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

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

The Violent Season By Sara Walters

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

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

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

Coming in September 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

When All the Girls are Sleeping by Emily Arsenault

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

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

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

Coming in July of 2021 from Penguin Random House

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore

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

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

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

Coming in August 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

The Girl in the Headlines by Hannah Jayne

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

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

Coming in July of 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

14 Ways to Die by Vincent Ralph

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

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

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

The whole world is watching her every move.

And so is the Magpie Man

Coming in June 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

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

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

Coming in August 2021 from Wednesday Books

Prom House by Chelsea Mueller

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

Coming in May 2021 from Underlined

The Murder Game by Carrie Doyle

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

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

Coming in April 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

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

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

Coming in April 2021 from Scribner

Where Secrets Lie by Eva V. Gibson

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

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

Coming in April 2021 from Simon Pulse

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

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

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

But she’ll have to.

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

This book came out earlier in 2021

The Forest of Stolen Girls by Jen Hur

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

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

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

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

Coming in April 2021 from Fiewel and Friends

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

Book Review: Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Publisher’s Book Description:

Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.

Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.

But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.

Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place. (March 2021, Inkyard Press)

Riley’s Thoughts:

Sing Me Forgotten is a young adult fantasy by Jessica S. Olson. She is a debut author, and she is starting with a great book. This book is full of twists and fascinating magic.

In the beginning, the book starts with the main character doing what she is supposed to do. In the opera house she makes sure that everyone enjoys the performance with her magic ability, but she can’t be seen. She is not even supposed to be alive. This introduction immediately grabs the reader’s attention.

Soon after the main character is introduced, a new character arrives. Someone she has never seen before, but immediately grabs her attention. Nobody is supposed to know of her existence except for her employer, but she finds herself drawn to this newcomer. He wishes to perform in the operas, and there’s something about him that makes her want to help.

As the two grow closer, the reader may see that this girl with magic isn’t exactly good. She tries to fight against everything that pushes her away from the boy, but the ending isn’t what the reader will hope for.

This book perfectly sets up for a sequel. Everything about this book from the world to the magic to the romance will leave the reader wanting more. Hopefully, there is more to come.

Riley, Teen Reviewer

I am a senior in high school and an avid reader. I have been reviewing books on this blog since 2012. I love musical theatre and listen to show tunes a lot. I also love murder books (both fiction and nonfiction), and want to go to college to be a forensic scientist after high school. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so I just put that hobby to good use for my mom.

Take 5: Book to Movie News

Here are some recent announcements about MG and YA books being adapted to the small and big screen.

Landscape with Invisible Hand

https://www.hypable.com/landscape-with-invisible-hand-movie-tiffany-haddish/

Keeper of the Lost Cities

To All the Boys I Loved Before part 3

https://screenrant.com/to-all-boys-3-first-footage-nextflix-trailer/

Tiny Pretty Things on Netflix will get a season 2

https://screenrant.com/tiny-pretty-things-season-2-release-date-story/

List: Books to Movies 2021

Riley’s Post It Note Reviews: These Vengeful Hearts, Down Comes the Night and Pumpkin

With the holiday break, teen reviewer Riley Jensen was able to get some reading done and is sharing some post-it note reviews with us. Riley’s mom, that’s me, had some technical difficulties so the post it note review pics are super tiny and I apologize.

These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin

Publisher’s Book Description

Anyone can ask the Red Court for a favor…but every request comes at a cost. And once the deed is done, you’re forever in their debt.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

Riley’s Post It Note Review: Very dark and twisted, but there were some things that I didn’t fully understand.

This book is already published.

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Publisher’s Book Description

He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.

Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.

The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.

With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.

Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.

Love makes monsters of us all.

Riley’s Post It Note Review: Lots of good twists and turns and has a great theme of things aren’t always what they seem. Nice enemy to lover.

This book publishes in March 2021 from Wednesday Books

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Publisher’s Book Description

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 accidentally getting 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. . . .

Riley’s Post It Note Review: A classic Julie Murphy feel-good book about becoming who you were meant to be and loving yourself.

This book comes out May 2021 from Balzer & Bray and is book #3 in the Dumplin’ universe

Take 5: The Last 5 Best YA Books I Read in 2020, YA fiction round 2

We started with YA. Last week I dove into nonfiction. Last week was all about Middle Grade. And today we end where we began, with another round of Teen/Young Adult fiction.

The Burning by Laura Bates

Publisher’s Book Description:

An Amazon Best Book of the Month!

What happens when you can’t run or hide from a mistake that goes viral?

This powerful young adult novel by the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project is a necessary book every young adult needs.

A rumor is like fire. And a fire that spreads online… is impossible to extinguish.

New school. Check.
New town. Check.
New last name. Check.
Social media profiles? Deleted.

Anna and her mother have moved hundreds of miles to put the past behind them. Anna hopes to make a fresh start and escape the harassment she’s been subjected to. But then rumors and whispers start, and Anna tries to ignore what is happening by immersing herself in learning about Maggie, a local woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century. A woman who was shamed. Silenced. And whose story has unsettling parallels to Anna’s own.

From Laura Bates, internationally renowned feminist and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, comes a realistic fiction story for the #metoo era. It’s a powerful call to action, reminding all readers of the implications of sexism and the role we can each play in ending it.

Karen’s Thoughts: In the song Mad Woman off of the Folklore album by Taylow Swift, Swift reminds us that they use to call women who stood up for themselves mad and burn them as witches. That is an underlining theme in The Burning as well. Anna and her mother leave to start a new life and it’s clear that something has happened. Over time we learn that Anna’s dad has died and in her grief, she developed an unhealthy relationship with a boy who shares her nudes with others. Her fresh start doesn’t go well when new people find those nudes and more. At the same time, Anna is researching for a local history project and learn about a historical woman in her new town who was burned for being a witch because she had a child out of wedlock. There is a lot going on in this book: mothers and daugthers, friendships, social media, feminism and more. But it’s all woven together in a really solid story that made me rage and then rejoice.

Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus

Publisher’s Book Description:

Liv Fleming’s father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he’s dead, though that doesn’t mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so desperately believed were after him.

But Liv is done with childhood fantasies. Done pretending she believes her father’s absurd theories. Done going through the motions for Doug’s sake. However, on the very day she chooses to destroy the traps, she discovers in one of them a creature so inhuman it can only be one thing. In that moment, she’s faced with a painful realization: her dad was telling the truth. And no one believed him.

Now, she and Doug have a choice to make. They can turn the alien over to the authorities…or they can take matters into their own hands.

Karen’s Thoughts: Why do seemingly good people engage in horrific acts of violence? This is one of the main questions that Kraus tackles in this ultra violent novel that explores the depth of grief and loss and mixing in a bit of psychological manipulation and toxic masculinity. Nothing is ever as it seems in Bent Heavens and then there a mindblowing twist that turns everything on its head.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Publisher’s Book Description:

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

Karen’s Thoughts: The prom novel is a tried and true staple of teen/young adult fiction. And here we get a joyful prom novel starring a Black main character that will make you laugh, make you cry, and warm your cold, dead 2020 heart. It’s everything you want in a ya novel and more.

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Publisher’s Book Description:

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born


Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today


Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.

Karen’s Thoughts: A moving look at contemporary issues regarding systemic racism and the criminal justice system by someone who all too sadly knows about it from personal experience. Told in verse, this is such a moving and uncomfortable read. I love that it demonstrates the healing and expressive power of art while taking us on this journey. Like some of the best books out there, it takes an uncomfortable look at hard truths and it’s not always an easy read, but it’s a moving and necessary one.

We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Publisher’s Book Description:

A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have no false illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Though their families–both biological and found–create a warm community for them, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the three teens know they have no choice but to run: for the border, for the hope of freedom, and for their very lives.

Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico with their eyes on the U.S. border, they follow the route of La Bestia, a system of trains that promise the hope of freedom–if they are lucky enough to survive the harrowing journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and the desperation that courses through their very veins, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know that there’s no turning back, dangerous though the road ahead might be.

In this powerful story inspired by real–and current–events, the plight at our southern border is brought to painful, poignant life.

Karen’s Thoughts: Jenny Torres Sanchez is one of the best authors you’re probably not reading and this book is hands down her best one yet. It’s a ripped from the headlines Own Voices story about a group of teens fleeing Guatemala and trying to get to the sanctuary of the United States. We start out with an in depth look at their lives at home, to get an idea of what, exactly, they are fleeing and then take the harsh journey with them. This is such a painful book to read, and terrifying in its stark depiction of real life for so many, which is why it’s one of the best and most important books of our time. Well written, moving, and sadly necessary for our current times, everyone should read this book.

And there you have it, 20 of the best books I read in 2020. What do you think of my list? What books are on yours? Let’s talk about it in the comment.

Take 5: Five of the Best YA Books I’ve Read in 2020

Thankfully, 2020 is coming to an end. I can not wait for this trash fire of a year to be over! Every Monday in December I will share with you 5 of my favorite MG and YA books for 2020, which will give us a total list of Top 20 Books for 2020. It’s not a ranked order list or countdown, just a general list of books that I loved and think teens will love as well. These aren’t all the books that I read this year, but I am keeping the list to books that were published in 2020.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publisher’s Book Description: Korey Fields is dead.

When Enchanted Jones wakes with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night, no one—the police and Korey’s fans included—has more questions than she does. All she really knows is that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Korey was Enchanted’s ticket to stardom.

Before there was a dead body, Enchanted was an aspiring singer, struggling with her tight knit family’s recent move to the suburbs while trying to find her place as the lone Black girl in high school. But then legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots her at an audition. And suddenly her dream of being a professional singer takes flight.

Enchanted is dazzled by Korey’s luxurious life but soon her dream turns into a nightmare. Behind Korey’s charm and star power hides a dark side, one that wants to control her every move, with rage and consequences. Except now he’s dead and the police are at the door. Who killed Korey Fields?

All signs point to Enchanted.

Karen’s Thoughts: Tiffany Jackson is one of the best authors out there today writing thrillers for teens, hands down. This book is obviously inspired by the R. Kelly trials, giving it that added layer of realism. It’s such a hard read because there is so much truth in it. Grown highlights how we objectify female bodies, particularly Black female bodies, and how dismissive we are of sexual violence committed against young girls. Grown also clearly illustrates how grooming takes place. And in a time where corruption seems rampant, Grown clearly illustrates how many people know and look away at this type of abuse because of the amount of money someone is making. It’s a seeringly heartwrenching but honest look at real world problems. Well written and honest, but so very hard to read. Read it any way.

Be Not Far from Me by Mindy McGinnis

Publisher’s Book Description: The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

Karen’s Thoughts: This book makes my list because it has a truly badass female main character who survives days in the wilderness while on her freaking period. It’s like Hatchett, but cooler and updated. Plus, did I mention she talks candidly about being on her period? And as always, Mindy McGinnis gives voice to poor rural teens like the very teens she used to work with in her schools.

Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone

Publisher’s Book Description: In this debut middle-grade girl-power friendship story, an eighth grader starts a podcast to protest the unfair dress code enforcement at her middle school and sparks a rebellion.

Molly Frost is FED UP…

Because Olivia was yelled at for wearing a tank top when she had to keep her sweatshirt wrapped around her waist.

Because Liza got dress coded and Molly didn’t, even though they were wearing the exact same outfit.

Because when Jessica was pulled over by the principal and missed a math quiz, her teacher gave her an F.

Because it’s impossible to find shorts that are longer than her fingertips.

Because girls’ bodies are not a distraction.

Because middle school is hard enough.

And so Molly starts a podcast where girls can tell their stories, and soon her small rebellion swells into a revolution. Because now the girls are standing up for what’s right, and they’re not backing down.

Karen’s Thoughts: From the moment you find out that one of our main characters got dress coded because she had a sweatshirt wrapped around her waist and her tank top exposed, any former pre-teen girl will know exactly what happened. This is an empowering and moving story about a group of girls who come together to fight an unjust dress code and stand up for a friend who was simply trying to keep the fact that she had just started her period a secret. It’s fun, powerful, and so incredibly relatable.

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

Publisher’s Book Description: Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.

His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.

With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?

Karen’s Thoughts: I’m going all the way back to the beginning of the year for this one. This was a great story that stars a Black male lead and explores crushes, faith and family. I appreciated the thoughtful exploration of this young man’s journey and also really appreciated how it explores his faith.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Publisher’s Book Description: A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

Karen’s Thoughts: This book was a fun breath of fresh air in a year that really needed exactly that. Jennifer Lynne Barnes almost never fails and I loved how this book was a combination of The Westing Game meets One of Us is Lying. It was a joyful romp through a mystery and exactly what I needed for 2020.

So here are 5 of my Top 20 books for 2020. I’ll share a new five with you every Monday for the month of December. What books are on your list?

Have Some 2021 Books, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

We are nearing the end of 2020, thank goodness. As we approach the end of this eventful year, I think we should look at what’s to come. So, obviously, this means we should look at books!

Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson

When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.

Coming February 2, 2021 from Bloomsbury

Every Single Lie by Rachel Vincent

Nobody in Beckett’s life seems to be telling the whole story. Her boyfriend Jake keeps hiding texts and might be cheating on her. Her father lied about losing his job before his shocking death. And everyone in school seems to be whispering about her and her family behind her back.

But none of that compares to the day Beckett finds the body of a newborn baby in a gym bag-Jake’s gym bag -on the floor of her high school locker room. As word leaks out, rumors that Beckett’s the mother take off like wildfire in a town all too ready to believe the worst of her. And as the police investigation unfolds, she discovers that everyone has a secret to hide and the truth could alter everything she thought she knew.

Coming January 12, 2021 from Bloomsbury

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

All it takes is one hit on the football field, and suddenly Ash’s life doesn’t look quite the way he remembers it.

Impossible though it seems, he’s been hit into another dimension—and keeps on falling into universes that are almost-but-not-really his own, each one stranger than the last.

And if he isn’t careful, the world he’s learning to see more clearly could blink out of existence…

Coming February 2021 from Quill Tree Books

As Far as You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper

Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.

From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?

Coming February 9, 2021 from Bloomsbury

Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.

Coming February 2021 from Wednesday Books

Riley, Teen Reviewer

I am a senior in high school and an avid reader. I have been reviewing books on this blog since 2012. I love musical theatre and listen to show tunes a lot. I also love murder books (both fiction and nonfiction), and want to go to college to be a forensic scientist after high school. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so I just put that hobby to good use for my mom.

More Books To Come, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

The Castle School (For Troubled Girls) by Alyssa Sheinmel

When Moira Dreyfuss’s parents announce that they’re sending her to boarding school, Moira isn’t fooled. She knows her parents are punishing her; she’s been too much trouble since her best friend Nathan died―and for a while before that. At the Castle School, isolated from the rest of the world, Moira will be expected to pour her heart out to the strange headmaster, Dr. Prince. But she isn’t interested in getting over Nathan’s death, or befriending her fellow students.

On her first night there, Moira hears distant music. On her second, she discovers the lock on her window is broken. On her third, she and her roommate venture outside…and learn that they’re not so isolated after all. There’s another, very different, Castle School nearby―this one filled with boys whose parents sent them away, too.

Moira knows something isn’t right about the Castle School―about either of them. But uncovering the truth behind the schools’ secrets may force Moira to confront why she was sent away in the first place.

Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour

Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below.

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the Northern California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.

In the Study With the Wrench by Diana Peterfreund

In the aftermath of Headmaster Boddy’s murder, Blackbrook Academy has been thrown into complete disarray. Half the student body hasn’t bothered to return to campus—but those who have include Orchid, Vaughn, Scarlett, Peacock, Plum, and Mustard, now warily referred to by the other students as the Murder Crew. When another staff member is found dead and an anonymous threat begins to target the group, each of the teens’ opportunistic reasons for sticking around come to light. Orchid’s identity comes under question while Vaughn’s family life takes a turn; Finn and Mustard grow closer; and Scarlett and Beth struggle to turn over new leaves. All of this comes to a dramatic head at Tudor House with a cliff-hanger.

Winter White and Wicked by Shannon Dittemore

Twice-orphaned Sylvi has chipped out a niche for herself on Layce, an island cursed by eternal winter. Alone in her truck, she takes comfort in two things: the solitude of the roads and the favor of Winter, an icy spirit who has protected her since she was a child.
            Sylvi likes the road, where no one asks who her parents were or what she thinks of the rebels in the north. But when her best friend, Lenore, runs off with the rebels, Sylvi must make a haul too late in the season for a smuggler she wouldn’t normally work with, the infamous Mars Dresden. Alongside his team—Hyla, a giant warrior woman and Kyn, a boy with skin like stone—Sylvi will do whatever it takes to save her friend.
            But when the time comes, she’ll have to choose: safety, anonymity, and the favor of Winter—or the future of the island that she calls home.

Pretty Funny For a Girl by Rebecca Elliott

Haylah Swinton is an ace best friend, a loving daughter, and an incredibly patient sister to a four-year-old nutcase of a brother. Best of all, she’s pretty confident she’s mastered making light of every situation–from her mom’s new boyfriend to unsolicited remarks on her plus-sized figure. Haylah’s learning to embrace all of her curvy parts and, besides, she has a secret: one day, she’ll be a stand-up comedian star.

So when impossibly cool and thirstalicious Leo reveals he’s also into comedy, Haylah jumps at the chance to ghost-write his sets. But is Leo as interested in returning the favor? Even though her friends warn her of Leo’s intentions, Haylah’s not ready to listen–and she might just be digging herself deeper toward heartbreak. If Haylah’s ever going to step into the spotlight, first she’ll need to find the confidence to put herself out there and strut like the boss she really is.

Riley, Teen Reviewer

I am a senior in high school and an avid reader. I have been reviewing books on this blog since 2012. I love musical theatre and listen to show tunes a lot. I also love murder books (both fiction and nonfiction), and want to go to college to be a forensic scientist after high school. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so I just put that hobby to good use for my mom.

A Brief History of YA Literature, an Infographic

Several months ago someone on Twitter asked a question about YA literature and I went looking for an answer. That sent me down a rabbit hole in which I started reading a bunch of research and articles about YA lit. It was a fascinating journey through space and time, and my life as an adult. I started working as a YA paraprofessional in public libraries in 1993 at the age of 20, right around the time libraries really started committing sincere time and energy to serving teens. I became a degreed librarian in 2002, just a few months after The Teen, a prolific YA reader herself, was born. So this research was both professional and personal. In many ways, the timeline you see below is a timeline of my career working with teens and reading the books that I was sharing with them. My life as a reader and my career as a YA librarian is woven into the fabric of this infographic you see below.

To make the following infographic, I took a deep dive into the history of YA literature, reading a lot of research online and in professional journals. I also sought out the help of my fellow TLTers who checked and then double checked my work. We checked initial book publication dates. We swapped out lesser known titles for more well known titles that represented that era best. We looked to make sure we were as inclusive and diverse as we could be, understanding that early eras of YA literature were sadly definitely not focused on representation. Then we combed through this searching for typos (I sincerely hope you don’t find any!). My friend and YA librarian extraordinaire Heather Booth was a particular help to me on this and I thank her. The infographic itself was made using Canva.

Today I present to you a brief history of YA literature, an infographic

Please note, because this is an infographic, it is by no means comprehensive. There are lots of great YA titles and authors that I would have liked to included here. For example, Sarah Dessen’s first book, That Summer, was published in 1996, just a few years after I started working with teens in libraries, and she has always been there with me working with teens in libraries. It also seems weird not to have John Green on this infographic given the influence he had on YA readers in the earlier 2000s. It seems especially weird not to have one of The Teen and I’s favorite authors, A. S. King, on this infographic. There are way more amazing books and authors that everyone should know about, hands down, but this infographic is a place to start.

Also, a brief note about Monster by Walter Dean Myers. It was originally published in 1999, but it won the first ever Michael L. Printz Award for Young Adult literature in 2000 so I put it on the 2000s.

It’s also interesting to note that although YA literature originally was defined as being a book written for someone aged 12 to 18, today most YA literature is suggested as being for readers ages 14 and up and more often than not contains a protagonist who is 16 and up. More and more, it’s is Middle Grade fiction, defined as being for readers ages 8 to 12, that the youngest teen readers turn to. Younger teens, those ages 13, 14 or 15, are often left out of the literature all together these days. Andrea Sower did some anecdotal data collecting about this which she shared on Twitter.

Whether you are an experienced YA librarian or someone who is just diving into the world of YA lit professionally or personally, I hope you will take a few moments to journey into the history of YA lit and learn a bit more about it. Understanding the history of YA lit helps us understand a bit more of what makes YA lit, well, YA lit and why that matters.

When you think about YA literature, what are some of the authors and titles that you think of as being representative of that time in YA history? Talk with us in the comments about the history of YA literature and what it means to you.

Resources and Some Further Reading:

Be sure to go down the rabbit hole yourself and follow the links on each article to even more reading about the history of YA.

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-10522-8_2

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-young-adult-fiction-blossomed-with-teenage-culture-in-america-180968967/

https://historycooperative.org/fantasy-to-reality-the-history-of-young-adult-literature/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_adult_fiction

https://www.pearsonhighered.com/assets/samplechapter/0/1/3/3/0133066797.pdfh

https://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/what-exactly-is-young-adult-literature-a-brief-history

https://medium.com/the-establishment/the-critical-evolution-of-lgbtq-young-adult-literature-ce40cd4905c6

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/rise-young-adult-books-lgbtq-characters-what-s-next-n981176

http://theconversation.com/telling-the-real-story-diversity-in-young-adult-literature-46268

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diversity_in_young_adult_fiction

https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/history-of-ya-literature

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/08/how-young-adult-fiction-came-of-age/242671/

https://my.visme.co/projects/w4ynw9mo-timeline-of-young-adult-literature

A Brief History of YA Literature

New Releases and Mini Reviews: Little & Lion, The Bakersville Dozen, and The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

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Today is a good day for book releases, as apparently all the recent books I have chosen to read release today. Is it fate? Destiny? Hard to say. Let’s dive right in, shall we.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

august83Two step-siblings who were closer than close are reunited after one, Little (the female) spends a year in boarding school so that her step sibling, Lion (the male), can figure out how to deal with his bipolar disorder. At first the two of them deal with tension as they try to navigate who they are now after a year apart and the secrets they are both keeping, but as everything starts to unravel they have to learn to face their various truths.

There’s a bit of every aspect of teen life in this one: friendship, family, siblings, identity (both racial/ethnic and sexuality including frank discussions of bi and pansexuality), mental health, sex, teen, pregnancy, abortion, feminism, drinking and drug use, consent and more. It is in many ways the most authentically fleshed out and inclusive YA book I have ever read. There are a few brief moments where the character’s get a little didactic in how they talk about these various subjects, but it almost has to in order to make sure that the reader fully understands the topic at hand. For example, many readers may be unaware of the difference between bi and pansexuality and the discussion helps flesh out the concepts for the reader. There are moments in this book where teens clearly make bad decisions, sometimes even acknowledging that they are making bad decisions and then going on to make them anyway, and we see the ultimate results of those decisions. It’s a thoughtful look at the very real complexity of teen life with a respectful tone and engaging story. Brandy Colbert is a fantastic author and really does a good job of telling this story and diving into these issues.

The Bakersville Dozen by Kristina McBride

bakersvilledozenWhen compromising videos of several – a dozen to be exact – students go viral, life is not the same for the students in this Ohio high school. Then one of the Bakersville Dozen goes missing. Soon, a note is found with a challenge: find five trophies, follow the rules or everyone dies. It’s a macabre scavenger hunt full of twists and turns that you won’t see coming. Kristina McBride is a good author who deals with issues like online bullying, friendship, rivalries, broken relationships and more in the pages of this mystery thriller. Every step of the way you’re shouting to the teens, no don’t go into the basement and please call the police – which of course they can’t do or else we don’t have a story. And what a story it is.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee

august81Genie thought she was just a regular girl trying to get into a good college, until the Monkey King shows up and she discovers that she is a celestial being with a destiny to fight demons. Things get complicated – and snarky. For those of us old enough to know what this means, it definitely has a Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel to it in both storytelling and vibe, but has some unique twists in that it is steeped in Chinese culture and folklore. For the younger crowd, think Shadowhunters with a Chinese folklore infusion. I was not familiar with the legend of the Monkey King and found this story to be both entertaining and enlightening. It’s a fun read and that is high praise indeed. We need more flat out fun reads and this fits the bill.

About the Books

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

A stunning novel on love, loss, identity, and redemption, from Publishers Weekly Flying Start author Brandy Colbert

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

The Bakersville Dozen by Kristina McBride

You have four days to locate five treasured trophies. Break the rules and you all die. Happy hunting!

Back in September, the town of Bakersville, Ohio made national news when a video went viral featuring thirteen of the high school’s elite in compromising positions. Now it’s May, and every month since the “Bakersville Dozen” made their infamous appearance on the national stage, one girl has gone missing. Officials are no closer to identifying the criminal.

Bailey “Like a Virgin” Holzman is getting really fed up with the scrutiny. She just wants to enjoy the rest of her senior year and have an epic summer before heading off to college. So when she discovers a note in her locker on the last day of school inviting her on a scavenger hunt, she thinks it’s just a sweet surprise from her boyfriend trying to cheer her up.

But following the clue leads her, instead, to the first official casualty. And another sinister envelope. The killer is close, and it could be anyone. Even the people Bailey’s always trusted most—her best friend, her perfect boyfriend, or the boy-next-door she’s always pined for.

With the clock ticking, she faces a terrifying choice: play the game by the killer’s rules—follow the clues, tell no one, and no cops—for a chance to save the rest of the missing girls, or risk becoming the next grisly victim.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined… (Amulet Books, 9781419725487)