I am a big advocate for going fine free and hope that every library out there is seriously considering doing so moving forward.

There were a lot of other interesting things discussed at this event and I’ll be thinking about parts of it for a while. Since this event was geared towards library directors, it was interesting to get an inside glimpse of the types of things that directors are thinking about, talking about, and working towards. There was a lot of discussion of strategic planning, meeting goals, deciding what service populations were most under-served and how best to meet their needs, staff buy-in, and staff support and development. I also got to hear first hand a lot of the obstacles these directors face in trying to best serve their goals, including local politics and ordinances, budgets and, unsurprisingly, staff buy-in.

This was a very interesting event to get to glance behind the curtain and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do so. Don’t worry, I don’t suddenly want to be a library director, I feel genuinely called to be a YA Librarian. But it was nice to see a lot of good directors thinking and talking about a lot of the same things I hear my fellow YA Librarians discussing. I know that many of us don’t often feel supported by administration, but there are a lot of directors out there who are listening.

Friday Finds: December 7, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

19 2019 YA Books To Have On Your Radar

Cindy Crushes Programming: Light the Night with Fandom Themed Fairy Jars

Book Review: What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards

On PAPER GIRL and Anxiety: a guest post by author Cindy R. Wilson

Amanda’s favorites of 2018

Book Review: Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump by Martha Brockenbrough

If You Buy It, Will It Circ? In Defense of Visual Merchandising and Why Public Libraries Should Do More of It

Home Away From Home: a guest post by author Merrie Destefano

Around the Web

What the world would look like if we taught girls to rage

In Love With Teen Lit

‘Dumplin” Review

Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says

Millennials Didn’t Kill the Economy. The Economy Killed Millennials

10 Great Parents from Young Adult SFF

 

 

19 2019 YA Books To Have On Your Radar

Like many of you (I’m guessing), I keep multiple reading-related lists. I keep track of what I read each year. I keep track of what ARCs I’ve gotten and hope to read. I keep track of what books I either want to get when they come out or hope to track down as ARCs but haven’t yet. There’s the list of 2019 LGBTQIA+ books. Look, I like lists. Even just listing my lists was fun for me. So anyway, I scanned through all my various relevant lists and pulled together this new list (yay!) of 19 YA books I can’t wait to read. In some cases, it’s because I liked the author’s previous work. In some cases, it’s a debut that’s caught my attention. In some cases, it’s just that I like reading my friends’ work. My list could have easily been much longer. I made myself stop when I hit 19 because the reality is that I’m home sick from work today and could happily spend the whole day in bed scrolling through lists of 2019 books and adding to this post forevvvver.

Hop in the comments or catch me on Twitter @CiteSomething and tell me what you are anxious to read in 2019!

All descriptions from the publishers.

 

 

slayerSlayer (Slayer Series #1) by Kiersten White (ISBN-13: 9781534404953 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 01/08/2019)

 

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a brand-new series set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that introduces a new Slayer as she grapples with the responsibility of managing her incredible powers that she’s just beginning to understand.

Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

 

 

 

love and liesThe Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (ISBN-13: 9781338227017 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 01/29/2019)

 

Unable to come out to her conservative Muslim parents, Rukhsana Ali keeps that part of her identity hidden. And that means keeping her girlfriend, Ariana, a secret from them too. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life at home and a fresh start at Caltech in the fall. But when Rukhsana’s mom catches her and Ariana together, her future begins to collapse around her.

Devastated and confused, Rukhsana’s parents whisk her off to stay with their extended family in Bangladesh, where she is met with a world of arranged marriages, religious tradition, and intolerance. Fortunately, Rukhsana finds allies along the way, and, through reading her grandmother’s old diary, finds the courage to stand up for her beliefs, take control of her future, and fight for her love.

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali provides a timely and achingly honest portrait of what it’s like to grow up feeling unwelcome in your own culture, and proves that love conquers all.

 

 

 

greatThe Great Unknowable End by Kathryn Ormsbee (ISBN-13: 9781534420502 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 02/19/2019)

 

From the author of Tash Hearts Tolstoy comes a funny, moving novel about the lengths we’ll go to make dreams our dreams come true that’s perfect for fans of Shaun David Hutchinson and Rainbow Rowell.

Slater, Kansas, is a small town where not much seems to happen.

Stella dreams of being a space engineer. After Stella’s mom dies by suicide and her brother runs off to Red Sun, the local hippie commune, Stella is forced to bring her dreams down to earth to care for her sister, Jill.

Galliard has only ever known life inside Red Sun. There, people accept his tics, his Tourette’s. But when he’s denied Red Sun’s resident artist role, which he believed he was destined for, he starts to imagine a life beyond the gates of the compound…

The day Stella and Galliard meet, there is something in the air in their small town. Literally. So begin weeks of pink lightning, bloodred rain, unexplained storms…And a countdown clock appears mysteriously above the town hall. With time ticking down to some great unknowable end they’ll each have to make a choice.

If this is really the end of the world, who do they want to be when they face it?

 

 

oppositeOpposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds (ISBN-13: 9780062748379 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/05/2019)

 

Debut author Justin A. Reynolds delivers a hilarious and heartfelt novel about the choices we make, the people we choose, and the moments that make a life worth reliving. Perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon and John Green.

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.

But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.

Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.

Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.

 

 

night music2Night Music by Jenn Marie Thorne (ISBN-13: 9780735228771 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/19/2019)

 

Music has always been Ruby’s first love. But has it ever loved her back?
Slip behind the scenes of the classical music world one hot, anything-can-happen, New York City summer.

Ruby has always been Ruby Chertok: future classical pianist and daughter of renowned composer Martin Chertok. But after her horrendous audition for the prestigious music school where her father is on faculty, it’s clear that music has publicly dumped her. Now Ruby is suddenly just . . . Ruby. And who is that again? All she knows is that she wants away from the world of classical music for good.

Oscar is a wunderkind, a musical genius. Just ask any of the 1.8 million people who’ve watched him conduct on YouTube—or hey, just ask Oscar. But while he might be the type who’d name himself when asked about his favorite composer and somehow make you love him more for it, Oscar is not the type to jeopardize his chance to study under the great Martin Chertok—not for a crush. He’s all too aware of how the ultra-privileged, ultra-white world of classical music might interpret a black guy like him falling for his benefactor’s white daughter.

But as the New York City summer heats up, so does the spark between Ruby and Oscar. Soon their connection crackles with the same alive, uncontainable energy as the city itself. Can two people still figuring themselves out figure out how to be together? Or will the world make the choice for them?

 

 

how to makeHow to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow (ISBN-13: 9781101934753 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 04/09/2019)

 

From the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Girl in Pieces comes a new heartbreaking story about love and loss and learning how to continue when it feels like you’re surrounded by darkness.

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

 

 

 

this trainThis Train Is Being Held by Ismee Williams (ISBN-13: 9781683354871 Publisher: ABRAMS Publication date: 04/09/2019)

 

When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs. Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most. Heartfelt and evocative, this romantic drama will appeal to readers of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen.

 

 

seriousSerious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett (ISBN-13: 9781534445284 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 04/16/2019)

 

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

 

 

image notLove from A to Z by S. K. Ali (ISBN-13: 9781534442726 Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 05/07/2019)

 

From William C. Morris Award Finalist S.K. Ali comes an unforgettable romance that is part The Sun Is Also a Starmixed with Eleanor & Park, following two Muslim teens who meet during a spring break trip.

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

 

 

with the fireWith the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (ISBN-13: 9780062662835 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/07/2019)

 

From the New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award longlist title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright.

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

 

 

 

let meLet Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D Jackson (ISBN-13: 9780062840325 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/21/2019)

 

In this striking new novel by the critically acclaimed author of Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming, Tiffany D. Jackson tells the story of three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he’s still alive.

Brooklyn, 1998. Biggie Smalls was right: Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph’s music lie forgotten under his bed after he’s murdered—not when his rhymes could turn any Bed Stuy corner into a party.

With the help of Steph’s younger sister Jasmine, they come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: the Architect. Soon, everyone wants a piece of him. When his demo catches the attention of a hotheaded music label rep, the trio must prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.

As the pressure of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only, each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, they need to decide what they stand for or lose all that they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.

 

 

fake itFake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen (ISBN-13: 9781250308016 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 05/28/2019)

 

Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together.

After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time—and then they’ll be free.

It’s the perfect plan – except that it turns out maybe Mia and Jake don’t hate each other as much as they once thought…

 

 

 

i wish youI Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver (ISBN-13: 9781338306125 Publisher: Push Publication date: 05/28/2019)

 

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

 

 

i love youI Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn (ISBN-13: 9781338302882 Publisher: Scholastic Publication date: 05/28/2019)

 

Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement. She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel brave, fabulous, and like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother sees this as a distraction from working on her portfolio paintings for the prestigious fine art academy where she’s been accepted for college. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.

When she arrives in Japan, she loses herself in Kyoto’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival–and meets Akira, a cute med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. What begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.

 

 

 

 

like a loveLike a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (ISBN-13: 9780062839367 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/04/2019)

A bighearted, epic love letter to the LGBTQ community about three friends falling in love and finding their voices as activists during the height of the AIDS crisis.

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance… until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out-and-proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

 

 

tell me howTell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi (ISBN-13: 9781250299482 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 06/11/2019)

 

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.

Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana.

There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strongwilled young women falling for each other despite themselves.

 

 

 

doomsdayLet’s Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry (ISBN-13:  9780062698926 Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books Publication date: 08/06/2019)

 

There are so many ways the world could end. There could be a fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one. What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.

Despite Ellis’s anxiety — about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones — the two girls become fast friends. As Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, she learns there are secrets Hannah isn’t telling her. But with time ticking down, the search for answers only raises more questions. When does it happen? Who will believe them? How do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?

Katie Henry, the author of Heretics Anonymous, delivers an engrossing and thoughtful tale about how people survive — with some faith in family, friends, and maybe a few prepper forums.

 

 

brave faceBrave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson (ISBN-13: 9781534431515 Publisher:  Simon Pulse Publication date: 08/20/2019)

 

Critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants—described as having “hints of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five” (School Library Journal)—opens up about what led to an attempted suicide in his teens, and his path back from the experience.

“I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.”

Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him.

A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality.

Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.

 

a matchA Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai (ISBN-13:  9780316522588 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  Publication date: 11/05/2019)

 

Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Light the Night with Fandom Themed Fairy Jars

ccp7

I love making crafts with the library teens and get ideas from a lot of sources. I recently saw a video about making lighted fairy jars on YouTube and recreated it with my library teens. It was very popular, but I had some issues. First, it was very expensive because I had to special order woodcut fairies. Second, the directions said to use superglue to glue the fairy in the jar, which meant many people glued their figures together. So I made some adjustments and found a program that works! The twist here is that we’re going to create “fairy light” jars that celebrate our favorite fandoms, so we’ve personalized this craft and taken it to the next level.

I realized while I liked the outcome, but I did not like the process. I have found my own process for making lighted jars.

fandom1

Supplies Needed:

  • Clear jars, clean and dry
  • Cardstock
  • A Silhouette Cameo is helpful though not necessary
  • Glue or glue dots
  • Glitter glue or Mod Podge
  • Small paint brush
  • Tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Embellishments such as string/yarn/ribbon, buttons, etc
  • LED lights or candles to place inside the jar (battery operated works best). Glow sticks also work.

Here are some instructions from another source for an overview

Step 1: Cut your shape to place inside the jar

I wanted to do this craft again but not with fairies. I was lucky my library had just purchased a cameo silhouette machine which allowed me to use cardstock and cut out different shapes I have found online. If you don’t have access to a Silhouette machine, you can cut out silhouettes using scissors or exacto knives.

My first lighted Fandom Jar was Beauty and the Beast. I use Pinterest and Google image search to find silhouettes that worked for my program.  I printed them off the cameo machine and that made life easier and you do not have to order silhouettes.

I believe in either using tape or glue dots to place the image in the jar as it makes things easier to fix for teens and teen librarians who make mistakes. I do not recommend using superglue; I lost a layer of skin that first time I tried it to fix the teens projects, plus it is just messy.

Karen’s Note: You can use the free software GIMP to turn a teen photo into a silhouette, which would be fun for this craft. There is also a free silhouette app that you can download for a mobile device.

Step 2: Cover the outside of the jar

I used tissue paper to cover the jar. I like to paint a layer of Elmer’s glue on the jar and the gently place the tissue paper around the jar. Trim off any extra. I am very careful about making sure the silhouette in the jar is not covered by the over fold of the tissue paper. I like to use as light a color of tissue paper as possible. Dark tissue paper will not work. I learned this when I tried to use golden tissue paper for my Hamilton lighted jars.  I then have the teens wait and add another layer of glue on top of the tissue paper. This helps smooth it out and makes it easier to see.

WikiHow: 4 Way to Make Faeries in a Jar

Step 3: Embellish your jar

fairyjar2

I let them pick out what the want to do next, whether they want toput a layer of glitter glue over it. Add accents. I enjoy tying a ribbon around the jars. I have a button box that I let them look through. I try to find objects that work with the theme such as I found rose buttons for Beauty and the beast or stars for Hamilton Jars.  I make it clear this is their jar they get the final say in what it looks like.

Things to Consider

I am very careful when getting the jars. I saved up coupons and also asked for jars as donations from staff and patrons. Spaghetti sauce jars work out very well as do some pickle jars. Couponing makes this craft affordable since I can use all the supplies the next time if I have leftovers.

Karen’s Note: To up the “making” quotient of this craft, you can make your own LED rope lights in a variety of ways. One set of instructions can be found here. This will significantly increase the cost of this activity.

Thoughts: This craft is always a winner and can be adjusted to different fandoms. As long as the jars are cheap this program works out nicely.

Book Review: What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards

whatyouhidePublisher’s Book Description

A new pulse-pounding romantic thriller from the author of We All Fall Down and Six Months Later 

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.

Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.

Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven…

Karen’s Thoughts

It’s interesting in the blurb above that this book is described as a “pulse-pounding romantic thriller” because as I read this, I was moved repeatedly by the way this book talks about a variety of current and pressing issues, including the opioid crisis, domestic violence and teen homelessness. Make no mistake, What You Hide is a thrilling read and there definitely is some budding romance, but I thought this book also did a sublime job of talking about real issues in meaningful ways in the context of this “pulse-pounding romantic thriller”.

As I was reading this book, I was actually working at a public library in the state of Ohio and we had a teen coming in daily that we knew was homeless. So this book was very real and pressing to me; it had a palpable urgency to me as I went home at night to read this book and then returned to work each day and talked to a teen that I knew had slept outside the library, tucked away in a corner trying to stay safe and unnoticed. I actually reached out to Richards and asked her some concrete ways to help this teen as I knew she must have learned things researching this novel and she was gracious enough to give me some leads. We did end up connecting this teen with several resources and I am thankful to be able to share with you that he also got a job. Working with homeless teens is always a horrific reminder of the various ways in which our society fails our children.

What You Hide also does a really good job of presenting some solid examples of domestic violence that is more psychologically than it is physically abusive, and I appreciated this important revelation. Tucked in here is also some hardcore truths about addiction and the current opioid crisis, which is hitting Ohio pretty hard so it seems fitting that the author included this in the context of this particular story as well. All of these issues are brought to light and revealed in authentic ways that don’t hit the reader over the head but also show the ways issues become tangled up in other issues and they feed upon and work with each other to bring a teen to the place where fear, desperation and a lack of options leads them to a life lived on the streets, or tucked inside a closed library.

One of the other things that I think that Richards does so well is present us with a variety of teens who are trying to figure out who they are and balance that with parental expectations and the stress that comes with trying, and often failing, to meet those expectations. This is made most clear in the story of Spencer, who is literally standing (well, lying) still because he can’t figure out how to move forward in healthy ways as who wants to be does not align with what he feels his parents want him to be. I loved the character of Spencer and felt that his dilemma was both poignant and all too real. This was the most spot on representation of one of the primary challenges of adolescence and I felt that every teen reading this book would be able to relate to and identify the conversations that these teens are having about growing up and trying to figure out what next steps to take.

What You Hide is a love letter to libraries and the feelings of acceptance and belonging they bring to a community, which is not surprising because Richards herself works in a library. Every nook and cranny of this library felt authentic, affirming, and inspiring. There are hidden places, local history, and the possibility of ghosts – and who doesn’t love the idea of a haunted library? I mean, I don’t want to work in a haunted library, but the setting makes for a great story.

Then there is Mallory, a strong, fierce, determined but lost young lady trying to convince her mom to leave a man that she sees as abusive who finds herself alone on the streets. She takes refuge in the library, hiding until it closes and hoping to find a few moments of warmth and safety. Even as Mallory reaches out and tries to find help in her situation, we see all the obstacles that minors trying to find a respite from a storm at home experience. There are rules and regulations that make finding help so very hard to do, and they leave Mallory in some of the most vulnerable situations. As her hunger grows and her desperation builds, we learn more and more about what life is like for a homeless teen and the desperation they feel. Mallory’s story will break your heart.

This is an interesting book because it presents itself as a thriller, but it asks you to think deeply by revealing harsh truths in the midst of this mystery. Unlike the problem novels of the 90s (yes, I’m that old) that hit you over the head with their after school special like messages, Richards peels back the layers on issues while entertaining with a thrilling mystery that may or may not be a ghost story set in a library that may or may not be haunted, and it is a satisfying read that leaves you thinking of the many challenges teens today are facing. It’s a bold move, a trusting one that respects teen readers and understands that a book can be many things at once. It also reminds us that teens are indeed facing a variety of hard pressing issues, almost always at the same time, and they are often ill equipped and unprepared to deal with them and the very systems that are there to support them are ham-stringed by rules and regulations that put the most vulnerable of them at further risk. Don’t let the cover or the marketing fool you, this is a deep, thoughtful novel that genuinely explores teen life.

I highly recommend this novel for teens and anyone who cares about teens. It’s more than an entertaining thriller, its a deeply contemplative exploration of teen life today that moves the reader.

Themes and topics covered: Homelessness, domestic violence, coming of age, addiction, poverty and socio-economic challenges, the U.S. opioid crisis

Published December 4 by Sourcefire Books

On PAPER GIRL and Anxiety: a guest post by author Cindy R. Wilson

41KnHEWIJoL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I have to be honest. I didn’t expect Paper Girl to be my first published novel. In fact, I wasn’t even trying to query it or find an editor to publish it. I wanted to write big, explosive stories with strong heroes and heroines who were nothing like me. Those kinds of stories you get excited to see on the big screen when they become movies. I guess that’s mostly because my own life was kind of boring in comparison—after all, living with constant anxiety makes living in the real world with real people doing real things terrifying.

Which was partly why I wrote Paper Girl. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and PTSD when I was in my 20s. I’d been anxious before that, but this brought it to a whole new level. A kind of I-don’t-want-to-leave-my-house level, sort of like the heroine in Paper Girl. Zoe hasn’t left her house in over a year because of her anxiety, and I could relate to that entirely. I spent a lot of years being afraid to go places, meet new people, and push myself outside of my comfort zone because it was just too scary. But I didn’t want that for my life. As a way of working through my own anxiety, I wrote Paper Girl. For once, I wanted to write a heroine like me, socially awkward, shy, maybe even a little dorky. I wanted to see a girl like that become the hero of her own story. So I made it happen.

Zoe has to work every single day to recover from anxiety and it was wonderful for me to write a character that many of us can relate to. We all have our own struggles and hardships on big and small scales, but it’s great to see victories in tiny steps and paths we all have to take in various ways. I feel as though the characters of Paper Girl are some of my most relatable because we can all understand being afraid of something but wanting so badly to be on the other end of it and living our lives.

I still write big, explosive stories, but somehow (through a twist of events, which is a whole other story), Paper Girl is my debut YA. And once I adjusted to that fact, it actually made me really happy. This story is real and raw, and it’s something people can relate to. I get a chance to reach readers I might never have reached by simply sharing my story. So now, even though I love those big explosive stories and even write them here and there, I can’t say how much I believe in writers sharing their real struggles. There are so many readers out there who share the same issues and challenges and it’s nice to know we’re not alone. It’s also nice to know that even with those socially awkward, dorky traits, we can still be the hero of our own story, and I think that’s exactly what Paper Girl shows.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cindy R. WiCindy R. Wilsonlson is a YA speculative and contemporary author whose own struggles with anxiety disorder inspired her to write a story with a real-life topic readers can relate to. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and loves using Colorado towns and cities as settings for her stories. She’s the mother of three girls who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels.

When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking some of Colorado’s tallest peaks, reading, or listening to playlists she’s created for her next story idea.

website: www.cindyrwilson.com

twitter: @CindyRWilson

facebook: @AuthorCindyRWilson

Instagram: @CindyRWilson

 

Amanda’s favorites of 2018

Yes, it’s list time. What follows are my favorite 2018 books that I reviewed and excerpts of my reviews. I pretty much exclusively read contemporary fiction, which my list reflects. These are the YA books that most stuck with me this year.  Even though I’m a voracious reader, I’m sure I missed a lot of great titles this year. I always enjoy reading the many lists that crop up this time of the year, but I also always want more variety and to hear from more people. So here’s my list—will you share yours with us too? Leave us a comment or hit me up on Twitter where I’m @CiteSomething. 

 

 

you'll miss meYou’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon (ISBN-13: 9781481497732 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 01/02/2018)

I burned through this book, riveted by the girls’ relationship, which is constantly in flux. The alternate narration really lets us get in the heads of both girls and see them both really struggle with all the new things that they are dealing with. Let’s not forget that in the middle of all this there is their mother, whose symptoms are getting rapidly worse. They have to witness her decline, worry about what her future holds, and that’s a constant very real reminder for everyone of what will be ahead of Adina at some point.

I loved the large role religion plays in this family’s life. They are Jewish and often speak Hebrew. Their mother grew up in Tel Aviv and their father is American. Tovah is quite religious and Adina is not. Both speak and think about their religion and culture a lot—whether that’s because they are embracing it or rebelling against it.

This book is heartbreaking in all the best ways. The girls are not always likable (and we all know I hate that word as a judgment, right? That it’s OKAY to be unlikable, because being humans and containing multitudes means we’re not always the best version of ourselves?), they make hurtful choices, they keep things to themselves when what they really need is to lean on each other. This is a complex look at identity, futures, faith, family, and what it means to truly live your life. A brilliant and provocative debut. I look forward to more from Solomon. (Full review here.)

 

 

is this guyIs This Guy For Real?: The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman by Box Brown (ISBN-13: 9781626723160 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 02/06/2018)

Brown takes us back to Kaufman’s youth, showing his interest in Mighty Mouse, Elvis, and wrestling. Kaufman loved to imitate his heroes and always rooted for the bad guy. We see how he became a party entertainer at a young age, his interest in drumming, and his growing interest in subverting expectations and screwing with reality. Kaufman believed in being in character offstage as well, a move that helped him confuse the heck out of people who eventually could never tell if he was putting on an act or being serious. Much of the story is focused on Kaufman’s wrestling career, with Brown taking us through Kaufman arch-nemesis Jerry Lawler’s backstory, too. Throughout it all, we see Kaufman as not just a larger-than-life character who wrestled women and befuddled viewers, but as a sensitive guy into yoga and transcendental meditation. Kaufman, who blurred reality and enjoyed blowing people’s minds, loved playing the negative, hated characters. It was just more interesting to him.

Fans of the absurd will enjoy this book, whether they’ve heard of Kaufman or not. For an older audience, for anyone who looks at this and can immediately picture Kaufman lip-syncing to the Mighty Mouse theme, or Tony Clifton, or Latka Gravis, this look at Kaufman will be a real treat. (Full review here.)

 

 

elenaThe Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson (ISBN-13: 9781481498548 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 02/06/2018)

After Elena confirms she really can heal people (unsurprisingly, it’s a little hard for her to just accept what happened), things grow far more complicated than she could have anticipated. The voices (coming from such places as a girl on a tampon box, a My Little Pony, a skeleton, and more) tell her she needs to heal as many people as possible. And on the surface, that seems like a good idea. But for every healing she does, people are raptured—and not just in some 1:1 ration; literally hundreds of people could go missing for each healing. Suddenly, Elena has BIG questions to grapple with. Can she help someone right in front of her knowing others will disappear to an unknown place? Is she being used? Do things happen for a reason or do they just happen? Does nothing matter? Does anything matter? Does EVERYTHING matter? How are things connected? Are people even worth saving (that question will sound familiar to fans of Hutchinson)? Does healing people fundamentally change them? Why should you decide who or what matters? It’s heavy philosophical stuff, which readers of Hutchinson will have come to expect.

As always, Hutchinson populates his story with a diverse group of characters. Elena is Cuban American and bisexual. Her best friend, Fadil, is Mulim and possibly aromatic and/or asexual (he’s still figuring it out). The big picture themes include mental health/suicidal ideation (and actual suicide), bullying, identity, supportive relationships, and how your choices change you and the world around you. Hutchinson superfans will be thrilled to see cameos of characters from his previous books. This look at making impossible choices and handling moral conflict is already one of my favorites for 2018 (and, as of writing this, I’m still back here in 2017). Riveting, thoughtful, weird, brilliant, provocative, and heavy—just what I have come to expect from Hutchinson. (Full review here.)

 

 

poet XThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (ISBN-13: 9780062662804 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/06/2018)

15-year-old Dominican American Xiomara is used to being judged, harassed, and viewed only as a body with curves, not just from the male gaze, but even from her own mother.She’s close to exactly two people in life, her twin brother, whom she lovingly just calls Twin, and their best friend, Caridad. They are the only ones who really know anything about her, and even they don’t get to know it all. Xiomara’s mother goes to Mass daily and is extremely disappointed in Xiomara’s disinterest in church, confirmation classes, and religion. She’s very strict,but Xiomara has found ways around her rules to try to live the life she wants. She joins a poetry club at school while pretending to be at confirmation classes. She also begins seeing Trinidadian Aman, a kind, compassionate, music-loving classmate who is always ready to hear one of her poems. Her mother makes it clear that her sexuality is something to be repressed, to be ashamed of, to be denied, but Xiomara is having all of these first feelings for Aman, and not even the scolding voice of her mother in her head can override her beginning to make her own decisions and define her body and her sexuality on her own terms. But she has to keep all of this secret from her mother—just like Twin has to keep his relationship with a boy a secret. Everything begins to unravel when Xiomara’s mother sees her kissing Aman, and then further escalates when she finds Xiomara’s poetry notebook. Learning how to trust and how listen to her own voice—to find power not just in words but in the power of her words—is a rough road for Xiomara, but it’s also one filled with wonder, joy, and revelations.Powered by Xiomara’s strong but vulnerable voice, this intense, poignant, and extraordinary novel is a must for all collections. (Full review here.)

 

 

blood water paintBlood Water Paint by Joy McCullough (ISBN-13: 9780735232112 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/06/2018)

17-year-old Artemisia understands the way the world works: women are a beauty for consumption by men. There are many expectations for women and few freedoms. She understands that girls are prey, that they are seen as things and possessions. Artemisia, ostensibly an apprentice to her painter father, though clearly far more skilled than he, begins to paint biblical women she knows intimately from her mother’s stories, knowing a man could never capture the truth of the story the way a woman could. Her mother’s stories made clear the heavy burden of the inescapable male gaze, but they also made clear Artemisia’s (and all women’s) right to be outraged, to act, to push back, to speak up. These woman from her mother’s stories, Judith and Susanna, come to be her strength and solace when Artemisia is raped by Agostina Tassi, her painting tutor. Artemisia tells her father of the rape and they take Tino to trial. But, of course, it is not Tino on trial, but Artemisia’s virtue. 

Both the stories from Artemisia’s mother and Artemisia’s own story ask the readers to bear witness, to see the truth, to hear the voices, to understand the strength in the stories. The stories are the weapons, the armor, the refuge, and the map. This intensely passionate and powerful exploration of women’s lives, stories, truths, and power is a masterpiece. (Full review here.)

 

 

after the shotAfter the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay (ISBN-13: 9781328702272 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/06/2018)

Bunny and Nasir repeatedly approach each other to try to mend their friendship, but each time, Nasir feels like he’s betraying Wallace, that Bunny has plenty of people in his corner, and plenty of resources and opportunities, but Wallace has nothing and no one. Wallace eventually puts Nasir—and Bunny—in an impossible situation, one that will test everyone’s loyalty, and the already high stakes of this story really ramp up. Readers will race through the final chaptersWe’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss to see what happens to all three of these complicated and conflicted characters.

 

Told through an incredibly effective alternation narration, readers get to see deep inside the minds of both Bunny and Nasir. who show that the situation is much more complicated than just being about two best friends driven apart by Bunny’s choice to change schools. Gripping, suspenseful, and complex, this story of basketball, friendship, courage, desperation, and choices will appeal to a wide audience. A must-have for all collections.  (Full review here.)

 

 

 

fly awayWe’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss (ISBN-13: 9780062494276 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/08/2018)

As I read, as I watched events unfold, I kept thinking, “NO, NO, NO, NO,” even though I knew something terrible had to happen to get Luke on death row. It all feels so hopeless.

 

In Luke’s letters from death row, we see weird glimpses of hope that we could never see in the main narrative. I say “weird” because the kid is on death row. His letters are full of pain and anger, but also resiliency, and he works through so much in his letters to Toby.His letters give us a real insight into his mind during this time. It is, I would guess, virtually impossible for almost all of us to really imagine what it would be like to be on death row. To be waiting. To watch people you have come to know put to death. I think it can be easy for people to look at people in prison, on death row, and forget their humanity. It can be easy to write people off, to expect a punishment, to not see them as humans, to not understand what led them there, to not think about redemption or the worth of a life or what the death penalty really means. Bliss makes you think about all those things. He makes the reader understand that people are not just defined by one thing, but have entire lives and stories that led them to the act or acts that landed them in prison. He asks readers to see their complex lives and care about them. The standout characters, including the nun who routinely visits Luke in prison, are deeply affecting and beg readers to really pay attention to their lives and their choices. Though devastatingly sad, this is also a beautiful look at friendship between two boys—something we don’t always see much of in YA. This emotional, powerful, and unflinching look at friendship, loyalty, and the justice system is an absolute must for all collections. Not an easy read, but an important one. (Full review here.)

 

 

girl made ofGirl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (ISBN-13: 9781328778239 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 05/15/2018)

 

When Hannah says that Owen raped her at a party they all were at, Mara is devastated. She knows her brother would never do that. But she also knows Hannah would never lie about that. She turns to their small group of friends, including both Hannah and Owen, as she tries to process what happened. Mara has her own reasons for fiercely thinking that “believe girls and women” is a good policy (beyond it just being a good policy). She’s held on to a secret for years, a secret that ruined her relationship with Charlie. Mara and Owen’s parents believe Owen when he says he didn’t rape Hannah. They urge Mara to understand the need to be united on this, to not talk to anyone about it, to make sure they all have the story straight. But Mara is sick of not talking about things. She stands by Hannah, especially when Hannah comes back to school and is repeatedly greeted with, “Hey, slut, welcome back.” Mara, Charlie, and Hannah all have truths to tell. They rely on each other, and the support of girls (particularly in their feminist group at school, Empower) to find the strength to not be silenced. 

 

This masterpiece is gutting. It’s not just the characters, the dialogue, and the writing are all wonderful—they are—but that the story is so real. So true. So common. Maybe not the specifics, but the general story. This is in incredibly important read about the aftermath of a sexual assault, about consent, rape culture, family, friendship, and feminism. A powerful, heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting read. (Full review here.)

 

 

 

deadendiaDeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele (ISBN-13: 9781910620472 Publisher: Nobrow Ltd. Publication date: 08/07/2018)

 

Really, this book had me at trans protagonist, graphic novel, talking dog, girl with anxiety disorder, and hell portal. It’s like all my favorite things together in one place. If only they had also obsessively eaten donuts and the dog was a dachshund and not a pug! Barney, who is trans, has recently left home, after it was made clear that he wasn’t welcome there. His friend Norma Khan hooks him up with a job as a janitor at the Pollywood amusement park where she works as a guide at a haunted house (a job she likes because there is a script). It’s the least popular attraction there, in the area referred to as Scare Square. Barney figures it will be a good place to stay while he’s homeless, and it maybe would have been, if it hadn’t turned out that the haunted house was also a portal to a bunch of demons. Before long, Barney, Norma, and Barney’s dog, Pugsley, are constantly battling demons through shifting timelines and dimensions. The planes are described as a “big, interdimensional, supernatural cake,” and it’s hard to know who is mostly harmless, who may be helpful, and who eventually becomes bad in a another timeline. When a demon possesses Pugsley early on, he retains the ability to speak, even after they manage to exorcise the demon. Norma has known about the demons for ages, but for Barney, this is all so new and odd at an especially new and odd time in his life.

 

Complicated emotions, strong friendship, demons, and plenty of LGBTQIA+ representation. All that and bright, bold illustrations AND great writing? Total win. Sweet, funny, and enjoyably, delightfully weird. (Full review here.)

 

 

dariusDarius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (ISBN-13: 9780525552963 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/28/2018)

Though Darius is often awkward and monosyllabic, we get to know him much better when he is in Iran. Darius gets to know himself much better during this time. He becomes friends with Sohrab, a charismatic neighbor boy who draws Darius out of his shell, inviting him to play soccer and helping guide him through life in Yazd. Fairly quickly, Darius feels such closeness with Sohrab, feeling like they really understand each other. Sohrab is easy and comfortable with Darius, so open and affectionate. Though it is never discussed, it is easy to read their relationship as something more than friends, or something that could potentially be more than friends. Though their time together is short, Sohrab and his friendship appear to be life changing for Darius, showing him that he can connect with other people and that there is more to him than just a bullied kid who is always the object of jokes and cruelty.

 

The book has a lot of other things going for it. Darius’s depression is handled well. It’s noted over and over that he has been encouraged to not feel embarrassed or ashamed for having depression, that it’s just the way his brain chemicals work. He talks about being medicated for years, about having tried various medications, about side effects, like weight gain, and we routinely see him take his medication. His mother talks to him about the fact that her parents will have a different, less understanding attitude toward depression, which does come up once they are in Iran. It is refreshing to see mental illness depicted in such a matter of fact manner—it’s just one part of Darius. Darius also helps guide readers through Persian culture by explaining cultural ideas, tradition, and Farsi words as the story unfolds. Khorram manages to make this feel like part of the natural flow of the narrative. This quiet story will resonate with readers who feel they don’t fit in, for whatever reason, and can appreciate the profoundness of finally feeling like you can connect with someone. A heartfelt, complicated, and thoughtful look at identity, family, and unexpected connections set in a place, and within a culture, we rarely see in YA. A great addition for all collections. (Full review here.)

 

 

dream countryDream Country by Shannon Gibney (ISBN-13: 9780735231672 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/11/2018)

The stories are loosely tied together (in the sense that we’re following the line of one family and returning to the same place over and over), but read like short stories, complete on their own. It feels especially profound, then, when we reach Angel’s portion of the narrative and understand that it is she who has been telling all of these stories as a way to help make sense of her lineage, history, and ancestors. Through her revelations about her writing, readers see the choices she made in telling these stories, her search for explaining people and their actions, her desire for wholeness, for neat intertwining, for being able to know what these experiences were like. The title, Dream Country, takes on new significance through Angel’s eyes, and with Angel’s own story. This powerful and well-written story examines deep human emotions, the desire and fight for freedom, power, and immigrant experiences. Perhaps shamefully, I managed to make it to 40 without knowing much of anything at all about Liberia, but this book has changed that. Gibney’s complex look at one family, told through a wide scope, is moving and unlike anything I have ever read before in YA. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Don’t miss it. (Full review here.)

 

 

 

 

the unwantedThe Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (ISBN-13: 9781328810151 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/18/2018)

Brown provides a very brief overview of the Arab Spring, starting this story with teenage boys writing graffiti (“Down with the regime”) on a wall in Dara’a, in southern Syria, then the arrest and torture of those boys, which sparks a protest for their freedom. Of course, this is just one of many inciting incidents, as the anger is far deeper and more widespread, with Syrians unhappy with Assad’s rule and the corrupt government. The government retaliates against the protesters, with the growth of the protest and violence leading to civil war. Syrians flee to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, living in tent cities, with friends and family, or in communities in the hills. Violence intensifies when jihadists, including ISIS, join the fight. Brown followers various refugees’ journeys as they escape any way they can. We see people fleeing on foot, on boats, with smugglers, some of them successfully escaping, but many thousands and thousands dying in the process.

 

It was no surprise to me that Brown so adeptly captures the emotions and weight of this experience. Though, as noted, this book is slight, it is a thorough and affecting look at the Syrian refugee crisis, particularly for younger readers who may just be looking for a quick and basic understanding of what has been going on. The full-color illustrations are dynamic and powerful, whether showing crowded boats, near-empty deserts, or the anguish on the refugees’ faces. This somber, poignant, and deeply sympathetic look at Syrian refugees is as moving as it is informative. A solid addition for all collections. (Full review here.)

 

 

hearts unHearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (ISBN-13: 9780763681142 Publisher: Candlewick Press Publication date: 10/09/2018)

While Louise never wavers in her quest to educate others, she has a lot of room to grow as a friend. Her alleged best friend, Shelby, is largely absent in the book, usually busy working and not really understood well by Louise, who has trouble seeing beyond herself sometimes. She has a lot to learn about friendships, dating, and understanding others. But these flaws make her real, and interesting. Readers see her grow and change as she makes more connections with people in her new town and stands up for what she believes in and what she knows is right. Mvskoke words are sprinkled throughout the next, with a glossary appended as well as an important author’s note. This book also accomplished the near-impossible: it made me miss high school for two seconds, reminding me of my love for writing for the school newspaper and the frustrations and community that can come with that. This is a nice mix of romance, routine high school drama, and more serious topics like racism, bullying, and becoming more socially aware. Sure to inspire interesting classroom discussions, this is a must-have for all collections.  (Full review here.)