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Post-it Note Reviews of Elementary and Middle Grade Books

Now that I work in an elementary library, I’m reading a lot more titles for younger readers. Rather than review all of them like I usually do, I’m stealing Karen’s Post-it note review idea and sharing the titles with you that way. It’s been super interesting to me to see what the students (grades K-5) check out. I’ve spent so long completely in the world of YA and am glad for an opportunity to work with younger readers and to read all of the great picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books I’ve missed out on!

 

All descriptions from the publishers.

 

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Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes

Gabby’s world is filled with daydreams. However, what began as an escape from her parents’ arguments has now taken over her life. But with the help of a new teacher, Gabby the dreamer might just become Gabby the writer, and words that carried her away might allow her to soar. Written in vivid, accessible poems, this remarkable verse novel is a celebration of imagination, of friendship, of one girl’s indomitable spirit, and of a teacher’s ability to reach out and change a life.

 

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Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick

It’s not easy being Claire. (Really.)

Claire’s life is a joke . . . but she’s not laughing. While her friends seem to be leaping forward, she’s dancing in the same place. The mean girls at school are living up to their mean name, and there’s a boy, Ryder, who’s just as bad, if not worse. And at home, nobody’s really listening to her — if anything, they seem to be more in on the joke than she is.

Then into all of this (not-very-funny-to-Claire) comedy comes something intense and tragic — while her dad is talking to her at the kitchen table, he falls over with a medical emergency. Suddenly the joke has become very serious — and the only way Claire, her family, and her friends are going to get through it is if they can find a way to make it funny again.

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Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz, Renee Watson

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.

Inspired by Betty’s real life–but expanded upon and fictionalized through collaboration with novelist Renée Watson–Ilyasah Shabazz illuminates four poignant years in her mother’s childhood with this book, painting an inspiring portrait of a girl overcoming the challenges of self-acceptance and belonging that will resonate with young readers today.

 

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Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Lida thought she was safe. Her neighbors wearing the yellow star were all taken away, but Lida is not Jewish. She will be fine, won’t she?

But she cannot escape the horrors of World War II.

Lida’s parents are ripped away from her and she is separated from her beloved sister, Larissa. The Nazis take Lida to a brutal work camp, where she and other Ukrainian children are forced into backbreaking labor. Starving and terrified, Lida bonds with her fellow prisoners, but none of them know if they’ll live to see tomorrow.

When Lida and her friends are assigned to make bombs for the German army, Lida cannot stand the thought of helping the enemy. Then she has an idea. What if she sabotaged the bombs… and the Nazis? Can she do so without getting caught?

And if she’s freed, will she ever find her sister again?

This pulse-pounding novel of survival, courage, and hope shows us a lesser-known piece of history — and is sure to keep readers captivated until the last page.

 

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Bolivar by Sean Rubin

What would you do if your neighbor was a dinosaur?

Going extinct isn’t for everyone.

Sybil knows that there is something off about her next door neighbor, but she can’t seem to get anyone to believe her. Everyone is so busy going about their days in the busy streets of New York City that they don’t notice Bolivar. They don’t notice his odd height, his tiny arms, or his long tail. No one but Sybil sees that Bolivar is a dinosaur.

When an unlikely parking ticket pulls Bolivar into an adventure from City Hall to New York’s Natural History Museum, he must finally make a choice: continue to live unnoticed, or let the city see who he really is.

 

 

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Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas

A life on the prairie is not all its cracked up to be for one girl whose mom takes her love of the Little House series just a bit too far.

Charlotte’s mom has just moved the family across the country to live in Walnut Grove, “childhood home of pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Mom’s idea is that the spirit of Laura Ingalls will help her write a bestselling book. But Charlotte knows better: Walnut Grove is just another town where Mom can avoid responsibility. And this place is worse than everywhere else the family has lived—it’s freezing in the winter, it’s small with nothing to do, and the people talk about Laura Ingalls all the time. Charlotte’s convinced her family will not be able to make a life on the prairie—until the spirit of Laura Ingalls starts getting to her, too.

 

 

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Jake the Fake Keeps it Real (Jake the Fake Series #1) by Craig Robinson, Adam Mansbach, Keith Knight

For fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate comes the first book in a side-splitting illustrated series from comedian and film star Craig Robinson, #1 New York Times bestselling author Adam Mansbach, and NAACP History Maker recipient and cartoonist Keith Knight.

Jake can barely play an instrument, not even a kazoo. And his art? It’s better suited for Pictionary than Picasso. Which is a real problem because Jake just faked his way into the Music and Art Academy for the gifted and talented (and Jake is pretty sure he is neither). More jokester than composer, Jake will have to think of something quick before the last laugh is on him.

Featuring more than 160 illustrations, Jake the Fake is sure to bring the laughs with his hilarious high jinks!

Book Review: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock

Publisher’s description

hope nationHope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and personal stories that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Angie Thomas, Marie Lu, James Dashner, Nicola Yoon, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Renée Ahdieh, and many more!

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and—in some cases—even hopeless. The teens of today are the caretakers of tomorrow, and yet it’s difficult for many to find joy or comfort in such a turbulent society. But in trying times, words are power.

Some of today’s most influential young adult authors come together in this highly personal collection of essays and original stories that offer moments of light in the darkness, and show that hope is a decision we all can make.

Like a modern day Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for TeensHope Nation acknowledges the pain and offers words of encouragement.

Authors include: Atia Abawi, Renee Ahdieh, Libba Bray, Howard Bryant, Ally Carter, Ally Condie, James Dashner, Christina Diaz Gonzales, Gayle Forman, Romina Garber, I. W. Gregario, Kate Hart, Bendan Kiely, David Levithan, Alex London, Marie Lu, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, Aisha Saeed, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Jeff Zentner, and Nicola Yoon.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Let me first just say that I really wish the summary for this book didn’t compare this to inspirational books like Chicken Soup or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. For one, I’m not sure how relevant those comps are for actual modern teens, and for another thing, I see those things and immediately think, GACK, no thank you. While this is a book focused on hope and encouragement, it, to me, is nothing like those titles. It is far better. Thank goodness.

 

With the exception of Levithan’s fictional piece based on being at the Women’s March in Atlanta, the rest of this collection is essays from a wide variety of authors. Libba Bray writes about the car accident that changed her life and the hope she finds, loses, and learns will come around again. Angie Thomas discusses the current political climate, the publication of her book The Hate U Give, and three particular encounters after its publication. Ally Condie talks about, among other things, depression and the things and people that help with hope. Marie Lu writes about moving from China to America and survival and adaptation. Jeff Zentner talks about the hope that lies in young Book People and the power of stories. Nicola Yoon recounts the challenges of being an interracial couple. Kate Hart explores her combative relationship with hope. Gayle Forman takes on the topics of travel, hope, and life after 9/11. Christina Diaz Gonzalez talks about baseball, being the only Hispanic girl in her small North Florida town, and her Cuban grandmother. Atia Abawi writes about her dream of being a journalist, persistence, roadblocks, and believing in yourself. Alex London talks about the 90s, prom, drag, and the gender binary. Howard Bryant writes about his newspaper internship in a small Pennsylvania farm town and the lessons he learned there. Ally Carter reveals how long she kept her desire to be a writer a secret. Romina Garber recalls her move from Argentina to the US as a child and what it meant to be an immigrant. Renee Ahdieh  talks identity and how it shaped her. Aisha Saeed writes about apologies and being an American Muslim. Jenny Torres Sanchez discusses growing up afraid of her father and the abuse that he suffered as a child. Nic Stone talks about being African American in this post-2016 election era. Julie Murphy finds home and hope in unexpected places. I.W. Gregorio shares how a repressed teen grew up to become a urologist, and discusses breaking taboos and getting rid of awkwardness. Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely have a conversation about their tour for All American Boys and the conversations and kids who have stuck with them.

 

My favorite thing about anthologies has always been finding new authors to explore, and this collection, that offers so many personal stories and chances for readers to connect on a variety of shared experiences and interests, will surely point young readers toward new names. I am automatically repelled from anything billed as “inspirational” (it’s just how I’m built), but this look at hope and connection will show readers that they are not alone in their experiences, feelings, or concerns. Definitely worth picking up, even if just read to the pieces by your favorites. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781524741679
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/27/2018

#ReadForChange: Girls Fight Back in Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie, a guest post by Marie Marquardt

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Jennifer Mathieu join us for a conversation about feminism, taking action, and Mathieu’s powerful novel, Moxie

 

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. … We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—We Should all be Feminists

 

“For All the Teenage Women Fighting the Good Fight”

moxieIt’s wonderfully fitting that Jennifer Mathieu dedicates her fourth YA novel, Moxie: “For all the teenage women fighting the good fight.” Why? because this book reads as a (punk rock) love song to the brave teenage women who walk with dignity through the halls of high schools everywhere, refusing to be defeated by casual misogyny, and fighting back in their own creative, unorthodox, and sometimes super-fun ways.

 

In Moxie, we follow Vivi Carter – a “good” girl who avoids attention – through a feminist awakening.  When the story starts, Vivi is simply trying to make it through the school year in a Texas football town, where boys (especially those who happen to know how to throw, catch, and block pigskin balls) get away with all manner of inexcusable behavior, from wearing offensive t-shirts to hallway “bump-n-grabs”, while girls endure subtle shaming through gender-biased dress-code enforcement, as well as direct sexual harassment and (in one instance toward the end of the novel) assault.

 

When the story starts, Vivi and her friends are surviving as so many girls do — by shrinking themselves, making themselves smaller, putting their heads down and getting by. Fortunately for Vivi, and for all the readers of this story, she happens to have a mom who went through a gloriously rebellious stage, which Vivi’s mom refers to as her “misspent youth”. Though it’s hard for Vivi to imagine her hard-working single mom ever having been a punk-rock feminist, a bit of rummaging through her mom’s old things allows Vivi to uncover the Riot Grrrls and their fierce zines. Inspired by their music and their protest, Vivi begins a quiet, anonymous campaign inside her own school. Her brave actions slowly spark a full-on social movement, bringing girls into solidarity across differences of class and ethnicity, and creating lasting change in the school.

 

And: Seth! He’s a newcomer to the school who wants, from the very beginning, to act in solidarity with the girls and to support their movement, but who bumbles a bit along the way. The love story that develops between Seth and Vivi is so lovely and his character is a beautiful (and important) model for how to become a feminist man. Step one: believe women when they tell you they’ve been harmed. Step two: listen and learn. Step three: follow them when they walk out and then link arms with them in protest.

 

“Calling Themselves Feminists for the First Time”: A Conversation with Jennifer Mathieu

_PDG6191MARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

 

JENNIFER: I knew this story had to be written the minute the idea popped into my head! I wanted to write a book about Riot Grrrl – the feminist movement that made such an impact on my life.  But I wanted to find a way to make it contemporary and meaningful for young readers.  I also wanted to find a way to address the importance of intersectionality.  I started texting with my friend Kate and ran some ideas back and forth with her, and suddenly, I couldn’t stop planning, outlining, and writing Moxie. Honestly, this book was so much fun to write – probably the most fun I’ve ever had writing a novel – and hearing from young readers who have told me they are calling themselves feminists for the first time just because they read this book really makes me so happy.  The experience of writing Moxie was so special, and if it has helped make positive change in the world, then I am so humbled by that.

 

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want your kids and students to live in?

 

JENNIFER: Personally, I have become very engaged in the campaigns of some local progressive candidates.  I became a voter deputy registrar in my county so I can register people to vote, including students at the high school where I teach!  And speaking of my high school, I sponsor the Feminist Club which is very important to me.  I also teach Sunday School at my church where I teach little ones about how God’s love is for everyone no matter their color, ethnicity, abilities, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

 

MARIE: What’s your message for readers who want to take action, themselves?

 

JENNIFER: My advice to readers who want to take action is to focus on one or two issues that really matter to them and do what you can in those areas.  It can be very overwhelming to try and “do it all” and I’ve been guilty of this myself.  After the 2016 election I was trying to go to so many meetups and doing so much, I got pretty stressed.  I decided that I was going to direct my focus on helping elect candidates I care about, and that’s what I’ve been doing.  For someone else it might mean getting super involved in raising awareness for climate change or feeding the hungry or clinic defense.  They just need to figure out where their hearts are and go for it!  I would also say staying informed by consuming reputable news and trying to limit consumption of click bait on the Internet is important, too.

 

Let’s Get Reading! “Focus on one or two issues that really matter … and do what you can.”

#RFC Moxie INSTA & FBOkay, Moxie girls (and those who love us!).  Time to follow Jennifer’s advice: Here’s a short list of non-fiction books that would be great companions to Moxie – they can help us get informed and stay informed, while also avoiding that click bait.

 

Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti – The first chapter of this book is: “You’re a hardcore feminist. I swear.” The rest of the book will show you why that’s something to celebrate. And, as an added bonus, you’ll learn a bunch of new stuff along the way about pop culture, health, reproductive rights, violence, education, relationships, and more.

 

We Should all Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie –  *Okay, hopping up on my soapbox here.* We should all read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is an eloquent and unapologetic feminist who speaks and writes with incredible clarity about how and why gender matters.

 

Girl Up by Laura Bates – The tagline for this one is “kick ass, claim your woman card, and crush everyday sexism”. Need I say  more?

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Looking for some Moxie anthems? Here’s Jennifer’s very own super rad Riot Grrrl playlist!

“Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill

“Freewheel” by Team Dresch

“Dream Number Nine” by Big Joanie

“Stuck Here Again” by L7

“Mujer Moderna” by Fea

“Gimme Brains” by Bratmobile

“Oh Bondage Up Yours” by X-RaySpex

 

And, a documentary, for when you’re taking a break from that stack of fabulous books:

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

 

Let’s Get Loud! “Figure out where your hearts are and go for it!”

Ready to take action?  Here are a few recommendations straight from Jennifer Mathieu – “resources that support an intersectional feminist viewpoint and welcome all ladies, including girls of color, girls with disabilities, queer girls, and transgender girls.”

 

feministing.com – an online community run by and for young feminists. Offers “sharp uncompromising analysis” with the goal of inspiring people to make real-world feminist change.

 

therepresentationproject.org – Inspiring individuals and communities to create a world free from gender stereotypes and social injustices

 

moxiegirlsfightback.com – Jennifer Mathieu’s own tumbler with so much good stuff, including a step-by-step guide to starting a Feminist Club at your own school.

 

 

(Let’s Pause for Gratitude) “If It Has Helped Make Positive Change in the World…”

Oh, Jennifer! It SO has. This book could not have come into our lives at a better time.  As women step forward and speak out, and as good men stand in support of them, we all are so grateful to have Vivi, Seth, Lucy, Kiera and all those Moxie girls & allies to show us how empowering it is to join this fight!

 

Let us go forth, walk out, fight back, and #ReadForChange!

And if you’re hoping to go forth and read a free signed copy of Moxie AND some moxie swag, here’s a link to the giveaway. US only! We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt March 1!

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season (available 2/20/18). A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

Book Review: Flight Season by Marie Marquardt

Publisher’s description

flightFrom Marie Marquardt, the author of Dream Things True and The Radius of Us, comes a story of two teenagers learning what to hold on to, what to let go of, and that sometimes love gets in the way of our plans.

Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way.

Written in alternating first person from the perspectives of all three characters, Flight Season is a story about discovering what’s really worth holding onto, learning how to let go of the rest, and that one crazy summer that changes your life forever.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I am always a fan of slightly older YA characters, as we don’t see a ton of them. I was pleased to see that this novel takes place the summer after Vivi’s first year of college, and I bet teen readers will be drawn to that, too.

Vivi graduated high school as valedictorian, with a 4.9 GPA, and headed to Yale. Now, one year later, her life is a mess. She’s on academic probation and desperately needs this summer internship at a university hospital if she has any hope of remaining a student at Yale. Things are not off to an auspicious start, as Vivi realizes she has a “weak constitution” and can’t stand the sight of any bodily fluids or medical procedures. That might complicate her whole plan to become a doctor. She and her mother are staying in Florida at a friend’s beach house. Her mother bills it as a fun change of scenery, something they both need, in light of Vivi’s dad’s recent death. But it’s more than that: since his death, her mother has fallen apart. She hasn’t been paying the bills and they basically have no money left. Suddenly Vivi, who has never wanted for anything, has to come to terms with the reality of their new situation and get a paying job in addition to her internship.

Then there’s the issue of TJ. They work together at the hospital and Vivi finds him both completely frustrating and totally attractive. TJ juggles the hospital with studying to be a nurse and working at his family’s Brazilian restaurant. Circumstances put them together more than they expected to be and make them unable to deny what is unfolding between them.

The third narrator of the story,  Ángel Solis, is a Guatemalan teenager in the hospital with a heart infection. Ángel helps bring TJ and Vivi together, and all three come to learn more about each other, their backgrounds, their differences, and their similarities.

This moving, well-written story examines tough topics like grief, loss, immigration, privilege, and illness. It’s a slow-burn romance, but also a great and lovely look at friendship. Complex, beautiful, heartbreaking, and surprisingly joyful, this enjoyable read successfully presents three narrators who have such standout voices and bring so much to the story and one another’s lives. A great read. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781250107015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: 02/20/2018

 

Book Review: The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman

Publisher’s description

Bugs, of all kinds, were considered to be “born of mud” and to be “beasts of the devil.” Why would anyone, let alone a girl, want to study and observe them?

One of the first naturalists to observe live insects directly, Maria Sibylla Merian was also one of the first to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly. In this visual nonfiction biography, richly illustrated throughout with full-color original paintings by Merian herself, the Newbery Honor–winning author Joyce Sidman paints her own picture of one of the first female entomologists and a woman who flouted convention in the pursuit of knowledge and her passion for insects.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

girl whoThis is a stunningly beautiful book about a woman I knew nothing about. Great for a 5th-7th grade audience.

Maria Merian had always been curious. Insects fascinated her. Her father ran a publishing shop, so young Maria was always surrounded by intellectuals, explorers, and free-thinkers at the shop. When Maria was only three, her father died. Her mother remarried, this time to an artist whose specialty was painting ornamental flowers. He took the time to teach Maria how to draw. Flowers and other plants filled their home and garden, and so did insects. At this time, people were unsure of the origin of insects, believing they spontaneously generated. Maria took it upon herself to study these insects, trying to figure out how they were created, birthed, and what changes they underwent. Despite gender restrictions at the time, and having to focus on things like running a household and preparing to be married young, Maria continued her studies and her art. She helped her husband open an engraving and publishing firm, where they published books of Maria’s flower and insect prints. Word spread about her insect collection, with people bringing her specimens to study. Her new book focused entirely on insects and refuted the idea that they spontaneously generate. Maria continued to learn, collect, and paint, eventually working independently as an artist and a businesswoman.

Though I wasn’t at all familiar with her before this book, I’m totally fascinated by the boundaries she traversed to pursue her passion. She was truly doing groundbreaking work. Aside from the main narrative about Maria’s life, there is ample information about other things of the era (religion, art, women in the workforce, witch hunts). There are also photos, engravings, maps, and paintings in the book, include a great many paintings and prints done by Maria. A glossary, timeline, quote sources, bibliography, and index round out this utterly compelling and gorgeous look at a pioneer of science. A great addition for all middle school collections. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780544717138
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 02/20/2018

Book Review: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Publisher’s description

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride—or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia—the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances—one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

princeI so enjoyed this graphic novel.

Crown Prince Sebastian of Belgium doesn’t always feel like a prince. Some days, he looks at himself in the mirror, wearing his traditional “boy” clothes, and feels just fine. Other days, that doesn’t feel right at all. He’d rather wear dresses and feel like a princess. He’s completely uninterested in finding a wife (something his parents are fixated on). He’s 16 and harboring this secret—he doesn’t exactly feel ready for a relationship, where he’d likely need to reveal parts of himself that he isn’t yet ready to. Instead, he hangs with his new seamstress (and new best friend) Frances, who barely blinks when she learns her new client is a prince wanting to wear dresses. She’s just excited to make some wild designs and maybe be discovered. Sebastian dons her dresses and enjoys a nightlife as the popular, trend-setting Lady Crystallia. He appears happier than he’s ever been, but he still has to deal with the fact that his parents are on a wife-hunt and that he’s living a secret life. When Frances’s designs do get her noticed, she finds herself possibly getting the break of a lifetime. But pursuing her dreams may mean Lady Crystallia’s real identity getting out, a risk that Sebastian can’t take.

Sebastian’s story is, at times, difficult to read. Living a secret life, hiding who he is, is both heartbreaking and exhausting. He’s unhappy and lives in fear. He is so certain he won’t be accepted. The story also includes a pretty unpleasant scene of him being outed. That said, it’s important to know that Sebastian is eventually embraced and accepted by his family and friends, even once they know the truth. The scene surrounding this moment, a fashion show, is pretty epic. Readers who may feel some of the same self-loathing, secrecy, and fear especially need to see this happy resolution. Wang’s gorgeous artwork is well suited to depict a story filled with decadence and high fashion. The characters are so expressive and dynamic—we see Sebastian absolutely come live as his alter ego, Lady Crystallia, and generally appear so miserable when he’s out of those beautiful dresses. Though their relationship has some growing pains, the supportive and loving friendship between Frances and Sebastian is lovely. Fans of graphic novels will be drawn in by the lush and lively art. The strong storytelling and fantastic characters will keep readers engaged, making sure they pay attention to all of the details in the art that add to the story. Though Sebastian’s road to being able to show his real self isn’t easy, it’s wonderful to see him loved, embraced, and supported in the end. Let’s hear it for happy endings! 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781626723634
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: 02/13/2018

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA February 2018

tltbutton7It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.  The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents), as well as anthologies that include LGBTQIA+ stories. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers February 2018 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (January 2018 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list and am working on one for 2018. I’m happy to send you the list if you’re interested. Tweet at me or email me to request the list. I’m amanda DOT macgregor AT gmail DOT com.

Looking for more information on LGBTQIA+ books or issues? Check out the hashtag here on TLT and go visit YA Pride and LGBTQ Reads, two phenomenal resources. 

 

February 2018

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

From the critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe comes a mind-bending, riveting novel about a teen who was born to a virgin mother and realizes she has the power to heal—but that power comes at a huge cost.

Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.

This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.

As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.

 

last to letThe Last to Let Go by Amber Smith (ISBN-13: 9781481480734 Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Publication date: 02/06/2018)

A twisted tragedy leaves Brooke and her siblings on their own in this provocative new novel from the New York Timesbestselling author of The Way I Used To Be.

How do you let go of something you’ve never had?

Junior year for Brooke Winters is supposed to be about change. She’s transferring schools, starting fresh, and making plans for college so she can finally leave her hometown, her family, and her past behind.

But all of her dreams are shattered one hot summer afternoon when her mother is arrested for killing Brooke’s abusive father. No one really knows what happened that day, if it was premeditated or self-defense, whether it was right or wrong. And now Brooke and her siblings are on their own.

In a year of firsts—the first year without parents, first love, first heartbreak, and her first taste of freedom—Brooke must confront the shadow of her family’s violence and dysfunction, as she struggles to embrace her identity, finds her true place in the world, and learns how to let go.

 

all we can doAll We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson (ISBN-13: 9780448494111 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/06/2018)

Debut author and Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson makes your heart stop and time stand still in his extraordinary and life-affirming novel that’s perfect for fans of If I Stay and We All Looked Up.

In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in the waiting room of Massachusetts General Hospital:

Siblings Jason and Alexa have already experienced enough grief for a lifetime, so in this moment of confusion and despair, Alexa hopes that she can look to her brother for support. But a secret Jason has been keeping from his sister threatens to tear the siblings apart…right when they need each other most.

Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend, Aimee, who was on a bus with her theater group when the bridge went down. Their relationship has been rocky, but Scott knows that if he can just see Aimee one more time, if she can just make it through this ordeal and he can tell her he loves her, everything will be all right.

And then there’s Skyler, whose sister Kate—the sister who is more like a mother, the sister who is basically Skyler’s everything—was crossing the bridge when it collapsed. As the minutes tick by without a word from the hospital staff, Skyler is left to wonder how she can possibly move through life without the one person who makes her feel strong when she’s at her weakest.

In his riveting, achingly beautiful debut, Richard Lawson guides readers through an emotional and life-changing night as these teens are forced to face the reality of their pasts…and the prospect of very different futures.

 

not todayNot Today by MC Lee (ISBN-13: 9781640801837 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 02/06/2018)

After the death of his older brother in Iraq, Emmett Callaghan’s mother cracked under the stress and abandoned the family—saddling sixteen-year-old Emmett with the care of a father suffering from worsening dementia. Poor in a town where the lines between the privileged and the struggling are sharp and unmovable, Emmett has nowhere to turn, and he cannot let the authorities know his mother is no longer in the picture.

Then a light shines into his bleak life with the arrival of Noah Davis. Mixed race, liberal, worldly, and openly gay, Noah is like no one else in conservative Whitmore—and like no one Emmett’s ever met. Emmett is helpless to keep Noah and the happiness and support he offers out of Emmett’s dark and hidden world. But when secrets start to surface, will the obstacles the two young men face be more than love and good intentions can overcome?

 

princeThe Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (ISBN-13: 9781626723634 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 02/13/2018)

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride—or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia—the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances—one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

 

backstagersThe Backstagers Vol. 2 by George Pérez (ISBN-13: 9781684150571 Publisher: BOOM! Box Publication date: 02/13/2018)

All the world’s a stage . . . but what happens behind the curtain is pure magic—literally!

Jory and the rest of the Backstagers have one goal this semester: to put on the best show their town’s ever seen. But best laid plans aren’t easy to achieve when there’s an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain! When one of the actors suddenly goes missing, the Backstagers must band together to save their comrade and maintain the natural balance of . . . theater.

James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Woods) and artist Rian Sygh (Munchkin, Stolen Forest) explore what it means to be an outcast looking to find one’s place in an earnest story of friendship and self-expression.

 

snowsistersSnowsisters, by Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick (ISBN-13: 9781945053528 Publisher: Duet Publication date: 02/15/2018)

High school students—Soph, who attends private school in Manhattan, and Tess, a public school student who lives on a dairy farm in New Hampshire—are thrown together as roommates at a week-long writing conference. As they get to know each other and the other young women, both Soph and Tess discover unexpected truths about friendship, their craft, and how to hold fast to their convictions while opening their hearts to love.

 

 

 

 

lumberjanesLumberjanes, Volume 8: Stone Cold by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Carey Pietsch (ISBN-13: 9781684151325 Publisher: BOOM! Box Publication date: 02/20/2018)

Five best friends at summer camp take friendship to the max when they team up to defeat the strange forces lurking within the surrounding forest.

Excited to have Barney starting their first week at the camp, the Roanokes run over to the Zodiac cabin, only to find everyone turned to stone! Between strange shadows and Diane being back, it looks like April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are going to have their hands full trying to find a cure for their friends . . . as long as they don’t look the wrong thing in the eye first.

This New York Times bestseller and multiple Eisner Award-winning series is a story of friendship, hardcore lady-types, and kicking a lot of butt. Don’t miss out on the continued adventures of the Lumberjanes written by Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh (Super Cakes) with stories illustrated by Carey Pietsch (Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift).

 

luminosityLuminosity by Annabelle Jay (ISBN-13: 9781640801813 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 02/20/2018)

The Sun Dragon: Book Five

In the final book of The Sun Dragon Series, teenager Luke is keeping a big secret: on the inside, she’s really a girl. However, after she’s attacked by an incubus who might be her father, Luke learns of the powers that come with such a lineage, and her life gets even more complicated. As the last Artist in the universe, she must work with the wizard Council and the dragon clan leaders to defeat the evil incubi before they consume the entire world, all while struggling to dump her accidental girlfriend, managing her love for an Igreefee royal who sees her as a friend, and deciding whether it’s time to transition into the girl she knows she is.

An epic finish to the journey started with Allanah’s first Sun Dragon, Luminosity will bring all of your favorite dragons, wizards, sorceresses, and birds together for one last battle that will decide the fate of them all.

 

people like usPeople Like Us by Dana Mele (ISBN-13: 9781524741709 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers GroupPublication date: 02/27/2018)

A sharp psychological thriller that’s just right for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and Pretty Little Liars–this story will seduce, mislead, and finally, betray you.

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple. The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.

Debut author Dana Mele has written a taut, sophisticated suspense novel that readers will tear through and not stop talking about.

 

heart of ironHeart of Iron by Ashley Poston (ISBN-13: 9780062652850 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 02/27/2018)

An action-packed tale full of romance, royalty, and adventure, inspired by the story of Anastasia. Perfect for fans of Six of Crows, Cinder, and the cult classic television show Firefly.

Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?

 

all outAll Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell (ISBN-13: 9781335470454 Publisher: Harlequin Publication date: 02/27/2018)

Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.

From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

 

one trueOne True Way by Shannon Hitchcock (ISBN-13: 9781338181722 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 02/27/2018)

Welcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Presented in the voice of a premier storyteller, One True Waysheds exquisite light on what it means to be different, while at the same time being wholly true to oneself. Through the lives and influences of two girls, readers come to see that love is love is love. Set against the backdrop of history and politics that surrounded gay rights in the 1970s South, this novel is a thoughtful, eye-opening look at tolerance, acceptance, and change, and will widen the hearts of all readers.

 

 

hopeHope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration by Rose Brock (ISBN-13: 9781524741679 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/27/2018)

Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and personal stories that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Angie Thomas, Marie Lu, Nicola Yoon, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Renée Ahdieh, and many more!

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and—in some cases—even hopeless. The teens of today are the caretakers of tomorrow, and yet it’s difficult for many to find joy or comfort in such a turbulent society. But in trying times, words are power.

Some of today’s most influential young adult authors come together in this highly personal collection of essays and original stories that offer moments of light in the darkness, and show that hope is a decision we all can make.

Like a modern day Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for TeensHope Nation acknowledges the pain and offers words of encouragement.

Authors include: Atia Abawi, Renee Ahdieh, Libba Bray, Howard Bryant, Ally Carter, Ally Condie, Christina Diaz Gonzales, Gayle Forman, Romina Garber, I. W. Gregario, Kate Hart, Bendan Kiely, David Levithan, Alex London, Marie Lu, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, Aisha Saeed, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Jeff Zentner, and Nicola Yoon.

Book Review: Still Here by Rowan Blanchard

Publisher’s description

still hereHollywood rising star and passionate humanitarian Rowan Blanchard shares her beloved personal scrapbook with the world.

Featuring art and writing from her favorite photographers, poets, and friends alongside her own journal entries and snapshots, STILL HERE is an unedited look at Rowan Blanchard’s inner life—and a poignant representation of teen life in general. Alongside Rowan’s own raw diary entries, poems, and personal photos are taped in letters, photos, and poems from her friends who inspire her, like the poet rupi kaur, photographer Gia Coppola, and writer Jenny Zhang, among others. The result is an intimate portrayal of modern girlhood and a thoughtful reflection on what it means to be a teenager in today’s world.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This is less of a review and more of a “hey, this book exists and you need it or know teenagers who need it.” Given that this is basically Blanchard’s diary, a “review” doesn’t feel totally right. But a shout-out about how honest, raw, powerful, and empowering this is? That does feel right.

I’m 40, but my teenage self is never far from my brain, especially given the YA lit world I live in. I kept a diary almost every day from 4th grade until I was in graduate school. I spent my teenage years obsessively reading and producing zines (for a real deep dive into Teen Amanda, check out that zines link). Opening up Blanchard’s book—part diary, part zine, part scrapbook—felt VERY familiar. I read it and thought, YES, this was me. This was all my friends. With one set of photographs, the words “I’m sore from all this growing” are written. What a totally accurate view of adolescence—heck, of personhood in general. Collected here are photographs, art, bits of writing that feel very random (the types of things you scrawl in a notebook in a moment of joy or confusion or heartache), longer form diary entries, poems, and so much more. My only complaint is that Blanchard includes the works of several people she admires/who inspire her, but you have to go to an index in the back to see who did each piece. I would’ve liked the attributions on the page, just to help me see more easily who wrote what/what Blanchard didn’t write.

Passionate, political, and unfiltered, this book is a great peek into the life of Blanchard and her friends. Many readers will not only relate, but find comfort in seeing others who scrawl their pain, joy, fear, and hope across the page. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780448494661
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/13/2018

New and forthcoming YA and MG to know about

tltbutton7Books, books, and more books! My neighbors probably wonder what exactly goes on over here at the house where UPS of FedEx stops nearly every day. Beyond the people I work with and the people this blog has led me to get to know, by far the best aspect of blogging for TLT is the constant influx of books. All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader.The following are the books that have arrived here in the past few weeks. I will be reviewing many of them in the upcoming months on TLT. See something you’ve already read and need to make sure I don’t skip? Or something you’re super excited to read when it comes out? Let me know with a comment here or on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.All descriptions from the publishers.

 

 

truly deviousTruly Devious (Truly Devious Series #1) by Maureen Johnson (ISBN-13: 9780062338051 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 01/16/2018)

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

 

 

still hereStill Here by Rowan Blanchard (ISBN-13: 9780448494661 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/13/2018)

Hollywood rising star and passionate humanitarian Rowan Blanchard shares her beloved personal scrapbook with the world.

Featuring art and writing from her favorite photographers, poets, and friends alongside her own journal entries and snapshots, STILL HERE is an unedited look at Rowan Blanchard’s inner life—and a poignant representation of teen life in general. Alongside Rowan’s own raw diary entries, poems, and personal photos are taped in letters, photos, and poems from her friends who inspire her, like the poet rupi kaur, photographer Gia Coppola, and writer Jenny Zhang, among others. The result is an intimate portrayal of modern girlhood and a thoughtful reflection on what it means to be a teenager in today’s world.

 

when lightWhen Light Left Us by Leah Thomas (ISBN-13: 9781681191812 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 02/13/2018)

When the Vasquez siblings’ father left, it seemed nothing could remedy the absence in their lives . . . until a shimmering figure named Luz appeared in the canyon behind their house.

Luz filled the void. He shot hoops with seventeen-year-old Hank’s hands. He showed fourteen-year-old Ana cinematic beauty behind her eyelids. He spoke kindly to eight-year-old Milo. But then Luz left, too, and he took something from each of them. As a new school year begins, Hank, Ana, and Milo must carry on as if an alien presence never altered them. But how can they ever feel close to other people again when Luz changed everything about how they see the world and themselves?

In an imaginative and heartfelt exploration of human–and non-human–nature, Leah Thomas champions the unyielding bonds between family and true friends.

 

 

one trueOne True Way by Shannon Hitchcock (ISBN-13: 9781338181722 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 02/27/2018)

Welcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Presented in the voice of a premier storyteller, One True Waysheds exquisite light on what it means to be different, while at the same time being wholly true to oneself. Through the lives and influences of two girls, readers come to see that love is love is love. Set against the backdrop of history and politics that surrounded gay rights in the 1970s South, this novel is a thoughtful, eye-opening look at tolerance, acceptance, and change, and will widen the hearts of all readers.

 

 

 

hope nationHope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock (ISBN-13: 9781524741679 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/27/2018)

Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and personal stories that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Angie Thomas, Marie Lu, James Dashner, Nicola Yoon, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Renée Ahdieh, and many more!

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and—in some cases—even hopeless. The teens of today are the caretakers of tomorrow, and yet it’s difficult for many to find joy or comfort in such a turbulent society. But in trying times, words are power.

Some of today’s most influential young adult authors come together in this highly personal collection of essays and original stories that offer moments of light in the darkness, and show that hope is a decision we all can make.

Like a modern day Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for TeensHope Nation acknowledges the pain and offers words of encouragement.

Authors include: Atia Abawi, Renee Ahdieh, Libba Bray, Howard Bryant, Ally Carter, Ally Condie, James Dashner, Christina Diaz Gonzales, Gayle Forman, Romina Garber, I. W. Gregario, Kate Hart, Bendan Kiely, David Levithan, Alex London, Marie Lu, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, Aisha Saeed, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Jeff Zentner, and Nicola Yoon.

 

 

and she wasAnd She Was by Jessica Verdi (ISBN-13: 9781338150537 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 03/27/2018)

Dara’s lived a sheltered life with her single mom, Mellie. Now, at eighteen, she’s dreaming of more. When Dara digs up her never-before-seen birth certificate, her world implodes. Why are two strangers listed as her parents?

Dara confronts her mother, and is stunned by what she learns: Mellie is transgender. The unfamiliar name listed under “father”? That’s Mellie. She transitioned when Dara was a baby, after Dara’s birth mother died. She changed her name, started over.

But Dara still has more questions than answers. Reeling, she sets off on an impromptu road trip with her best guy friend, Sam, in tow. She is determined to find the extended family she’s never even met. What she does discover — and what her mother reveals, piece by piece, over emails — will challenge and change Dara more than she can imagine.

This is a gorgeous, timely, and essential novel about the importance of being our true selves. The back matter includes an author’s note and resources for readers.

 

 

live inLive in Infamy: A companion to The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond (ISBN-13: 9781338111095 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 03/27/2018)

In the eighty years since the Axis powers won World War II with their genetically engineered super soldiers, America has changed drastically in the hands of the unforgiving victors. But there are still those who aspire to what the country used to stand for: freedom for all.

In the Western American Territories, Chinese American Ren Cabot has lost nearly everything to Imperial Japan’s rule. After the public execution of his mom for treason five years ago, Ren lives under constant scrutiny of the Empire, afraid that one wrong step will rip apart what remains of his family for good. However, when a chance encounter with a resistance group offers Ren an opportunity to save lives and quite possibly topple the government, he agrees to their deadly plot. But his role will lead him straight into the heart of the enemy, and if caught, death would be a much better fate than what the Empire will do to him . . .

 

i have lostI Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman (ISBN-13: 9780425290774 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/27/2018)

A powerful display of empathy and friendship from the #1 New York Times Bestselling author of If I Stay.

Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from home to find the boy that he loves, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City after a family tragedy leaves him isolated on the outskirts of Washington state. After the three of them collide in Central Park, they slowly reveal the parts of their past that they haven’t been able to confront, and together, they find their way back to who they’re supposed to be.

Told over the course of a single day from three different perspectives, Gayle Forman’s newest novel about the power of friendship and being true to who you are is filled with the elegant prose that her fans have come to know and love.

 

summer of jordiThe Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (ISBN-13: 9781510727663 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication date: 04/03/2018)

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She’s also unwittingly become friends with Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in LA; she’s struggling to prove to her mother—the city’s celebrity health nut—that she’s perfectly content with who she is; and she’s desperately trying to remain behind the scenes and off-camera where she feels she belongs, when she hangs out with Jordi, who documents her entire life in photographs.

Though crazy, summer’s been fun, and just as Abby starts to feel like she’s no longer the sidekick in her own life anymore, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight for the first time, and it feels more like a betrayal rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?

 

 

antipodesAntipodes by Michele Bacon (ISBN-13: 9781510723610 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication date: 04/03/2018)

When Erin Cerise steps off her plane in Christchurch, New Zealand, she is focused intently on her mission: do something unique that will erase the mess she made of her life on her 17th birthday. She’s already lost her swim team captainship, her boyfriend Ben, and her reputation. Her mother is certain studying abroad will regain Erin’s chances of a good future. Once Erin sees her uninspiring host family and city, though, she’s not so sure.

Before Christchurch, Erin wasn’t always intense and focused. Years ago, a mission sounded like a fun adventure, and the only ivy she cared about was the stuff growing around her grandparents’ back porch at their peaceful Upper Peninsula home. When had her priorities gone upside down?

Now Erin balks at NZ’s itchy school uniforms, cold houses, and her hosts’ utter inability to pronounce her name correctly. Christchurch does boast amazing rock climbing, gorgeous scenery, and at least one guy who could make her forget Ben if she lets him. With months ahead of her, Erin slowly begins to draw on the years behind her, one step back into her memories at a time. As she rebuilds her life from the other side of the world, she finds that when life turns your world upside down and you’re far from home, every way you move takes you closer to where you came from.

 

 

 

love and warLove & War: An Alex & Eliza Story by Melissa de la Cruz (ISBN-13: 9781524739652 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/17/2018)

The thrilling romance of young Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler continues in the sizzling sequel to the New York Times bestselling Alex & Eliza: A Love Story

1781. Albany, New York.

As the war for American independence rages on, Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler begin their new life as a married couple. Still, Alex is as determined as ever to prove his mettle and secure his legacy . . . even if that means leaving his beloved Eliza behind to join the front lines at the Battle of Yorktown. But when the war unexpectedly arrives on Eliza’s doorstep, she must fight for a better future—for their fledgling country and for her marriage.

Yet even after the Revolution comes to its historic close, Alex and Eliza’s happily-ever-after is threatened. Eliza struggles to build a home in the hustle and bustle of New York City just as Alex’s burgeoning law practice brings him up against his greatest rival—the ambitious young lawyer Aaron Burr. And with Alex’s star on the rise, Eliza can’t help but feel neglected by a husband who seems to have time for everyone but her. Torn apart by new trials and temptations, can Alex and Eliza’s epic love survive life in the big city?

The battles are just beginning in the sumptuous sequel to Melissa de la Cruz’s New York Times bestselling Alex & Eliza: A Love Story.

 

 

stay sweetStay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian (ISBN-13: 9781481452328 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 04/24/2018)

From the author of The Last Boy and Girl in the World and The List comes a bold and sweet summer read about first love, feminism, and ice cream.

Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best for friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…

 

smoke thievesThe Smoke Thieves by Sally Green (SBN-13: 9780425290217 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/01/2018)

Unforgiveable betrayals, devious motives, and forbidden love collide in the first installment of internationally bestselling author Sally Green’s epic new fantasy series, perfect for Game of Thrones fans. 

In a land tinged with magic and a bustling trade in an illicit supernatural substance, destiny will intertwine the fates of five players:

A visionary princess determined to forge her own path.

An idealistic solider whose heart is at odds with his duty.

A streetwise hunter tracking the most dangerous prey.

A charming thief with a powerful hidden identity.

A loyal servant on a quest to avenge his kingdom.

All are driven by ambition, honor, and desperation on the cusp of war. But who will be left standing when the smoke clears?

 

 

smotheredSmothered by Autumn Chiklis (ISBN-13: 9781250150493 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publication date: 05/01/2018)

A humorous debut crossover young adult novel about what happens when entering the “real world” means moving back in with your mother, inspired by actress and celebrity Autumn Chiklis’ real life.

Eloise “Lou” Hansen is graduating from Columbia University summa cum laude, and she’s ready to conquer the world. Just a few minor problems: she has no job, no prospects, and she’s moving back into her childhood bedroom. Lou is grimly determined to stick to a rigorous schedule to get a job and get out of her parents’ house. Shelly “Mama Shell” Hansen, on the other hand, is ecstatic, and just as determined to keep her at home. Who else will help her hide her latest binge-shopping purchases from her husband, go to SoulCycle with her, and hold her hand during Botox shots?

Smothered is a hilarious roman à clef told via journal entries, text messages, emails, bills, receipts, tweets, doctor’s prescriptions, job applications and rejections, parking tickets, and pug pictures, chronicling the year that Lou moves back home after college. Told from Lou’s point-of-view, Smothered tells the story of two young(ish) women, just trying to get it right, and learning that just because we all grow up doesn’t mean we necessarily have to grow old. (After all, what is Juvaderm for?)

 

how i resistHow I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation by Tim Federle, Maureen Johnson (ISBN-13: 9781250168368 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publication date: 05/01/2018)

An all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA authors Tim Federle and Maureen Johnson.

Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they’re bound to inherit. They’re ready to stand up and be heard – but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?

How I Resist is the response, and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change. A collection of essays, songs, illustrations, and interviews about activism and hope, How I Resist features an all-star group of contributors, including, John Paul Brammer, Libba Bray, Lauren Duca, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, Alex Gino, Hebh Jamal, Malinda Lo, Dylan Marron, Hamilton star Javier Muñoz, Rosie O’Donnell, Junauda Petrus, Jodi Picoult, Jason Reynolds, Karuna Riazi, Maya Rupert, Dana Schwartz, Dan Sinker, Ali Stroker, Jonny Sun (aka @jonnysun), Sabaa Tahir, Shaina Taub, Daniel Watts, Jennifer Weiner, Jacqueline Woodson, and more, all edited and compiled by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson and Lambda-winning novelist Tim Federle.

In How I Resist, readers will find hope and support through voices that are at turns personal, funny, irreverent, and instructive. Not just for a young adult audience, this incredibly impactful collection will appeal to readers of all ages who are feeling adrift and looking for guidance.

How I Resist is the kind of book people will be discussing for years to come and a staple on bookshelves for generations.

 

ascentAscent by Roland Smith (ISBN-13: 9780544867598 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 05/08/2018 Series: A Peak Marcello Adventure Series)

Peak Marcello goes to Mayanmar to climb one of the most isolated mountains in the world in this thrilling new novel from bestselling author Roland Smith.

After conquering the mountains in Afghanistan, Peak Marcello goes to Myanmar, a country that has been in the grips of a brutal military regime for more than fifty years, to visit Alessia. When he’s invited to climb Hkakabo Razi, one of the most isolated mountains in the world, Peak can’t pass up the opportunity. But getting to the mountain will involve a four-week trek through tropical rainforests rife with hazards—from venomous reptiles and leeches to corrupt police and military. In the end, summiting Hkakabo Razi may be the easiest thing Peak does.

 

 

moonriseMoonrise by Sarah Crossan (ISBN-13: 9781681193663 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 05/08/2018)

From Carnegie Award-winning author Sarah Crossan comes a poignant and thought-provoking novel that explores life, death, love and forgiveness.

Seventeen-year-old Joe hasn’t seen his brother in ten years. Ed didn’t walk out on the family, not exactly. It’s something more brutal.

Ed’s locked up — on death row.

Now his execution date has been set, and the clock is ticking. Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with his brother, no matter what other people think … and no matter whether Ed committed the crime. But did he? And does it matter, in the end?

This poignant, timely, heartbreaking novel asks big questions: What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye?

 

 

always neverAlways Never Yours by Austin Siegemund-Broka, Emily Wibberley (ISBN-13: 9780451479846 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/22/2018)

A contemporary teen romance about a girl finding herself, finding love, and finding her way into the spotlight.

Megan Harper is the girl before. All her exes find their one true love right after dating her. It’s not a curse or anything, it’s just the way things are. and Megan refuses to waste time feeling sorry for herself. Instead, she focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theater, and fulfilling her dream school’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible. But her plans quickly crumble when she’s cast as none other than Juliet—yes, that Juliet—in her high school’s production. It’s a nightmare. No—a disaster. Megan’s not an actress and she’s certainly not a Juliet. Then she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright who agrees to help Megan catch the eye of a sexy stagehand in exchange for help writing his new script. Between rehearsals and contending with her divided family, Megan begins to notice Owen—thoughtful, unconventional, and utterly unlike her exes, and wonders: shouldn’t a girl get to play the lead in her own love story?

 

macklerThe Universe Is Expanding and So Am I by Carolyn Mackler (ISBN-13: 9781681195995 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 05/29/2018)

From Printz Honoree Carolyn Mackler comes a story of what happens when the “happy ending” turns out to be less than perfect.

It’s been five months since sixteen-year-old Virginia Shreves thought her life was finally back on course: she has come to terms with who she is both inside and out, and she’s even started to rebuild her relationship with her older brother Byron, whose date-rape charge completely shattered everything.

But just as she’s getting used to the new normal, Virginia’s world turns upside down again. Sparks with boyfriend Froggy Welsh the Fourth fade, her best friend Shannon bombshells bad news, and then the police arrest Byron.

As Virginia struggles to cope, she meets Sebastian, an artist with his own baggage. The pair make a pact not to share their personal dramas. But secrets have a way of coming out, and theirs have the potential to ruin everything.

In this follow-up to the acclaimed The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, Carolyn Mackler brings Virginia’s story satisfyingly full circle in a hope-filled tale of forgiveness, love, friendship, and the beauty in life’s imperfections.

 

opposite of hereThe Opposite of Here by Tara Altebrando (ISBN-13: 9781681197067 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/05/2018)

Natalie’s parents are taking her and three best friends on a week-long cruise for her birthday—a sail-a-bration! Sigh.It’s also only been months since her boyfriend died in a tragic accident, and she wants to be anywhere but here. So she’s surprised when she meets a guy on the first night and feels a connection she’s never felt before. After a late-night talk on a secluded part of the ship, Natalie runs to her cabin for a change of clothes. But when she returns, he’s gone without a trace. And something he said makes her think he may have jumped. . . . What pulled her to him, and what pulled him away? Where else could he go, and. . . was he ever even there?

With her signature thrilling storytelling, the author of The Leaving and The Possible dives into the story of a girl coming back from grief, and her struggle to be present in a twisting mystery with a Hitchcock-inspired twist, high stakes, and deep secrets.

 

 

mariamMariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim (ISBN-13: 9780062445735 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/05/2018)
Three Pakistani-American teenagers, on a trip through the land of pork ribs, mechanical bulls, and Confederate flags. It’s going to be quite an adventure.

The summer after her freshman year of college, Mariam is looking forward to working and hanging out with her best friends: irrepressible and beautiful Ghazala, and religious but closeted Umar.

But when a scandalous photo of Ghaz appears on a billboard in Times Square, Mariam and Umar come up with a plan to rescue her from her furious parents. And what could be a better escape than a spontaneous road trip down to New Orleans?

 

 

 

whisperWhisper of the Tide by Sarah Tolcser (ISBN-13: 9781681192994 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/05/2018)

Caro and Markos have settled into a routine: Wake up, eat breakfast, and try to figure out who might attempt to assassinate Markos today . . . so the currents aren’t exactly calm. Markos is in constant danger, and his claim to the throne is shaky without the support of an army. But then a powerful Archon offers Markos the military might he needs in exchange for marrying his daughter. Markos and Caro must decide which is more important: their love for each other or the fate of Akhaia.

With shipwrecks, lost treasure, old and new enemies, dark magic, and breathtaking romance, Sarah Tolcser weaves another epic story about chasing your fate and charting your own course.

 

 

scream all nightScream All Night by Derek Milman (ISBN-13: 9780062665652 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/24/2018)

A darkly hilarious contemporary realistic young adult novel about growing up and finding your place in the world, perfect for fans of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Running With Scissors.

DARIO HEYWARD KNOWS ONE THING: He’s never going back to Moldavia Studios, the iconic castle that served as the set, studio, and home to the cast and crew of dozens of cult classic B-horror movies. It’s been three years since Dario’s even seen the place, after getting legally emancipated from his father, the infamous director of Moldavia’s creature features.

But then Dario’s brother invites him home to a mysterious ceremony involving his father and a tribute to his first film—The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue. Dario swears his homecoming will be a one-time visit. A way for him to get closure on his past—and reunite with Hayley, his first love and costar of Zombie Children of the Harvest Sun, a production fraught with real-life tragedy—and say good-bye for good. But the unthinkable happens—Dario gets sucked back into the twisted world of Moldavia and the horrors, both real and imagined, he’s left there.

With only months to rescue the sinking studio and everyone who has built their lives there, Dario must confront the demons of his past—and the uncertainties of his future. But can he escape the place that’s haunted him his whole life?

 

hereticsHeretics Anonymous by Katie Henry (ISBN-13: 9780062698872 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 08/07/2018)

The Breakfast Club meets Saved! in this hilarious and heartfelt YA debut by author Katie Henry about a nonbeliever in Catholic school who turns a secret support group, Heretics Anonymous, into a rebel group intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies one stunt at a time.

Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.

But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.

 

our stories our voicesOur Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America by Amy Reed, Julie Murphy, Sandhya Menon, Ellen Hopkins (ISBN-13: 9781534408999 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 08/14/2018)

From Amy Reed, Ellen Hopkins, Amber Smith, Sandhya Menon, and more of your favorite YA authors comes an anthology of essays that explore the diverse experiences of injustice, empowerment, and growing up female in America.

This collection of twenty-one essays from major YA authors—including award-winning and bestselling writers—touches on a powerful range of topics related to growing up female in today’s America, and the intersection with race, religion, and ethnicity. Sure to inspire hope and solidarity to anyone who reads it, Our Stories, Our Voices belongs on every young woman’s shelf.

This anthology features essays from Martha Brockenbrough, Jaye Robin Brown, Sona Charaipotra, Brandy Colbert, Somaiya Daud, Christine Day, Alexandra Duncan, Ilene Wong (I.W.) Gregorio, Maurene Goo. Ellen Hopkins, Stephanie Kuehnert, Nina LaCour, Anna-Marie LcLemore, Sandhya Menon, Hannah Moskowitz, Julie Murphy, Aisha Saeed, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Amber Smith, and Tracy Walker.

 

Book Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Publisher’s description

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth—that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

From debut author Gloria Chao comes a hilarious, heartfelt tale of how unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

american pandaI LOVED this book. It was on my list of books I’m most looking forward to this year and it totally delivered.

At only 17, Mei is a first-year pre-med student at MIT. Her Taiwanese immigrant parents should be proud of her. She should be excited to be in college and on the path to her career. Except her parents only sparingly dole out praise and Mei doesn’t actually want to be a doctor. Her debilitating fear of germs is one roadblock, sure, but it’s more that she just really has no interest in this career; she’d love to own a dance studio instead. But her parents pressure her and expect certain things. After all, all it took for her (now doctor) brother to be disowned was him falling in love with a Taiwanese-American woman who has endometriosis and may have trouble conceiving. Mei’s mother is endlessly critical of her (telling her that no man wants a panda—lazy, round, and silly—her body-shaming is incessant), micromanaging her life and making it clear that anything other than the plans her parents have laid out for her are unacceptable. Mei longs for freedom now that she’s in college, but it’s hard to achieve with your parents constantly checking in and criticizing.

 

 

Despite the pressures, Mei can’t help but live her own life, one that she has to keep secret from her judging parents. She dances, teaches dance, spends time doing things other than studying, shadows a doctor and HATES it, reconnects with her brother, and falls for the charismatic Darren Takahashi, a Japanese-American classmate. Keeping so many things secret is hard on Mei, who is struggling to figure out how to exist in multiple cultures, how to carve out her own life, and to figure out where her parents end and she begins. After years of convincing herself that what she wants doesn’t matter, that fulfilling her duties is what’s important (even if it makes her miserable), Mei begins to see there may be another path. But making her way along it won’t be easy.

 

Though the pacing was sometimes a little off (with extraneous scenes/characters that didn’t particularly move the story along), overall this was a fantastic read. Mei is a great character—funny, awkward, determined, and conflicted—and the plot of how to straddle cultures as a child of immigrants will appeal to many readers who can relate, as will the story of wanting to make your own choices but not being sure how to go about that. Mei’s voice is strong and determined, in spite of what her controlling parents have tried to impose. I loved seeing her begin to stand up for herself and surround herself with people who got to see who she truly was. I can’t wait to see more from Chao!

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781481499101
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 02/06/2018