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Amanda’s favorites of 2019

Yes, it’s list time. What follows are my favorite 2019 books that I reviewed here at TLT and excerpts of my reviews. I pretty much exclusively read contemporary fiction, which my list reflects. These are the YA books that most stuck with me this year.  Even though I’m a voracious reader, I’m sure I missed a lot of great 2019 books. I always enjoy reading the many lists that crop up this time of the year, but I also always want more variety and to hear from more people. So here’s my list—will you share yours with us too? Leave us a comment or hit me up on Twitter where I’m @CiteSomething. 

For more of what I liked best this year, check out School Library Journal’s Best YA Books of 2019 list. I was fortunate to be chosen as part of the committee this year and loved rereading books I’d already devoured and loved and getting to discover new favorites.

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (ISBN-13: 9780062691316 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 02/26/2019)

Freshly out of the Medio School for Girls, 17-year-old Dani is now the Primera to a promising young politician from a wealthy and respected family. Dani understands her role as Primera, one of two wives in the household, means she will run the home and be her husband Mateo’s equal. She quickly learns that secretive and cold Mateo, who is being groomed to run for president, views her as little more than a personal assistant. She’s not thrilled to be placed with Carmen, an enemy from school, who is Mateo’s Segunda, the second wife. Together, they all live in the heart of the capital, where luxury abounds. Money and power are important in the inner island, and Mateo’s family has both. But not far away, things are very different. Long ago, a wall was built around the inner island, and those suffering on the other side know nothing of the riches afforded to those lucky enough to be inside the wall. Dani knows intimately what life is like there and the risk many take to cross the militarized border that has a shoot-on-sight policy. Now part of the island’s elite, she is appalled at the wealth and resources taken for granted here. Life as a Primera could be extremely dull—be responsible and think of nothing more than supporting your husband—but Dani never gets to experience that.

A tense cliffhanger that reveals secrets and sets up book two will leave readers (me!) desperate to see what happens. This well-written book has great world building, strong characters, and so much intrigue. A smart and engrossing read full of twists and turns. (Full review here.)

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

This completely enjoyable story asks what you would do differently—or the same—if you got a second chance. Or a third, fourth, or twentieth chance. Jack and Kate are only just really getting to know each other, to fall for each other, when Kate dies from sickle cell anemia. Upon hearing the news, Jack rushes from his house, falls down the stairs, and BAM! time starts over again. Suddenly, he’s back at the party where he first met Kate. Kate is clueless as to who he is (though she has a weird feeling that she already knows him), or that they have somehow respawned, but Jack remembers everything. Jack wonders why he’s reliving this time loop and blows off so much to be with Kate, whose time may or may not be limited in this run. When she dies again, Jack really buckles down, trying to figure out how he is supposed to do whatever it is he’s back here to do. Jack has to figure out what risks he should take and try to foresee what the consequences might be. It’s terrible to lose someone over and over, but he’s determined to figure out how to change that. And it’s not like he has a choice—he keeps getting tossed back through this loop no matter what changes he makes. He starts to wonder if he can save everyone—or, heck, if he can even save anyone.  He’ll make mistakes and different choices each time, but is he doomed to spend eternity living the same few months and always losing Kate?

This is a fun love story that features strong friendships, great parents, humor, and heartbreak. I loved Jack’s voice, the excellent banter, and the complex and caring relationships he has with Franny and Jillian, his best friends. This warm, smart, unique debut will have an easy wide appeal. I suspect, like me, readers will be drawn to it when they spy the great cover and once they start reading it, they’ll want to race through the whole thing and see if Jack can break the loop and find a happy ending. Or an ending, period. Readers who can suspend their disbelief and just go with the time loop premise will love this character-driven look at choices, consequences, and possibilities. I can’t wait to see what else Reynolds writes. (Full review here.)

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis (ISBN-13: 9780062847195 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/12/2019)

All it takes is one prescription to kick-start a student athlete’s frightening descent into opioid addiction. After surgery following a car accident, Ohio softball phenom Mickey Catalan is prescribed OxyContin for pain. When she starts to run out of the Oxy she relies on to get through her physical therapy, she gets pills from a dealer, through whom she meets other young addicts. Mickey rationalizes what she’s doing and sees herself as a good girl who’s not like others who use drugs (like new friend Josie, who uses because she’s “bored”). Mickey loves how the pills make her feel, how they take her out of herself and relieve the pressures in her life. Soon she’s stealing, lying, and moving on to heroin. Her divorced parents, including her recovering addict stepmother, suspect something is going on, but Mickey is skilled at hiding her addiction.

A trigger warning rightfully cautions graphic depictions of drug use. In brutally raw detail, readers see Mickey and friends snort powders, shoot up, and go through withdrawal. Intense pacing propels the gripping story toward the inevitable conclusion already revealed in the prologue. An author’s note and resources for addiction recovery are appended. This powerful, harrowing, and compassionate story humanizes addiction and will challenge readers to rethink what they may believe about addicts. (Full review here.)

Wreck by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (ISBN-13: 9781510739031 Publisher: Sky Pony Publication date: 04/16/2019)

The question becomes what do you do in the time between getting a devastating and terminal diagnosis and actually dying? For Steve, he continues to socialize, help work on the marathon committee, and writes a book of advice to leave behind for Tobin. For Tobin, she tries to bury her heart deep in Lake Superior, which feels like the only way she can keep going and cope with this horrible situation. To complicate matters further, there’s a box in their house that’s haunting her. Inside that innocuous-looking box is pentobarbital, a barbiturate that Steve intends to take a high dose of to end his life, on his terms, when the time is right. And if he’s physically unable to do so on his own, he’s asked Tobin to be the one to administer the medicine.

Yep. Oof.

Undoubtedly, the narrative of death with dignity–that is, the right for terminally ill people to die on their own terms—will create passionate feelings about this book and possibly some controversy. That said, the plot makes it clear why this can be a compassionate act, why someone would choose this option. Steve and Tobin’s story is filled with lots of nuance, empathy, support, and love. This is a moving exploration of mortality, family, and impossibly difficult decisions. (Full review here.)

Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali (ISBN-13: 9781534442726 Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 04/30/2019)

All it took was the first few pages, meeting both Adam Chen and Zayneb Malik and seeing their marvels and oddities journals, and I was swept up into the story. I scratched the rest of my to-do list for the day and just read this book straight through. There is so much heart to this book, whether with family or friends or support or passions or convictions. It is full of strong feelings, of passionate convictions, and of complicated characters who don’t always do or say the right thing, but make choices for logical and important reasons. This book is about love, family, and the changes and challenges life throws at us. It’s also about Islamophobia, justice, peace, activism, social justice, civilian casualties of war, righteous anger, and being Muslim. It is SO MUCH about being Muslim. Zayneb was raised Muslim from the start and Adam converted, along with his father, a handful of years ago. Zayneb’s father is from Pakistan and her mother (who also converted) is Guyanese and Trinidadian. Adam is Canadian by way of China and Finland.

There was so much in this book that either I was cheering for (Zayneb repeatedly calling people out for their racism, Islamophobia, white feminism, and cultural appropriation) or marveling (sorry) over (have I read a book set in Qatar before? Have I read a book where there are characters who converted to Islam before?). Despite their bumps along the road, it’s so clear to the reader that Adam and Zayneb were meant to meet and be in each other’s lives. For very different reasons, they both feel so alone, but find more connections than just each other. This is a beautiful, complex, and important book. I hope that all libraries will get this on their shelves and on display. A wonderful story that centers the Muslim experience and shows the power of anger, peace, and connection. (Full review here.)

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver (ISBN-13: 9781338306125 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc Publication date: 05/14/2019)

Go order this book now. Request it from your library, buy it from your local bookstore, order it FOR your library, email your media specialist to make sure they know about it, just go. I’ll wait.

Did you do it? I really hope you did, because this is an Important Book. There are not a ton of nonbinary teens yet in YA books. This fact alone makes this book noteworthy. But it’s the fact that Ben’s story is so complex and emotional and that the writing is SO GOOD that really makes this book one that you need.

This is not always an easy book to read, but just know that it gets easier and has a happy ending. And that’s not a spoiler—I think it’s important to know that this book about a nonbinary teen kicked out of their home isn’t a story just full of misery and betrayal. That’s certainly part of the story, and not an unimportant part, but Ben’s story is so much deeper than that. And, thankfully, it’s so much more joy-filled than just that. (Full review here.)

The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos (ISBN-13: 9780062699022 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/28/2019)

A desperate search for the truth leaves 16-year-old Ruby Chernyavsky with more questions than answers as she untangles years of family lore and begins to understand that stories have more than one side. Ruby knows that the women in her family, long removed from their ancestral home in the woods in Russia, once possessed powerful magic. Ruby and her sisters grew up steeped in the family lore, stories of this magic, and the reminder to stay hidden and safe. Once in their lifetimes, the women in her family travel ahead to be in the body of their future selves at whatever age they will die. This is called their Time, and whatever they see is inevitable. But when Great-Aunt Polina dies, Ruby and her relatives learn that Polina’s vision was wrong. Ruby, who has seen her Time, must know: Can she alter her fate?

When she falls for a boy with family secrets of his own and begins to confide in her long-absent mother, the stories and folklore become even more complicated. Ruby questions who the real villains are in these passed-down tales. Suddenly everything becomes about finding the courage to determine her own story and what she is willing to lose as she balances choices, consequences, and risks. Podos weaves an intricate plot full of mystery and folklore that will make readers race toward the satisfying but not-yet-tied up conclusion.  (Full review here.)

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

Two high school seniors find their voices and first love in this enemies-to-lovers story told from dual perspectives. Brusque and controlling filmmaker Rachel Recht, a Jewish scholarship student at the prestigious Royce School, wants nothing to do with Sana Khan, cheerleading captain and model human being. But when a literal run-in forces them to work together on a film, their tense relationship morphs into something beautiful and unexpected. As they collaborate, they begin to share their most private feelings. Sana, who is Muslim, reveals that she’s been having a crisis about her future, hasn’t sent her down payment to Princeton, and has secretly applied to a fellowship. Rachel knows she’s NYU-bound if the scholarship funds come through, but her future is in jeopardy if she can’t get this last film finished. Working together on this project about a woman forging her own path could be transformative for both, if only they could stop arguing and misjudging each other’s intentions.

Determined to find success on their own terms, the ambitious girls learn to stand up for themselves as they challenge, support, and infuriate each other. Immensely readable with strong characters and quick, clever dialogue, this romance has real depth. Though there is no question that the girls will end up together, it’s a joy to watch them fumble toward their eventual happy ending. As much about finding yourself as it is about finding love, this smart, feminist story shows that expectations shouldn’t dictate the future.  (Full review here.)

Frankly in Love by David Yoon (ISBN-13: 9781984812209 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/10/2019)

Korean-American Frank isn’t sure where he’s supposed to fit in. The child of immigrants, he always feels like he’s not Korean enough, but he’s not fully American. He loves his parents, who are complicated people. He fully admits they’re racist (and have essentially let their daughter, whose husband is black, walk out of their lives because of this). His best friend, Q, is black, and while he feels totally at home at Q’s house, he rarely has him over. He knows when he eventually finds a girlfriend, she should probably be Korean-American, just to make everything easier. Falling for white Brit means lots of deception. When he begins fake dating his Korean-American friend Joy, as a cover, we can see what may happen, but we can’t predict all of the twists and turns that will come with both his real relationship and his fake one.

While this is a love story, it’s also about so much more. Frank spends an awful lot of time thinking about race and where he fits. He talks with his friends about this. He travels in various circles—the AP kids (the Apeys), the Gathering kids—and fits everywhere and nowhere. He is always learning, rethinking, growing. At one point he thinks, “People who let themselves learn new things are the best kind of people.” Mine, too, Frank. When he starts to date Brit, he eventually realizes that he will always be holding her at a distance because he isn’t being his real self with her (whoever his real self is). But dating Joy turns out to be just as complicated when he begins to see all the gaps in life–gaps in time, in generations, in class, in upbringing, in experience. He’s trying to figure out what labels are for him, or if labels are even helpful, which is not an easy task.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s smart, funny, sweet, sad, cute, and thoughtful in all the best ways. (Full review here.)

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (ISBN-13: 9780525555483 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/17/2019)

There is so much to love about this story. Yes, Agnes is sent away when her mother catches her with her girlfriend. She’s shamed and told she’s “nasty” by her mother. But she finds love, support, and acceptance from everyone else in her life. Mabel finds kissing her boyfriend kind of boring, but even just being near her friend Jada makes her all tingly. She’s working out what all this means, but it’s not angst-filled or painful or met with any hate. In Minneapolis, they are surrounded by supportive family and friends, many of whom are queer. And for Agnes, she has Queenie, her grandma, back home in Trinidad, who has always been her closest and most loving person. Queenie fully accepts Agnes for who she is—she always has—and fills with her love, always reminding her of her self-worth and that she’s perfect as she is.

Through the lenses of freedom and love, the characters ruminate on the past, the present, and an eternal future found through cosmic connections. They learn to be uncontained, to love without fear or boundaries, to give themselves the space to figure out who they are. The voices from this stunning debut will stay with readers long after the unpredictable ending. Full of love, healing, strength, and spirituality, this is a story that hasn’t been told before—not like this. Be ready to lose a day once you start reading; Mabel and Agnes will draw you into their worlds and not release their grip on you even after the last page. A lovely story that is sad and hopeful all at once. (Full review here.)

20 2020 YA Books To Have On Your Radar

Like many of you (I’m guessing), I keep multiple reading-related lists. I keep track of what I read each year. I keep track of what ARCs I’ve gotten and hope to read. I keep track of what books I either want to get when they come out or hope to track down as ARCs but haven’t yet. There’s the list of 2019 LGBTQIA+ books. Look, I like lists. Even just listing my lists was fun for me. So anyway, I scanned through all my various relevant lists and pulled together this new list (yay!) of 20 YA books I can’t wait to read. In some cases, it’s because I liked the author’s previous work. In some cases, it’s a debut that’s caught my attention. In some cases, it’s just that I like reading my friends’ work. My list could have easily been much longer.

Isn’t it exciting to be able to look forward to SO MANY GOOD BOOKS in 2020?!

Hop in the comments or catch me on Twitter @CiteSomething and tell me what you are excited to read in 2020!

All descriptions from the publishers or Goodreads summaries. Some books are still lacking full information, but I’ve seen enough to know that I am looking forward to reading them!

We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding (ISBN-13: 9781419738661 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 01/07/2020)

Two best friends grow up—and grow apart—in this innovative contemporary YA novel

Told in dual timelines—half of the chapters moving forward in time and half moving backward—We Used to Be Friends explores the most traumatic breakup of all: that of childhood besties. At the start of their senior year in high school, James (a girl with a boy’s name) and Kat are inseparable, but by graduation, they’re no longer friends. James prepares to head off to college as she reflects on the dissolution of her friendship with Kat while, in alternating chapters, Kat thinks about being newly in love with her first girlfriend and having a future that feels wide open. Over the course of senior year, Kat wants nothing more than James to continue to be her steady rock, as James worries that everything she believes about love and her future is a lie when her high-school sweetheart parents announce they’re getting a divorce. Funny, honest, and full of heart, We Used to Be Friends tells of the pains of growing up and growing apart.

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott, Loveis Wise (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781368045247 Publisher: Disney Press Publication date: 01/14/2020)

Inspired by the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum, these poems pay tribute to victims of police brutality as well as the activists insisting that Black Lives Matter. Elliott engages poets from the past two centuries to create a chorus of voices celebrating the creativity, resilience, and courage of Black women and girls.

This collection features forty-nine powerful poems, four of which are tribute poems inspired by the works of Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, and Phillis Wheatley.

This provocative collection will move every reader to reflect, respond-and act.

Layoverland by Gabby Noone (ISBN-13: 9781984836120 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/21/2020)

Two teens, one stuck atoning for her sins and one destined for heaven, fall in love in purgatory in this darkly hilarious and heartfelt rom-com, perfect for fans of The Good Place.

Beatrice Fox deserves to go straight to hell.

At least, that’s what she believes. Her last day on Earth, she ruined the life of the person she loves most—her little sister, Emmy. So when Bea awakens from a fatal car accident to find herself on an airplane headed who knows where, she’s confused, to say the least.

Once on the ground, Bea receives some truly harrowing news: she’s in purgatory. If she ever wants to catch a flight to heaven, she’ll have to help five thousand souls figure out what’s keeping them from moving on.

But one of Bea’s first assignments is Caleb, the boy who caused her accident, and the last person Bea would ever want to send to the pearly gates. And as much as Bea would love to see Caleb suffer for dooming her to a seemingly endless future of eating bad airport food and listening to other people’s problems, she can’t help but notice that he’s kind of cute, and sort of sweet, and that maybe, despite her best efforts, she’s totally falling for him.

From debut author Gabby Noone comes a darkly hilarious and heartfelt twist on the afterlife about finding second chances, first loves, and new friendships in the most unlikely places.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli, Aisha Saeed (ISBN-13: 9780062937049 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 02/04/2020)

A book about the power of love and resistance from New York Times bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed.

YES

Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone) Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

NO

Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.

MAYBE SO

Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybeit’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural crush of the century is another thing entirely.

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey (ISBN-13: 9781534432871 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 03/03/2020)

A sly, witchy dark comedy about four teens whose magic goes wildly awry from Magic for Liars author Sarah Gailey, who Chuck Wendig calls an “author to watch.”

Keeping your magic a secret is hard. Being in love with your best friend is harder.

Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.

That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night.

When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.

The Degenerates by J. Albert Mann (ISBN-13: 9781534419353 Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/17/2020)

In the tradition of Girl, Interrupted, this fiery historical novel follows four young women in the early 20th century whose lives intersect when they are locked up by a world that took the poor, the disabled, the marginalized—and institutionalized them for life.

The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so. Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose in an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots the doctors have deemed them to be. Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother couldn’t bring himself to support a sister with a club foot. And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes.

We Didn’t Ask for This by Adi Alsaid (ISBN-13: 9781335146762 Publisher: Inkyard Press Publication date: 04/07/2020)

Central International School’s annual lock-in is legendary. Bonds are made. Contests are fought. Stories are forged that will be passed down from student to student for years to come.

This year’s lock-in begins normally enough. Then a group of students led by Marisa Cuevas stage an ecoprotest and chain themselves to the doors, vowing to keep everyone trapped inside until their list of demands is met.

Some students rally to their cause…but others are aggrieved to watch their own plans fall apart.

Amira has trained all year to compete in the school decathlon on her own terms. Peejay intended to honor his brother by throwing the greatest party CIS has ever seen. Kenji was looking forward to making a splash at his improv showcase. Omar wanted to spend a little time with the boy he’s been crushing on. Celeste, adrift in a new country, was hoping to connect with someone—anyone. And Marisa, once so certain of her goals, must now decide how far she’ll go to attain them.

Every year, lock-in night changes lives. This year, it might just change the world.

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder (ISBN-13: 9780525553021 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/14/2020)

Part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life, this debut graphic novel is extraordinarily comforting and engaging.

From before her mother’s first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing—but also often funny—details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom’s closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the “I’ve got to tell Mom about this” instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.

Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan (ISBN-13: 9780525516286 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/21/2020)

From the author of Hot Dog Girl comes a fresh and funny YA contemporary romance about two teens who fall in love in an indie comic book shop.

Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.

Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them—that is, when they’re even paying attention.

They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible . . . unless they manage to keep it a secret.

Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (ISBN-13: 9780062820259 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/12/2020)

From Stonewall and Lambda Award–winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (ISBN-13: 9781624149689 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 05/12/2020)

Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.

As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.

The Mall: A Novel by Megan McCafferty (ISBN-13: 9781250209955 Publisher: St. Martin”s Publishing Group Publication date: 06/09/2020)

New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty returns to her roots with this YA coming of age story set in a New Jersey mall.

The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes and 90210 are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she and her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education and happily ever after.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, and ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places. Megan McCafferty, beloved New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall.

This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi (ISBN-13: 9781250242341 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 06/09/2020)

Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him.

Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.

Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day.

When Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author, and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with.

And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon (ISBN-13: 9781534440241 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 06/16/2020)

The Hating Game meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by way of Morgan Matson in this unforgettable romantic comedy about two rival overachievers whose relationship completely transforms over the course of twenty-four hours.

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.

More Than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood (ISBN-13: 9780316492355 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 08/04/2020)

For fans of Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han, a sweetly funny YA debut about falling in love, family expectations, and being a Renaissance Man.
Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man, a school-wide academic championship, it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

In this young adult debut full of depth and heart, author Syed M. Masood will have readers laughing, sighing, tearing up, and shouting “YES!” at the top of their lungs.

All Our Worst Ideas by Vicky Skinner (ISBN-13: 9781250195425 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 08/11/2020)

When Amy, on her way to becoming valedictorian of her graduating class and getting accepted to her dream school, gets dumped by her long-term boyfriend, she takes a job at a record store to ease the pain. She needs a distraction, badly.

Oliver, Amy’s record store co-worker, isn’t so sure about Amy—his complete opposite—but what he is sure of is his decision not to go to college. He just can’t figure out how to tell his mother.

As they work late-night shifts at the record store, Amy and Oliver become friends and then confidantes and then something more, but when Amy has a hard time letting go of what she thought was her perfect future with her ex, she risks losing the future she didn’t even know she wanted with Oliver.

The Whitsun Daughters by Carrie Mesrobian (ISBN-13: 9780735231955 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/25/2020)

From a critically acclaimed author, a twisty and gorgeously written YA ghost story about young women separated by centuries but connected by a desire to control their futures.

“How quickly everything in the world disintegrates. Everything but the loneliness of young women.”

So begins The Whitsun Daughters, a story of three contemporary teenage girls—sisters and cousins—in a small Midwestern town, narrated by the ghost of a young woman who, over a century earlier, lived and loved on the same small patch of farmland the girls now call home.

The book follows both the present-day story of the three Whitsun girls and the story of Jane Murphy a century earlier as they fight to assert their own desires in worlds determined to ignore and minimize them. The Whitsun girls struggle with an unplanned pregnancy. Jane is determined to defy her arranged marriage and have both the baby she carries and the young man she loves.

The Whitsun Daughters leaves readers with a profound sense of the unbreakable thread connecting generations of young women who sought and continue to seek control their destinies.

Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass (ISBN-13: TK Publisher: Flux Expected publication date: 09/15/2020)

A gay teen’s summer vacation becomes a nightmare when his religious zealot family has him kidnapped and taken to a conversion camp on a forgotten island. There, he teams up with other kidnapped LGBTQ+ teens to uncover the camp’s dark secrets.

The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson (ISBN-13: TK Publisher: HarperTeen Expected publication date: 2020)

David Linker at HarperCollins has bought We Are the Ants author Shaun David Hutchinson‘s The State of Us, the story of Dean and Dre—the 16-year-old sons of the Republican and Democratic candidates for President of the United States—who fall in love on the sidelines of their parents’ presidential campaigns. The book is planned for summer 2020; Katie Shea Boutillier at Donald Maass Literary Agency brokered the deal for world rights.

I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan (ISBN-13: TK Publisher: Albert Whitman Expected publication date: 2020)

Ten years after witnessing her best friend’s kidnapping, a teen copes by anonymously launching a podcast to help solve missing persons cases, but when a new abduction is revealed to have links to the original case, she has to decide how much she is willing to reveal to discover the truth.

Post-it Note Reviews of YA Books: Rappers, movie lovers, musicians, survivors, and teens who create their own universe

IMG_3631I do my best to get a LOT of reading done, but can’t even begin to attempt to read all the books that show up here. Even if I quit my library job, I still couldn’t read them all.  I read just about every free second I have—sitting in the car while waiting for my kid, on my lunch breaks at work, sometimes even while I’m walking in the hall at work. A lot of that kind of reading isn’t super conducive to really deep reading or taking many notes. Or maybe I’m reading in my own house, but while covered in sleeping dachshunds, or while trying to block out the noise of kids playing. I might not get around to being able to write a full review, but I still want to share these books with you, so here are my tiny Post-it Note reviews of a few titles. I also do these posts focusing on books for younger readers. It’s a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers. Transcription of Post-it note review under the summary. 

 

 

 

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On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

 

This is the highly anticipated second novel by Angie Thomas, the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning The Hate U Give.

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.

Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.

(POST-IT SAYS: Like you need me to tell you this is a great read! Outspoken rapper Bri is complex and talented. A sharp look at stereotypes, activism, racism, and labels. A fresh, engrossing read.)

 

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This Book Is Not Yet Rated by Peter Bognanni

(Releases April 9, 2019)

In this enormously funny, smart, and moving contemporary YA novel, fighting for the thing you love doesn’t always turn out like in the movies.

Movies have always helped Ethan Ashby make sense of the world. So when developers swoop in and say the classic Green Street Cinema is going to be destroyed to make room for luxury condos, Ethan is ready for battle. And so a motley crew of cinema employees comes together to save the place they love:

There’s Sweet Lou, the elderly organist with a penchant for not-so-sweet language; Anjo, the too-cool projectionist; Griffin and Lucas who work concessions, if they work at all; and Ethan, their manager (who can barely manage his own life). Still, it’s going to take a movie miracle for the Green Street to have a happy ending. And when Raina Allen, Ethan’s oldest friend (and possible soul mate?), comes back to town after working in Hollywood—cue lights and music—it seems that miracle may have been delivered. But life and love aren’t always like in the movies.

This Book is Not Yet Rated is about growing up, letting go, and realizing love hides in plain view—in the places that shape us, the people who raise us, the first loves who leave us, and the lives that fade in and fade out all around us.

(POST-IT SAYS: Love, loss, growth, and grief are explored against the backdrop of saving a beloved institution. For 90s fans, think Empire Records. Full of quirky misfits, humor, heart, and movie references galore.) 

 

 

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You’d Be Mine: A Novel by Erin Hahn

 

Annie Mathers is America’s sweetheart and heir to a country music legacy full of all the things her Gran warned her about. Superstar Clay Coolidge is most definitely going to end up one of those things.

But unfortunately for Clay, if he can’t convince Annie to join his summer tour, his music label is going to drop him. That’s what happens when your bad boy image turns into bad boy reality. Annie has been avoiding the spotlight after her parents’ tragic death, except on her skyrocketing YouTube channel. Clay’s label wants to land Annie, and Clay has to make it happen.

Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk.

Erin Hahn’s thrilling debut, You’d Be Mine, asks: can the right song and the perfect summer on the road make two broken hearts whole?

(POST-IT SAYS: Fans of sweet, swoony romances will love this music-centered story full of chemistry, easy to like characters, emotional depth, and just enough drama. Follows a predictable but enjoyable path.) 

 

 

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Every Moment After by Joseph Moldover

(Releases April 9, 2019)

Best friends Matt and Cole grapple with their changing relationships during the summer after high school in this impactful, evocative story about growing up and moving on from a traumatic past. 

Surviving was just the beginning. 

Eleven years after a shooting rocked the small town of East Ridge, New Jersey and left eighteen first graders in their classroom dead, survivors and recent high school graduates Matt Simpson and Cole Hewitt are still navigating their guilt and trying to move beyond the shadow of their town’s grief. Will Cole and Matt ever be able to truly leave the ghosts of East Ridge behind? Do they even want to?

As they grapple with changing relationships, falling in love, and growing apart, these two friends must face the question of how to move on—and truly begin living.

(POST-IT SAYS: This look at what life’s like years after a school shooting is unique and as much about friendship as it is about trauma. FYI, the shooting isn’t detailed on the page. An unfortunately always timely topic.)

 

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Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst, Paula Garner

 

(Releases April 16, 2019)

 

In a novel in two voices, a popular teen and an artistic loner forge an unlikely bond — and create an entire universe — via texts. But how long before the real world invades Starworld?Sam Jones and Zoe Miller have one thing in common: they both want an escape from reality. Loner Sam flies under the radar at school and walks on eggshells at home to manage her mom’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, wondering how she can ever leave to pursue her dream of studying aerospace engineering. Popular, people-pleasing Zoe puts up walls so no one can see her true self: the girl who was abandoned as an infant, whose adoptive mother has cancer, and whose disabled brother is being sent away to live in a facility. When an unexpected encounter results in the girls’ exchanging phone numbers, they forge a connection through text messages that expands into a private universe they call Starworld. In Starworld, they find hilarious adventures, kindness and understanding, and the magic of being seen for who they really are. But when Sam’s feelings for Zoe turn into something more, will the universe they’ve built survive the inevitable explosion?

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Strong characters carry this moving look at the complex lives of teens. Great dual POV in this story about risk, connection, friendship, and identity. A warm, funny, and heartfelt escape from reality.) 

Post-it Note Reviews of YA Books: Undocumented teen voices, the supernatural, writing advice, a searing memoir, and Joan of Arc’s life told through poems

IMG_3631I do my best to get a LOT of reading done, but can’t even begin to attempt to read all the books that show up here. Even if I quit my library job, I still couldn’t read them all.  I read just about every free second I have—sitting in the car while waiting for my kid, on my lunch breaks at work, sometimes even while I’m walking in the hall at work. A lot of that kind of reading isn’t super conducive to really deep reading or taking many notes. Or maybe I’m reading in my own house, but while covered in sleeping dachshunds, or while trying to block out the noise of kids playing. I might not get around to being able to write a full review, but I still want to share these books with you, so here are my tiny Post-it Note reviews of a few titles. I also do these posts focusing on books for younger readers. It’s a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers. Transcription of Post-it note review under the summary. 

 

 

 

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We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults by Susan Kuklin

 

The Stonewall Honor–winning author of Beyond Magenta shares the intimate, eye-opening stories of nine undocumented young adults living in America.

“Maybe next time they hear someone railing about how terrible immigrants are, they’ll think about me. I’m a real person.” 

Meet nine courageous young adults who have lived in the United States with a secret for much of their lives: they are not U.S. citizens. They came from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Independent Samoa, and Korea. They came seeking education, fleeing violence, and escaping poverty. All have heartbreaking and hopeful stories about leaving their homelands and starting a new life in America. And all are weary of living in the shadows. We Are Here to Stay is a very different book than it was intended to be when originally slated for a 2017 release, illustrated with Susan Kuklin’s gorgeous full-color portraits. Since the last presidential election and the repeal of DACA, it is no longer safe for these young adults to be identified in photographs or by name. Their photographs have been replaced with empty frames, and their names are represented by first initials. We are honored to publish these enlightening, honest, and brave accounts that encourage open, thoughtful conversation about the complexities of immigration — and the uncertain future of immigrants in America.

(POST-IT SAYS: Deeply moving. The interviews/format allow the young adults’ voices to really come through, sharing painful experiences as well as hopes and frustrations. The lack of portraits/names is a powerful commentary on what this presidential administration has done. Ages 13+)

 

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When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

(pub date 3/12/2019)

 

The Serpent King meets Stranger Things in Emily Henry’s gripping novel about a group of friends in a small town who find themselves dealing with unexpected powers after a cosmic event.

Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma.

In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them.

Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurtling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.

(POST-IT SAYS: I admit to skimming this because it didn’t really grab me. That said, it’s an easy recommendation for fans of supernatural/science fiction. Friendship, loss, and grief in an eerie package.)

 

 

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Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book by Ally Carter

(pub date 3/26/2019)

 

Have you always wanted to write a book, but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re really great at writing the first few chapters . . . but you never quite make it to the end? Or do you finally have a finished manuscript, but you’re not sure what to do next? Fear not — if you have writing-related questions, this book has answers!

Whether you’re writing for fun or to build a career, bestselling author Ally Carter is ready to help you make your work shine. With honesty, encouragement, and humor, Ally’s ready here to answer the questions that writers struggle with the most.

Filled with practical tips and helpful advice, Dear Ally is a treasure for aspiring writers at any stage of their careers. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at how books get made, from idea to publication, and gives you insight into the writing processes of some of the biggest and most talented YA authors writing today.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: YA with plenty of wide appeal, because how do you write a book? Lots of great insight and useful advice in an accessible style. A great resource for writers of all ages.)

 

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Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

(pub date 3/12/2019)

 

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.
(POST-IT SAYS: POWERFUL. An immensely readable memoir that informs her fiction and reveals her truths. An outstanding and empowering take on surviving, advocacy, and rape culture. Intense.)

 

 

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Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott
(3/26/2019)

 

Bestselling author David Elliott explores how Joan of Arc changed the course of history and remains a figure of fascination centuries after her extraordinary life and death. Joan of Arc gets the Hamilton treatment in this evocative novel. Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), Voices offers an unforgettable perspective on an extraordinary young woman. Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.
(POST-IT SAYS: A unique perspective on Joan of Arc’s life, trials, and accusers. A strong introduction for readers who may not know much about her. May engage readers who otherwise would not gravitate toward historical fiction.)

 

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Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by Albert Marrin

 

From National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin comes a fascinating look at the history and science of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic–and the chances for another worldwide pandemic.

In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.

Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people–one-third of the global population at the time–came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million.

In this powerful book, filled with black and white photographs, nonfiction master Albert Marrin examines the history, science, and impact of this great scourge–and the possibility for another worldwide pandemic today.

(POST-IT SAYS: A comprehensive and horrifying look at the circumstances that led to this pandemic. Full of archival photos, newspaper clippings, quotes, and diaries/letters, this is a compelling and deeply scary read.)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Spring 2019 Showcase

IMG_7754Beyond 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, my kid’s 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.

 

Today I’m sharing with you titles from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All annotations are from the publisher.

 

 

every momentEvery Moment After by Joseph Moldover (ISBN-13: 9781328547279 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 04/09/2019)

 

Best friends Matt and Cole grapple with their changing relationships during the summer after high school in this impactful, evocative story about growing up and moving on from a traumatic past.

Surviving was just the beginning. 

Eleven years after a shooting rocked the small town of East Ridge, New Jersey and left eighteen first graders in their classroom dead, survivors and recent high school graduates Matt Simpson and Cole Hewitt are still navigating their guilt and trying to move beyond the shadow of their town’s grief. Will Cole and Matt ever be able to truly leave the ghosts of East Ridge behind? Do they even want to?

As they grapple with changing relationships, falling in love, and growing apart, these two friends must face the question of how to move on—and truly begin living

 

RBGDissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work by Victoria Ortiz (ISBN-13: 9780544973640 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 06/04/2019)

The life and career of the fiercely principled Supreme Court Justice, now a popular icon, with dramatic accounts of her landmark cases that moved the needle on legal protection of human rights, illustrated with b/w archival photographs.

Dramatically narrated case histories from Justice Ginsburg’s stellar career are interwoven with an account of RBG’s life—childhood, family, beliefs, education, marriage, legal and judicial career, children, and achievements—and her many-faceted personality is captured. The cases described, many involving young people, demonstrate her passionate concern for gender equality, fairness, and our constitutional rights. Notes, bibliography, index.

 

 

 

briar and roseBriar and Rose and Jack by Katherine Coville (ISBN-13: 9781328950055 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 06/11/2019)

 

Sumptuous storytelling combines Sleeping Beauty with Jack and the Beanstalk in a magical exploration of prejudice, justice, and the meaning of true love.

Lady Briar is scorned for her appearance. Princess Rose is adored for her looks. Unbeknownst to them, one or both may bear a curse that only true love can break. But the girls have little time for curses anyway—along with their friend Jack, they are busy plotting the downfall of the evil giant who plagues their kingdom. But how can children succeed when the adults are afraid to even try? And what if the curse manifests? Whose love could be true enough to save the day?

 

 

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Moles by Rachel Poliquin, Nicholas John Frith (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780544951075 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 06/18/2019)

Funny and fact-filled, MOLES is another installment in the SUPERPOWER FIELD GUIDES series by author Rachel Poliquin, featuring full-color illustrations by Nicholas John Frith that will engage readers with witty narration and fun visual elements, inspiring readers to dig deep and see the world, both above and below ground, with new eyes. 

Meet Rosalie, a common mole.The first thing you need to know about Rosalie is that she is shaped like a potato. Not a new potato, all cute and round, but a plain old lumpy potato. She may be small. She may be spongy. But never underestimate a mole.

I know what you’re thinking: moles are just squinty-eyed beasts that wreck your lawn.

You’re right! Those squinty eyes and mounds of dirt are proof that moles have superpowers. There is absolutely nothing common about the common mole.

 

impossibleImpossible Music by Sean Williams (ISBN-13:9780544816206 Publisher: Clarion Publication date: 07/02/2019)

In an emotionally compelling tale crackling with originality, when a teen musician goes deaf, his quest to create an entirely new form of music brings him to a deeper understanding of his relationship to the hearing world, of himself, and of the girl he meets along the way. 

Music is Simon’s life—which is why he is devastated when a stroke destroys his hearing. He resists attempts to help him adjust to his new state, refusing to be counseled, refusing to learn sign-language, refusing to have anything to do with Deaf culture. Refusing, that is, until he meets G, a tough-as-nails girl dealing with her own newly-experienced deafness.

In an emotionally engaging tale crackling with originality, Simon’s quest to create an entirely new form of music forces him into a deeper understanding of his relationship to the hearing world, of himself, and of the girl he meets along the way.

 

 

from an ideaFrom an Idea to Google: How Innovation at Google Changed the World by Lowey Bundy Sichol (ISBN-13:9781328954916 Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Publication date: 07/09/2019)

From an Idea to Google is a behind-the-computer-screen look into the history, business, and brand of the world’s largest search engine. With humorous black & white illustrations throughout, learn about the company that even earned its own catchphrase: Google it!

Today, Google is the number one internet search engine and the most visited website in the world. But a long time ago, two college friends, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, started out with just an idea. Find out more about Google’s history, the business, and the brand in this illustrated nonfiction book!

Find out where the name “Google” came from. (Hint: It involves a LOT of zeros!)

Discover how Google became the fastest and most popular internet search engine of all time.

Explore how Google transformed from a tiny startup (in someone’s garage!) into one of the most powerful companies in the world.

 

survivor girlSurvivor Girl by Erin Teagan (ISBN-13:9780544636217 Publisher: Clarion Publication date: 07/16/2019)

In this funny, action-packed middle grade novel from the author of the American Girl Luciana books, Alison gets invited to be on her dad’s reality show, Survivor Guy, and faces important realities about her family, self-reliance, and learning to work together with friends. 

12-year-old Ali adores her reality-show celebrity father, Survivor Guy, and hopes to follow in his footsteps. But when he invites her on location, Ali is sure she won’t survive one episode . . . until she learns the truth: The show isn’t just her dad and a camera. It’s a huge crew and set, with stunt doubles! When a wildfire strikes and Ali and two other kids miss the last rescue helicopter, suddenly, the fight for survival is real. Will she find the self-confidence she needs so they can work together and get out of the wilderness alive?

STEM themes and plot strands about body image and divorce are subtly woven into this page-turning tale.

 

 

mystery clubMystery Club: Wild Werewolves; Mummy Mischief by Davide Cali, Yannick Robert (ISBN-13:9781328528483 Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Publication date: 07/23/2019)

Two graphic novel mysteries in one book, each filled with fun humor and intrigue. Are there really werewolves in London? Mummies in the metro? Fear not—Mystery Club is on the case!

In Wild Werewolves, a stranger approaches Zoey and Kyle in the library as they ask the question: “Do you think monsters exist in London?” The stranger gives them information that sets them on a city-wide adventure with Ashley and Tyler. The Mystery Club pieces together the werewolf mystery and the identity of the stranger and a zany series of events ensues.

In Mummy Mischief, train passengers spot a mummy in the subway. Then it happens again! The occurrences are uncanny and strange enough to lure the Mystery Club to action. As they unwrap the mysteries of the mummy appearances, they unearth even more hijinks than they bargained for.

 

bee the changeBee the Change by James Preller (ISBN-13:9781328973399 Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Publication date: 07/30/2019)

 

The Big Idea Gang is buzzing with excitement! They’re going to show Clay Elementary just how important bees can be in this chapter book series about making a case—and making a difference—by the author of Jigsaw Jones.

After Kym and Lizzie get the awesome opportunity to visit a bee colony, they realize all the wonderful things bees do! But how can it be that these amazing insects are disappearing? And what will happen to our food chain without the great pollinators buzzing about? If only everyone else at Clay Elementary could understand how important the bees are for the environment! Now that’s a big idea that needs to be shared! With the help of Connor and Deon, Kym and Lizzie set out to show their school the beauty of bees, and use their powers of persuasion to make a difference in the world.

 

 

all in a dropAll in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World by Lori Alexander (Author), Vivien Mildenberger (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 978-1328884206 Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Publication date: 08/06/2019)

For fans of the “Who Was” series, this lively, accessible, and full-color chapter book biography shows how a self-taught scientist was the first to observe the microbial life in and around us. By building his own microscope, Antony van Leeuwenhoek advanced humanity’s understanding of our oft-invisible world around us.

Microbes are everywhere: in the soil and oceans, in snow, and inside our bodies. But in Antony van Leeuwenhoek’s time, people believed that what they saw with their own eyes was all that existed in the world. How did a simple tradesman—who didn’t go to college or speak English or Latin like all the other scientists—change everyone’s minds?

Proving that remarkable discoveries can come from the most unexpected people and places, this eye-opening chapter book, illustrated with lively full-color art, celebrates the power of curiosity, ingenuity, and persistence.

 

beasts ofThe Beasts of Grimheart: Podkin Book 3 by Kieran Larwood, David Wyatt (Illustrator) (ISBN-13:9781328696021 Publisher: Clarion Publication date: 08/13/2019)

The young rabbit Podkin One-Ear and his allies battle to save their land from the evil Gorm tribe. The Longburrow series is Middle Earth for middle graders!

Podkin and his sister and baby brother, Paz and Pook, struggle to keep their ragtag clan of refugees safe from enemies who are destroying the forest in an effort to find them. When they are separated from their clan, the siblings encounter the mysterious and mystical creatures who are the heart of the forest itself. As the fate of all rabbitkind hangs in the balance, the youngsters must recruit these new allies and convince feuding clans to come together in a desperate final battle to defeat the diabolical Gorm.

Action and high stakes propel the climactic struggle in the series that shows anyone—even little rabbits—can do great things.

 

 

song ofSong of the Abyss (Tower of Winds #2) by Makiia Lucier (ISBN-13:9780544968585 Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Publication date: 08/27/2019)

Ancient grievances, long-held grudges, and dangerous magic combine in this sweeping fantasy perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce and Rachel Hartman.

As the granddaughter of a famed navigator, seventeen-year-old Reyna has always lived life on her own terms, despite those who say a girl could never be an explorer for the royal house of St. John del Mar. She is determined to prove them wrong, and as she returns home after a year-long expedition, she knows her dream is within reach. No longer an apprentice, instead: Reyna, Master Explorer. But when menacing raiders attack her ship, those dreams are pushed aside. Reyna’s escape is both desperate and dangerous, and when next she sees her ship, a mystery rises from the deep. The sailors—her captain, her countrymen—have vanished. To find them, Reyna must use every resource at her disposal . . . including placing her trust in a handsome prince from a rival kingdom. Together they uncover a disturbing truth. The attack was no isolated incident. Troubling signs point to a shadowy kingdom in the north, and for once, the rulers of the Sea of Magdalen agree: something must be done. But can Reyna be brave enough to find a way?

The Pressure to be Perfect: Emily Franklin interviews H.A. Swain about her YA novel Gifted

giftedEF: In Gifted, you write about a future in which genius can be purchased by wealthy parents for their children. What was the inspiration behind this?

 

HS: Two things happened simultaneously in my life to inspire this premise: 1) My daughter was applying to public middle schools in Brooklyn and 2) I was recovering from a concussion. Those might sound completely unrelated, but here’s the thing… where we live, kids have to apply, audition, submit report cards and test scores, go through interviews, and rank schools just to get a seat in PUBLIC middle school. It’s bonkersville.

 

During that process, I bounced my head off a cement retaining wall in a snow tubing accident (yes, I did say snow tubing, so embarrassing). As I researched how to recover from a concussion, I came across stories of people with traumatic brain injuries that induce savant abilities. For example, one guy hit his head diving into a pool and woke from a coma as a musical genius.

 

With all the pressure and non-sense of the middle school process, I could imagine parents wanting to bonk their kids on the head to make them automatic geniuses and guarantee a good spot in middle school. That’s silly of course, but the idea was intriguing.

 

EF: Do you feel that you were addressing the mounting pressures facing today’s youth to be uber-talented and excel in a particular area?

 

HS: Absolutely! It’s so easy to fall into. Parents see so much potential we want to foster when our kids are small. Plus, as a culture we have a fascination with precociously talented children. (Think of all the reality TV talent shows about kids who can sing opera or play violin or bake cakes like talented adults.) That pressure can make regular kids feel like sad-sack losers if they aren’t stellar at something when they’re really young.

 

In our eagerness to find what’s “special” and “amazing” about each unique individual, we run the risk of creating anxiety in kids who are trying to live up to impossible expectations. I worry that we lose sight that it’s good for kids to try lots of things, fail at some, excel at others, but mostly learn to work hard in order to be proficient at something they truly enjoy.

 

EF: Orpheus’s mother is a former pop star and his father is a successful music executive who expect Orpheus to carry on the family legacy. By contrast, Zimri is a “plebe” warehouse worker and natural-born musical genius whose grandmother is deeply opposed to her making music. What commentary are you making in Gifted about parental figures trying to control the future of their teens?

 

HS: My favorite parenting advice came from the director of my children’s pre-school who says, “Your job as a parent is to allow your children to become who they are.” Orpheus’s parents and Zimri’s grandmother do not subscribe to this idea.

 

Orpheus is expected to have a musical Acquired Savant Ability surgery in order to carry on the family reputation and preserve their wealth. (This is the futuristic equivalent of a parent dictating what university a child should go to and which careers are acceptable.) But Orpheus sees how his friends’ induced savant abilities are commoditized for money and fame that don’t necessarily bring them happiness.

 

On the other hand, Zimri is from the “plebe” class who have little education or opportunity beyond warehouse work. Her grandmother’s fears about Zimri utilizing her musical abilities are not unfounded. The stakes are very high. If Zimri gets caught making illegal music in this world she could be put in prison, or worse, have her brain scrubbed for infringing on strict copyright laws. (This set up is an exaggerated version of discouraging children from pursuing a talent or dream for fear they won’t make a decent living.) For Zimri, being denied the right to make music means she has to suppress a fundamental part of who she is and that makes her deeply unhappy.

 

As parents, we should be along for the ride, offering support and advice, while letting kids find their own path in life, which is a vital (and exciting) part of becoming an adult.

 

EF: Beneath all the science and tech of this futuristic society, Gifted is an old-fashioned story of star-crossed lovers. Why was it important for Orpheus and Zimri to come together in this book?

 

HS: When I’m writing, I love thinking about that moment in life when young people are beginning to pull away from their families to create their own tribes based on common interests and experiences. It’s such an important part of development. As people rely more on social media to find one another, I think we forget that sometimes teens greatly benefit from crossing boundaries (physical or metaphorical) in order to find like-minded people.

 

Orpheus and Zimri have to overcome many obstacles (he’s a privy, she’s a plebe; he’s posing as someone he’s not, she’s in a relationship with someone else; plus Orpheus’s father will do anything to keep them apart), but somehow they find one another and discover commonality in their passion for music. They’re kindred spirits—just kindred spirits in a fantastical futuristic world with flying cars and delivery drones and brain scrub technology!

 

hungryEF: Grandmothers play significant roles in both your futuristic YA novels, Hungry and Gifted. Why is the older generation important to your work?

 

I write about the future in order to see the present more clearly; but in order to contextualize the future, you have to dig into the past. This is true when writing about society and also when thinking about our personal lives. Understanding where you come from helps you figure out where you’re going. As parents, we need to help our teens see themselves as part of concentric circles of communities (family, school, neighborhood, cultural groups, etc.) that have meaningful histories. Grandparents are in a unique position to offer perspective about the past while being an additional source of support as teens forge ahead into their futures.

 

In our world, where young people feel pressure to be super stars, supporting teens to take their time to find a passion (and the people who share it) goes a long way toward fostering a healthy, happy transition into adulthood.

 

About Gifted (Feiwel & Friends, 2016)

An entitled boy whose talents are bought meets a girl whose gifts are natural in this futuristic thriller from H.A. Swain, the author of Hungry. In Orpheus Chanson’s world, geniuses and prodigies are no longer born or honed through hard work. Instead, procedures to induce Acquired Savant Abilities (ASAs) are now purchased by the privileged. And Orpheus’s father holds the copyright to the ASA procedure. Zimri Robinson, a natural musical prodigy, is a”plebe”—a worker at the enormous warehouse that supplies an on-line marketplace that has supplanted all commerce. However, her grueling schedule and her grandmother’s illness can’t keep her from making music—even if it is illegal. Orpheus and Zimri are not supposed to meet. He is meant for greatness; she is not. But sometimes, rules are meant to be broken.Gifted by H.A. Swain is a thriller, love story, and social experiment that readers will find gripping—and terrifying.

 

autor-close-upH.A. Swain writes books for children and teens. She is the author of the young adult novels Gifted and Hungry. Her illustrated children’s book, All Kinds of Kisses and How Many Hugs will be published in 2016 and 2017. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her@HeatherASwain or stop by her Facebook fan page to say Hi!

 

Credit: Lou Rouse

Credit: Lou Rouse

Emily Franklin is the author of a novel, Liner Notes and a story collection, The Girls’ Almanac. She is also the author of sixteen young adult books including Last Night at the Circle Cinema, selected by the American Association of Jewish Libraries as a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for 2016, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and an ALAN Pick. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio and in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and in numerous literary magazines. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and four children and is at work completing a new novel and another story collection.