Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book mail: New and forthcoming books for middle grade and YA readers

YAY! Book mail is starting to be a near-daily thing at my house again. So much of the pandemic shut that down and I’d go weeks sometimes with only a book or two arriving. I’m sure the UPS guy is happy to have his daily stop at my house back on his route.

I share all of the book mail that comes in on my Twitter when it arrives, so if you’re not already doing so, hop on over there and follow me. I also give away 100% of the books I get, with giveaways every few weeks on Twitter, often only for teachers and librarians. Everything that comes into my house goes back out in some fashion to find a new reader. Many of the books I get are reviewed here at TLT as either longer, in-depth reviews or quick Post-It Note reviews. Try as I may, I cannot read everything!

Thanks, as always, to all the great publishers, publicists, and authors who keep me in good books.

All descriptions are from the publishers.

This was one day’s haul! Yay for book mail!

After the Rain by Nnedi Okorafor, David Brame (Illustrator), John Jennings (Adapted by) (ISBN-13: 9781419743559 Publisher: ABRAMS Publication date: 01/05/2021, Ages 14-18)

During a furious storm a young woman’s destiny is revealed . . . and her life is changed forever

After the Rain is a graphic novel adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s short story “On the Road.” The drama takes place in a small Nigerian town during a violent and unexpected storm. A Nigerian-American woman named Chioma answers a knock at her door and is horrified to see a boy with a severe head wound standing at her doorstep. He reaches for her, and his touch burns like fire. Something is very wrong. Haunted and hunted, Chioma must embrace her heritage in order to survive. John Jennings and David Brame’s graphic novel collaboration uses bold art and colors to powerfully tell this tale of identity and destiny.

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle (ISBN-13: 9781534470675
Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 01/26/2021, Ages 14-18)

In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry and must save both the human and god worlds. Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games!

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

Phoenix Flame by Sara Holland (ISBN-13: 9781547603824 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 03/02/2021 Series: Havenfall #2, Ages 14-18)

New York Times bestselling author Sara Holland continues her blockbuster contemporary fantasy series with this unforgettable sequel to Havenfall.

Maddie Morrow thought her problems were over. She saved the Inn at Havenfall—a sanctuary between magical worlds hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado—from the evil Silver Prince. Her uncle the Innkeeper is slowly recovering from a mysterious spell that has left him not quite human. And there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her handsome, more-than-just-a-friend Brekken, even though she can’t stop thinking about Taya.

But Maddie soon realizes there’s more work to be done to protect the place her family has run for centuries. She must embark on a dangerous mission to put an end to the black-market trading of magical objects and open the Inn’s doors to Solaria, the once feared land of shapeshifters. 

As she tries to accomplish both seemingly impossible tasks, Maddie uncovers family secrets that could change everything. What if saving everyone means destroying the only home she’s known?

This next breathtaking fantasy from New York Times bestselling Everless author Sara Holland is perfect for fans of Melissa Albert and Holly Black.

Covet by Tracy Wolff (ISBN-13: 9781682815816 Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC Publication date: 03/02/2021 Series: Crave #3, Ages 14-18)

I may have reached my breaking point. As if trying to graduate from a school for supernaturals isn’t stressful enough, my relationship status has gone from complicated to a straight-up dumpster fire. 

Oh, and the Bloodletter has decided to drop a bomb of epic proportions on us all… 

Then again, when has anything at Katmere Academy not been intense?

And the hits just keep coming. Jaxon’s turned colder than an Alaskan winter. The Circle is splintered over my upcoming coronation. As if things couldn’t get worse, now there’s an arrest warrant for Hudson’s and my supposed crimes—which apparently means a lifetime prison sentence with a deadly unbreakable curse.

Choices will have to be made…and I fear not everyone will survive.

Upstaged by Diana Harmon Asher (ISBN-13: 9781419740817 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/16/2021, Ages 8-12)

A shy seventh grader learns to step into the spotlight in this heartwarming middle-grade novel by acclaimed author, Diana Harmon Asher

Shira Gordon is painfully shy. She rarely speaks and blushes at everything. And yet, when she’s alone in her room, she’ll sing and dance, dreaming she were different. So when her best friend forces her to audition for their school’s production of The Music Man, she’s mostly hoping the play will get canceled . . . but a tiny part of her hopes she’ll get in.


And she does. As a member of the barbershop quartet. Playing a dude with a mustache is not exactly her dream role, but Shira is surprised by how much she loves rehearsing with her quirky new friends. When her teacher asks her to understudy the lead role, Marian the Librarian, she reluctantly accepts.


It’s not easy to understudy Monica Manley, an eighth-grade diva who will not be upstaged. And things get even more complicated when a mysterious prankster starts playing tricks on Monica and Shira’s crush joins the cast. But something keeps Shira going, and it might just be Marian herself. Sure, Marian is a leading lady, but she’s also misunderstood, lonely . . . and shy. And if a star can be shy, then maybe, just maybe, a shy person can be a star.

Rivals by Tommy Greenwald (ISBN-13: 9781419748271 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/23/2021, Ages 10-14)

From the author of the award-winning Game Changer comes a gripping novel about two student-athletes searching for stardom, a young reporter searching for the truth, and a crosstown basketball rivalry that goes too far

The people of Walthorne love their basketball—and one of the things they love most is the special rivalry between the Walthorne North Middle School Cougars and the Walthorne South Middle School Panthers. As the season begins, two star players are feeling the heat: Austin Chambers, captain of Walthorne North, worries that he’s not good enough to live up to his father’s legacy, while across town, the brilliantly talented Carter Haswell, captain of Walthorne South, is already under pressure to get a scholarship that might ease his family’s financial stress.

While both boys do whatever they can to make sure their team wins, Alfie Jenks, a school sports reporter, discovers that behind-the-scenes scandals are just as much a part of youth sports as on-the-court action. When she blows the story wide open, the whole season is jeopardized.

Told through a series of flashbacks, newspaper reports, social media posts, and interviews, Rivals will have readers tearing through the pages to see what happens next—and asking themselves if winning has become more important than doing the right thing.

The Follower by Kate Doughty (ISBN-13: 9781419748011 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/23/2021, Ages 13-18)

A spine-tingling YA thriller based on a true story

Instagram-famous triplets Cecily, Amber, and Rudy—the children of home renovation superstars—are ready for a perfect summer. They’ve just moved onto the site of their parents’ latest renovation project when they begin to receive spine-tingling messages from someone called The Follower. It soon becomes clear that this anonymous threat is more than a simple Internet troll, and they can’t wait to shatter the Cole family’s perfect veneer and take back what’s theirs.


The Follower examines the implications of what it is to be watched in the era of social-media fame—as well as the lies we tell and the lengths we’ll go to uphold a perfect image, when our lives depend on it.

Where the Road Leads Us by Robin Reul (ISBN-13: 9781492635253 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 04/06/2021, Ages 14-18)

Sometimes the best path is the unexpected one.

Jack is on the verge for leaving for college, but before he does, he wants to track down his estranged brother, Alex and find some closure in the wake of their father’s death. Meanwhile, Hallie has just found out some upsetting news about a friend in Oregon, and she has a small window to go see him before it’s too late.

Jack and Hallie are practically strangers. They shared a class together years ago and haven’t seen each other since, though they have more in common than they’d ever imagine. And when fate puts them into the same rideshare to the bus terminal, it kicks off an unconventional and hysterical adventure that may lead them to their own true selves…and maybe to each other.

The Light of Days Young Readers’ Edition: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos by Judy Batalion (ISBN-13: 9780063037694 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 04/06/2021, Ages 8-12)

This young readers’ edition is the remarkable untold story of the young Jewish women who became resistance fighters against the Nazis during World War II. It has already been optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture.

As their communities were being destroyed, groups of Jewish women and teenage girls across Poland began transforming Jewish youth groups into resistance factions. These “ghetto girls” helped build systems of underground bunkers, paid off the Gestapo, and bombed German train lines.

At the center of the book is eighteen-year-old Renia Kukielka, who traveled across her war-torn country as a weapons smuggler and messenger. Other women who joined the cause served as armed fighters, spies, and saboteurs, all risking their lives for their missions.

Never before chronicled in full, this is the incredible account of the strong Jewish women who fought back against the seemingly unstoppable Nazi regime. It follows the women through arrests, internment, and for a lucky few, into the late 20th century and beyond.

It also includes an eight-page insert of black-and-white photos, so that readers can see firsthand the extraordinary women who bravely fought for their freedom in the face of overwhelming odds.

The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker, Stacy Davidowitz (ISBN-13: 9781419743931 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 04/13/2021, Ages 8-12)

A heartfelt middle-grade novel about a theater-loving girl who uses a wheelchair for mobility and her quest to defy expectations—and gravity—from Tony award–winning actress Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz

Thirteen-year-old Nat Beacon loves a lot of things: her dog Warbucks, her best friend Chloe, and competing on her wheelchair racing team, the Zoomers, to name a few. But there’s one thing she’s absolutely OBSESSED with: MUSICALS! From Hamilton to Les Mis, there’s not a cast album she hasn’t memorized and belted along to. She’s never actually been in a musical though, or even seen an actor who uses a wheelchair for mobility on stage. Would someone like Nat ever get cast?


But when Nat’s family moves from California to New Jersey, Nat stumbles upon auditions for a kids’ production of Wicked, one of her favorite musicals ever! And she gets into the ensemble! The other cast members are super cool and inclusive (well, most of them)— especially Malik, the male lead and cutest boy Nat’s ever seen. But when things go awry a week before opening night, will Nat be able to cast her fears and insecurities aside and “Defy Gravity” in every sense of the song title?

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve (ISBN-13: 9781419746017 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 04/13/2021, Ages 12-18)

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?

The Key to You and Me by Jaye Robin Brown (ISBN-13: 9780062824585 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 04/20/2021, Ages 14-17)

A sweet and funny ownvoices LGBTQ+ romance perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Julie Murphy, from the critically acclaimed author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit!

Piper Kitts is spending the summer living with her grandmother, training at the barn of a former Olympic horseback rider, and trying to get over her ex-girlfriend. Much to Piper’s dismay, her grandmother is making her face her fear of driving by taking lessons from a girl in town.

Kat Pearson has always suspected that she likes girls but fears her North Carolina town is too small to color outside the lines. But when Piper’s grandmother hires Kat to give her driving lessons, everything changes.

Piper’s not sure if she’s ready to let go of her ex. Kat’s navigating uncharted territory with her new crush. With the summer running out, will they be able to unlock a future together?

“Piper and Kat are imperfect, but always trying their best—aren’t we all?—and Brown had me rooting for them all the way through this sweet, slow burn romance. Their triumphs, their blunders, and the way they swing between confidence and self-doubt are utterly relatable.”—Misa Sigura, award-winning author of It’s Not Like It’s a Secret

The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller (ISBN-13: 9781419736759 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 04/20/2021, Ages 10-14)

A young witch must save her sister from evil birds in this masterful middle-grade fantasy

In the land of Tsaretsvo, civil war has divided the human kingdom from the Republic of Birds. Magic is outlawed, and young witches are sent to a mysterious boarding school, from which no one has returned. Olga and her family live a life of dull privilege in the capital until her father displeases the tyrannical tsarina. The family is sent off into exile at the Imperial Center for Avian Observation, an isolated shack near the Republic of Birds. Unlike the rest of her family, Olga doesn’t particularly mind their strange new life. She never fit into aristocratic society as well as her perfect younger sister, Mira. What does worry Olga is her blossoming magical abilities. If anyone found out, they’d send her away. But then Mira is kidnapped by the birds, and Olga has no choice but to enter the forbidden Republic, a dangerous world full of iagas, talking birds, and living dreams. To navigate the Republic and save her sister, she’ll need her wits, her cunning—and even her magic.

Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion by Gregory Mone (ISBN-13: 9781419738531 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 04/20/2021, Ages 8-12)

Perfect for fans of Percy Jackson and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion launches an exciting, action-packed new series about the underwater lost city

Kaya, raised in the undersea, high-tech world of Atlantis, has always been fascinated by the legends about life above the water. Despite the government’s insistence that they’re only stories, she can’t help but dream about the Sun People—and when a group of officials known as Erasers move to bury those legends for good, Kaya sets out to the surface to uncover the truth once and for all.
In the world above, where climate change has led to giant tsunamis that threaten Earth’s coasts, all Lewis wants is to spend more time with his scientist father. When he stows away on his dad’s top-secret research trip, he finds himself thrown headfirst into an adventure much bigger than he bargained for.
Fast-paced and action-packed, The Accidental Invasion brings readers into a world unlike anything they’ve seen before. Bonus content includes real scientific information about genetic modification, earthquakes, nuclear power, and plate tectonics.

Ways to Grow Love by Renée Watson, Nina Mata (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781547600588 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 04/27/2021 Series: A Ryan Hart Novel, Ages 7-10)

Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Renée Watson continues her charming young middle grade series starring Ryan Hart, a girl who is pure spirit and sunshine.

Ryan Hart and her family are back in another installment of stories about a Black girl finding her way and her voice as she grows through change and challenges. In this book, Ryan finds herself waiting on lots of things — like for her new sister to be born healthy, for her new recipes to turn out right, for that summer camp trip to go better than she fears! And of course Ryan is facing these new challenges and new experiences in her classic style — with a bright outlook and plenty of spirit!

River Magic by Ellen Booraem (ISBN-13: 9780525428046 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/27/2021, Ages 10-12)

Magic moves in next door in this hilarious and heartfelt middle grade fantasy about a resourceful girl battling a temperamental thunder wizard.

Donna’s always liked her life by the river–that is, until her beloved aunt Annabelle died in a tragic kayaking accident. Now money’s tight, her mom works all the time, and her best friend, Rachel, would rather hang out with her basketball teammates than with Donna. When a strange old woman moves in next door and hires Donna to clean part-time, she figures this is the perfect chance to get over her friendship troubles and help her family out–especially since the woman pays in gold. Turns out, Donna’s new neighbor is an ancient, ornery thunder mage, and it doesn’t take much to make her angry. Before Donna knows it, Rachel is in danger and Donna’s family is about to lose their home. To save the day, Donna will need the help of a quirky new friend and the basketball team . . . plus the mysterious, powerful creature lurking in the river.

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter (ISBN-13: 9781534467620 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 12-18)

In this rom-com about rom-coms, in the spirit of Kasie West and Jenn Bennett, a hopeless romantic teen attempts to secure a happily-ever-after moment with her forever crush, but finds herself reluctantly drawn to the boy next door.

Perpetual daydreamer Liz Buxbaum gave her heart to Michael a long time ago. But her cool, aloof forever crush never really saw her before he moved away. Now that he’s back in town, Liz will do whatever it takes to get on his radar—and maybe snag him as a prom date—even befriend Wes Bennet.

The annoyingly attractive next-door neighbor might seem like a prime candidate for romantic comedy fantasies, but Wes has only been a pain in Liz’s butt since they were kids. Pranks involving frogs and decapitated lawn gnomes do not a potential boyfriend make. Yet, somehow, Wes and Michael are hitting it off, which means Wes is Liz’s in.

But as Liz and Wes scheme to get Liz noticed by Michael so she can have her magical prom moment, she’s shocked to discover that she likes being around Wes. And as they continue to grow closer, she must reexamine everything she thought she knew about love—and rethink her own ideas of what Happily Ever After should look like.

Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh (ISBN-13: 9780062987983 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 8-12)

For fans of Inside Out and Back Again and Amina’s Voice, We Need Diverse Books cofounder Ellen Oh creates a breathtaking story of family, hope, and survival, inspired by her mother’s real-life experiences during the Korean War. Faced with middle school racism, Junie Kim learns of her grandparents’ extraordinary strength and finds her voice.

“Filled with unforgettable characters, this profoundly moving story about a girl’s search for self is at once both unique and universal, timely and timeless. A book that should be on every shelf.” —Padma Venkatraman, Walter Award-winning author of The Bridge Home

Junie Kim just wants to fit in. So she keeps her head down and tries not to draw attention to herself. But when racist graffiti appears at her middle school, Junie must decide between staying silent or speaking out.

Then Junie’s history teacher assigns a project and Junie decides to interview her grandparents, learning about their unbelievable experiences as kids during the Korean War. Junie comes to admire her grandma’s fierce determination to overcome impossible odds, and her grandpa’s unwavering compassion during wartime. And as racism becomes more pervasive at school, Junie taps into the strength of her ancestors and finds the courage to do what is right.

Finding Junie Kim is a reminder that within all of us lies the power to overcome hardship and emerge triumphant.

The Best Worst Summer by Elizabeth Eulberg (ISBN-13: 9781547601509 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 8-12)

From the acclaimed author of The Great Shelby Holmes comes a new middle grade story about two summers-three decades apart-and the box of secrets linking them together.

This is going to be the worst summer ever for Peyton. Her family just moved, and she had to leave her best friend behind. She’s lonely. She’s bored. Until . . . she comes across a box buried in her backyard, with a message: I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Things are about to get interesting.

Back in 1989, it’s going to be the best summer ever for Melissa and Jessica. They have two whole months to goof around and explore, and they’re even going to bury a time capsule! But when one girl’s family secret starts to unravel, it’s clear things may not go exactly as planned.

In alternating chapters, from Peyton in present day to Melissa three decades earlier (a time with no cell phones, no social media, and camera film that took days to develop, but also a whole lot of freedom), beloved author Elizabeth Eulberg tells the story of a mystery that two sets of memorable characters will never forget.

All Kinds of Other by James Sie (ISBN-13: 9780062962492 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 14-17)

In this tender, nuanced coming-of-age love story, two boys—one who is cis, and one who is trans—have been guarding their hearts, until their feelings for each other give them a reason to stand up to their fears.

Two boys are starting over at a new high school.

Jules is still figuring out what it means to be gay…and just how out he wants to be.

Jack is reeling from a fall-out with his best friend…and isn’t ready to let anyone else in just yet.

When Jules and Jack meet, the sparks are undeniable. But when a video linking Jack to a pair of popular trans vloggers is leaked to the school, the revelations thrust both boys into the spotlight they’d tried to avoid.

Suddenly Jack and Jules must face a choice: to play it safe and stay under the radar, or claim their own space in the world—together.

The Summer of Broken Rules by K. L. Walther (ISBN-13: 9781728210292 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 14-18)

Perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Katie Cotugno, this is a story of loss, romance, and the time it takes to become who you really want to be.

It’s all just fun and games…until someone loses their heart.

When Meredith Fox lost her sister, Claire, eighteen months ago, she shut everyone out. But this summer she’s determined to join the world again.

The annual family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard seems like the perfect place to reconnect. Her entire extended family is gathering for a big summer wedding, and although Meredith is dateless after being unexpectedly dumped, she’s excited to participate in the traditional Fox family game of assassin that will take place during the week of wedding festivities. Claire always loved the game, and Meredith is determined to honor her legacy.

But when Meredith forms an assassin alliance with a cute groomsman, she finds herself getting distracted. Meredith tries to focus on the game and win it for her sister, but she can’t help falling for him. And as the week progresses, she realizes she’s not only at risk of losing the game, but also her heart.

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney (ISBN-13: 9780063024793 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 13-17)

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by debut author Joya Goffney is an own voices story of an overly enthusiastic list maker who is blackmailed into completing a to-do list of all her worst fears. It’s a heartfelt, tortured, contemporary YA high school romance. Fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Kristina Forest’s I Wanna Be Where You Are will love the juicy secrets and leap-off-the-page sexual tension.

Quinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud” and all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing . . .

Then an anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett—the last known person to have her journal—in a race against time to track down the blackmailer.

Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love.

A Wilder Magic by Juliana Brandt (ISBN-13: 9781728245737 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 7-12)

From the author of The Wolf of Cape Fen comes a beautiful and lyrical story about one family with magic in their bones, and what happens when we have to give up what we love most.

For generations, Sybaline Shaw’s family has lived in an enchanted valley in the Appalachian Mountains, using their magic to help grow the land. But now the government has built a dam that will force the Shaws to relocate, and they’re running out of time before their home will be flooded.

Syabline and her cousin Nettle can’t imagine life without the valley and its magic, so they decide to stay. Using magic, they build an invisible wall around their home. As the water rises, they learn a terrible truth: the water will continue to rise, leaving them to live beneath the lake itself.

There is also a consequence to using magic selfishly, one that might transform both her and Nettle forever. If she can’t find a way to escape, Syballine and the ones she loves could be trapped in the valley forever.

Any Place But Here by Sarah Van Name (ISBN-13: 9781492677062 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 14-17)

An emotional story about complicated friendships, new family, unexpected romance, and finding the place you belong.

That’s what Jess was to me. I was the ground; she was the rain. I wasn’t anything until she woke me up.

Seventeen-year-old June can’t imagine life without her best friend Jess. June wasn’t anything, really, until Jess chose her. And June’s not sure who she is without Jess.

But after June is expelled, she’s forced to move to Virginia, to live with her grandmother and attend an all-girls boarding school. She’ll be miles away from her home, from her family, and from Jess.

June counts down the days until she can come back home for the summer. But when she befriends two new girls and meets Sam, who she is instantly drawn to, life in Virginia starts to feel more real. And as she begins to question if she has more than just a friendship with Jess, Jess pulls away, leaving June with more questions than answers.

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield (ISBN-13: 9781250622235 Publisher: Wednesday Books Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 13-18)

In this sweeping debut, Asha Bromfield takes readers to the heart of Jamaica, and into the soul of a girl coming to terms with her family, and herself, set against the backdrop of a hurricane.

Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica. 

When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.

In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise—all in the midst of an impending hurricane.

Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard (ISBN-13: 9780062872623 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 13-17)

Irresistibly action-packed and full of lethal surprises, this stunning new fantasy series from Victoria Aveyard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Red Queen series, begins where hope is lost and asks: When the heroes have fallen, who will take up the sword?

A strange darkness grows in Allward.

Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.

She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:

  • A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
  • An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
  • An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
  • An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
  • A forger with a secret past.
  • A bounty hunter with a score to settle.

Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee (ISBN-13: 9780063038837 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 14-17)

Felix Ever After meets Becky Albertalli in this swoon-worthy, heartfelt rom-com about how a transgender teen’s first love challenges his ideas about perfect relationships.

Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.

Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (ISBN-13: 9781419751028 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 05/11/2021, Ages 10-14)

A moving middle-grade debut for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t belong

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .
But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler (ISBN-13: 9781250765826 Publisher: Wednesday Books Publication date: 05/11/2021, Ages 14-18)

Dahlia Adler’s Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.

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?

Every Body Shines: Sixteen Stories About Living Fabulously Fat by Cassandra Newbould (Editor) (ISBN-13: 9781547606078 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 05/11/2021, Ages 14-17)

An intersectional, feminist YA anthology from some of today’s most exciting voices across a span of genres, all celebrating body diversity and fat acceptance through short stories.

Fat girls and boys and nonbinary teens are: friends who lift each other up, heroes who rescue themselves, big bodies in space, intellects taking up space, and bodies looking and feeling beautiful. They express themselves through fashion, sports and other physical pursuits, through food, and music, and art. They are flirting and falling in love. They are loving to themselves and one another. With stories that feature fat main characters starring in a multitude of stories and genres, and written by authors who live these lives too, this is truly a unique collection that shows fat young people the representation they deserve. 

With a foreword by Aubry Gordon, creator of Your Fat Friend, and with stories by:
Nafiza Azad, Chris Baron, Sheena Boekweg, Linda Camacho, Kelly deVos, Alex Gino, Claire Kann, amanda lovelace, Hillary Monahan, Cassandra Newbould, Francina Simone, Rebecca Sky, Monique Gray Smith, Renée Watson, Catherine Adel West, Jennifer Yen

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy (ISBN-13: 9780062880451 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/25/2021, Ages 13-17)

Return to the beloved world of Julie Murphy’s #1 New York Times bestselling Dumplin’—now a popular Netflix feature film starring Jennifer Anistonin this fabulously joyful, final companion novel about drag, prom, and embracing your inner Queen.

Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine, and finally go Full Waylon so that he can live his Julie-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-Andrews truth.

So when Clementine deviates from their master plan right after Waylon gets dumped, he throws caution to the wind and creates an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All. What he doesn’t count on is the tape getting accidentally shared with the entire school. . . . As a result, Waylon is nominated for prom queen as a joke. Clem’s girlfriend, Hannah Perez, also receives a joke nomination for prom king.

Waylon and Hannah decide there’s only one thing to do: run—and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang. Along the way, Waylon discovers that there is a lot more to running for prom court than campaign posters and plastic crowns, especially when he has to spend so much time with the very cute and infuriating prom king nominee Tucker Watson.

Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens. . . .

The Hollow Inside by Brooke Lauren Davis (ISBN-13: 9781547606115 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 05/25/2021, Ages 12-17)

Sadie meets The Glass Castle in a smart, gripping, and twisty YA debut about a girl seeking to reveal the truth about her mother-and herself.

Seventeen-year-old Phoenix has spent much of her life drifting from town to town with her mom Nina, using their charms to swindle and steal to get by. Now they’ve made it to their ultimate destination, Mom’s hometown of Jasper Hollow. The plan: bring down Ellis Bowman, the man who ruined Nina’s life.

When Phoenix gets caught spying on Ellis, she spins a convincing story that inadvertently gives her full access to the Bowman family. As she digs deeper into their secrets (and begins to fall for daughter Melody), she finds herself entrenched in the tale of a death and a disappearance that doesn’t entirely line up with what Mom has told her.

But there’s even more to this story Phoenix doesn’t know. Who, if anyone, is telling the whole truth about what happened? Debut author Brooke Lauren Davis explores the murkiness of right and wrong, of choices and consequences, of heroes and villains, in an eerily compelling and thought-provoking small-town saga.

A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia (ISBN-13: 9780062367297 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/25/2021, Ages 16+)

A tour-de-force from three-time National Book Award finalist Rita Williams-Garcia, this story of an antebellum plantation—and the enduring legacies of slavery upon every person who lives there—is essential reading for both teens and adults grappling with the long history of American racism.

1860, Louisiana. After serving as mistress of Le Petit Cottage for more than six decades, Madame Sylvie Guilbert has decided, in spite of her family’s objections, to sit for a portrait.

While Madame plots her last hurrah, stories that span generations—from the big house to out in the fields—of routine horrors, secrets buried as deep as the family fortune, and the tangled bonds of descendants and enslaved.

This astonishing novel from award-winning author Rita Williams-Garcia about the interwoven lives of those bound to a plantation in antebellum America is an epic masterwork—empathetic, brutal, and entirely human.

An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi (ISBN-13: 9780062972415 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/01/2021, Ages 13-17)

From bestselling and National Book Award–nominated author Tahereh Mafi comes a stunning novel about love and loneliness, navigating the hyphen of dual identity, and reclaiming your right to joy—even when you’re trapped in the amber of sorrow.

It’s 2003, several months since the US officially declared war on Iraq, and the American political world has evolved. Tensions are high, hate crimes are on the rise, FBI agents are infiltrating local mosques, and the Muslim community is harassed and targeted more than ever. Shadi, who wears hijab, keeps her head down.

She’s too busy drowning in her own troubles to find the time to deal with bigots.

Shadi is named for joy, but she’s haunted by sorrow. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, and her best friend has mysteriously dropped out of her life. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of her hear—

It’s broken.

Shadi tries to navigate her crumbling world by soldiering through, saying nothing. She devours her own pain, each day retreating farther and farther inside herself until finally, one day, everything changes.

She explodes.

An Emotion of Great Delight is a searing look into the world of a single Muslim family in the wake of 9/11. It’s about a child of immigrants forging a blurry identity, falling in love, and finding hope—in the midst of a modern war.

Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin (ISBN-13: 9781250757241 Publisher: Wednesday Books Publication date: 06/01/2021, Ages 14-18)

A queer YA reimagining of Thelma & Louise with the aesthetic of Riverdale, for fans of Mindy McGinnis, Courtney Summers, and Rory Power.

Love on the dark side of freedom

When Trixie picks up her best friend Lux for their weekend getaway, they’re looking to forget the despair of being trapped in their dead-end rustbelt town. The girls are packing light: a supply of Diet Coke and an ‘89 Canon to help Lux frame the world in a sunnier light; half a pack of cigarettes that Trixie doesn’t really smoke, and a knife she’s hanging on to for a friend that she’s never used before.

But a single night of violence derails their trip, and the girls go from ordinary high schoolers to wanted fugitives. Trying to stay ahead of the cops and a hellscape of media attention, Trixie and Lux grapple with an unforgiving landscape, rapidly diminishing supplies, and disastrous decisions at every turn. As they are transformed by the media into the face of a #MeToo movement they didn’t ask to lead, Trixie and Lux realize that they can only rely on each other, and that the love they find together is the one thing that truly makes them free.

Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park (ISBN-13: 9781728209425 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 06/01/2021, Ages 14-18)

A social media influencer is shipped off to a digital detox summer camp in this funny coming-of-age story, perfect for fans of Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty and Love and Gelato.

Sunny Song’s Big Summer Goals:
1) Make Rafael Kim my boyfriend (finally!)
2) Hit 100K followers (almost there…)
3) Have the best last summer of high school ever

Not on Sunny’s list: accidentally filming a PG-13 cooking video that goes viral (#browniegate). Extremely not on her list: being shipped off to a digital detox farm camp in Iowa (IOWA??) for a whole month. She’s traded in her WiFi connection for a butter churn, and if she wants any shot at growing her social media platform this summer, she’ll need to find a way back online.

But between some unexpected friendships and an alarmingly cute farm boy, Sunny might be surprised by the connections she makes when she’s forced to disconnect.

Don’t Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd (ISBN-13: 9781547605026 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/01/2021, Ages 13-17)

From an exciting new voice comes a funny and heartfelt YA romance set in the world of competitive gaming, perfect for fans of Opposite of Always and Slay.

Emilia Romero is living a double life. By day, she’s a field hockey star with a flawless report card. But by night, she’s kicking virtual ass as the only female member of a highly competitive eSports team. Emilia has mastered the art of keeping her two worlds thriving, which hinges on them staying completely separate. That’s in part to keep her real-life persona, but also for her own safety, since girl gamers are often threatened and harassed. 

When a major eSports tournament comes to her city, Emilia is determined to prove herself to her team and the male-dominated gaming community. But her perfectly balanced life is thrown for a loop when a member of a rival team recognizes her . . . 

Jake Hooper has had a crush on Emilia since he was ten years old. When his underdog eSports team makes it into the tournament, he’s floored to discover she’s been leading a double life. The fates bring Jake and Emilia together as they work to keep her secret, even as the pressures of the tournament and their non-gaming world threaten to pull everything apart.

Debut author Alexis Nedd has crafted a YA combo-punch of charming romance and virtual adventure that will win the hearts of gamers and non-gamers alike.

Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June (ISBN-13: 9780063015159 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/01/2021, Ages 14-17)

From debut novelist Jason June comes a moving and hilarious sex-positive teen rom-com about the complexities of first loves, first hookups, and first heartbreaks—and how to stay true to yourself while embracing what you never saw coming, that’s perfect for fans of Sandhya Menon and Becky Albertalli. 

There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all his friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.

Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones . . . because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan. 

On the Way to Birdland by Frank Morelli (ISBN-13: 9781947886056 Publisher: Fish Out of Water Books Publication date: 06/08/2021, Ages 14-17)

Self-proclaimed teenage philosopher Cordell Wheaton lives in a sleepy, southern town where nothing ever happens; not since his hero, jazz musician John Coltrane, left some seventy years earlier to “follow the sound.” Cordy’s life has been unraveling since the night his father and his brother, Travis, exploded on each other. The night Travis’s addiction transformed him from budding musician into something entirely different. The night Travis took his saxophone and disappeared. When Cordy’s father falls ill, the sixteen-year-old vows to reunite the Wheaton family. He embarks on a modern-day odyssey with forty bucks in his pocket and a dream to find his brother and convince him to be Travis again—by taking him to a show at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City, and reminding him of the common bonds they share with their legendary hero. Cordy’s journey is soon haunted by ghostly visions, traumatic dreams, and disembodied voices that echo through his mind. He starts to wonder if the voices are those of the fates, guiding him toward his destiny—or if he’s losing his grip on reality.

Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac (ISBN-13: 9780593326213 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/08/2021, Ages 8-12)

From the U.S.’s foremost indigenous children’s author comes a middle grade verse novel set during the COVID-19 pandemic, about a Wabanaki girl’s quarantine on her grandparents’ reservation and the local dog that becomes her best friend

Malian was visiting her grandparents on the reservation when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Now she’s staying there, away from her parents and her school in Boston. Everyone is worried about the pandemic, but on the reservation, everyone protects each other, from Malian caring for her grandparents to the local dog, Malsum, guarding their house. They always survive together. Malian hears stories from her grandparents about how it has always been this way in their community: Stories about their ancestors, who survived epidemics of European diseases; about her grandfather, who survived a terrible government boarding school; and about Malian’s own mother, who survived and returned to her Native community after social services took her away to live in foster care as a child. With their community and caring for one another, Malian and her family will survive this pandemic, too.

Love & Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura (ISBN-13: 9780062991232 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/08/2021, Ages 13-17)

This delightfully disastrous queer YA rom-com is a perfect read for fans of Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, and Sandhya Menon.

When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.

That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.

Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (ISBN-13: 9781547603909 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/29/2021, Ages 13-17)

Darkness blooms in bestselling author Kalynn Bayron’s new contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique and deadly power.

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined—it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

From the bestselling author of Cinderella Is Dead comes another inspiring and deeply compelling story about a young woman with the power to conquer the dark forces descending around her.

The Way She Feels by Courtney Cook (ISBN-13: 9781951142599 Publisher: Tin House Books Publication date: 06/29/2021, Ages 16+)

A witty and one-of-a-kind debut graphic memoir detailing and drawing the life of a girl with borderline personality disorder finding her way—and herself—one day at a time.

What does it feel like to fall in love too hard and too fast, to hate yourself in equal and opposite measure? To live in such fear of rejection that you drive friends and lovers away? Welcome to my world. I’m Courtney, and I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), along with over four million other people in the United States. Though I’ve shown every classic symptom of the disorder since childhood, I wasn’t properly diagnosed until nearly a decade later, because the prevailing theory is that most people simply “grow out of it.” Not me.

In my illustrated memoir The Way She Feels: My Life on the Borderline in Pictures and Pieces, I share what it’s been like to live and love with this disorder. Not just the hospitalizations, treatments, and residential therapy, but the moments I found comfort in cereal, the color pink, or mini corn dogs; the days I couldn’t style my hair because I thought the blow-dryer was going to hurt me; the peace I found when someone I love held me. This is a book about vulnerability, honesty, acceptance, and how to speak openly—not only with doctors, co-patients, friends, family, or partners, but also with ourselves.

Where It All Lands by Jennie Wexler (ISBN-13: 9781250750044 Publisher: Wednesday Books Publication date: 07/06/2021, Ages 12-18)

Sliding Doors-esque novel that reveals how our choices define us and how no matter the road, love can find its way.

Stevie Rosenstein has never made a true friend. Never fallen in love. Moved from city to city by her father’s unrelenting job, it’s too hard to care for someone. Trust in anything. The pain of leaving always hurts too much. But she’ll soon learn to trust, to love.

Twice.

Drew and Shane have been best friends through everything. The painful death of Shane’s dad. The bitter separation of Drew’s parents. Through sleepaway camps and family heartache, basketball games and immeasurable loss, they’ve always been there for each other.

When Stevie meets Drew and Shane, life should go on as normal.

But a simple coin toss alters the course of their year in profound and unexpected ways.

Told in dual timelines, debut author Jennie Wexler’s Where It All Lands delivers a heartbreaking and hopeful novel about missed opportunities, second chances, and all the paths that lead us to where we are.

Time Villains by Victor Piñeiro (ISBN-13: 9781728230498 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 07/06/2021 Series: Time Villains #1, Ages 8-12)

Story Thieves meets Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library in this wacky, hilarious, and fast-paced middle-grade series starter, with the perfect combination of magic, imagination, and adventure.

Javi Santiago is trying his best not to fail sixth grade. So, when the annual “invite any three people to dinner” homework assignment rolls around, Javi enlists his best friend, Wiki, and his sister, Brady, to help him knock it out of the park.

But the dinner party is a lot more than they bargained for. The family’s mysterious antique table actually brings the historical guests to the meal…and Blackbeard the Pirate is turning out to be the worst guest of all time.

Before they can say “avast, ye maties,” Blackbeard escapes, determined to summon his bloodthirsty pirate crew. And as Javi, Wiki, and Brady try to figure out how to get Blackbeard back into his own time, they might have to invite some even zanier figures to set things right again…

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore (ISBN-13: 978-1728229119 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Publication date: 08/03/2021, Ages 13-17)

Stalking Jack the Ripper meets Devil in the White City. In order to save her sister, Zuretta takes a job at a notorious house of horrors-but she might never escape.

Seventeen-year-old Zuretta 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 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.

Journey to the Heart of the Abyss by London Shah (ISBN-13: 9780759555075 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 10/26/2021 Series: Light the Abyss Series #2, Ages 12-18)

The sequel to London Shah’s thrilling futuristic mystery The Light at the Bottom of the World, perfect for fans of Illuminae and These Broken Stars

Leyla McQueen has finally reunited with her father after breaking him out of the illegal government prison, Broadmoor—but freedom comes at a terrible cost. As Leyla celebrates being with her father, she must grapple with the pain of losing Ari. Now separated from the boy who has her heart and labeled the nation’s number one enemy, Leyla must risk illegal travel with her father through unchartered waters in their quest for the truth behind Mr. McQueen’s arrest.

Across Britain, the fallout from Mr. McQueen’s escape has escalated tensions between Anthropoid and non-Anthropoid communities, bringing them to an all-time high. And, as Leyla and her friends fight to uncover the startling truths about their world, she discovers her own shocking past—and the horrifying secrets behind her father’s abduction and arrest. But as these long-buried truths finally begin to surface, so, too, do the authorities’ terrible future plans. And if the ever-pervasive fear prevents the people from taking a stand now, the abyss could stay in the dark forever.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao (ISBN-13: 9781250762030 Publisher: Wednesday Books Publication date: 11/02/2021, Ages 12-18)

If I Stay meets Your Name in Dustin Thao’s You’ve Reached Sam, a heartfelt novel about love and loss and what it means to say goodbye.

How do you move forward when everything you love in on the line?

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend asummer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail. And Sam picks up the phone.

What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?

Filled with a diverse cast of characters, the heartache of first love and loss, and the kind of friends that can get you through anything, plus a touch of magic, You’ve Reached Sam will make an instant connection with anyone looking for a big emotional romance of a read.

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood (ISBN-13: 9781250787101 Publisher: Wednesday Books Publication date: 11/09/2021, Ages 14-18)

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. She would be hired, that is, if her mentor hadn’t thrown her out before she could earn her license. Now her only hope of steady work is to find a Patron—a rich, well-connected individual who will vouch for her abilities.

When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, she takes the job without question. Never mind that he’s rude and demanding and eccentric, that the contract comes with a number of outlandish rules… and that almost a dozen debtera had quit before her. If Andromeda wants to earn a living, she has no choice. 

But she quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, the reason every debtera before her quit. But leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option because—heaven help her—she’s fallen for him.

Stunningly romantic, Lauren Blackwood’s heartstopping debut, Within These Wicked Walls, ushers in an exciting new fantasy voice.

From Booklover to Storyteller: Have You Ever Wanted To Be An Author? a guest post by J. Elle

If you’re like me, when I was a teen, there was a vast difference between being obsessed with books and thinking I could actually write one. It wasn’t until much later in my life that I tried to pen a story and since, I’ve never looked back. I often wonder what life would have been like for me had I tried to pursue my love of storytelling sooner. 

The author as a teen

First, why hadn’t I? The answer is layered and a bit complicated, but the short of it is–I didn’t really think writing books could be an entire job; and the blips of moments when I’d suspend my disbelief and let myself imagine ‘what if’ a frequent stumbling block I’d hit was always: where would I even start? I love the epic worlds of fantasy adventure, finding magical worlds with spells, practicing those as a kid under my blanket at night, the made up creatures, the heart-throb romance… where do the ideas come from? It was all so daunting. How could I ever find something as cool and innovative as the books I’d read? I didn’t realize it then, but the answer was–by looking inside. 

I have this theory that stories live inside us, pulling at our subconscious, showing themselves to us  in bursts of creative inspiration. Everything from a TikTok skit to a bookstagram picture is a piece of a larger story, fueled by our individual imagination. And imagination is a funny thing. I like to imagine it akin to a bottomless well. When we dip our bucket down there, we pull out interesting things. And the more often we dip our bucket down there, we get better at angling the rope just right, filling the pail all the way up, bringing its contents to the surface with minor spills. And that’s how it worked for me. 

Wings of Ebony, my debut novel, centers around a character whose voice just popped in my head one day. She was vivid. I could see all her features, what she was wearing, the world that was around her. I could even feel the emotion she was grappling with–grief and feeling powerless. I put my fingers to the keyboard in that moment of clarity and let her tell me her story. Then, I revised and tidied it up for several (read: many) drafts and the result is what you have on shelves today. My next story, Park Row Magic Academy, about an inner-city magic school was another that came to me. That time, it was the plot that was quirky and cute and sounded like so much fun. I sat down to type and that story poured out of me in nine days. Nine. I’m still shook. It went through many rounds of revisions and you’ll be able to read that one as well in spring 2022! But understand I hadn’t truly realized there were stories tugging at me until I listened. I hadn’t realized writing was, well, my real life “magic,” in a sense. I just knew I loved all things books. So, reader, is there a story that lives inside you? Have you ever played with the idea of telling it, scratching its surface to see what you unearth? 

(I hope you’re nodding or if not, at least still reading. I’m convinced everyone is a storyteller, but even if you’re not and you just love books, there’s some valuable nuggets you can takeaway that I’ll tie together at the end for you. So, sit tight.) 

So, yes, you’ve toyed with the idea of writing. But the big question that stops you might be what stopped me back in 2018: Where does I start? With an idea? A vibe? A bunch of collaged aesthetics? Listening to inspiring music? Reading craft books? So, the answer is all of this. Or none of this. 

One of the coolest things about writing is that it’s not entirely formulaic. As an art form, it’s reliant on the creator to give it life, meaning, shape. So, start with an idea if you have one or a favorite song. Or peruse Pinterest and collage pictures until you feel inspired. Binge your favorite movies, books, shows. There is no right or wrong as long as you’re listening for that whisper of inspiration. That needling feeling that you might have a character or world or dilemma that could be fun to explore. 

Next, you sit down, and you write. Sure, there are ways to outline and research and prolong the writing process. But, at the beginning the biggest obstacle most writers face is just getting words on the page. And finishing a story. The story can be terrible, and no one may ever read it. But if you’ve ever ran a marathon or hiked a really tall peak or done anything that seemed really hard at first you’ll know what I mean when I say–it’s always harder the first time. Finishing your first story proves to yourself that you can do it. And that confidence is what will fuel you to keep going when you revise or start the next one. 

So that’s my challenge to you, reader. Find the story that’s calling to you and consider writing it down! You never know what could come of it. I certainly didn’t. And here we are, ha ha. So, your turn. Go figure out your story. I can’t wait to read it! 

For those of you that aren’t storytellers in the making–don’t miss the heart of what I’m saying here. And how it applies to you, too. Writing was my passion. So, my admonishment to you is unless you absolutely have to, don’t wait until you’re thirty-five to pursue the things you love. Dare to do it now, with the entire world ahead of you. There’s a magic in marrying what you love with what you do for work. Maybe that’s not writing for you, maybe it’s not even book related. But hold on to those things you enjoy, nourish the things that bring a smile to your lips just thinking about them. That just might be your magic! And the thing about tapping into your magic is it gives just as much to you as you give to it. 

Meet the author

Photo credit: Chris Spicks Photography

J.Elle is the author of the instant New York Times and Indie bestseller Wings of Ebony, a YA novel about a Black teen who must lean into her ancestor’s magic to protect her inner-city community from drugs, violence, and crime. Ms. Magazine calls it “the debut fantasy we need right now.” Elle is a former educator and first-generation college student with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Master’s in Educational Administration and Human Development. When she’s not writing, Elle can be found mentoring aspiring writers, binging reality TV, loving on her three littles, or cooking up something true to her Louisiana roots. 

About Wings of Ebony

Instant New York Times bestseller!

In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry and must save both the human and god worlds. Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games!

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

ISBN-13: 9781534470675
Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 01/26/2021
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

Post-It Note Reviews: Evacuated siblings, allergies, Houdini, a dead body in a freezer, and more!

Post-it Note Reviews are 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. Doing these short reviews would also be a great way to share more books during distance learning!

Frequent blog readers may have noticed I’m doing a lot more post-it-style reviews and less longer, individual review posts. Partially this is because my way of coping with the many upsetting pieces of the past year has been to drown myself in reading, so I’m burning through so many more books and want to share them, in some form, here. It’s been so hard for authors to be able to promote their books, through things like release parties or festivals or other events, and I want to share as many books as I can particularly these days to help them get the exposure they deserve.

All descriptions from the publishers. Transcriptions of the Post-It notes are below each description.

The Best Worst Summer by Elizabeth Eulberg (ISBN-13: 9781547601509 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 8-12)

From the acclaimed author of The Great Shelby Holmes comes a new middle grade story about two summers-three decades apart-and the box of secrets linking them together.

This is going to be the worst summer ever for Peyton. Her family just moved, and she had to leave her best friend behind. She’s lonely. She’s bored. Until . . . she comes across a box buried in her backyard, with a message: I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Things are about to get interesting.

Back in 1989, it’s going to be the best summer ever for Melissa and Jessica. They have two whole months to goof around and explore, and they’re even going to bury a time capsule! But when one girl’s family secret starts to unravel, it’s clear things may not go exactly as planned.

In alternating chapters, from Peyton in present day to Melissa three decades earlier (a time with no cell phones, no social media, and camera film that took days to develop, but also a whole lot of freedom), beloved author Elizabeth Eulberg tells the story of a mystery that two sets of memorable characters will never forget.

(POST-IT SAYS: Set in the now and also in summer 1989 (when I too lived in small town MN and was heading into 6th grade). Satisfying read about friendship, change, families, and enough intrigue with the 1989 time capsule plot to keep the story moving.)

Six Feet Below Zero by Ena Jones (ISBN-13: 9780823446223 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 04/20/2021, Ages 8-12)

A dead body. A missing will. An evil relative. The good news is, Great Grammy has a plan. The bad news is, she’s the dead body.

Rosie and Baker are hiding something. Something big. Their great grandmother made them promise to pretend she’s alive until they find her missing will and get it in the right hands. The will protects the family house from their grandmother, Grim Hesper, who would sell it and ship Rosie and Baker off to separate boarding schools. They’ve already lost their parents and Great Grammy—they can’t lose each other, too.

The siblings kick it into high gear to locate the will, keep their neighbors from prying, and safeguard the house. Rosie has no time to cope with her grief as disasters pop up around every carefully planned corner. She can’t even bring herself to read her last-ever letter from Great Grammy. But the lies get bigger and bigger as Rosie and Baker try to convince everyone that their great grandmother is still around, and they’ll need more than a six-month supply of frozen noodle casserole and mountains of toilet paper once their wicked grandmother shows up!

This unexpectedly touching read reminds us that families are weird and wonderful, even when they’re missing their best parts. With humor, suspense, and a testament to loyalty, Ena Jones takes two brave kids on an unforgettable journey. Includes four recipes for Great Grammy’s survival treats.

(POST-IT SAYS: Great fun. Give this to readers who like hijinks, family-member-as-villain, racing against time, and can handle a plot that revolves around kids putting their dead great-grandma in a freezer! Fast-paced with great characters.)

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus (ISBN-13: 9780823447053 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 02/02/2021, Ages 9-12)

For fans of The War That Saved My Life and other World War II fiction, A Place to Hang the Moon is the tale of three orphaned siblings who are evacuated from London to live in the countryside with the secret hope of finding a permanent family.

It is 1940 and William, 12, Edmund, 11, and Anna, 9, aren’t terribly upset by the death of the not-so-grandmotherly grandmother who has taken care of them since their parents died. But the children do need a guardian, and in the dark days of World War II London, those are in short supply, especially if they hope to stay together. Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London to the countryside be the answer? 

It’s a preposterous plan, but off they go— keeping their predicament a secret, and hoping to be placed in a temporary home that ends up lasting forever. Moving from one billet to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets and the hollowness of empty stomachs. They find comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Müller, seems an excellent choice of billet, except that her German husband’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and some of the villagers consider her unsuitable. 


A Place to Hang the Moon is a story about the dire importance of family: the one you’re given, and the one you choose. 

(POST-IT SAYS: A delight, especially for bookworms. Vivid characters and strong writing will immediately rope in readers. The orphaned evacuees go through some rough times but always have each other—and books. A wonderful read.)

The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker, Stacy Davidowitz (ISBN-13: 9781419743931 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 04/13/2021, Ages 8-12)

A heartfelt middle-grade novel about a theater-loving girl who uses a wheelchair for mobility and her quest to defy expectations—and gravity—from Tony award–winning actress Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz

Thirteen-year-old Nat Beacon loves a lot of things: her dog Warbucks, her best friend Chloe, and competing on her wheelchair racing team, the Zoomers, to name a few. But there’s one thing she’s absolutely OBSESSED with: MUSICALS! From Hamilton to Les Mis, there’s not a cast album she hasn’t memorized and belted along to. She’s never actually been in a musical though, or even seen an actor who uses a wheelchair for mobility on stage. Would someone like Nat ever get cast?
But when Nat’s family moves from California to New Jersey, Nat stumbles upon auditions for a kids’ production of Wicked, one of her favorite musicals ever! And she gets into the ensemble! The other cast members are super cool and inclusive (well, most of them)— especially Malik, the male lead and cutest boy Nat’s ever seen. But when things go awry a week before opening night, will Nat be able to cast her fears and insecurities aside and “Defy Gravity” in every sense of the song title?

(POST-IT SAYS: Another great book for theater kids—and everyone else! Nat and her new friends are great and both Nat’s desire for more independence and her adjustment to the move are relatable. Great to see a main character who uses a wheelchair, too!)

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd, Michelle Mee Nutter (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781338568912 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 03/02/2021, Ages 8-12)

A semiautobiographical coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel featuring a girl with severe allergies who just wants to find the perfect pet!

At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with the new baby they’re expecting, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie thinks a new puppy is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She’s severely allergic to anything with fur!

Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd draws on her own childhood to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong.

(POST-IT SAYS: An easy hit with wide appeal. Deals with changing families and friendships as much as it does with allergies. At Maggie’s age, I too lived at the allergist and would’ve loved being able to relate to this book.)

Violet and the Pie of Life by Debra Green (ISBN-13: 9780823447558 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 03/09/2021, Ages 8-12)

There’s no golden ratio for a family, despite what number-crunching Violet might think.

Twelve-year-old Violet has two great loves in her life: math and pie. And she loves her parents, even though her mom never stops nagging and her dad can be unreliable. Mom plus Dad doesn’t equal perfection. Still, Violet knows her parents could solve their problems if they just applied simple math. 

#1: Adjust the ratio of Mom’s nagging to her compliments. 
#2: Multiply Dad’s funny stories by a factor of three. 
#3: Add in romantic stuff wherever possible. 

But when her dad walks out, Violet realizes that the odds do not look good. Why can’t her parents get along like popular, perfect Ally’s parents? Would it be better to have no dad at all, like her best friend, McKenzie? Violet is considering the data when she and Ally get cast in the school play, and McKenzie doesn’t—a probability that Violet never calculated. Maybe friendship and family have more variables than she thought.

Filled with warmth, math-y humor, and delicious pie, this heartfelt middle grade read is perfect for fans of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. Includes illustrated charts, graphs, and diagrams throughout.

(POST-IT SAYS: Lots to relate to here—new friendships, divorcing parents, characters raised by grandparents, and typical middle school drama and change. Violet’s many charts and diagrams give the story added appeal. Vi really grows as a character over the story. A solid read.)

Houdini and Me by Dan Gutman (ISBN-13: 9780823445158 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 03/02/2021, Ages 8-12)

Harry has always admired the famous escape artist Houdini. And when Houdini asks for help in coming back to life, it seems like an amazing chance…or could it be Houdini’s greatest trick of all?

Eleven-year-old Harry Mancini is NOT Harry Houdini—the famous escape artist who died in 1926. But Harry DOES live in Houdini’s old New York City home, and he definitely knows everything there is to know about Houdini’s life. What is he supposed to do, then, when someone starts texting him claiming that they’re Houdini, communicating from beyond the grave? Respond, of course.

It’s hard for Harry to believe that Houdini is really contacting him, but this Houdini texts the secrets to all of the escape tricks the dead Houdini used to do. What’s more, Houdini’s offering Harry a chance to go back in time and experience it for himself. Should Harry ignore what must be a hoax? Or should he give it a try and take Houdini up on this death-defying offer? 

Dan Gutman is the award-winning author of series including My Weird SchoolThe Genius Files, and the baseball card series, including Honus & Me. He uses his writing powers for good once again in this exciting new middle grade novel.

(POST-IT SAYS: Can’t go wrong with Dan Gutman! Readers will learn a ton about Houdini and the secrets of his tricks. Photos add to the story. Lots of dialogue, action, and humor. A hit!)

Deadman’s Castle by Iain Lawrence (ISBN-13: 9780823446551 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 03/02/2021, Ages 9-12)

For most of his life, Igor and his family have been on the run. Danger lurks around every corner—or so he’s always been told. . . . 

When Igor was five, his father witnessed a terrible crime—and ever since, his whole family has been hunted by a foreboding figure bent on revenge, known only as the Lizard Man. They’ve lived in so many places, with so many identities, that Igor can’t even remember his real name. 

But now he’s twelve years old, and he longs for a normal life. He wants to go to school. Make friends. Stop worrying about how long it will be before his father hears someone prowling around their new house and uproots everything yet again. He’s even starting to wonder—what if the Lizard Man only exists in his father’s frightened mind?

Slowly, Igor starts bending the rules he’s lived by all his life—making friends for the first time, testing the boundaries of where he’s allowed to go in town. But soon, he begins noticing strange things around them—is it in his imagination? Or could the Lizard Man be real after all? 

Iain Lawrence is a winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Children’s Literature Prize and the California Young Reader Medal. In Deadman’s Castle, he brings readers a mystery filled with intrigue and moments of heart-stopping danger. 

(POST-IT SAYS: Satisfyingly creepy and suspenseful mystery about a family on the run. Lots of action, claustrophobic rules, and a main character determined to learn the truth.)

Tween’s Eye View on Middle Grade Graphic Novels: Twins, Allergic and Primer

Today Scout, also known as Thing 2, is here to share some brief reviews of some new graphic novels she has been reading. She’s 12 and has dyslexia, and graphic novels are her jam.

Twins by Varian Johnson

Publisher’s Book Description:

Coretta Scott King Honor author Varian Johnson teams up with rising cartoonist Shannon Wright for a delightful middle-grade graphic novel!

Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!

Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there’s nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?

Scout’s Thoughts: One of the sisters makes the parents change their schedules so they aren’t in all the same classes together because they are tired of everyone mixing them up. It’s about trying to find your own place and space and identity. This book was cool and taught me not to be afraid to be myself. I read this book 3 times and really recommend it.

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Publisher’s Book Description: A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel featuring a girl with severe allergies who just wants to find the perfect pet!

At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with getting ready for a new baby, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie loves animals and thinks a new puppy to call her own is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She’s severely allergic to anything with fur!

Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd uses inspiration from her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong. 

Scout’s Thoughts: This was a cute book that reminds us that everyone is different. You shouldn’t make fun of someone because they are allergic to something and you should take their allergies seriously because if you put something near them then they could have a really bad reaction. I read it twice because I liked it and it was a really good book. I am definitely going to be reading it again.

Primer by Jennifer Muro and Thomas Krajewski

Publisher’s Book Description:

Primer introduces a brand-new superhero with a colorful array of superpowers to explore.

Ashley Rayburn is an upbeat girl with a decidedly downbeat past. Her father is a known criminal who once used Ashley to help him elude justice, and in his attempt to escape, a life was taken. He now sits in federal prison, but still casts a shadow over Ashley’s life. In the meantime, Ashley has bounced from foster home to foster home and represents a real challenge to the social workers who try to help her–not because she’s inherently bad, but because trouble always seems to find her.

Ashley’s latest set of presumably short-term foster parents are Kitch and Yuka Nolan. Like Ashley, Kitch happens to be an artist. Yuka, on the other hand, is a geneticist working for a very high-level tech company, one that’s contracted out to work for the government and the military. And it’s Yuka’s latest top secret project that has her very concerned. Developed for the military, it’s a set of body paints that, when applied to the wearer, grant them a wide range of special powers. Fearful that this invention will be misused, Yuka sneaks the set of paints home, substituting a dummy suitcase with an ordinary set of paints in their place.

From here, signals get crossed. Ashley comes home from school one day with her new friend Luke and, thinking that the Nolans have purchased a surprise gift for her upcoming birthday, finds the set of paints. Being an artist, Ashley naturally assumes these are for her. It isn’t long before she realizes that she’s stumbled upon something much bigger and a lot more dangerous. Although she uses her newly discovered powers for good, it’s not long before the military becomes wise to what happened to their secret weapon. And this spells big trouble not only for Ashley, but for her newfound family and friends as well.

Scout’s Thoughts: This was a really interesting book about a young girl in foster care who uses paints to become a super hero. The paint gives her super powers like invisibility and speed. There are 38 powers all together. This book was good. It was very inspiring. I also read this one twice and will most definitely be reading it again.

Sunday Reflections: Yes Our Kids are in a Mental Health Crisis, but It’s Not Because the Schools are Closed

I am not a school librarian, but a public one. Although over the past years I have worked closely with many teachers and school librarians, at the end of the day I still only have an outsiders perspective of what happens in our public schools. I am also a parent; if you are a regular TLT reader you have watched me raise both an almost 13 year old with Dyslexia and a 12th grader with Anxiety/Depression. I share all these disclaimers with you because I want to talk about public education. More specifically, I want to talk about public education and our children.

Right now, there is a huge push to re-open our public schools with the caveat that our children are perfectly safe from the virus and that our kids are in a mental health crisis that necessitates this. This is not entirley true.

Let me be clear: our kids are in a mental health crisis. They actually have been for quite some time, we talk about it here all the time and have been for far longer than just the past year of this pandemic. Here we are devoting an entire year to discussing the youth mental health crisis in 2015 – a full five years before the pandemic. Press reports on the growing levels of anxiety in our teens are not new and they are not unique to the pandemic. The pandemic surely isn’t helping, but one could argue it’s not just the pandemic. The politics, the impending climate change crisis, and watching the adults around you implode in fits of rage, selfishness, and greed while hearing their willingness to sacrifice each other including you, the youth of our day, to the altar of capitalism certainly isn’t helping.

Neither is watching your loved ones, your family, your friends, and members of your community get sick and die. It was almost a year ago to this day that my 12-year-old learned that her favorite teacher had died. He gave of his time freely to host her favorite club and she had just met with him and her peers after dark one night to gaze at the stars through a telescope he had written a grant for. She then went on spring break and while on break the world shut down and a few weeks later this young, thriving teacher that she adored was no longer with us. It was quick. It was confusing. It was devastating.

The grandfather that she loves is now permanently on an oxygen machine he has to carry with him 24/7. The local pastor and his wife died, and yet people of faith – people that taught her Sunday school class and told them to follow rules and love one another and to give freely to make the world a better place – refuse to wear a mask and she struggles to understand how people can be so selfish when the cost is so high. And the cost is high. Not just the economics, the very real emotional cost of the rising hatred and selfishness and greed. Over half a million people have died and many more will have life long health issues.

She does, in fact, go to school face to face. She has all year. Going virtual was an option for her but we made the very difficult decision to send her in person because of her dyslexia. This is not a decision that we made lightly or that sits easy with us. Every day I drop my child off at school and worry that she will get sick or bring the illness into our home. The decision was made in part because the school had reported that only 30% of the kids were coming back face to face and they were doing pod learning to keep the kids safe. So though she is in the school building, it looks nothing like traditional school and she is with a small cohort of the same kids day in and day out. They even eat lunch together in the classroom. So although it is not as safe as virtual, it’s safer than traditional school. And it presents its own challenges, including not getting to be with your friends in school and having to constantly be with the same kids, who sometimes don’t get along. It turns out there are no good answers in a pandemic year.

The local football coach died. Two 12-year old girls on her soccer team can not come back because they had Covid and now have permanent heart damage. Teachers disappear for weeks because they get Covid and sometimes, they don’t come back the same. Her friends parents, grandparents and siblings died. And now she reads online that everyone wants the schools to repopen fully because kids aren’t at risk. Except she knows that is a lie, because it is not the reality that she is living in. She knows kids are at risk because she has seen it.

She does worry about her own health. She loves playing soccer and doesn’t want to get sick and no longer be able to play like her team mates. But she also doesn’t want to carry the burden of knowing that she made a teacher or a beloved family member sick, or dead. She wonders if her beloved teacher that died a year ago got sick at school. She wonders if she will make her dad, who has diminished lung capacity, sick. She understands that not dead doesn’t mean the same thing as recovered because she has seen it all around her.

A rare picture of me and my girls, my heart laid open.

And like every kid her age, she see what the adults around her are doing and saying. She sees the adults at school who won’t wear a mask even though their fellow teacher died. She can sees the Tik Toks and read the headlines of people who are willing to sacrifice her and kids like her because they want . . . what? To go shopping? To go to a bar? Some free time? And she internalizes these messages and what they mean to kids like her.

And can you imagine being a high school senior and waiting in line to vote for the first time only to be told that your vote might not count? That people from other states were trying to have those votes thrown out? To hearing elected officials you are supposed to trust and respect lie about election fraud while evidence came out that this was the safest, most secure election in American history and then watching an all out assault on the Captiol on social media? To reading reports of people trying to assassinate the Vice President and seeing an actual noose set up at our nation’s capitol? It must be so discouraging and distressing to try and navigate these turbulent political times. And to trust the adults who are trying now to take away your right to vote as you just enter into our nation’s democracy. It’s not just the pandemic that is causing a crisis in our youth, and we do them a disservice when we act as if it is. These are dark political days and teens are very engaged and informed.

And let us not forget the kids of color who have to face the racism in our world. And the kids in poverty who go to bed hungry every night. And the kids with disabilities who have to fight for accomodations. And the trans or otherwise LGBTQIA+ kids who have to navigate a world in which adults are passing laws that harm them and debating whether or not they should even get to exist. And the kids whose families are forever changed because of illness or death. There are a complex web of problems our kids are facing and we keep talking around and about them with little actual consideration for them and their well being. Or we use them as political pawns in the discussions about our own.

And I see the hearts of the kids around me hardening against us. They have seen that we have turned our backs on every thing that we have taught them. They have witnessed our depravity and selfishness and lawlessness in the face of a truly horrific global health crisis. I fear that this generation of kids will hate us and we will have earned it.

So yes, our kids are in a mental health crisis. But I don’t think it’s because they haven’t been in school. I think it is far bigger than that. I believe it is because they have seen the truth of who we are as the human race, as Americans, and what – and who – we are willing to sacrifice and it has caused them to weep and wail and mourn in that truth. Because we have been liars and hypocrites. We told them to love, to obey, to tell the truth, and respect others and then we did the exact opposite. We have betrayed their trust. We have broken the world and in doing so, we have broken an entire generation of kids.

Re-opening the schools isn’t going to solve the mental health crisis our kids are facing, because closing the schools isn’t what caused it. Breaking the world, breaking their trust is. And the only way to fix it is to address the very real problems we have caused and rebuild the world and our kids trust in us. We must address systemic racism, systemic poverty, systemic oppression, and the global climate crisis. We need to make our schools safer. We need to make our communities safer. And we need to truly live a life of peace, justice and mercy. We need to be honest with ourselves and each other. We need to change our politics, bringing back ethics and honesty. We need to empower our youth and each other. We need to be what we asked our kids to be so that they can have faith in us and have faith in their future.

We need to give them hope. Not just hope in themselves, but hope in us as adults. Hope that they will, in fact, still have a world to inherit when they are adults. Hope that they we won’t burn it all to the ground before they get a chance to be the people we told them they could be, needed to be.

I’m glad that we’re talking about the mental health of our kids. We’ve needed to be for a very long time. We’re talking about it all wrong, but talking about it is a start. Now it’s time to ask them what’s happening, why, and what they need. We can’t leave them out of the discussion, which is what we so often do. But most importantly, they can’t be something we’re willing to sacrifice to save our economy, because that will leave scars that will never heal. Our kids are not a sacrifice any of us should be willing to make to go back to the system that was, it wasn’t working before, our kids were already in crisis. We need something new and different that works for everyone, including our kids.

Friday Finds: March 19, 2021

This Week at TLT

Resources for Discussing the Rise in Asian American Violence in the United States

The Author-Reader Relationship: Reaching Beyond Expectations, a guest post by Halli Gomez

Cindy Crushes Programming: #LibraryCrate – A Library Subscription Service, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

The Made-up Parts Have the Most For-reals in Them, a guest post by Grant Farley

Have Some April and May YA Books, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Sunday Reflections: Things I Don’t Know if I Can Forgive You For, Part II, a Lament for a Year in a Deadly Pandemic

Around the Web

CDC Says Schools Can Now Space Students 3 Feet Apart, Rather Than 6

Recent Rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Doesn’t Mean Anti-Asian Racism Is New

Resources for Discussing the Rise in Asian American Violence in the United States

I hope you are all aware that there has been an increase in violence and hate crimes against the Asian American community here in the United States. Two days ago, a horrific and deadly spree happened in the state of Georgia. I have rounded up a short list of articles and resources for school and public librarians to help us learn more and find ways to address the issues in our buildings and with our tweens and teens. I know one of my go to responses is to use the tools I have at hand, which means promoting books by Asian American authors and illustrators, which I hope you are doing all the time. While I don’t believe that books can change the world, I do believe that they can change hearts and one heart at a time we can provide tools to help make the world better. It’s not a lot, but it’s a tool we have and doing something is better than doing nothing.

Standing Against Anti-Asian Violence: https://blog.workday.com/en-us/2021/how-we-can-all-take-stand-against-anti-asian-violence.html

Articles and Resources: General

Anti-Asian American Violence Resources: https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/

PBS News Hour: How to Address the Surge in Asian American Hate Crimes: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/watch-live-how-to-address-the-surge-of-anti-asian-hate-crimes

CNN: How Parents Can Help Their Children: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/18/health/parents-support-kids-asian-hate-crime-wellness/index.html

Students Talk ABout Their Experiences: https://www.dailygamecock.com/article/2021/03/students-experiences-with-anti-asian-asian-american-discrimination-and-violence-news-bozard

Teen Vogue: Understanding the History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/anti-asian-hate-crimes-violence-us-history

NPR: Anti-Asian Violence Rises in the Pandemic: https://www.npr.org/2021/03/17/978055571/anti-asian-attacks-rise-during-pandemic-read-nprs-stories-on-the-surge-in-violen

Countering Stereotypes of Asian Americans: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/12/countering-stereotypes

Publishing/Book Resources

Kibooka: Kids Books by Korean Americans: https://kibooka.com/

Lee & Low: Asian, Asian American Children’s Books: https://www.leeandlow.com/cultures/asian-asian-american-interest

Is this one of the most beautifully illustrated picture books you will ever see? Yes. Yes it is.

Picture Books Written by Asian American authors and illustrators: https://www.pragmaticmom.com/booklists/asian-american-book-lists-kids/

Middle Grade Books Written by Asian American authors: https://readingmiddlegrade.com/asian-middle-grade-books/

YA/Teen Fiction Books Written by Asian American authors: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/books-for-asian-pacific-american-heritage-month/

More YA/Teen Fiction Books Written by Asian American Authors: https://readingmiddlegrade.com/asian-ya-novels/

Please know that if during this pandemic you ever referred to Covid-19 as the China Flu or the Kung Flu, you have directly contributed to the rise in hate and violence for our Asian American students.

If you are on social media you can follow the tag #StopAsianHate for more discussion, resources and places to donate.

The Author-Reader Relationship: Reaching Beyond Expectations, a guest post by Halli Gomez

When I first wrote my young adult novel, List of Ten, a story about a teen living with Tourette Syndrome (TS), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety, someone told me the only people who would read the book are those with TS. I argued against that statement, insisted it wasn’t true, and kept pursing the publishing dream.

When List of Ten sold and I began going through the publishing process, I thought more about that statement. I agonized over it. And I realize now, I may have had a Field of Dreams attitude: write it and they will read it.

And why wouldn’t they? People read books for a variety of reasons, not all of which involve a personal connection. We read about magical characters, but we are not magic. Mysteries, but we’re not detectives. Dragons, and we are definitely not fire-breathing fantastical creatures. Maybe that statement was true. This book is different. It focuses on a lesser-known disorder, mental health, and suicide. Would people read this book? And more importantly, why?

The first two manuscripts I wrote didn’t sell, and thinking back, I didn’t have much thought after getting the words on paper. Sure, I had dreams of seeing my book on store shelves, but I can see now that I was missing a crucial piece. The author-reader relationship.

I’ve given a lot of thought to that relationship over the past few years. Does an author have a responsibility to their readers? What is the overall purpose? A question as big as the universe, but appropriate since books have the power to change the world.

Any writer will tell you there’s a feeling to create, a desire to tell a story that’s deep inside and won’t let go. Despite the stress, time, and rejections, we keep writing, often laughing to ourselves as we do it.

So, we are going to write, but what is the purpose? As a reader myself, I thought about what I look for in books. Entertainment, sure. At times I want to escape my life, the struggles with neurodiversity, even the sky when there are too many rainy days in a row. But is that the extent of the author-reader relationship? To entertain and chase the blahs away? Being able to make someone happy with your art is a wonderful gift, but there is much more authors can do.

Think about the books that have impacted today’s generation. Harry Potter brought out the love of reading in many reluctant and non-readers. Hunger Games embodied female empowerment. Thirteen years after the book was published and nine years since the movie was made, I still hear the well-known phrase “I volunteer as tribute.” Most will admit the books are entertaining, but many readers will say they formed a deeper connection.

It’s time to look at my own reading journey. I read everything from picture books to adult fiction and non-fiction. Mysteries, historical fiction, contemporary, ghost stories and much more. I choose stories based on the authors (I frequently refer to John Green as a literary genius) others based on the plot, and many because I want to learn about new people and places.

Books in general, but List of Ten in particular, and others like it, for example All the Bright Places, Brave Enough, Challenger Deep, The Fault in Our Stars, Turtles All the Way Down are not to be taken lightly. They deal with very tough topics and may not be for everyone. I went back to that original statement again, this time keeping the author-reader relationship in mind. Who would read a book about Tourette Syndrome and suicide?

To be honest, the answer surprised me. I hoped people with similar issues would connect and feel seen. I hoped it would bring a greater understanding of misunderstood neurodivergent individuals. What I didn’t expect was an even greater audience. I’ve heard from people who see books like List of Ten as a way to connect with their own children and family members, and others who are sharing it to promote inclusion and respect, and even others who have found themselves questioning their own behavior toward neurodivergent individuals.

To forge that author-reader relationship, stories don’t have to be as blatant and serious as List of Ten. The story a writer wants to tell, the theme they want to impart on the reader can be wrapped up in anything. It can entertain and impact.

I hope to accomplish that with my work-in-progress, a young adult thriller filled with suspense, secrets, and a dead body. But running through it all is a girl who has been talked over and disregarded her entire life. More than solving the mystery, I’m writing this for readers who need to see what can be accomplished when they find their voice, and, just as important, for those readers who need to understand what happens when you don’t allow people to have a voice. And, of course, for those readers who will discover their own connection.

Meet the author

Halli Gomez teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults. She has written several stories with neurodivergent characters including her young adult novel List of Ten (Sterling Teen) When no one is looking, she sock skates through the house and talks to dogs like they are human. When people are looking, she enjoys reading, outdoors, and breaking out of escape rooms with her family. Halli lives in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

Website: https://halligomez.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Halli_Gomez

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/halli_gomez_author/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/halligomezauthor/

About List of Ten

A harrowing yet hopeful account of a teen living with Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder . . .
and contemplating his own mortality.


Ten: three little letters, one ordinary number. No big deal, right? But for Troy Hayes, a 16-year-old suffering from Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the number ten dictates his life, forcing him to do everything by its exacting rhythm. Finally, fed up with the daily humiliation, loneliness, and physical pain he endures, Troy writes a list of ten things to do by the tenth anniversary of his diagnosis—culminating in suicide on the actual day. But the process of working his way through the list changes Troy’s life: he becomes friends with Khory, a smart, beautiful classmate who has her own troubled history. Khory unwittingly helps Troy cross off items on his list, moving him ever closer to his grand finale, even as she shows him that life may have more possibilities than he imagined. This is a dark, intense story, but it’s also realistic, hopeful, and deeply authentic.

ISBN-13: 9781454940142
Publisher: Sterling Teen
Publication date: 03/16/2021
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

The Made-up Parts Have the Most For-reals in Them, a guest post by Grant Farley

The house is a “tall-skinny” built in a slightly hilly area overlooking LA harbor, a hodgepodge neighborhood of houses built and rebuilt on half-lots first planned for beach combers and dock workers in the 1920’s. It is where my wife and our son and I have lived since he was born seventeen years ago, and it is where we are now, like you, hunkered down during this time of Covid. Within this house lurk mysterious triangles. This blog is about one such mystery. 

“It’s cool how the old man never butts into the tale, instead lets me tell it to the end. If there is an end. It takes a good listener to make a story whole, and he has a deep-down way of listening.”

The first point of the triangle: My writing space is an enclosed balcony off the back of the upper story. A roll-top desk and a shelf fill it. The desk was my father’s before me and my grandfather’s before him. Ink stains and coffee rings and scratches and a trace of airplane glue connect the three of us. A triangle, I suppose, but not the one for us now. I wrote Bones of a Saint from this desk. I still can’t free myself from R.J. whispering some tale in my ear, as though his voice has permeated this wood.

“My all-time most favorite tale was selling toes. Not my own, of course. I sold my brother Charley’s toes.”

Those were the first words he spoke for Bones of a Saint. Now I gaze over the top of the desk out to the harbor, a more industrial panorama than romantic vista, but the freighters and cranes remind me to stop gazing off at the ocean and get the hell back to work. At my back is the “guest bedroom.” Since there haven’t been guests for over a year, and my dresser has migrated here, stacks of notes and drafts teeter amid piles of clothes. The door is now closed, as is the door to our bedroom, but I can hear my wife’s full laugh from the second point of the triangle, drowning out even R.J.’s insistent whisper.

“Mr. Sanders, with his Canterbury Tales, he taught me about pilgrims that lived in a past that went back hundreds and hundreds of years. And Father Speckler, with his New Testament, he preached about a future that won’t come until forever and ever, amen. Neither way does any good now, against the Blackjacks. All I can do is live in the here and now.” 

The second point of the triangle: Our bedroom is now half-converted to her classroom, and even through two doors I hear her online students engaged in an animated discussion of a favorite novel. My wife is a high school English teacher. A very good teacher. Is it weird to say that part of why I fell in love with her was the way she throws herself into her teaching and her students? Her students used to call her Ms. Frizzle. I’m pretty sure it was a compliment. Most of the time. I fantasize about her teaching Bones of a Saint. When Covid struck, with little space in our house, we moved my dresser from our bedroom into “the guest room” and ordered a desk that we put together in our bedroom, and her classroom was born. At least she has a large window overlooking a hill with the sun streaming in the afternoon. Still, there have been many times when I have had to helplessly watch her cry from exhaustion or frustration or anger. Now I hear her call, “David!” That’s our son. He is in her class and must be in big trouble. “David, you get on this zoom, now!” Boy, is he in trouble. This brings us to the third part of our triangle.

“My scary stories are make-believe. They help my sibs escape the for-real scary. A whole flying saucer full of bloodsucking aliens is nothing compared to a single Blackjack.”

The third point of the triangle: Downstairs, directly below my alcove, lurks the dark reaches of David’s room. During Covid, it has evolved into more of a burrow. I dare not describe its depths. However, a beacon of hope rises in the form of two shiny trombones, secure on stands precisely parallel to one another rising out of that bleakness. Outwardly, since the Covid, he appears quite content with his world being reduced to a microcosm. Somewhere inside he must be hurting, but I can’t reach it. He is a senior, a band geek and an aspiring jazz “trom-boner.” He was proud of being chosen section leader for the low brass and looked forward to all the competitions, marching in the Rose Bowl Parade one last time, and performing in the All City Jazz Band at the Hollywood Bowl. He has been consumed with his college apps, mostly music auditions on YouTube and zoom interviews. Never once has he complained about his Covid situation. Well, maybe a flicker of worry, since his parents are ancient and there looms danger.  

Abuelita grabs a chair and sits down facing us and puts the glass on the window ledge and lets out this sigh like she’s too old and tired to put up with my mierda… Her tales are about funny people, the earth and the sky, animals that talk and even witches, what she calls brujas. Manny does his best squeezing them into English for me.”

“Sorry.” David has come upstairs and is talking through her door.  “I overslept.” All the kids whose faces must be on that zoom are his classmates, and I find myself on his side. Yes, be defiant. His footsteps echo down the stairwell, and I’m relieved my wife has let it drop, as I imagine him sheepishly signing on to the zoom amid a wall of faces. Is this oversleeping a small chink in his armor, or am I overthinking it? He is, after all, a world class sleeper. He has a list of books he likes, when pressed to read. But he doesn’t share his parents’ passion for reading. Still, he is that third point on the triangle, the student reader wedged between the writer and the teacher. He has read fragments of drafts from Bones. I imagine him opening the real book someday and reading the dedication.

“Father Speckler announced that there wouldn’t be no more Bible Story Time. Instead, we’d have Science Project Demonstrations. Trust a Jesuit to bust Bible Story Time for something like Science Project Demonstrations.”

So there you have the three points of one human triangle. Bones of a Saint is a tale of survival through story, with the countless triangles that implies. Survival as in, this tale just might postpone a boy’s death. Or this tale may lead to an old man’s redemption. And that story, why that story may help vanquish a hundred-year-old evil. During our time of Covid, rather than point out that tales are trivial compared to the travails of our times, the disease has done just the opposite. How many times have we come to the end of a zoom or a phone call, even one that’s mostly business, and especially if it’s one that involves sadness, and someone will ask, “Did you see The Queen’s Gambit on NETFLIX?” “Have you read The Nickle Boys yet?” “What’s your favorite audiobook lately?” “Can you believe what he just tweeted?” “You gotta look at this Youtube.” These may be different media, but they are all tales.  Imagine surviving the last year without any stories to sustain us, to connect us through myriad triangles.   

“There’s something clear and hard way deep inside the old man, like that creepy old body is just a shell he’ll toss away any time he feels like it. I sit back listening, wondering if he’ll die with the next word or just rattle on with his tale into forever.”

Join Grant Farley, in conversation with Michael Cart, for an engaging discussion on Bones of a Saint, writing, and YA literature this Friday, March 19 at 6 pm PST in a virtual event with Vroman’s Bookstore. Sign up here.

Meet the author

Grant Farley, born in North Hollywood CA, is a former teacher, full-time writer and lighthouse enthusiast. While writing and raising a family, he has also taught at a Santa Monica alternative school, a barrio junior high, and a Marine Science magnet in San Pedro. At this very moment you may spot him in his alcove overlooking Los Angeles Harbor, huddled over his grandfather’s roll top, a Springer Spaniel at his feet as he pounds away at his next writing project—a fantasy novel inspired by his love of Celtic lore, his cynicism of mystic triangles, and his experiences working in an antique light house. Bones of a Saint is his debut novel.

ABOUT BONES OF A SAINT

“A compelling, unforgettable reading experience that is brilliantly executed.” Booklist, Starred Review

“[A]n atmospheric read . . . Pulls you forward toward an ending that is like the sting of a scorpion.” —Newbery winner Jack Gantos

Set in Northern California in the late ’70s, this timeless coming-of-age story examines the nature of evil, the art of storytelling, and the possibility of redemption.

Fifteen-year-old RJ Armante has never known a life outside his deadend hometown of Arcangel, CA. The Blackjacks rule as they have for generations, luring the poorest kids into their monopoly on petty crime. For years, they’ve left RJ alone, but now they have a job for him: prey upon an old loner in town.

In spite of the danger, RJ begins to resist. He fights not only for himself, but for his younger brother, Charley, whose disability has always made RJ feel extra protective of him. For Roxanne, the girl he can’t reach, and the kids in his crew who have nothing to live for. Even for the old loner, who has secrets of his own. If RJ is to break from the Blackjacks’ hold, all of Arcangel must be free of its past.

ISBN-13: 9781641291170
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/16/2021
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Post-It Note Reviews: The latest graphic novels, nonfiction, and YA and middle grade fiction

Post-it Note Reviews are 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. Doing these short reviews would also be a great way to share more books during distance learning!

Frequent blog readers may have noticed I’m doing a lot more post-it-style reviews and less longer, individual review posts. Partially this is because my way of coping with the many upsetting pieces of the past year has been to drown myself in reading, so I’m burning through so many more books and want to share them, in some form, here. It’s been so hard for authors to be able to promote their books, through things like release parties or festivals or other events, and I want to share as many books as I can particularly these days to help them get the exposure they deserve.

All descriptions from the publishers. Transcriptions of the Post-It notes are below each description.

Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair: Inside the 1944 Plot to Kill Hitler and the Ghost Children of His Revenge by Ann Bausum (ISBN-13: 9781426338540 Publisher: National Geographic Publication date: 01/12/2021, Ages 10-14)

“I’ve come on orders from Berlin to fetch the three children.” —Gestapo agent, August 24, 1944

With those chilling words Christa von Hofacker and her younger siblings found themselves ensnared in a web of family punishment designed to please one man—Adolf Hitler. The furious dictator sought merciless revenge against not only Christa’s father and the other Germans who had just tried to overthrow his government. He wanted to torment their relatives, too, regardless of age or stature. All of them. Including every last child. 

(POST-IT SAYS: I hope your library or classroom is stocked with all of Bausum’s books. This is a powerful look at resistance, dissent, separation, and punishment. Totally compelling. I don’t think other WWII/Hitler books have talked so much about this particular part of history.)

Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 2: Tater Invaders! by David Fremont (ISBN-13: 9781645950066 Publisher: Pixel+Ink Publication date: 02/02/2021, Ages 8-10)

More hilarious antics, more fast food, and more zany monsters combine in a treat middle grade graphic novel readers will devour in the second installment of the Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher series for fans of Lunch Lady and Dog Man.

Now that Carlton’s an official Creature Catcher with the Shady Plains police department, he’s on the hunt for a new monster. 

While taking a snack break with his buddy and faithful assistant Lulu, suddenly one of their tater tots comes alive! And that little robot tot dude leads them to whole underground world of evil potato creatures. 

Holy bacon bits!

It’s Carlton Crumple to the rescue, and he’ll have to get to the root of the problem before everything becomes a mashed potato mess!

David Fremont bring even more rolling-on-the-floor humor and fast-food fun in the second installment in his bright and brilliant middle grade graphic novel series, which will especially appeal to fans of series like Lunch Lady and Dog Man.

(POST-IT SAYS: Completely silly and wacky. The fast pacing and busy, goofy illustrations will make readers fly through this low-brow but entertaining book. Hand to fans of Dog Man, The Bad Guys, and Lunch Lady.)

Life in the Balance by Jen Petro-Roy (ISBN-13: 9781250619730 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 02/16/2021, Ages 8-12)

Veronica struggles to balance softball, friends, and family turmoil in this new honest and heartfelt middle grade novel by Jen Petro-Roy, Life in the Balance.

Veronica Conway has been looking forward to trying out for the All-Star softball team for years. She’s practically been playing the game since she was a baby. She should have this tryout on lock.

Except right before tryouts, Veronica’s mom announces that she’s entering rehab for alcoholism, and her dad tells her that they may not be able to afford the fees needed to be on the team.

Veronica decides to enter the town talent show in an effort to make her own money, but along the way discovers a new hobby that leads her to doubt her feelings for the game she thought she loved so much.

Is her mom the only one learning balance, or can Veronica find a way to discover what she really wants to do with her life?

(POST-IT SAYS: So much to love here—a compassionate look at addiction and its many effects, sports-focus that will draw in many readers, navigating friendships, finding your interests, and more. Honest, real, and emotional. A great addition to collections.)

Ellie Makes Her Move by Marilyn Kaye (ISBN-13: 9780823446094 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 02/09/2021 Series: The Spyglass Sisterhood #1, Ages 8-12)

A magical spyglass reveals secrets that will bring four girls together in this new series.

Twelve-year-old Ellie is ordinary. Absolutely, positively ordinary. Then her dad’s latest community project makes their whole ritzy town, including all of Ellie’s friends, turn against them. Tired of being ostracized, Ellie’s family moves to the other side of the state to live in a rickety 100-year-old house complete with a turret—and Ellie swears off friendship forever.

That is until Ellie explores the turret and discovers an old-fashioned telescope—a spyglass. When she looks through it, the world she sees isn’t the same that’s out the window. There’s a community center that isn’t built yet and her new classmate Alyssa flying around on a broomstick!

To figure out what the magical images mean, Ellie recruits other self-described loners, Alyssa and Rachel. When they see a vision of fellow student Kiara playing tag with a tiger and a donkey—they have their first real spyglass secret to solve.

The New York Times best-selling author behind the Gifted series and the Replica books, Marilyn Kaye delivers a story filled with light magic and heart in this first book in the Spyglass Sisterhood series. Each girl will take a turn at the spyglass, confronting fears and sticking up for her peers.

(POST-IT SAYS: A quiet story about friendship, fitting in, and some mysterious magic. The pacing is pretty slow and while the characters are in 7th grade, it’s a younger audience who will appreciate this series.)

When Dogs Heal: Powerful Stories of People Living with HIV and the Dogs That Saved Them by Jesse Freidin, Robert Garofalo, Zach Stafford, Christina Garofalo (ISBN-13: 9781541586765 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 03/02/2021, Ages 15+)

The best medicine may not always be found at a pharmacy or in a doctor’s office. Sometimes it comes in the form of a four-legged friend.

Three well-known leaders in their fields—award-winning dog photographer Jesse Freidin, adolescent HIV+ specialist Dr. Robert Garofalo, and LGBTQ advocate and journalist Zach Stafford—offer a refreshing, beautiful, and unique portrait of HIV infused with a deep message of hope. Each extraordinary profile shows the power of the incredible bonds between humans and their canine companions, whether that means combating loneliness and stigma, discovering the importance of unconditional love, overcoming addiction, or simply having a best friend in a time of need.

When Dogs Heal shares the stories of a diverse set of people who are thriving and celebrating life thanks to the compassion and unconditional love of their dogs. 

A portion of the proceeds from this book benefits Fred Says, an organization dedicated to financially supporting HIV+ teen health care.

(POST-IT SAYS: A beautiful testament to love, resilience, and the power of a good dog. Will inform readers on the history and progress of AIDS treatments. Narratives are both painful and uplifting.)

Muted by Tami Charles (ISBN-13: 9781338673524 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 02/02/2021, Ages 14+)

A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of ambition, music, and innocence lost, perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds!

Be bold. Get seen. Be Heard.

For seventeen-year-old Denver, music is everything. Writing, performing, and her ultimate goal: escaping her very small, very white hometown.

So Denver is more than ready on the day she and her best friends Dali and Shak sing their way into the orbit of the biggest R&B star in the world, Sean “Mercury” Ellis. Merc gives them everything: parties, perks, wild nights — plus hours and hours in the recording studio. Even the painful sacrifices and the lies the girls have to tell are all worth it.

Until they’re not.

Denver begins to realize that she’s trapped in Merc’s world, struggling to hold on to her own voice. As the dream turns into a nightmare, she must make a choice: lose her big break, or get broken.

Inspired by true events, Muted is a fearless exploration of the dark side of the music industry, the business of exploitation, how a girl’s dreams can be used against her — and what it takes to fight back.

(POST-IT SAYS: Intense. Hand this to readers who enjoyed Grown or who are leaning what the music/fame worlds can do to young women thanks to #FreeBritney. I absolutely burned through this story and did not see the twist at the end coming. Wow.)

Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found by Rucker Moses, Theo Gangi (ISBN-13: 9780525516866 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/16/2021, Ages 10-14)

Magic has all but disappeared in Brooklyn, but one tenacious young magician is determined to bring it back in this exciting middle grade mystery.

Twelve-year-old Kingston has just moved from the suburbs back to Echo City, Brooklyn—the last place his father was seen alive. Kingston’s father was King Preston, one of the world’s greatest magicians. Until one trick went wrong and he disappeared. Now that Kingston is back in Echo City, he’s determined to find his father.

Somehow, though, when his father disappeared, he took all of Echo City’s magic with him. Now Echo City—a ghost of its past—is living up to its name. With no magic left, the magicians have packed up and left town and those who’ve stayed behind don’t look too kindly on any who reminds them of what they once had.

When Kingston finds a magic box his father left behind as a clue, Kingston knows there’s more to his father’s disappearance than meets the eye. He’ll have to keep it a secret—that is, until he can restore magic to Echo City. With his cousin Veronica and childhood friend Too Tall Eddie, Kingston works to solve the clues, but one wrong move and his father might not be the only one who goes missing.

(POST-IT SAYS: Magic, fantasy, mystery—what’s not to like?! The fast-paced plot will immediately grab readers. Ciphers, puzzles, and twists abound—great appeal for readers who are drawn to those things. Almost all characters are Black.)

Some Other Now by Sarah Everett (ISBN-13: 9780358251866 Publisher: HMH Books Publication date: 02/23/2021, Ages 14-18)

This Is Us for teens, this luminous and heartbreaking contemporary novel follows a girl caught between two brothers as the three of them navigate family, loss, and love over the course of two summers. For fans of Far From the TreeEmergency Contact, and Nina LaCour.

Before she kissed one of the Cohen boys, seventeen-year-old Jessi Rumfield knew what it was like to have a family—even if, technically, that family didn’t belong to her. She’d spent her childhood in the house next door, challenging Rowan Cohen to tennis matches while his older brother, Luke, studied in the background and Mel watched over the three like the mother Jessi always wished she had.

But then everything changed. It’s been almost a year since Jessi last visited the Cohen house. Rowan is gone. Mel is in remission and Luke hates Jessi for the role she played in breaking his family apart. Now Jessi spends her days at a dead-end summer job avoiding her real mother, who suddenly wants to play a role in Jessi’s life after being absent for so long. But when Luke comes home from college, it’s hard to ignore the past. And when he asks Jessi to pretend to be his girlfriend for the final months of Mel’s life, Jessi finds herself drawn back into the world of the Cohens. Everything’s changed, but Jessi can’t help wanting to be a Cohen, even if it means playing pretend for one final summer.

(POST-IT SAYS: Don’t open this looking for a swoony romance—this is a real gut-punch of a look at grief, death, loss, depression, and families falling apart. A real twist on the “fake dating” concept.)

After the Rain by Nnedi Okorafor, David Brame (Illustrator), John Jennings (Adapted by) (ISBN-13: 9781419743559 Publisher: ABRAMS Publication date: 01/05/2021, Ages 16+)

During a furious storm a young woman’s destiny is revealed . . . and her life is changed forever

After the Rain is a graphic novel adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s short story “On the Road.” The drama takes place in a small Nigerian town during a violent and unexpected storm. A Nigerian-American woman named Chioma answers a knock at her door and is horrified to see a boy with a severe head wound standing at her doorstep. He reaches for her, and his touch burns like fire. Something is very wrong. Haunted and hunted, Chioma must embrace her heritage in order to survive. John Jennings and David Brame’s graphic novel collaboration uses bold art and colors to powerfully tell this tale of identity and destiny.

(POST-IT SAYS: Hand this to older readers who like gore and horror. This suspenseful and creepy story mixes the supernatural with folklore to explore identity and culture.)

Upstaged by Diana Harmon Asher (ISBN-13: 9781419740817 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/16/2021, Ages 8-12)

A shy seventh grader learns to step into the spotlight in this heartwarming middle-grade novel by acclaimed author, Diana Harmon Asher

Shira Gordon is painfully shy. She rarely speaks and blushes at everything. And yet, when she’s alone in her room, she’ll sing and dance, dreaming she were different. So when her best friend forces her to audition for their school’s production of The Music Man, she’s mostly hoping the play will get canceled . . . but a tiny part of her hopes she’ll get in.
And she does. As a member of the barbershop quartet. Playing a dude with a mustache is not exactly her dream role, but Shira is surprised by how much she loves rehearsing with her quirky new friends. When her teacher asks her to understudy the lead role, Marian the Librarian, she reluctantly accepts.
It’s not easy to understudy Monica Manley, an eighth-grade diva who will notbe upstaged. And things get even more complicated when a mysterious prankster starts playing tricks on Monica and Shira’s crush joins the cast. But something keeps Shira going, and it might just be Marian herself. Sure, Marian is a leading lady, but she’s also misunderstood, lonely . . . and shy. And if a star can be shy, then maybe, just maybe, a shy person can be a star.

(POST-IT SAYS: Recommend this one to the shy kids, the theater kids, the “finding their people” kids, the “where is my place in middle school” kids. Wide appeal, great characters, and full of heart. A great read.)

The Follower by Kate Doughty (ISBN-13: 9781419748011 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/23/2021, Ages 13-18)

A spine-tingling YA thriller based on a true story

Instagram-famous triplets Cecily, Amber, and Rudy—the children of home renovation superstars—are ready for a perfect summer. They’ve just moved onto the site of their parents’ latest renovation project when they begin to receive spine-tingling messages from someone called The Follower. It soon becomes clear that this anonymous threat is more than a simple Internet troll, and they can’t wait to shatter the Cole family’s perfect veneer and take back what’s theirs.


The Follower examines the implications of what it is to be watched in the era of social-media fame—as well as the lies we tell and the lengths we’ll go to uphold a perfect image, when our lives depend on it.

(POST IT SAYS: I was obsessed with the story of the Watcher and that NJ house, so I burned through this seemingly Watcher-inspired book. Satisfyingly creepy and suspenseful thriller that’s fast-paced and not entirely predictable.)

Rivals by Tommy Greenwald (ISBN-13: 9781419748271 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/23/2021, Ages 10-14)

From the author of the award-winning Game Changer comes a gripping novel about two student-athletes searching for stardom, a young reporter searching for the truth, and a crosstown basketball rivalry that goes too far

The people of Walthorne love their basketball—and one of the things they love most is the special rivalry between the Walthorne North Middle School Cougars and the Walthorne South Middle School Panthers. As the season begins, two star players are feeling the heat: Austin Chambers, captain of Walthorne North, worries that he’s not good enough to live up to his father’s legacy, while across town, the brilliantly talented Carter Haswell, captain of Walthorne South, is already under pressure to get a scholarship that might ease his family’s financial stress.

While both boys do whatever they can to make sure their team wins, Alfie Jenks, a school sports reporter, discovers that behind-the-scenes scandals are just as much a part of youth sports as on-the-court action. When she blows the story wide open, the whole season is jeopardized.

Told through a series of flashbacks, newspaper reports, social media posts, and interviews, Rivals will have readers tearing through the pages to see what happens next—and asking themselves if winning has become more important than doing the right thing.

(POST-IT SAYS: The format (texts, interviews, different narrators, etc) will engage readers. Lots of action and exploration of youth sports and all that goes with them. Delves into family issues, pressure and expectations, rivalries, and choices. Wide appeal, especially for sports fans.)