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Book Gallery: Teen Lit with Working Teens

Today is Labor Day, a day when we pause and celebrate the labor force. Around the world, teens are working. Recent statistics indicate that in the United States, more than 20 million people aged 16-24 were employed. This is around 54% of the people in this age category. They work in our restaurants, our grocery stores, and in places that are often deemed “essential” in the height of a deadly global pandemic. They often work while going to school and for many of them, they aren’t just working for themselves but to help their struggling families put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. You can read the latest youth employment statistics at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Today, I want to talk about teens working in teen lit. I was recently reading The Cost of Knowing by Brittney C. Morris and started thinking about teens working in teen fiction.

In The Cost of Knowing, Alex Rufus, our main character, works in an ice cream shop called Scoops. This is not the only book I have read where the main character works in an ice cream shop, the main character in Stay Sweet by Vivian Shiobhan also works in an ice cream shop.

Restaurants and food trucks are another place that you can find teens working in teen lit. Rather than duplicate lists that are already out there, here is a great list of food themed ya books that include lists of teens working in restaurants and food trucks. My personal favorite food truck book currently is Geekerella by Ashley Poston

And one of my favorite books about working in a restaurant or diner is All the Rage by Courtney Summers. This fantastic book highlights the profound economic need that many of our teens live in and the necessity of employment.

The Education of Margot Sanchez highlights another place that a lot of teens work: the local grocery store or super market. I know that when I begrudgingly go grocery shopping, it is often teens I know from the local high school that bag my grocery and stock the shelves.

And it what would now seem like a very 2021 twist, the book Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt stars a teen who delivers grocery. Although this job seems very relevant and everywhere today, Okay for Now was actually written in 2011, which makes it kind of spooky in light of current events.

In Carrie Mesrobian’s Perfectly Good White Boy, the main character works at a thrift store. Sean also ends up joining the Marine Corp, a job that a lot of teens will choose as they see the military as their only option after high school.

In Nina Lacour’s Everything Leads to You, Emi is a set designer. This is arguably one of the coolest jobs I have seen a teen hold in this moving love letter to the cinema.

And we will wrap this post up with a book that features a teen having my first job as a teenager: working in a movie theater. In The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord, Paige works at a local movie theater. This was my first job back in the very late 80s and early 90s, the time when we had midnight special showings and prize give aways and it was honestly pretty glorious.

What is your favorite book about a teen working? Share it with us in the comments.

Additional Resources:

Bustle: 11 Contemporary YA Novels about Life Changing Summer Jobs

The Hub: Working Teens in YA Fiction

Have Some Upcoming August Books; By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

This Saturday, Riley is heading off to college. Before she goes, she rounds up a couple of upcoming August YA lit releases for us. And she’ll still be reading and reviewing and posting, just from college.

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore

Zuretta never thought she’d encounter a monster—one of the world’s most notorious serial killers. She had resigned herself to a quiet life in Utah. But when her younger sister, Ruby, travels to Chicago during the World’s Fair, and disappears, Zuretta leaves home to find her.

But 1890s Chicago is more dangerous and chaotic than she imagined. She doesn’t know where to start until she learns of her sister’s last place of employment…a mysterious hotel known as The Castle.

Zuretta takes a job there hoping to learn more. And before long she realizes the hotel isn’t what it seems. Women disappear at an alarming rate, she hears crying from the walls, and terrifying whispers follow her at night. In the end, she finds herself up against one of the most infamous mass murderers in American history—and his custom-built death trap.

Post It Note Review: This was a fascinating look at a historical serial killer case and it was really quite interesting.

Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin

After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.

Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.

Post It Note Review: This book was about the complexities of identity and internalize misogyny and I kept rooting for the main character to experience character growth and learn that we can accept everyone for who they are. A hard but ultimately empowering read.

Fresh by Margot Wood

Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer—from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . .

Post It Note Review: My mom read this one and thought it was fresh, funny and warmhearted.

(Me) Moth by Amber McBride

Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted.

Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she too will discover the history she carries in her bones.

Moth and Sani take a road trip that has them chasing ghosts and searching for ancestors. The way each moves forward is surprising, powerful, and unforgettable.

Here is an exquisite and uplifting novel about identity, first love, and the ways that our memories and our roots steer us through the universe.

Post It Note Review: We haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on our TBR and think it should be on yours as well.

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “The Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.

They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow The Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too.

Post It Note Review: My mom also read this one, and it’s a really good thriller that fans of One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus will like. It really captures the stress of trying to do well in school to get into college.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

From the award-winning author of The Serpent King comes a beautiful examination of grief, found family, and young love.

Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.

But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.

Post It Note Review: This is another book on our TBR list, and Zentner is a solid author that captures the heartache of teen life so well.

And that’s a look at just some of the amazing new YA lit books coming out in August 2021.

Reading Your Way Through High School, a book gallery by grade

At my day job, I recently began making some RA tools for the youth services staff that highlighted novels for youth that featured a main character in each grade, K-12. I knew when I got to YA that it would be both harder and easier. Easier, because I’ve read a lot of YA and already had some books I wanted to recommend. Harder, because I knew that finding books that specified that a character was in the 9th or 10th grade would be harder. YA tends to skew towards the upper end of High School, featuring characters in their junior or senior year, and they are typically 17 years old. Middle grade tends to feature a character in middle school or typically in the 8th grade. So here are some of the titles that I have found that specificy the grade of the main character in high school. Please note, though I struggled to find books with 9th or 10th grade main characters, I could go on and on for 11th and 12th grade main characters. This is by no means a complete list. In fact, if you have recommendations please leave them in the comments.

Freshman Year of High School

Book Covers Pictured: The Worst Night Every by Dave Barry, Freshman Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions, Revelations and Other Nonsense, Time Travel for Love and Profit by Sarah Lariviere, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi, Evolution Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande and Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford

Sophomore Year of High School

Book Covers Pictures: We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra, Just Breathe by Cammie McGovern, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, This is the Part Where You Laugh by Peter Brown Hoffmeister, It’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali, Fat Angie by E. E. Charlton-Trujillo, The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes, Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro, I Was a Non-Blonde Cheerleader by Kieran Scott, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen, Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti, Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah STohmeyere and Bombshell by Rowan Maness

Junior Year of High School

Book Covers Picture: Every Single Lie by Rachel Vincent, Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu, Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, The Meet Cute Project by Rhiannon Richardson, A Song Below Water by Methany C. Morrow, Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles, Odd One Out by Nic Stone, Tell Me AGain How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan and Overturned by Lamar Giles

Senior Year of High School

Book Covers Pictures: Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney, Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson, The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor, Admission by Julie Buxbaum, We Regret to Inform You by Ariel Kaplan, Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe, Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid, Gabi a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, Concrete Rose by Angie thomas, Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian, Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott, Golden by Jessi Kirby, Deadline by Chris Crutcher, 500 Words or Less by Juleah Del Rosario, Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen, Swagger by Carl Deuker, 10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman

TLT Turns 10: The Top 10 YA Books I’ve Read of the Last 10 Years, by Karen Jensen

Today is the day! 10 years ago today, I wrote the very first post here at TLT. I thought I would end this week of celebration by talking about the books. I have always been a reader, so the books are one of my favorite parts of both librarianship and this blog. In the last 25+ years as a teen librarian, I have literally reads 1,000s of YA books. I know because up until last year, I kept track and I was well over 3,500. So here are my favorite books of every year for the past 10 years. I am not a person who does well with favorites, so I cheated and added a lot of honorable mentions.

2011 : Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Contestants on the way to the “Miss Teen Dream” contest crash on an island and have to find a way to survive, both the elements and each other. This feminist take on Lord of the Flies is by far one of the funniest novels I have ever read while also being deeply profound and moving. Do yourself a favor and listen to the audio read by the author, Libba Bray. This is Riley’s go to comfort book when she needs to be cheered up.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Hourglass by Myra McEntyre – Great for fans of Doctor Who
  • Human.4 by Mike Lancaster – Save the bees, but it feels like a Twilight Zone episode
  • Legend by Marie Lu – When dystopian was strong
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver – love is outlawed in this other favorite dystopian
  • Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King – one of A. S. King’s first and best looks at trauma and who am I kidding, it’s A. S. King and I love it

2012 : Ask the Passengers by A. S. King

A teenage lesbian named Astrid talks to the planes that pass overhead as she wrestles with self acceptance in a small town full of gossip. This is by far the most profound reading experience I have ever had. Riley and I are both huge fans of A. S. King and I know that this novel is one that we have both read more than once. A moving exploration of what it means to be human.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater – just beautifully written look at family, friendship and magic
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – The only historical fiction novel I like, best friendship ever
  • The Immortal Rules by Kendara Blake – amazing take on vampires and what it means to be human with a great discourse on what happens if we ban reading
  • This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers – If zombies existed in The Breakfast Club
  • A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand – 2 boys chase down a voodoo doll while it’s being used against them in this hilarious novel

2013 : The Archived by Victoria Schwab

There exists a library of souls and the keeper’s job is to help make sure they don’t escape the archives into our world. This is such a fantastic twist on libraries and a great read for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Doctor Who.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – another great take on vampires
  • Canary by Rachel Alpine – a searing look at one of the most infamous sexual violence cases in high school history
  • Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller – a heartbreaking look at the long term effects of sexual violence and childhood trauma
  • Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian – a compelling tale of a young man who wrestles with unlearning toxic masculinity
  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales – friendship, family and the power of music

2014 : A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

The town is Midnight Gulch, a place where magic used to exist. The girl is 12-year-old Felicity, who has moved around a lot and now they have come here, a place her momma used to call home. It is here and now that Felicity learns about friendship, family, magic, and hope. Technically, this is a middle grade novel. But it is my go-to-recommendation for anyone looking for a joyful read, a hopeful read, or a family read. This is a book that will remind you of childhood favorites as it becomes a new family favorite.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Uses for Boys by Erica Loraine Webb – a heartbreaking and far too real look at what life can be like for teen girls in this world
  • Panic by Lauren Oliver – an elaborate game of truth or dare highlights the desperation that teens in small towns feel to try and escape poverty and small town life
  • Noggin by John Corey Whaley – Like The Breakfast Club, but set in a time where we can transplant a healthy head on a different body, which causes a lot of wrestling with identity
  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King – Girls eat bat dust and imagine a future where they lose reproductive rights in this far too eerily real feminist novel
  • Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican – There are a lot of great books out there about bullying, but this one talks about the fact that sometimes, teachers are the bullies as well

2015 : More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Aaron Soto wants to forget the love of his life, so he heads to the Leteo Institute in an attempt to have his memory erased. But the heart can not always forget, no matter how much we want it to. This is a glorious, heartfelt speculative fiction novel that also highlights what it is like to live in very real poverty. Older readers will recall Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but this is a moving and original tale about love, loss, and trying to accept yourself in a world that very much does not want you to.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle – A dystopian with religious cult highlights
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes – another twisted tale about cults and feminism
  • The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds – a simple and beautiful exploration of grief and character
  • Hit by Delilah Dawson – a searing take on capitalism where the banks that own your debt turn teens into hitmen to work of said debt
  • The Accident Season by Moria Fowley-Doyle – a beautiful, lyrical look at family secrets and lies

2016 : Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

In the aftermath of her rape, head cheerleader Hermione wrestles with abortion, her classmates, and the idea of justice. Johnston has said that this book is a fantasy because it’s everything she wishes would happen after a girl has been raped. A powerful testament to friendship, resilience, and finding justice in a world in which far too few survivors of sexual violence and rape get justice.

Honorable Mentions:

  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab – my favorite take on monsters and politics, ever
  • The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – a revenge fantasy for every survivor of sexual assault
  • Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – after making her family accidentally disappear, a girl journeys into a magical realm to try and save them
  • And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich – one of the creepiest haunted life stories I have ever read
  • Rocks Fall Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar – I love a good this town is weird story
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley – a great look at mental health issues in the lives of teens

2017 : Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

When Will’s older brother is killed, he wants revenge. And he knows just how to do it. But in one long elevator ride down to exact that revenge, he sees how the cycle of violence is never ending and is forced to reconsider the rules he lives his life by. Told entirely in verse, this is a profoundly amazing novel that looks at revenge and the cycle of violence in the life of our youth.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson – the most mind blowing twist ever written
  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour – a beautiful exploration of grief
  • Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu – a fun, fabulous feminist read (see also another favorite of this year, The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed)
  • The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy – another great this town is cursed read
  • Sadie by Courtney Summers – uses the popular concept of podcasts to explore a mystery and feminism

2018 : Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is arguably one of the greatest YA authors writing right now. And she is queen of the plot twist. Claudia is the only one who seems to notice that her friend, Monday, is missing. So she tries to get the adults, the police, her teachers – anyone really – to help her find her friend in this exploration of a world in which Black girls go missing far too often and no one wants to do anything about it. It’s a moving exploration of missing Black girls and how the media doesn’t seem to care. It’s also one of the very few YA novels that talk about Dyslexia.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – a profoundly moving novel of identity written in verse
  • Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand – another this town is cursed novel, with feminism; great for Stephen King fans
  • Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson – a great friendship story, if you and your friends were witches and you had to raise your friend from the dead because issues
  • White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig – a mystery that looks at the opioid epidemic

2019 : The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

What if everything you thought you knew about your life, your town, and even your family was a lie? Girls have a very specific role to play and rules to follow in Garner County, and Tierney James is not a fan of them. They don’t feel right. But she is placed outside the community with others during what is called The Grace Year, and here they learn shocking truths about what it means to be a girl, about violence, and about the lies that run and ruin their lives.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Internment by Samira Ahmed – a look at anti-Muslim hate through the lens of a dystopia that reads as far too possible in current times
  • Wilder Girls by Rory Power – a science fiction and feminist take on Lord of the Flies that will disturb you
  • Heroine by Mindy McGinnis – small town life, girls in sports, and the opioid epidemic come together in this moving contemporary tale
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson – Anderson shares herself in verse in this beautiful look at finding your voice after surviving sexual violence
  • I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones – this novel set in a day combines with Black Lives Matter for this moving contemporary novel that looks at police violence
  • Dig by A. S. King – the way all the pieces come together will always blow my mind in this surrealistic exploration of toxic families and white privilege

2020 : We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

In the midst of cultural discussions about refugees and immigrants, Sanchez writes a searingly honest and painful novel about what it means to flee your home and try to find sanctuary in the United States, and what that journey looks like. Jenny Torres Sanchez is one of my favorite YA authors of melancholy explorations of grief, and she really hit it out of the park with this timely novel.

Honorable Mentions:

  • You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson – if you are looking for pure joy, you will find it here
  • Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold – one of the best fairy tale retellings
  • The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – for fans of The Westing Game, a fun mystery with twists, puzzles to solve, and Barnes witty dialogue
  • Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson – one of the best books that highlight what grooming looks like
  • Punching the Air by Iba Anu Zoboi – many books talk about how art can heal, and this one does so while also talking about incarceration

2021 : The Nature of Witches by Rachel M. Griffin

What if witches were the key to saving the world from Climate Change? I love this interesting take on witches that also explores Climate Change, grief and guilt. Each type of witch controls a different season, except for Clara. Clara is an Everwitch, the first in a century. So she controls all of the seasons, but it’s a power she doesn’t want because it has caused her great grief. When the world is on the verge of destruction from climate change, everyone needs Clara to use her powers, but she very much wants to get rid of them because of what they have cost her.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Off the Record by Camryn Garrett – a moving exploration of body acceptance and dealing with trauma
  • The Taking of Jake Livingston – a fantastically creepy book with a Black boy who sees ghosts
  • The Project by Courtney Summers – another fantastic exploration of cults and feminism
  • Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley – a mystery that explores the world of sports and the opioid epidemic while exploring the very real and long term effects of grief

And there you have it, a look at some of my favorite YA reads of the last 10 years. This was actually pretty hard, because there are a lot of great YA book out there. There are a lot of other books I love that didn’t get mentioned, because I could be here all night – or for another 10 years – talking about YA lit. Seriously, YA lit is amazing (and not a genre!) What books would be on your list? Leave us a comment and let us know. We love talking about books! And here’s to another 10 years of reading and reviewing books here at TLT. Thank you for taking this journey with us.

Also, check out Amanda MacGregor’s Top 10 List for more great reads, because there are a lot of books here I love as well: https://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2021/07/tlt-turns-ten-ten-fav-books-ive-reviewed/

Sad Soup Books; AKA, Middle Grade and YA Fiction About Grief

We recently experienced a devastating loss in my family and, as Riley says, we all live in sad soup lately. That’s how she has described the grief that hangs over us each day, like we’re living in a big ole bowl of sad soup. I recently went looking for books for both of my girls to help them navigate the experience of grief, should they be interested in reading those kinds of books. So far they haven’t, which is fine because everyone handles it differently. But should they ever want them, I have some good suggestions to pass along now. So today’s book gallery is on the theme of grief.

Middle Grade Books about Grief

Here are some links to other great posts with lists of Middle Grade books that deal with the topic of grief

YA Fiction Books about Grief

Here are some links to other great book lists about YA fiction that deals with the topic of grief

I was actually in the midst of reading The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley when my father was in his car accident. Before the accident, I kept remarking that it was such a rich and meaningful look at loss and grief. So much so that when my father died, I had a hard time finishing the book because it hit too close to home. I did finish it and I’m glad that I did, but it was hard because it rang so very true to what I was thinking and feeling. So you’ll definitely want to add this to any book lists about grief.

Also, I want you to know that If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson is hands down one of the most beautifully written books ever written and it is a moving and beautiful exploration of grief.

As a parent who is grieving, I have found it difficult to have to navigate my own grief while helping my children, ages 12 and 18, navigate their grief. There are resources to help you help teens with grief.

For me, the biggest key has been allowing my kids to have space to feel their feelings and talk about them. If Riley wants to talk about sad soup, we talk about sad soup. If she doesn’t, then we don’t. We’ve talked a lot about the cycles of grief, that everyone goes through the process in their own time and in their own ways, and we have found ways to remember their beloved grandfather that works for each of them individually. And we take it moment by moment, day by day. And I’m not going to lie, every moment of this has been hard. I have been very thankful that I have the resources to research and read and learn and just . . . be. I hope when you have your sad soup days, you find comfort and healing in the ways that are right and healthy for you. And if that includes reading a book about grief, there are a lot of great ones out there for you.

New Horror to Read This Summer; By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Here’s a look at some horror published in 2021 that you may want to check out. I’m a fan of some good horror and mystery/thriller/suspense, so I thought I would share some things on my TBR list.

The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins

A traditional backwoods horror story set–first page to last–in the woods of the Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Two girls go backpacking in the woods. Things go very wrong.

And, then, their paths collide with a serial killer.

This one comes out on August 3, 2021

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer.

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.

This title also comes out on August 3, 2021

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

This one came out in April 2021 and it’s a dark fantasy

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

Editor’s Note: I just listened to this on audio and it’s really good. Lots of discussion of horror movies and horror tropes. Please note, it does deal with sexual assault for those who need to know.

This one came out in April 2021

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

This one cam out in April 2021

Have Some LGBTQ+ Books, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

I came across the book Cool for the Summer recently and thought the cover looked really cool and the premise sounded interesting. That sent me down the rabbit hole of upcoming LGBTQ+ books, which I am rounding up for you here. This is just a small sampling of some books coming out that sounded interesting to me. The descriptions are the publisher’s book descriptions. These are all 2021 releases.

Cool for the Summer By Dahlia Adler

Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life.

Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.

Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen

After losing spectacularly to her ex-girlfriend in their first game since their break up, Scottie Zajac gets into a fender bender with the worst possible person: her nemesis, the incredibly beautiful and incredibly mean Irene Abraham. Things only get worse when their nosey, do-gooder moms get involved and the girls are forced to carpool together until Irene’s car gets out of the shop.

Their bumpy start only gets bumpier the more time they spend together. But when an opportunity presents itself for Scottie to get back at her toxic ex (and climb her school’s social ladder at the same time), she bribes Irene into playing along. Hijinks, heartbreak, and gay fake-dating scheme for the ages. From author Kelly Quindlen comes a new laugh-out-loud romp through the ups and downs of teen romance.

In Deep Waters by F.T. Lukens

Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.

Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.

That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming—and secretive—as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…

The [Un]Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez

Vaseline on the teeth makes a smile shine. It’s a cheap stunt, but Mark Adams knows it’s optics that can win or ruin an election.

Everything Mark learned about politics, he learned from his father, the congressman who still pretends he has a daughter and not a son. To protect his father’s image, Mark promises to keep his past hidden and pretend to be the cis guy everyone assumes he is. But when he sees a manipulatively charming candidate for student body president inflame dangerous rhetoric, Mark decides to risk the low profile he assured his father and insert himself as a political challenger.

One big problem? No one really knows Mark. He didn’t grow up in this town, and he has few friends; plus, the ones he does have aren’t exactly with the in-crowd. Still, thanks to countless seasons of Scandal and The West Wing, these nerds know where to start: from campaign stops to voter polling to a fashion makeover. Soon Mark feels emboldened to get in front of and engage with voters—and even start a new romance. But with an investigative journalist digging into his past, a father trying to silence him, and a bully front-runner who stands in his way, Mark will have to decide which matters most: perception or truth, when both are just as dangerous. 

On the Edge of Your Seat YA: Have Some Suspense Books; By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

We all love a good mystery. It’s actually my favorite genre. The way it hooks you in with all of the unanswered questions. The unexpected twists and turns. Suspenseful books just have all of the right elements for a good reading experience. So, here are some upcoming suspenseful mystery books. All the following books have the publisher’s book description for you and they are all 2021 releases. A couple of titles are already out and available for you to purchase today.

The Violent Season By Sara Walters

Every November, the people in Wolf Ridge are overwhelmed with a hunger for violence–at least that’s the town rumor. Last fall Wyatt Green’s mother was brutally murdered, convincing Wyatt that this yearning isn’t morbid urban legend. but rather a palpable force infecting her neighbors.

This year, Wyatt fears the call of violence has spread to her best friend Cash–who also happens to be the guy she can’t stop wanting no matter how much he hurts her. At the same time, she’s drawn to Cash’s nemesis Porter, now that they’re partners on an ambitious project for lit class. When Wyatt pulls away from Cash, and spends more time with Porter, she learns secrets about both of them she can’t forget.

And as the truth about her mother’s death begins to emerge from the shadows, Wyatt is faced with a series of hard realities about the people she trusts the most, rethinking everything she believes about what makes people decide to hurt each other.

Coming in September 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

When All the Girls are Sleeping by Emily Arsenault

Windham-Farnswood Academy is beautiful, prestigious, historic–the perfect place for girls to prep for college. But every student knows all is not as it seems. Each January, the Winter Girl comes knocking. She’s the spirit who haunts the old senior dorm, and this year is no exception.

For Haley, the timing couldn’t be worse. This month marks the one-year anniversary of the death of her ex-best friend, Taylor. When a disturbing video of Taylor surfaces, new questions about her death emerge. And it actually looks like Taylor was murdered.

Now, as Haley digs into what really happened last year, her search keeps bringing her back to the Winter Girl. Haley wants to believe ghosts aren’t real, but the clues–and the dark school history she begins to undercover–say otherwise. Now it’s up to her to solve the mystery before history has a chance to repeat itself and another life is taken.

Coming in July of 2021 from Penguin Random House

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore

Zuretta never thought she’d encounter a monster—one of the world’s most notorious serial killers. She had resigned herself to a quiet life in Utah. But when her younger sister, Ruby, travels to Chicago during the World’s Fair, and disappears, Zuretta leaves home to find her.

But 1890s Chicago is more dangerous and chaotic than she imagined. She doesn’t know where to start until she learns of her sister’s last place of employment…a mysterious hotel known as The Castle.

Zuretta takes a job there hoping to learn more. And before long she realizes the hotel isn’t what it seems. Women disappear at an alarming rate, she hears crying from the walls, and terrifying whispers follow her at night. In the end, she finds herself up against one of the most infamous mass murderers in American history—and his custom-built death trap.

Coming in August 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

The Girl in the Headlines by Hannah Jayne

Andrea McNulty goes to sleep on her eighteenth birthday with a near-perfect life: she’s a high school field hockey star, a doted-upon big sister, the beloved daughter of two happy parents. But when she wakes up in a motel room the next morning, unable to remember what happened the previous night and covered in blood, Andi is a fugitive.

According to the news, Andi’s parents were brutally attacked in the middle of the night. Her father is dead, her mother is in a coma, her little brother Josh is missing–and Andi is the prime suspect. Terrified and on the run from the police, Andi teams up with Nate, the sympathetic boy working the motel’s front desk, to find the real murderer. But while the police are getting further from the killer, the killer is getting closer to Andi–closer than she could ever have imagined.

Coming in July of 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

14 Ways to Die by Vincent Ralph

Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man.

She was the first of his victims but not the last.

Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she’s using it to catch the killer once and for all.

The whole world is watching her every move.

And so is the Magpie Man

Coming in June 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.

Coming in August 2021 from Wednesday Books

Prom House by Chelsea Mueller

Ten people share a prom house at the Jersey Shore for the weekend. Every one of them has a secret . . . and when they begin to die one by one, panic ensues. Could somebody’s prom date also be . . . a killer?

Coming in May 2021 from Underlined

The Murder Game by Carrie Doyle

Luke Chase didn’t mean to get caught up solving the mystery of Mrs. Heckler’s murder. He just wanted to spend alone time with the new British girl at their boarding school.

But little did he know someone would end up dead right next to their rendezvous spot in the woods, and his best friend and roommate Oscar Weymouth would be the one to take the blame. With suspects aplenty and a past that’s anything but innocent, Luke Chase reluctantly calls on his famous survival skills to solve the mystery and find the true killer.

Coming in April 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

Coming in April 2021 from Scribner

Where Secrets Lie by Eva V. Gibson

Amy Larsen has spent every summer with her cousin Ben and their best friend Teddy in River Run, Kentucky, loving country life and welcoming the break from her intensive ambitions and overbearing mother—until the summer she and Teddy confront the changing feelings and simmering sexual tension growing between them, destroying the threesome’s friendship in a dramatic face-off.

One year later, Amy returns to River Run dreading what she might find. But when Teddy’s sister disappears, Amy, Ben and Teddy agree to put aside their differences to search for her. As they dig deeper into the dark history of their small town, all three friends must unearth the truths that tie their families to tragedy, cope with their own toxic upbringings and beliefs, and atone for the damage done to each other and themselves.

Coming in April 2021 from Simon Pulse

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.

This book came out earlier in 2021

The Forest of Stolen Girls by Jen Hur

After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones.

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

Coming in April 2021 from Fiewel and Friends

All of these books will share their suspense, but each is different. A mystery for everyone.

For Your Consideration: Five YA Lit Books Coming in April 2021 to Make Your TBR Piles Bigger

Here’s a brief look at 5 new YA lit books coming our way in April, because our TBR lists aren’t big enough.

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Publisher’s Book Description:

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.

Karen’s Thoughts: I am halfway through this book and it’s such an interesting exploration of what happens after death, ethics and more. It’s very fascinating, compelling, and rich.

The Flipside of Perfect by Liz Reinhardt

Publisher’s Book Description: What happens when her two worlds collide?

AJ is a buttoned-up, responsible student attending a high-achieving high school in Michigan. She lives with her mother, stepfather, and two younger half sisters.

Della spends every summer with her father in Florida. A free-spirited wild child, she spends as much time as possible on the beach with her friends and older siblings.

But there’s a catch: AJ and Della are the same person. Adelaide Beloise Jepsen to be exact, and she does everything she can to keep her school and summer lives separate.

When her middle sister crashes her carefree summer getaway, Adelaide’s plans fall apart. In order to help her sister, save her unexpected friendship with a guy who might just be perfect for her, and discover the truth about her own past, Adelaide will have to reconcile the two sides of herself…and face the fact that it’s perfectly okay not to be perfect all the time.

Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

Publisher’s Book Description: Acclaimed author Lizzy Mason delivers a moving contemporary YA novel about mental illness, young romance, and the impact of family history on one teen’s future, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Kathleen Glasgow.

When eighteen-year-old Sydney Holman announces that she has decided to attend NYU, her overprotective mom is devastated. Her decision means she will be living in the Big City instead of commuting to nearby Rutgers like her mom had hoped. It also means she’ll be close to off-limits but dreamy Grayson—a guitar prodigy who is going to Juilliard in the fall and very much isn’t single.

But while she dreams of her new life, Sydney discovers a world-changing truth about her father, who left when she was little due to a drug addiction—that he has schizophrenia and is currently living on the streets of New York City. She seizes the opportunity to get to know him, to understand who he is and learn what may lie in store for her if she, too, is diagnosed.

Even as she continues to fall for Grayson, Sydney is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay close to home so her mom can watch over her, or follow the desire to take risks and discover her true self?

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve

Publisher’s Book Description: A moving YA debut about a trans boy finding his voice—and himself

Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?

You Were Made for Me by Jenna Guillaume

Publisher’s Book Description: The day I created a boy started out like any other.

Katie didn’t mean to create a boy. A boy like a long-lost Hemsworth brother: six-foot tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer’s day; whose lips taste like cookie-dough and whose skin smells like springtime.

A boy who is completely devoted to Katie.

He was meant to be perfect.

But he was never meant to exist.

These are just a few of the titles coming out in April.

A High School Student Reviews CONCRETE ROSE by Angie Thomas

I was very fortunate to receive an advanced reader’s copy of CONCRETE ROSE by Angie Thomas in the mail. My teenage daughter read it, and loved it, but I wanted to reach out to a friend who has been working hard at her high school to get her students reading and I knew that they were huge fans of Angie Thomas. So with her help, we have a student review of Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. This review is coming to you today from Aaliyah, a senior.

Concrete Rose Angie Thomas https://app.asana.com/0/1135954362417873/1168658175790681/f

Angie Thomas always has a way of captivating readers’ minds and sucking them in with her storylines and moving words. As we read in The Hate U Give, each character stood out on their own by their powerful stories. But Maverick Carter, Starr’s father, captured the hearts of many readers.

The Hate U Give gave readers a glance into the life that Maverick Carter had to live in the Garden and Starr’s point of view on his trials and tribulations. Concrete Rose gives the readers the chance to understand the real background behind the story of Garden Heights and the questions that plenty of us had about the real Maverick Carter. Concrete Rose explains the journey that Maverick had to endure in the Garden to become a real man. Angie has a way of entangling her stories with real life events that the reader is able to relate to. For Maverick Carter, life hasn’t always been easy. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does the only thing he was taught to do: dealing for the King Lords in order to provide and keep the bills paid in his home with his mother. His mother worked two jobs while his father was incarcerated, but for Mav that was normal; he had to do what he had to do in order to survive. Through the bad, Mav had his “Fresh-to-death” girlfriend and Brother-like cousin by his side; he was in control of everything in his life. But life always has surprises, and Mav’s surprise was the newfound information of becoming a teen father by someone who wasn’t his girlfriend. Mav’s Life changes drastically as he deals with having a son while trying to balance life as a King Lord, finish school, and be the best father he can be to Seven.

Life teaches lessons to Maverick in many forms. Being a teen father, part of a gang, and finishing school can be stressful to any average teen. As a Black teen myself, I have encountered similar obstacles that life has thrown at me in different ways. As a Black teen though, the standards set out for us are to become a minority in society and to fail. Concrete Rose gives different perspectives of Black teens and their journeys to adulthood and the limitations that are put on us by society at a young age. The future is unpredictable, and when the characters are put in the position to decide their fate it reveals the unlawful truths that society has set for them. With societal norms against Mav–Loyalty, Love, Revenge, and Responsibility become a battle in Mavericks life to become the man he needs to be for his family. Societal norms that are formed against Maverick and the other Black teens in the novel to become a failure to society create a force of motivation to beat the odds of Garden Heights that are set against them.  The novel opens up about the societal problems within a Black teens life, the Black community, and a look at a Black family who’s not perfect nor the ideal look but full of love and open arms.

Angie Thomas’ words always leave a mark in my mind about the reality of society and the world we live in. The book holds a powerful meaning and definition of the oppression many Black men face on a daily basis all over the world and the unimaginable events that occur in our neighborhoods. It’s clear that race is still a big problem in America today, and it may be a never ending problem that we will face for years to come.  Growing up in a world where there are unwritten rules for a Black child to go by from birth just to survive in America shows the discrimination and the targets that are put on African Americans from the minute we take our first breath.  We shouldn’t be obligated or responsible for the undoing of someone else’s ignorance and harmful ways and feelings. We also shouldn’t have to deal with violence within our own neighborhoods done by mislead people who fight for their image and worth in this world. Concrete Rose addresses gang violence and calls out the Black on Black crime in our communities by showing different ways these crimes are performed and the void that they create. 

Reading Concrete Rose allowed me to understand that we are not alone in this inhumane society, that I am in control of my destiny, and to use this voice that I was given to show that I will not go unheard in a world where I am supposed to be silenced. Yes, Black lives matter all the time, but the Mavericks in America especially matter to me.Hopefully, they matter to you, too.

Publisher’s Book Description:

International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man. 

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas releases tomorrow, January 12th, from Balzer + Bray