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Book Review: Just a Girl by Carrie Mesrobian

Publisher’s description

just a girlTaking a hard look at the societal constraints on teenage girls, Morris Award nominee Carrie Mesrobian tells one girl’s story with bracing honesty and refreshing authenticity.

By her senior year of high school, Rianne has exhausted all the fun there is to have in small-town Wereford, Minnesota. Volleyball season is winding down, the parties feel tired, and now that she’s in a serious relationship with reformed player Luke Pinsky, her wild streak has ended. Not that she ever did anything worse than most guys in her school…but she knows what everyone thinks of her.

Including her parents. Divorced but now inexplicably living together again, Rianne wonders why they’re so quick to point out every bad choice she’s making when they can’t even act like adults—or have the decency to tell Rianne whether or not they’re getting back together. With an uncomfortable home life and her once-solid group of friends now dissolving, the reasons for sticking around after high school are few. So why is Rianne locking step when it comes to figuring out her future?

That’s not the only question Rianne can’t answer. Lately she’s been wondering why, when she has a perfect-on-paper boyfriend, she wants anything but. Or how it is that Sergei, a broken-English-speaking Russian, understands her better than anyone who’s known her all her life? And—perhaps the most troubling question—why has Rianne gotten stuck with an “easy girl” reputation for doing the same exact things as guys without any judgment?

Carrie Mesrobian, acclaimed author of Sex & Violence and Cut Both Ways, sets fire to the unfair stereotypes and contradictions that persist even in the twenty-first century.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Here are things I consistently like about Carrie’s books: the plots are really just about the day-to-day lives of teenagers (we all know by now I’m a big fan of plots that don’t extend a ton between just talking/daily lives/figuring out what life as a teenager means—you know, that small plot); the endings never tie everything up neatly or definitively; the teenagers talk and act like actual teenagers; the books are set in Minnesota. Given that I grew up in the same area as Carrie at roughly the same time, I always so enjoy the way she captures the feeling of small-town Minnesota and like being able to recognize the details of places and references.

 

Rianne spends a lot of time thinking perhaps she should behave one way and then doing the opposite. She doesn’t think of herself as a “good girl,” whatever that means (we know what that means), and often tries to convince herself to behave better… maybe later. She’s bored and restless and aimless. Welcome to the end of senior year, right? Her friendships aren’t as strong as they once were, her long-divorced parents are apparently now dating each other, and somehow Luke, the boy she’s been hooking up with, thinks he wants to settle down with her. At a time in her life when the big question is “what’s next?” Rianne doesn’t seem to have any answers that actually seem appealing. Move to St. Paul just because some of her friends are going there? Find an apartment in boring Wereford? Move in with Luke? It all seems to sound awful to Rianne. Her mother has basically washed her hands of trying to guide Rianne, telling her once graduation happens, she’s out on her own. Though Rianne has always done her own thing with little regard for consequences, her impending total freedom doesn’t seem exciting or appealing—it just seems terrifyingly uncertain and sort of depressing. She doesn’t really talk to anyone about any of this. Her friends have their own drama going on, she’s never confided much in her parents, and Luke, though attentive and fun, isn’t someone she really feels any big connection to. She can’t even bring herself to call him her boyfriend and is pretty freaked out that he calls her his girlfriend. She’s constantly pretending with him, which she knows. She continues to date Luke, leaving him in the dark about her potential plans—or lack of plans—and also leaving him in the dark about Sergei, the older Russian college student she’s hooking up with. He seems like the only person she really feels any real connection with, though even that is marked by her passivity and inability to decide her life for herself. Rianne is a complex character. Though on the surface she seems bold and confident, she’s actually really insecure. Losing the stability she’s had (a solid friend group, an understanding of her family unit, a predictable but secure life in Wereford) is throwing her for a loop and it’s not clear if she will be able to recover and take some control over her life or just be led where others take her. Readers worrying about their own uncertain futures will particularly relate to Rianne. A realistic but uneasy look at choices, expectations, independence, and everything else that comes with the end of high school. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062349910

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 03/28/2017

Book Review: Armstrong and Charlie by Steven B. Frank

Publisher’s description

armstrongCharlie isn’t looking forward to sixth grade. If he starts sixth grade, chances are he’ll finish it. And when he does, he’ll grow older than the brother he recently lost. Armstrong isn’t looking forward to sixth grade, either. When his parents sign him up for Opportunity Busing to a white school in the Hollywood Hills, all he wants to know is “What time in the morning will my alarm clock have the opportunity to ring?” When these two land at the same desk, it’s the Rules Boy next to the Rebel, a boy who lost a brother elbow-to-elbow with a boy who longs for one.
From September to June, arms will wrestle, fists will fly, and bottles will spin. There’ll be Ho Hos spiked with hot sauce, sleepovers, boy talk about girls, and a little guidance from the stars.
Set in Los Angeles in the 1970s, Armstrong and Charlie is the hilarious, heartwarming tale of two boys from opposite worlds. Different, yet the same.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This was a fantastic book. While at its heart it’s about serious issues–racism, busing, and school integration–it’s also a book full of humor and is narrated by two characters with great, stand-out voices. Set in 1974 and 1975, Armstrong’s parents sign him up to be bused out of his neighborhood  from his all-black school in South Central LA to an, until now, all-white school, Wonderland, in the Hollywood Hills. Charlie, who is Jewish, is puzzled why suddenly everyone else in his neighborhood is leaving Wonderland to attend private schools or schools out of the area. A neighbor kid tells Charlie that Wonderland is “going downhill” and their parents don’t want them there. Charlie says those parents are racist, but Charlie’s dad says they’re just doing what they think is right for their kids. Charlie’s parents are doing the same.

 

As you might imagine, the integration isn’t seamless and Armstrong, who has a history of fights, is quick to be confrontational and bristles easily. Charlie and Armstrong share a table and, while they don’t get along well at first, end up becoming friends. But the path to that genuine friendship involves fights, theft, and what often feels like reluctant attempts to actually get to know each other. Along the way, the boys are helped out by their loving, compassionate families. Charlie has always been raised to stand up against injustice. His mother (currently lost in a fog of grief over the recent death of Charlie’s brother) is part of a consciousness-raising group. When Armstrong steals from Charlie’s lunch and Charlie gets mad, his father encourages him to stop and think for a second about why Armstrong stole. Armstrong also has the guidance of Mr. Khalil, his 95-year-old neighbor. The road to their friendship isn’t always easy, but then again, whose is? 

 

Armstrong and Charlie is a funny and thoughtful look at differences, friendship, family, and the changing times of the 1970s. This historical fiction story has broad appeal. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780544826083

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: 03/07/2017

#SJYALit: If You Don’t Get It, You Won’t Get It Right, a guest post by Shaun David Hutchinson

sjyalitI tell stories because the real world sucked for me when I was a teen.  No.  Sucked doesn’t even begin to cover it.  The real world nearly killed me.  The real world told me that I was going to hell because I was gay.  It told me I would die of AIDS or have the crap kicked out of me or spend my life as an unfulfilled sex addict or as someone’s campy gay best friend without a real life of my own.  I tried to escape the real world by reaching out to books and movies and television, but found only the same poison that infected reality.

 

More and more I’m seeing members of the YA community (led primarily by women of color) standing against and calling out books that feature harmful representation of race or gender or sexuality or disability.  Rather than allowing these books to continue to be published unchallenged, they’re taking a stand and shining a light on these problematic books and the system that continues to publish them.  At the same time, within minutes of someone calling out a book, someone else will come along and say, “What’s the big deal? It’s only fiction.”  You can set your watch by it. I promise.

 

It’s only fiction, right?  I can’t harm anyone, right?  Wrong.  We live in a big world, but as we’re growing up we often see only a small part of it.  That small part becomes our entire world.  We look to the people around us, the friends and family and schoolmates that inhabit our worlds, to catch glimpses of our possible futures.  And we use literature and movies and television as telescopes to view life outside of our worlds.  For many people, the future looks limitless.  They see they can be doctors or computer engineers or painters or world travelers.  Books and other artistic mediums help expand their worlds and show them infinite possibilities.

 

For kids from marginalized groups, their worlds begin much smaller.  When I came out, I knew exactly two gay people.  One was the best friend of my mother who had died of AIDS.  The other was my brother and, at the time, he wasn’t a particularly great example of what growing up gay could look like.  Matthew Shepard had been brutally tortured and murdered; Bill Clinton had signed the Defense Against Marriage Act, declaring I did not have the right to marry a member of the same sex; the U.S. military was actively discharging homosexual soldiers despite the heinous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule.  The real world was sending me a message, and I heard it loud and clear.  My world was small.  It was claustrophobic. So I retreated to books and movies and television and found more of the same.  Stories of shame.  Stories of death and depression.  If the gay character wasn’t killed as an object lesson, they were the butt of every joke.  I’d looked to books to escape from the real world, but there was no escape.

 

I did not fit the stereotype of gay men that so many writers at the time leaned heavily on.  Instead of finding positive stories that showed me a future where I could be myself and be happy, I found the opposite.  I found a handful of possible futures, and they were all grim.  So I tried to kill myself and nearly succeeded.  I didn’t attempt suicide because my parents rejected me or because I couldn’t accept that I was gay.  I attempted suicide because there was so much bad representation of gay life out there that I was no longer able to see the possibility of ever living a happy life.

 

Don’t tell me it’s only fiction.  Don’t tell me bad representation can’t harm anyone.  It can. It does.  It nearly killed me.

 

we are the antsI’ve gotten comments from readers that the acceptance the queer characters in my books receive from everyone around them is unrealistic.  They might be right.  I don’t think they are, but they could be.  And I don’t care.  I don’t write for those people.  I write books so that queer teens can see themselves, so that they can see a possible future for themselves.  Marginalized teens deserve the same opportunity to see themselves represented accurately and positively in the books they read as everyone else.  I’ve heard the argument that queer teens only make up a small percentage of the population, so it shouldn’t be important.  Well, screw that.  None of us should be willing to write off marginalized groups, no matter how many or few of us there are.  If you’re a writer and you think it’s not important enough to get it right, you shouldn’t be writing it.  Actual lives of actual people depend on getting it right.  If you think otherwise then you haven’t been paying attention.

 

We should all be speaking out about books with harmful representation.  Writers need to know that doing the bare minimum isn’t enough.  They need to get it right or write something else.  Publishers need to know that there are real consequences to publishing books with harmful representation and they need to promote diversity at every level of their operations to ensure harmful books aren’t being published, while at the same time promoting own voices books that are getting it right.  Publishers need to do more than simply pay lip service to the notion of diversity.  Teachers and librarians need to speak up about books that are harmful to the teens they serve, and actively seek out books that get it right so that they can put the right books into the hands of the teens who need them.

 

This isn’t a game.  This isn’t just fiction.  These are real lives, and if we’re not working to make those lives better, what the hell are we doing?

 

Meet Shaun David Hutchinson

shaunShaun David Hutchinson is the author of numerous books for young adults, including The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, which won the Florida Book Awards’ Gold Medal in the Young Adult category and was named to the ALA’s 2015 Rainbow Book List; the anthology Violent Ends, which received a starred review from VOYA; and We Are the Ants, which received five starred reviews and was named a best book of January 2016 by Amazon.com, Kobo.com, Publishers Weekly, and iBooks, and At the Edge of the Universe. He lives in South Florida with his adorably chubby dog, and enjoys Doctor Who, comic books, and yelling at the TV. Visit him at ShaunDavidHutchinson.com.

Recently in Book Mail

Books, 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. 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.

 

 

leaving kentLeaving Kent State by Sabrina Fedel (ISBN-13: 9781941861240 Publisher: Harvard Square Editions Publication date: 11/11/2016)

On May 4, 1970, the campus of Kent State University became the final turning point in Americans’ tolerance for the Vietnam War, as National Guardsmen opened fire on unarmed student protestors, killing four and wounding nine. It was one of the first true school shootings in our nation’s history. A new young adult novel, Leaving Kent State (Harvard Square Editions), by debut author Sabrina Fedel, brings to life America’s political and social turmoil as it ushered in the new decade of the 1970s. Throughout the harsh winter of 1969-1970, Kent, Ohio, became a microcosm of the growing unrest that threatened the very nature of democracy.

Told from the viewpoint of seventeen-year-old Rachel Morelli, Leaving Kent State explores themes of the day that are strikingly similar to our own: terrorism, war, racial injustice, and gender inequality. As Rachel struggles to convince her dad that she should go to Pratt University in New York to pursue her dream of becoming an artist, Kent slips ever further off of its axis, in step with the growing discord across the nation. Caught between her love for her next door neighbor, Evan, a boy who has just returned from Vietnam, and her desire to escape Kent, Rachel must navigate a changing world to pursue her dreams.

“While our nation has largely forgotten what happened on May 4, 1970,” says the author, “it was a defining moment for the way in which Americans consider involvement in war. While popular sentiment initially blamed the students for the massacre, it became clear in the years immediately following that something had gone terribly wrong in our democracy for American troops to have opened fire on unarmed college students. In our own protest laden present, the shootings at Kent State remain a valuable lesson in the escalation of force during peaceful citizen protests.”

 

 

hope more powerfulA Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Melissa Fleming (ISBN-13: 9781250105998 Publisher: Flatiron Books Publication date: 01/24/2017)

The stunning story of a young woman, an international crisis, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Adrift in a frigid sea, no land in sight—just debris from the ship’s wreckage and floating corpses all around—nineteen-year-old Doaa Al Zamel floats with a small inflatable water ring around her waist and clutches two children, barely toddlers, to her body. The children had been thrust into Doaa’s arms by their drowning relatives, all refugees who boarded a dangerously overcrowded ship bound for Sweden and a new life. For days, Doaa floats, prays, and sings to the babies in her arms. She must stay alive for these children. She must not lose hope.

Doaa Al Zamel was once an average Syrian girl growing up in a crowded house in a bustling city near the Jordanian border. But in 2011, her life was upended. Inspired by the events of the Arab Spring, Syrians began to stand up against their own oppressive regime. When the army was sent to take control of Doaa’s hometown, strict curfews, power outages, water shortages, air raids, and violence disrupted everyday life. After Doaa’s father’s barbershop was destroyed and rumors of women being abducted spread through the community, her family decided to leave Syria for Egypt, where they hoped to stay in peace until they could return home. Only months after their arrival, the Egyptian government was overthrown and the environment turned hostile for refugees.

In the midst of this chaos, Doaa falls in love with a young opposition fighter who proposes marriage and convinces her to flee to the promise of safety and a better future in Europe. Terrified and unable to swim, Doaa and her young fiance hand their life savings to smugglers and board a dilapidated fishing vessel with five hundred other refugees, including a hundred children. After four horrifying days at sea, another ship, filled with angry men shouting insults, rams into Doaa’s boat, sinking it and leaving the passengers to drown.

That is where Doaa’s struggle for survival really begins.

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea is an emotionally charged, eye-opening true story that represents the millions of unheard voices of refugees who risk everything in a desperate search for the promise of a safe future. Melissa Fleming sheds light on the most pressing humanitarian crisis of our time and paints a vivid, unforgettable portrait of the triumph of the human spirit.

 

 

ten milesTen Miles One Way by Patrick Downes (ISBN-13: 9780399544996 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/21/2017)

The powerful story of a mind at the edge of unraveling, held together by love and acceptance.

Nest and Q walk through the city. Nest speaks and Q listens. Mile by mile, Nest tells Q about her life, her family, her past . . . and her Chimaera, the beast that preys on her mind and causes her to lose herself. Q knows only that his love for Nest runs deeper than the demon that plagues her thoughts, that he loves her in spite of—or perhaps because of—the personal battle she fights every day.

A beautifully-written, haunting story.

 

 

 

DEACONDeacon Locke Went to Prom by Brian Katcher (ISBN-13: 9780062422521 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/09/2017)

The love life of an awkward teen takes an unforgettable turn after he brings his grandmother to prom in this funny, offbeat, and smile-inducing contemporary romance that is pitch perfect for fans of Jesse Andrews and Robyn Schneider.

Promposals are taking over Deacon Locke’s high school and there is no place left to hide. But even with graduation looming, shy and unusually tall Deacon doesn’t think he can get up the nerve to ask anyone to the dance. Especially given all the theatrics.

It isn’t until Deacon confides in his witty and outgoing best friend Jean that he realizes should could be a great person to take. Only problem is Jean isn’t your typical prom date. She’s older. A lot older. And she’s Deacon’s grandmother.

But when Deacon meets Soraya—a girl unlike any other he’s ever met—he fears he has totally squandered his chances of having a prom he’ll never forget. Deacon couldn’t be more wrong. About everything.

 

 

ramona blueRamona Blue by Julie Murphy (ISBN-13: 9780062418357 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/09/2017)

From Julie Murphy, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary, comes another fearless heroine, Ramona Blue, in a gorgeously evocative novel about family, friendship, and how sometimes love can be more fluid than you first think. Perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Morgan Matson.

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

 

 

it's not likeIt’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura (ISBN-13: 9780062473417 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/09/2017)

This charming and bittersweet coming-of-age story featuring two girls of color falling in love is part To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and part Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like the fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy…what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

 

 

my fairyMy Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen by David Clawson (ISBN-13: 9781510714113 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication date: 05/16/2017)

Chris Bellows is just trying to get through high school and survive being the only stepchild in the social-climbing Fontaine family, whose recently diminished fortune hasn’t dimmed their desire to mingle with Upper East Side society. Chris sometimes feels more like a maid than part of the family. But when Chris’s stepsister Kimberly begins dating golden boy J. J. Kennerly, heir to a political dynasty, everything changes. Because Chris and J. J. fall in love . . . with each other.

With the help of a new friend, Coco Chanel Jones, Chris learns to be comfortable in his own skin, let himself fall in love and be loved, and discovers that maybe he was wrong about his step-family all along. All it takes is one fairy godmother dressed as Diana Ross to change the course of his life.

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen is a Cinderella retelling for the modern reader. The novel expertly balances issues like sexuality, family and financial troubles, and self-discovery with more lighthearted moments like how one rogue shoe can launch a secret, whirlwind romance and a chance meeting with a drag queen can spark magic and light in a once dark reality.

 

 

queer thereQueer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager, Zoe More O’Ferrall (illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780062474315 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/23/2017)

This first-ever LGBTQ history book for young adults will appeal to fans of fun, empowering pop-culture books like Rad American Women A-Z and Notorious RBG.

World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals—and you’ve never heard of many of them. Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 23 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn’t make it into your history books, these astonishing true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.

By turns hilarious and inspiring, the beautifully illustrated Queer, There, and Everywhere is for anyone who wants the real story of the queer rights movement.

 

 

songs about a girlSongs About a Girl by Chris Russell (ISBN-13: 9781250095169 Publisher: Flatiron Books Publication date: 05/30/2017)

Pure wish fulfillment for anyone who hasn’t gotten over the One Direction breakup

Charlie Bloom is happiest behind her camera, unseen and unnoticed. When former classmate Olly Samson gets in touch out of the blue, asking her to take backstage pictures of his new band, she takes him up on it. Charlie dreams of becoming a photographer, and it’ll be good experience.

But Olly’s band, Fire&Lights, isn’t playing ordinary gigs. They’re stars on the rise, the hottest boy band in the country—and Charlie is immediately catapulted into the band’s surreal world of paparazzi, sold-out arenas, and screaming fans. Soon enough, she becomes caught between Olly and Fire&Lights’ gorgeous but damaged frontman, Gabriel West. As the boys’ rivalry threatens to tear the band apart, Charlie stumbles on a secret about the band—and herself—hidden within the lyrics of their new #1 single.

Music. Fame. Heartbreak: Chris Russell’s Songs about a Girl is the perfect next read for anyone who has ever wanted to say, “I’m with the band.”

 

 

washed ashoreWashed Ashore by Kerr Thomson (ISBN-13: 9780545904209 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 05/30/2017)

On a wild Scottish island, a tragedy washes up on the storm-beaten shore: the bodies of a whale and a man. Fraser, desperate for adventure, and Hayley, visiting from Texas, become tangled in the mystery.

But Fraser’s younger brother Dunny is distraught by the discovery. He hasn’t spoken in years, and lately he’s been acting more strangely than ever.

Together, the three meet a man living in the abandoned caves nearby. They start to wonder if he might lie at the center of something darker than they had previously thought. For the whispering sea conceals a terrible secret, and to discover the truth, one of them must learn to listen…

 

 

breakingBreaking by Danielle Rollins (ISBN-13: 9781619637405 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/06/2017)

Charlotte has always been content in the shadow of her two best friends at the prestigious Weston Preparatory Institute. Ariel is daring and mysterious. Devon is beautiful and brilliant. Although Charlotte never lived up to the standards of the school–or her demanding mother, Dr. Gruen–her two best friends became the family she never had.

When Ariel and Devon suddenly commit suicide within a month of each other, Charlotte refuses to accept it as a coincidence. But as the clues point to a dangerous secret about Weston Prep, Charlotte is suddenly in over her head. There’s a reason the students of Weston are so exceptional, and the people responsible are willing to kill to protect the truth . . .

With suspense and danger at every turn, Danielle Rollins keeps readers on the edge of their seats with this haunting thriller.

 

 

song of theSong of the Current by Sarah Tolcser (ISBN-13: 9781681192970 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/06/2017)

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. Her father is a wherryman, as was her grandmother. All Caro needs is for the river god to whisper her name, and her fate is sealed. But at seventeen, Caro may be too late.

So when pirates burn ships and her father is arrested, Caro volunteers to transport mysterious cargo in exchange for his release. Secretly, Caro hopes that by piloting her own wherry, the river god will finally speak her name.

But when the cargo becomes more than Caro expected, she finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies. With much more than her father’s life at stake, Caro must choose between the future she knows, and the one she could have never imagined.

 

 

the possibleThe Possible by Tara Altebrando (ISBN-13: 9781619638051 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/06/2017)

Another twisty psychological suspense from the author of The Leaving, where a teen searches for answers about her mother’s dark history, telekinesis, and the power of will.

What if . . . no one knows the truth about you? It’s been thirteen years since Kaylee’s biological mother, Crystal, once infamous for her supposed telekinetic ability, got a life sentence for killing Kaylee’s little brother in a fit of telekinetic rage. Today, Kaylee’s living a normal life with her adoptive parents and almost never thinks of Crystal. Until a woman shows up on Kaylee’s doorstep, asking to interview her for a podcast about her mother. Was the whole telekinesis thing a hoax, or does Crystal have some kind of special powers? Is it possible that Kaylee has them, too? It would certainly explain some of the stranger things that have happened to her over the years.

What if . . . she did the interview? Met her mother for the first time since the trial? Can her mother prove she can make things happen with her mind? Can Kaylee do the same? And what if she has been doing it, all along? As the podcast begins airing, everyone in Kaylee’s life–everyone in the country–is hearing this dark history and asking questions that even Kaylee has never dared ask herself.

The Possible is a twisty, surprising story, and an exploration of the power of our own minds, the power of will, and how our histories define us . . . or not.

 

 

Ali - Saints and MisfitsSaints and Misfits by S. K. Ali (ISBN-13: 9781481499248 Publisher:Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 06/13/2017)

Saints, Misfits, Monsters, and Mayhem is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

 

 

we come apartWe Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan (ISBN-13: 9781681192758 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/13/2017)

Authors Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan have joined forces to tell the story of Nicu and Jess, two troubled teens whose paths cross in the unlikeliest of places.

Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess’s home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship slowly blossoms into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and their hope and dreams of a better future. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?

This illuminating story told in dual points of view through vibrant verse will stay with readers long after they’ve finished.

 

 

little wrecksLittle Wrecks by Meredith Miller (ISBN-13: 9780062474254 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/27/2017)

In this haunting and explosive debut, Meredith Miller explores the truth behind three girls on the cusp of adulthood, and all the shocking realizations that come under the guise of growing up. Perfect for fans of I’ll Give You the Sun and Girl in Pieces.

Ruth, Magda, and Isabel are different from everyone else. They can see beneath the seemingly perfect, cookie-cutter exterior of their small town of Highbone, Long Island. They know that below the surface, each house is filled with secrets, indifference, and violence.

These girls refuse to become willing participants of these fake lives. Instead, they are determined to fight every condescending comment, every unwelcome touch, and every lie they’ve been told.

When the opportunity to commit the perfect crime appears, the girls finally start to see their way out of Highbone. But for the first time, Ruth, Magda, and Isabel are keeping secrets from each other. As they drift apart, the weight of reality starts to set in. These girls can’t save each other. They might not even be able to save themselves.

 

 

this is howThis Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes (ISBN-13: 9780062379931 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/11/2017)

The author of Girl Against the Universe and Liars, Inc. plunges readers into a world where the internet is always watching—and judging—in this compelling story about mistakes, repercussions, and online vigilante justice. Perfect for fans of Sarah Darer Littman’s Backlash or Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything.

After waking up from a coma, Genevieve Grace can’t remember the car crash that killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTuber turned teen music idol. Genevieve knows she was driving, but because of what’s been reported in the media, everyone assumes the other driver, Brad Freeman, is guilty. As she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—what if she’s the one at fault?

While the internet and social media viciously condemn Brad, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house near Zion National Park to hide from curious classmates and intrusive reporters. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident. And eventually, she will have to come to grips with what happened…and her role in it.

 

whos that girlWho’s That Girl by Blair Thornburgh (ISBN-13: 9780062447777 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/11/2017)

This laugh-out-loud debut is filled with hilarious awkward encounters, a supportive LGBTQ organization, and too many cheesy lyrics to count—all with the compulsive readability of Audrey, Wait! and Boy Meets Boy.

Junior Nattie McCullough has always been that under-the-radar straight girl who hangs out in the cafeteria with her gay-straight alliance friends. She’s never been the girl that gets the guy, let alone the girl that gets a hit song named after her. But when last summer’s crush, smoking-hot musician Sebastian Delacroix—who has recently hit the mainstream big-time—returns home to play a local show, that’s just what she gets. He and his band, the Young Lungs, have written a chart-topping single—“Natalie”—which instantly makes Nattie second guess everything she thought about their awkward non-kiss at that June pool party. That it was horrific. That it meant nothing. That Sebastian never gave her another thought.

To help keep her mind off of Sebastian and his maybe-about-her, maybe-not-about-her song, Nattie throws herself into planning the school’s LGBTQIA dance. That proves problematic, too, when Nattie begins to develop feelings for her good friend Zach. With the song getting major airplay and her once-normal life starting to resemble the cover of a gossip magazine, Nattie is determined to figure out once and for all if her brief moment with Sebastian was the stuff love songs are made of—or just a one-hit wonder.

 

 

what goes upWhat Goes Up by Katie Kennedy (ISBN-13: 9781619639126 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 07/18/2017)

Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA’s mysterious Interworlds Agency. They’re not exactly sure what the top-secret program entails, but they know they want in. Rosa has her brilliant parents’ legacies to live up to, and Eddie has nowhere else to go–he’s certainly not going to stick around and wait for his violent father to get out of jail. Even if they are selected, they have no idea what lies in store. But first they have to make it through round after round of crazy-competitive testing.

And then something happens that even NASA’s scientists couldn’t predict . . .

From the author of the acclaimed Learning to Swear in America comes another high-stakes adventure that’s absolutely out of this world.

 

 

1616 Ways to Break a Heart by Lauren Strasnick (ISBN-13: 9780062418722 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/25/2017)

Natalie and Dan were electric from the moment they met. Witty banter and sizzling chemistry made falling in love easy—even inevitable. He was in awe of her subversive art and contagious zest for life; she was drawn to his good-guy charm and drive to succeed as a documentary filmmaker.

But that was before. Before hot tempers turned to blowout fights. Before a few little lies turned to broken trust. Before a hundred tiny slights broke them open and exposed the ugly truth of their relationship.

And now Natalie wants Dan to know just how much he broke her.

Over the course of one fateful day, Dan reads sixteen letters that Natalie has secretly, brilliantly hidden in places only he will find. And as he pieces together her version of their love story, he realizes that she has one final message for him. One that might just send his carefully constructed life tumbling down.

Unfolding through letters, texts, and chats, Lauren Strasnick’s smart, sexy, page-turning new novel is the ultimate he said/she said breakdown of a relationship gone wrong.

 

 

galleryThe Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz (ISBN-13: 9780062467775 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/25/2017)

A beautiful and evocative look at identity and creativity, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is a stunning debut in magical realism. Perfect for fans of The Walls Around Us and Bone Gap.

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

 

 

everything all at onceEverything All at Once by Katrina Leno (ISBN-13: 9780062493095 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/25/2017)

A soaring novel by the critically acclaimed author of The Half Life of Molly Pierce and The Lost & Found, perfect for fans of Jennifer Niven and Rainbow Rowell.

Lottie Reaves is not a risk taker. But she’s about to take a leap into the unknown…

When Lottie’s beloved Aunt Helen dies of cancer, it upends her careful, quiet life.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the world-famous author of the bestselling Alvin Hatter series. She knew a thing or two about the magic of writing, and how words have the power to make you see things differently.

In her will, Aunt Helen leaves Lottie a series of letters—each containing mysterious instructions. As Lottie sets about following them, she realizes they’re meant to make her take a risk, and, for once in her life, really live. But when the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about her aunt’s past—and the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series—Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice, one that will force her to confront her greatest fears once and for all.

Part mysterious adventure, part love letter to the power of books, this is a brilliantly woven novel about loving, reading, writing, grieving, and finding the strength to take a leap.

 

 

inevitableThe Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger (ISBN-13: 9781250116222 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publication date: 07/25/2017)

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together, to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad. And to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy links Birdie and Bash together – yet neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall – hard – the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page.

 

 

 

authenticsThe Authentics by Abdi Nazemian (ISBN-13: 9780062486462 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 08/08/2017)

The Authentics is a fresh, funny, and insightful novel about culture, love, and family—the kind we are born into and the ones we create.

Daria Esfandyar is Iranian-American and proud of her heritage, unlike some of the “Nose Jobs” in the clique led by her former best friend, Heidi Javadi. Daria and her friends call themselves the Authentics, because they pride themselves on always keeping it real.

But in the course of researching a school project, Daria learns something shocking about her past, which launches her on a journey of self-discovery. It seems everyone is keeping secrets. And it’s getting harder to know who she even is any longer.

With infighting among the Authentics, her mother planning an over-the-top sweet sixteen party, and a romance that should be totally off limits, Daria doesn’t have time for this identity crisis. As everything in her life is spinning out of control—can she figure out how to stay true to herself?

 

 

bad girl goneBad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews (ISBN-13: 9781250058812 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publication date: 08/08/2017)

Sixteen year-old Echo Stone awakens in a cold sweat in a dark room, having no idea where she is or how she got there. But she soon finds out she’s in Middle House, an orphanage filled with mysteriously troubled kids.

There’s just one problem: she’s not an orphan. Her parents are very much alive.

She explains this to everyone, but no one will listen. After befriending a sympathetic (and handsome) boy, Echo is able to escape Middle House and rush home, only to discover it sealed off by crime scene tape and covered in the evidence of a terrible and violent crime. As Echo grapples with this world-shattering information, she spots her parents driving by and rushes to flag them down. Standing in the middle of street, waving her arms to get their attention, her parents’ car drives right through her.

She was right. Her parents are alive—but she’s not.

She’s a ghost, just like all the other denizens of Middle House. Desperate to somehow get her life back and reconnect with her still-alive boyfriend, Echo embarks on a quest to solve her own murder. As the list of suspects grows, the quest evolves into a journey of self-discovery in which she learns she wasn’t quite the girl she thought she was. In a twist of fate, she’s presented with one last chance to reclaim her life and must make a decision which will either haunt her or bless her forever.­­­­

 

 

art of feelingThe Art of Feeling by Laura Tims (ISBN-13: 9780062317353 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 08/15/2017)

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Niven’s New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places, this contemporary YA novel explores the friendship between a girl in constant pain and a boy who feels nothing at all.

Since the car accident, Samantha Herring has been in pain, not only from her leg injury, but also from her mother’s death, which has devastated her family. After pushing away her friends, Sam has receded into a fog of depression.

But then Sam meets Eliot, a reckless loner with an attitude and an amazing secret—he can’t feel any pain. At first, Sam is jealous. But then she learns more about his medical condition…and his self-destructive tendencies. In fact, Eliot doesn’t seem to care about anything at all—except maybe Sam. As they grow closer, they begin to confront Sam’s painful memories of the accident—memories that may hold a startling truth about what really happened that day.

 

 

you don't knowYou Don’t Know Me but I Know You by Rebecca Barrow (ISBN-13: 9780062494191 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 08/29/2017)

There’s a box in the back of Audrey’s closet that she rarely thinks about.

Inside is a letter, seventeen years old, from a mother she’s never met, handed to her by the woman she’s called Mom her whole life.

Being adopted, though, is just one piece in the puzzle of Audrey’s life—the picture painstakingly put together by Audrey herself, consisting not only of the greatest family ever but of a snarky, loyal, sometimes infuriating best friend, Rose; a sweet, smart musician boyfriend, Julian; and a beloved camera that turns the most fleeting moments of her day-to-day routine into precious, permanent memories.

But when Audrey realizes that she’s pregnant, she feels something—a tightly sealed box in the closet corners of her heart—crack open, spilling her dormant fears and unanswered questions all over the life she loves.

Almost two decades ago, a girl in Audrey’s situation made a choice, one that started Audrey’s entire story. Now Audrey is paralyzed by her own what-ifs and terrified by the distance she feels growing between her and Rose. Down every possible path is a different unfamiliar version of her life, and as she weighs the options in her mind, she starts to wonder—what does it even mean to be Audrey Spencer?

Rebecca Barrow’s bright, honest debut novel about chance, choice, and unconditional love is a heartfelt testament to creating the future you truly want, one puzzle piece at a time.

 

sliderSlider by Pete Hautman (ISBN-13: 9780763690700 Publisher: Candlewick Press Publication date: 09/12/2017)

David can eat an entire sixteen-inch pepperoni pizza in four minutes and thirty-six seconds. Not bad. But he knows he can do better. In fact, he’ll have to do better. He’s going to compete in the Super Pigorino Bowl, and he has to win it, because he borrowed his mom’s credit card and accidentally spent two thousand dollars on it. So he really needs that prize money. Like, yesterday.

As if training to be a competitive eater wasn’t enough, he’s also got to keep an eye on his little brother, Mal (who, if the family believed in labels, would be labeled autistic, but they don’t, so they just label him “Mal”). And don’t even get started on the new weirdness going on between his two best friends, Cyn and HeyMan.

Master talent Pete Hautman has whipped up a rich narrative shot through with equal parts humor and tenderness, and the result is a middle-grade novel too delicious to put down.

 

 

 

victoriaThe Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes (ISBN-13: 9781481480895 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 09/19/2017)

A shy, rule-following teen winds up joining a local rock band in this laugh-out-loud, heartfelt coming-of-age novel.

Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.

But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.

From debut author Janelle Milanes comes a hilarious and heartfelt tale of the spectacular things that can happen when you go after what you really want.

 

 

starfishStarfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman (ISBN-13: 9781481487726 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 09/26/2017)

A gorgeous and emotionally true debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school.

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.

 

Book Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Publisher’s description

radioFrom critically acclaimed author Alice Oseman comes a smartly crafted contemporary YA novel, perfect for readers who love Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. This is an utterly captivating and authentic new teen novel from the author of Solitaire, which VOYA said “could put her among the great young adult fiction authors.”

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As.

You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl.

They don’t. They make a podcast.

In a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio silence?

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I’ll be honest: it took me a while to get into this story. I spent a few days picking it up and finding my mind wandering, so putting it down and working on something else instead. BUT, once I got roped in, I got ROPED IN. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a mystery, but it has elements of a mystery, and that’s what propelled me forward.

 

The summary up there doesn’t do the best job of making this sound appealing (although, yes please to more books about main character best friends who seem like they might fall in love but don’t, and yes please to stories about podcasts). It’s not just that Aled and Frances make a podcast together (think Welcome to Night Vale)—it’s that they make a VERY popular podcast, with a large fandom, and, as creators, stay shrouded in mystery for a long time. The premise of their podcast (which Aled starts and Frances joins eventually) is a student is sending out SOS messages from a futuristic university that they’re trapped inside of. The student goes by Radio Silence and is agender. The podcast grows in popularity, but when word gets out who is behind it, things really begin to fall apart quickly. Aled and Frances have an argument and drift apart (or rather, Aled bails on Frances and refuses to answer her calls etc). It becomes clear that something very troublesome is going on with Aled, and while Frances desperately wants to do SOMETHING to help him, she doesn’t know what to do. Until she does.

 

The small ensemble of characters feature a diversity of sexual identities, including gay, bi, lesbian, and demisexual. Frances is white and Ethiopian, Daniel is Korean, and Raine is Indian. There is also a lot of room for choices, or for rethinking choices, regarding what to do after school ends—namely, there are more options than just going to university and more options than just doing the thing you thought you were supposed to work toward. The story is about the podcast, but it’s also not. It’s about people desperately in need of friends. It’s about identities, desires, plans, expectations, and feeling lost. Frances and friends will easily appeal to teen readers who are also grappling with all these same feelings. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062335715

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 03/28/2017

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA March 2017

It’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 March 2017 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (January and February 2017 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list that I’m always working on. 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.

 

March 2017

 

inexplicableThe Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (ISBN-13: 9780544586505 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/07/2017)

Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.

 

 

 

 

drivenDriven by MB Mulhall (ISBN-13: 978-1-63533-278-0 Publisher: Harmony Ink Publication date: 03/07/2017)

As an eighteen-year-old ex-con living on the streets, Oliver doesn’t have it easy. Don’t show weakness and survive to repent are the daily mottoes he lives by.

A chance encounter with a clumsy older lady leads him to temporary room and board in exchange for being the errand boy for spinster twins in a fairy-tale home—much to the dismay of their concerned neighbor Simon.

Inside, Oliver fights a battle between staying and going. The guilt of a horrible accident eats away at him, keeping him from getting too close to anyone, even when sparks start to ignite a heart he long thought broken.

Will Oliver get over the past and allow himself a chance at a happiness, love, and better life? Or will the blackness in his soul take over and demand he pay the ultimate price for his crimes?

 

 

other f wordThe Other F-Word by Natasha Friend (ISBN-13: 9780374302344 Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publication date: 03/07/2017)

Milo has two great moms, but he’s never known what it’s like to have a dad. When Milo’s doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo’s extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he’s always wondered about.

Hollis’s mom Leigh hasn’t been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis’s half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.

Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family.

 

 

piperPiper Perish by Kayla Cagan (ISBN-13: 9781452155838 Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC Publication date: 03/07/2017)

Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and get to New York City, the better. Art school has been Piper’s dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she’s never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper’s sister’s tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper’s art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power when it means giving up so much? Debut author Kayla Cagan breathes new life into fiction in this dynamic, utterly authentic work featuring interior art from Rookie magazine illustrator Maria Ines Gul. Piper will have readers asking big questions along with her. What is love? What is friendship? What is family? What is home? And who is a person when she’s missing any one of these things?

 

 

pants projectThe Pants Project by Cat Clarke (ISBN-13: 9781492638094 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 03/07/2017)

“My name is Liv (Not Olivia)… I’m not technically a girl.

I’m Transgender. Which is a bit like being a transformer. Only not quite as cool because I probably won’t get to save the world one day.”

Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school’s terrible dress code, he can’t even wear pants. Only skirts.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Liv to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn’t just a mission to change the policy—it’s a mission to change his life. And that’s a pretty big deal.

 

 

seven days of youSeven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse (ISBN-13: 9780316391115 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/07/2017)

Anna and the French Kiss meets Before Sunrise in this smart and swoony debut.

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven Days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days….Until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

 

 

queens of geekQueens of Geek by Jen Wilde (ISBN-13: 9781250111395 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 03/14/2017)

Three friends. Two love stories. One convention.

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Queens of Geek, an empowering young adult novel by Jen Wilde, is all about fandom, friendship, and finding the courage to be yourself.

 

 

born bothBorn Both: An Intersex Life by Hida Viloria (ISBN-13: 9780316347846 Publisher: Hachette Books Publication date: 03/14/2017)

A candid, provocative, and eye-opening memoir of gender identity, self-acceptance, and love from one of the world’s foremost intersex activists.

My name is Hida Viloria. I was raised as a girl but discovered at a young age that my body looked different. Having endured an often turbulent home life as a kid, there were many times when I felt scared and alone, especially given my attraction to girls. But unlike most people in the first world who are born intersex–meaning they have genitals, reproductive organs, hormones, and/or chromosomal patterns that do not fit standard definitions of male or female–I grew up in the body I was born with because my parents did not have my sex characteristics surgically altered at birth.

It wasn’t until I was twenty-six and encountered the term intersex in a San Francisco newspaper that I finally had a name for my difference. That’s when I began to explore what it means to live in the space between genders–to be both and neither. I tried living as a feminine woman, an androgynous person, and even for a brief period of time as a man. Good friends would not recognize me, and gay men would hit on me. My gender fluidity was exciting, and in many ways freeing–but it could also be isolating.

I had to know if there were other intersex people like me, but when I finally found an intersex community to connect with I was shocked, and then deeply upset, to learn that most of the people I met had been scarred, both physically and psychologically, by infant surgeries and hormone treatments meant to “correct” their bodies. Realizing that the invisibility of intersex people in society facilitated these practices, I made it my mission to bring an end to it–and became one of the first people to voluntarily come out as intersex at a national and then international level.

Born Both is the story of my lifelong journey toward finding love and embracing my authentic identity in a world that insists on categorizing people into either/or, and of my decades-long fight for human rights and equality for intersex people everywhere.

 

 

star-crossedStar-Crossed by Barbara Dee (ISBN-13: 9781481478489 Publisher: Aladdin Publication date: 03/14/2017)

Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare.

Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

 

 

shadow runShadow Run by Michael Miller, AdriAnne Strickland (ISBN-13: 9780399552533 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 03/21/2017)

Firefly meets Dune in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power—and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

 

all you needAll You Need Is Love by Russell J. Sanders (ISBN-13: 978-1-63533-321-3 Publisher: Harmony Ink Publication date: 03/21/2017)

It is 1969 when Dewey Snodgress, high school theater star, meets irrepressible hippie Jeep Brickthorn, who quickly inserts himself into Dewey’s life—and eventually into his heart. Meanwhile, Dewey prepares to appear in a production across town, a play about protestors of the Vietnam War, where he befriends the wild and wonderful Lucretia “LuLu” Belton, who is also determined to follow her dreams and become an actress—whether her parents approve or not.

The show has a profound effect, especially on Dewey’s father, who reconsiders his approval of the war after his son’s performance. But Dewey knows his dad won’t be so accepting if he reveals the love he’s developing for Jeep, so he fights to push his feelings away and keep the peace in his family.

Still, Dewey can’t ignore the ripples moving through society—from the impending Woodstock Festival to the Stonewall Riots—and he begins to see that the road to happiness and acceptance for him and Jeep might lead them away from conservative Fort Worth, Texas—and Dewey’s  dad.

 

 

honestly ben2Honestly Ben (Openly Straight #2) by Bill Konigsberg (ISBN-13: 9780545858267 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 03/28/2017)

Ben Carver is back to normal. He’s working steadily in his classes at the Natick School. He just got elected captain of the baseball team. He’s even won a full scholarship to college, if he can keep up his grades. All that foolishness with Rafe Goldberg the past semester is in the past.

Except…

There’s Hannah, the gorgeous girl from the neighboring school, who attracts him and distracts him. There’s his mother, whose quiet unhappiness Ben is noticing for the first time. School is harder, the pressure higher, the scholarship almost slipping away. And there’s Rafe, funny, kind, dating someone else . . . and maybe the real normal that Ben needs.

Perfect for fans of David Levithan, Andrew Smith, and John Green, Honestly Ben is a smart, laugh-out-loud novel that will speak to anyone who’s struggled to be “honestly ____________” in some part of their lives.

 

 

lotterysThe Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue (ISBN-13: 9780545925815 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 03/28/2017)

Sumac Lottery is nine years old and the self-proclaimed “good girl” of her (VERY) large, (EXTREMELY) unruly family. And what a family the Lotterys are: four parents, children both adopted and biological, and a menagerie of pets, all living and learning together in a sprawling house called Camelottery. Then one day, the news breaks that one of their grandfathers is suffering from dementia and will be coming to live with them. And not just any grandfather; the long dormant “Grumps,” who fell out with his son so long ago that he hasn’t been part of any of their lives.

Suddenly, everything changes. Sumac has to give up her room to make the newcomer feel at home. She tries to be nice, but prickly Grumps’s clearly disapproves of how the Lotterys live: whole grains, strange vegetables, rescue pets, a multicultural household… He’s worse than just tough to get along with — Grumps has got to go! But can Sumac help him find a home where he belongs?

 

 

radio silenceRadio Silence by Alice Oseman (ISBN-13: 9780062335715 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/28/2017)

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

 

 

things-i-shouldThings I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik (ISBN-13: 9780544829695 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/28/2017)

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along.  Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of School Library Journal

 

 

gentlemans★ The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.

ISBN-13: 9780062382801 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date:06/27/2017

Gr 9 Up—A trio of high-born, determined, and wildly charismatic teenagers get more than they bargained for in this rollicking 18th-century Grand Tour of the Continent gone awry. Endearing rake Lord Henry Montague (or Monty) and his biracial best friend (and unrequited love), the infinitely patient Percy, leave England to drop Monty’s fiercely intelligent sister Felicity off at finishing school. The friends then spend a year traveling. After the Grand Tour, Monty will return home to help his demanding father run their estate and Percy will go to Holland to law school. If Monty’s dad catches wind of him still “mucking around with boys,” Monty will be cut off from the family. The trip is intended to be a cultural experience. However, no one could have predicted that one seemingly petty theft would set off an adventure involving highwaymen, stowaways, pirates, a sinking island, an alchemical heart, tomb-raiding, and a secret illness. From the start, readers will be drawn in by Monty’s charm, and Felicity and Percy come alive as the narrative unfolds. The fast-paced plot is complicated, but Lee’s masterly writing makes it all seem effortless. The journey forces Monty and friends to confront issues of racism, gender expectations, sexuality, disability, family, and independence, with Monty in particular learning to examine his many privileges. Their exploits bring to light the secret doubts, pains, and ambitions all three are hiding. This is a witty, romantic, and exceedingly smart look at discovering one’s place in the world. VERDICT A stunning powerhouse of a story for every collection.

Book Review: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Publisher’s description

star-crossedMattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare.

Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

COULD WE PLEASE HAVE MORE MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS ABOUT QUEER KIDS? Thanks.

 

Mattie sneaks into mean girl Willow’s Halloween party by attending in full Darth Vader regalia. While in the kitchen, she bumps into cute new British girl, Gemma, who is hiding out because she didn’t know it was a costume party. The two banter and Willow unmasks Mattie, mortifying her. Gemma had definitely been flirting with her—but she probably assumed the person under the Darth Vader costume was a boy. Right? After the party, Mattie finds herself pulled toward Gemma. She’s smart, funny, and cute. Mattie likes how she smells and how her voice sounds. But what does all that mean? Especially given that she spent the past year having a crush on Elijah. Mattie begins to wonder if she only liked Elijah because she thought she had to. She can’t yet articulate what she feels for Gemma, but when her best friend Lucy tells her it’s cool if she has a crush on Gemma, she’s forced to take stock of what she’s feeling.

 

All of that would be plenty, but the 8th graders are also putting on a class play—and Gemma is Juliet to Mattie’s Romeo. Much of the action of the book takes place at play practices, where a nervous Mattie has to figure out how to interact with Gemma. She eventually takes some advice for the play and turns to her own Benvolio and Mercutio—her best friends Lucy and Tessa. While she knows she likes Gemma, she’s still not sure what it actually means for her (or if Gemma feels the same way), but surrounded by caring friends, family, and peers, she’s on her way to figuring it out in this much needed look at a middle schooler questioning her sexuality. The positive, accepting, supportive tone of the story makes this book a must-have for every middle school library. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781481478489

Publisher: Aladdin

Publication date: 03/14/2017

Book Review: Secrets and Sequences: Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes, a guest post by Callum (age 10)

If you follow me on Twitter (@CiteSomething), then you’re familiar with my extremely entertaining 10-year-old son, Callum. He’s a big fan of graphic novels and recently has started pulling books out of my TBR pile. It’s fun to get book mail and have so much of it either appeal now to him or know it will soon. He’s excited to write his second review post for TLT (you can read his first one here). I suspect we’ll see more from him in the future. He’s already been on the cover of a magazine and on an episode of The Longest Shortest Time (episode 50, “Mom, It’s Time We Had The Talk”). He loves when people react to stuff I tweet about him. He says it all adds to his “fame.” Have I mentioned he’s super entertaining and loves attention? Anyway, here’s his review.

 

Publisher’s description

secrets-andStately Academy is no ordinary school: it was once home to an elite institute where teachers, students, and robots worked together to unravel the mysteries of coding. Hopper, Eni, and Josh won’t rest until they’ve learned the whole story, but they aren’t the only ones interested in the school’s past. Principal Dean is hot on their trail, demanding that the coders turn over their most powerful robot. Dean may be a creep, but he’s nothing compared to the guy who’s really in charge: a green-skinned coding genius named Professor One-Zero.

 

 

 

 

Callum’s thoughts

This story is about three kids and an evil principal. They’re coders. One kid in class says, keep an eye on your mom to one of the coders. Their mom is a teacher at their school. Later, the principal kidnaps her. They say, you can have your mom if you give me this turtle-ship-thing. Change of plan! The turtle has a screen and the kids need to drive it for the principal. The daughter of the teacher says it will be okay and they’ll go get help.

 

So they drive to this huge castle and there’s a crazy green-faced man named Doctor One-Zero. They go see him and he pretty much puts the kids in a cell and makes the principal drink this stuff that makes him see green. He explains all this code to the kids and the girl’s visualizing it. Then there’s a flashback to when he was younger and he never asked for help or needed help and became evil and went to jail. He escaped and went all over the world trying to see where he fit in. He was on top of a mountain in a green moss cave, meditating and eating nothing but moss. He came out changed with a new name—Doctor One-Zero. They think of a way to get out of the cage. They’re going to go get the ship but One-Zero is flying it away. They’re figuring out how to get out of there. They take a bus back to the city and parents were worried. Back at school, there’s people practicing fighting. They are going to make an army of turtle-things to attack Doctor One-Zero.

 

The art was good and so was the story. Both boys and girls were main characters. One of the main characters is black. It ends on a cliffhanger, so there will be more in the series.

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781626720770

Publisher: First Second

Publication date: 03/07/2017

Series: Secret Coders Series #3

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Publisher’s description

inexplicableFrom the multi-award-winning author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe comes a gorgeous new story about love, identity, and families lost and found.

Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Because I read in order of publication date (the only way I can manage my towering TBR pile), there are certain books that sit on my shelf for MONTHS and kind of taunt me from their spot. This is one such book. Given my absolute adoration of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, my expectations for this book were high. And I was not let down.

 

I am a big fan of quiet books. Give me good dialogue and interesting characters and I’m in. I don’t need a big plot. I don’t need big things to happen. To me, there is nothing more compelling or more of a “big thing” than just teenagers living their teenage lives–figuring out who they are, changing, finding their people, hurting, loving, and growing. That’s plenty. That’s everything. And for 450 pages, I was so wrapped up in the lives of Sal, Sam, Fito, and their families. Sal and Sam have been best friends forever. It’s never been romantic between them; they’ve always been like brother and sister. Sam knows Sal better than anyone. But lately, Sal feels like he’s changing. He’s developed a quick temper that manifests when he’s righteously angry and trying to protect those he loves. For the first time ever, he’s lashing out and getting in fights. He starts to wonder about his biological dad—maybe he was angry and a fighter. Maybe Sal is acting like him. But his wonderful father, Vicente, is calm and loving and open. Sal wonders about nature versus nurture. He wonders who is he really like. He wonders who he really is. His Mima, his father’s mom, is dying. Heartbroken that he’s about to lose someone he loves so dearly, Sal also ruminates on life, death, and everything that comes in between. Sam is a steadying force by his side, but she has her own terrible things going on. The pair take Fito, a gay classmate who’s had to survive on his own for a long time, into their fold, and together the three lean on each other and on Sal’s dad (and eventually on Vicente’s new boyfriend) while they redefine what “family” means.

 

Beautifully written and told, this is an unforgettable look at life, love, loss, grief, friendship, and family. Vicente may win the award for Best Parent in a YA Book 2017. The friendship between Sal, Sam, and Fito is profoundly moving and rich. Fans of Aristotle and Dante who are eagerly awaiting the sequel will be happy to have another wonderful work from Sáenz to tide them over. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780544586505

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: 03/07/2017