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Book Gallery: Reading Your Way Into and Through College

For many teens, trying to get into and thinking about what college might be like is a big deal. For this week’s Book Gallery, here are some books about getting into and then going to college. I’m sure this list is in no way related to the fact that on Saturday I will drop my first born child off at her college dorm and we have spent the last year and half trying to get to this moment. Nope, not at all.

Getting In

For many kids, getting in to college is hard and stressful. There is parental pressure, financial aid, college applications and testing, to name just a few of the really big hurdles for teens trying to navigate college admissions. It can be a very stressful and challenging time. For many kids, mostly because of finances, college won’t even be on the table. And college isn’t the right next step for everyone, but for those who are trying to navigate college admissions in high school, here are some books for you.

Book covers shown include: Admission by Julie Buxbaum, We Regret to Inform You by Ariel Kaplan, Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney, Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson, The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Julian Cantor, Charming as a Verby by Ben Philippe, 500 Words or Less by Juleah Del Rosario

You may also want to check out this great reading list at Reading Middle Grade : https://readingmiddlegrade.com/ya-books-about-college-admission-pressure/

The Summer Before College

Graduating high school and the summer before college – or whatever comes next for year – can be such an emotional time. For some, it may fill like limbo. For others, it may feel like a long, protracted goodbye. Whatever you may be feeling, here are some books that take place in the summer after graduating high school.

Book Covers Shown: The Things We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim, The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone, I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrois, Hello Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Rayne and Delilah’s Midnight Matinee by Jeff Zentner

Freshman Year of College

For those who have dreamed of going to college, the Freshman year of college can be a time of terror, anticipation, fear, dread and honestly, a combination of them all at one. For many teens, this will be their first time truly on their own and time to figure out more fully who they are and who they want to become. So here are some books set in the Freshman year of college.

Book Covers Shown: Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu, We Are Okay by Nina Lacour, I Hate Everyone but You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, Freshman by Tom Allen and Lucy Ivison, American Panda by Gloria Chao, Fresh by Margot Wood and Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

And here are some more book lists of YA set in college for you:

Barnes and Noble New and Upcoming College Set YA Novels

Epic Reads: 16 Books Set in College, Full of Endless Possibility

Jen Ryland Reviews: YA Books Set in College

So now, I have to go and make college packing checklists and check them twice. I hope you enjoy this journey to and in college through YA literature.

Some Other Links of Interest

Have Some Upcoming August Books; By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

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

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore

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

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

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

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

Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin

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

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

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

Fresh by Margot Wood

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

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

(Me) Moth by Amber McBride

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

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

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

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

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

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

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

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

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

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freshman Year of High School

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

Sophomore Year of High School

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

Junior Year of High School

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

Senior Year of High School

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

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

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

2011 : Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

2012 : Ask the Passengers by A. S. King

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

2013 : The Archived by Victoria Schwab

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

2014 : A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

2015 : More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

2017 : Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

2019 : The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

2020 : We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

2021 : The Nature of Witches by Rachel M. Griffin

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

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

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

What it Means to be The Wild Ones, Teen Librarian Lisa Krok interviews author Nafiza Azad

Lisa Krok: Nafiza, thank you for joining Teen Librarian Toolbox for a Q&A about your forthcoming book, The Wild Ones. Your book was born out of traumas that so many women have experienced. I found this quote to be so compelling, “Would giving specific names to our tragedies make you know us better? Get black paint then and mark us victims of rape, sexual, physical, and verbal abuse. Stalked. Sold. Made destitute. Abandoned. Hated. Silenced. Do these words make us more or less to you?”. The naming of the specific traumas is not important. The damage left behind in the women who survived speaks for itself. You state in the book that the wild oneslive in the Between, which is not a world, but a pathway. I interpreted this pathway as their road to healing. Can you tell us about that?

Nafiza Azad: In my experience, when something that immense happens to you, you are changed in irrevocable ways. The spaces you used to occupy are no longer safe for you and the spaces you will occupy in the future are still somewhere to reach after you’re done healing. The Between is a liminal space that shelters you as you heal, space that allows you to regress before progressing, a place to be messy but a space that is always safe.

LK: Having that safe space is so important. These women are fierce and feminist in their sisterhood, bound together by their varied traumas, anger, and rage. What about this sisterhood do you think was most empowering for the women as they find their voices on their healing journey?

NA: The most empowering aspect of this sisterhood, any sisterhood really, is in the knowledge that. no matter what happens. you are not alone. The wild ones don’t always get along but they know that even if they are in horrible fights, they won’t break up. The liberation in not having to be pretty and polite all the time. The freedom in falling and knowing there is someone behind to catch you.

LK: The misogyny in The Wild Ones was pervasive. How do you think this sparked the women to break up the patriarchy?

NA: The wild ones are all survivors of various kinds of abuse. When something like that happens to you, in addition to the pain and the sorrow, the emotion you struggle most with is anger. The question that keeps you up at night is what was it about you that said you deserve to be treated the way you were. And the anger that comes in the knowing that the person or people who caused you to feel the way you do will most probably walk free with nary a pat on their hand. The emotion the wild ones celebrate most fiercely is this anger. They answered the question above and found that no, they didn’t deserve to be treated the way they were. No girl or woman or person deserves that treatment. So how dare men and society excuse what happened to them and put labels on them, recreating them as statistics?

LK: Indeed, and I imagine this is validation for many readers. I sincerely hope that this book brings catharsis to those who need it, and a sense of that unconditional sisterhood to all.

Switching gears a bit now, food from many cultures is woven into the storyline in the different places the women travel. How do you feel these vivid descriptions added to the story (besides making me hungry, of course)?

NA: Food is a language you do not need to learn to understand. It crosses borders and transcends cultures and races. A full table is an invitation in real life and in The Wild Ones. I use it as a way to invite the reader in, to join the wild ones at the table, and into the story.

LK: Thank you, Nafiza, for this exquisite story and this Q & A!

The Wild Ones releases August 3, 2021 from Margaret K. McElderry books. Please see order links below.

Amazon ; Indiebound

Resources for assistance:

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network  (RAINN)  1.800.656.HOPE(4673)

Domestic Violence Hotline   1.800.799.SAFE (7233)

Suicide Prevention Lifeline   1.800.273.TALK (8255)

National Alliance on Mental Illness    1.800.950.NAMI 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 

Photograph (c) Jasdeep Deol

Nafiza Azad is a self-identified island girl. She has hurricanes in her blood and dreams of a time she can exist solely on mangoes and pineapple. Born in Lautoka, Fiji, she currently resides in British Columbia, Canada where she reads too many books, watches too many K-dramas, and writes stories about girls taking over the world. Her debut YA fantasy was the Morris Award–nominated The Candle and the FlameThe Wild Ones is her second novel.

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the Adult and Teen Services Manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians (ABC-CLIO). In addition to the TLT, blog, she reviews YA fiction for School Library Journal. Her passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. Lisa served on the Best Fiction for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s teams. She can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.               

About THE WILD ONES

From William C. Morris Finalist Nafiza Azad comes a thrilling, feminist fantasy about a group of teenage girls endowed with special powers who must band together to save the life of the boy whose magic saved them all.

Meet the Wild Ones: girls who have been hurt, abandoned, and betrayed all their lives. It all began with Paheli, who was once betrayed by her mother and sold to a man in exchange for a favor. When Paheli escapes, she runs headlong into a boy with stars in his eyes. This boy, as battered as she is, tosses Paheli a box of stars before disappearing.

With the stars, Paheli gains access to the Between, a place of pure magic and mystery. Now, Paheli collects girls like herself and these Wild Ones use their magic to travel the world, helping the hopeless and saving others from the fates they suffered.

Then Paheli and the Wild Ones learn that the boy who gave them the stars, Taraana, is in danger. He’s on the run from powerful forces within the world of magic. But if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones. And that…is a fate the Wild Ones refuse to accept. Ever again. (Publisher’s Description)

Have Some LGBTQ+ Books, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

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

Cool for the Summer By Dahlia Adler

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

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

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

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan

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

She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen

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

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

In Deep Waters by F.T. Lukens

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

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

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

The [Un]Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez

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

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

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

The 2021 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize

The 2021 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Winners

This past year I had the honor of being on the committee for the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize. This meant I took a deep dive into books originally written in a language other than English that had been translated into English. GLLI stands for Global Literature in Libraries Initiative and I joined a great roster of other librarians as we read through a large number of submissions and met virtually to talk about these books.

I have been a YA/Youth/Teen Librarian for 28 years now and I’m going to be honest, this is the first time I was really asked to pay particular attention to translated works. Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks! It was a fascinating journey into other worlds in such a focused way. As someone who reads primarily American YA lit, there were a lot of similarities and a few key differences.

For one, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the submissions from other countries focused on teens in war torn countries. I am not unaware that other countries have been facing horrific wars, many of them for centuries, but reading works from other countries really brought this reality into a visceral focus for me. These accounts were heartbreaking to read, but so vitally important. The stark realities of war laid bare are not an easy read, but I am glad that I read them. It is an important reminder that we must work harder to bring about peace for all nations because the damage we are doing is traumatic and generational.

In other ways, the books read exactly like YA literature in America because adolescent development and the teen brain is, well, universally the same in a lot of ways. These books featured teens wrestling with identity, acceptance, and trying to figure out what their next steps were. Any teen could pick them up and related to the eternal teen struggle of who am I and who am I becoming. So many of the books that I read had an authentic and engaging teen voice, something that many YA writers fail at, and they shared moving, universal adolescent journeys. Although each country has their own unique challenges, teens around the world are often facing the same existential challenges.

It was such a remarkable and fascinating journey around the globe that I highly recommend to any and all readers of all ages. And to help you do that, here is the press release about the winners and the short list, which is a handy little starting point in reading some global literature.

PRESS RELEASE

SEATTLE – Two titles celebrating contemporary gay life in Brazil – Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins and Where We Go from Here by Lucas Rocha (both translated from the Portuguese by Larissa Helena and published by Scholastic Press) – are the co-winners of the 2021 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize.  Administered by the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, the three-year-old prize recognizes publishers, translators, and authors of books in English translation for young adult (YA) readers.

“We are particularly excited to award these two outstanding novels from Brazil,” said David Jacobson, chair of the prize committee.  “We see far too few translations from our neighbors in Latin America and it is gratifying to see publishers making them available for teens in English.”

Here the Whole Time is a touching coming-of-age story that expresses the vulnerability of an overweight gay teen, with humor, heart, and authenticity.  Where We Go from Here, set in Rio de Janeiro, tackles the taboo subject of prejudice against those who are HIV positive with joy and humanity.  

In-depth interviews with the authors and translators of this year’s and last year’s winners of the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize will be featured in an online presentation to be released on April 14 at 2:30pm CDT as part of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.  The festival is free and open to the public (registration required).

In a separate but related announcement, GLLI is contributing its library of titles to the new International Youth Literature Collection that is being established and announced today at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey’s Archibald S. Alexander Library, in New Brunswick, NJ.  

The Alexander Library is celebrating the opening of the new collection with an online event, which takes place today at 11am Eastern (please register).  The event will feature a tour of the collection, picture book readings in a number of foreign languages including prominent author-illustrators Peter Sís (Czech) and Roger Mello (Portuguese), as well as the live announcement of the GLLI award.

Both the GLLI and Rutgers announcements are timed to coincide with International Children’s Book Day, which falls on April 2, the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen.

“There is no question this has been a banner year for young adult literature in translation!” commented GLLI Executive Director Karen Van Drie. “Submissions have increased by more than a third this year. That suggests growing publisher interest and commitment to global literature and their recognition of the importance of sharing perspectives from abroad.”

Fewer young adult (YA) books are translated into English than any other type of children’s literature. The GLLI prize aims to focus attention on the gems of world literature for 12-to-18-year-olds.

The committee also selected two honor books:  Almond by Won-pyung Sohn (translated from the Korean by Sandy Joosun Lee and published by HarperVia), the gritty story of a Korean teen born with a condition that leaves him unable to identify or express emotion, and The End by Mats Strandberg (translated from the Swedish by Judith Kiros and published by Arctis Books), in which Swedish teens have 4 months to come to grips with the fact that world will be ending.  

The winning books were selected from a field of titles translated from 16 languages and representing 21 countries or regions from Bangladesh to Belgium. Works published within three years of the submission deadline were considered.  The shortlist of 13 titles contains a diversity of themes and subject matter of interest to every teen imaginable:  from a horror story about a Halloween-like event gone wrong, the true voices of immigrants crossing the US southern border, and a graphic novel of friendship amid a zombie apocalypse, to a magical, fable-like tale of a stereotype-busting woman from Palestine.   

Members of the prize committee include David Jacobson, chair and author/Japanese translator; Catharine Bomhold, University of Southern Mississippi; Abigail Hsu, Morristown & Morris Township Library; Karen Jensen, Fort Worth Public Library; Lynn E. Palermo, Susquehanna University; Karen Van Drie, GLLI executive director/international literature and libraries consultant; Sujei Lugo Vázquez, Boston Public Library; and Rachel Wang Yung-Hsin, writer/translator and Kirkus reviewer.

The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative brings together translators, librarians, teachers, editors and others dedicated to helping librarians identify and raise the visibility of world literature for children, teens, and adults. Our activities include creating pan-publisher catalogs; maintaining a database of translations; sharing ideas for selecting, evaluating, using and promoting world literature for all ages; and administering the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize.  We regularly showcase and review world literature on our blog and featured Brazilian literature most recently in April 2020.  Check us out on Facebook, Twitter (@GlobalLitin), as well as at our website

For more information about the prize and instructions for 2022 submissions, see https://glli-us.org/prizes/

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The 2021 Shortlist

Abigail by Magda Szabó, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix (New York Review Books, 2020) — HUNGARY

Almond by Won-pyung Sohn, translated from the Korean by Sandy Joosun Lee (HarperVia, 2020) – SOUTH KOREA

The Blue Wings by Jef Aerts, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Levine Querido, 2020) — BELGIUM

A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier, translated from the German by Romy Fursland (Henry Holt, 2020) – GERMANY

The End by Mats Strandberg, translated from the Swedish by Judith Kiros (Arctis Books, 2020) – SWEDEN

Ever After written, illustrated and translated from the German by Olivia Vieweg (Lerner, 2020) – GERMANY

The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser, translated from the German by Romy Fursland (Feiwel & Friends, 2018) — GERMANY

Fright Night by Maren Stoffels, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Delacorte, 2020) – THE NETHERLANDS

Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins, translated from the Portuguese by Larissa Helena (Scholastic, 2020) – BRAZIL

The Other Side by Juan Pablo Villalobos, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019) – MEXICO

Run for Your Life by Silvana Gandolfi, translated from the Italian by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (Restless Books, 2018) – ITALY

Where We Go from Here by Lucas Rocha, translated from the Portuguese by Larissa Helena (Scholastic, 2020) – BRAZIL

Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands by Sonia Nimr, translated from the Arabic by Marcia Lynx Qualey (Interlink Publishing, 2020) – PALESTINE

Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands by Sonia Nimr, translated from the Arabic by Marcia Lynx Qualey (Interlink Publishing, 2020) – PALESTINE

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.

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

Teen Contributor Riley Jensen is here today to round up some upcoming YA books coming out in April and May of 2021. Each book has the publisher’s description.

Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

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

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

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

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve

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?

Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan

Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?

A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia

An unmissable tour de force from three-time National Book Award finalist and Coretta Scott King Award–winning author Rita Williams-Garcia, who memorably tells the stories of one white family and the enslaved people who work for them. Essential reading for teens and adults who are grappling with our country’s history of racism.

This astonishing novel about the interwoven lives of those bound to a plantation in antebellum America is an epic masterwork—empathetic, brutal, and entirely human.

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 indifference, to sit for a portrait.

But there are other important stories to be told on the Guilbert plantation. 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.

The Hollow Inside by Brooke Lauren Davis

Phoenix and mom Nina have spent years on the road, using their charm and wits 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.

After Phoenix gets caught spying, she spins a convincing story that inadvertently gives her full access to the Bowman family. As she digs deeper into their secrets, 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. Who, if anyone, is telling the whole truth?

Riley, Teen Contributor

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.

Introducing HEARTDRUM, a new publishing imprint that centers Native storytellers by Cynthia Leitich Smith

As someone who has spent 27+ years buying books for public libraries, I have always been astounded by how hard it is particularly to find titles about and by Native voices. And when you ask people about Native representation that typically refer to Westerns, Little House on the Prairie, or The Indian in the Cupboard, all of which rely on harmful stereotypes and most of which are not in any way, shape or form written by someone who is tribally enrolled in a Native tribe. None of these titles are good representation and many of them are, in fact, harmful representation.

So I was very excited to hear that author Cynthia Leitich Smith would be starting her own publishing imprint called Heartdrum. Smith is herself a Muscogee Creek author and has been long active in the publishing business, so she is the perfect person to head up an initiative like this. I recently got a press release package from Heartdrum and it says that, “the Heartdrum imprint will fully center intertribal voices and visions but also welcome all young readers.” It goes on to say that “the imprint will offer a wide range of heartfelt, innovative, groundbreaking and unexpected stories by Native creators, informed and inspired by lived experience, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes.”

Today I am excited to share some of their newest and upcoming titles with you.

Ancestor Approved, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher’s Book Description:

A collection of intersecting stories set at a powwow that bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

In a high school gym full of color and song, Native families from Nations within the borders of the U.S. and Canada dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. They are the heroes of their own stories.

Featured contributors: Joseph Bruchac, Art Coulson, Christine Day, Eric Gansworth, Dawn Quigley, Carole Lindstrom, Rebecca Roanhorse, David A. Robertson, Andrea L. Rogers, Kim Rogers, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Monique Gray Smith, Traci Sorell, Tim Tingle, Erika T. Wurth, and Brian Young. 

Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher’s Book Description:

In this modern take of the popular classic Peter Pan, award-winning author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) brilliantly shifts the focus from the boy who won’t grow up to Native American Lily and English Wendy—stepsisters who must face both dangers and wonders to find their way back to the family they love.

Stepsisters Lily and Wendy embark on a high-flying journey of magic, adventure, and courage—to a fairy-tale island known as Neverland.

Lily and Wendy have been best friends since they became stepsisters. But with their feuding parents planning to spend the summer apart, what will become of their family—and their friendship?

Little do they know that a mysterious boy has been watching them from the oak tree outside their window. A boy who intends to take them away from home for good, to an island of wild animals, Merfolk, Fairies, and kidnapped children.

A boy who calls himself Peter Pan.

This book comes out in June of 2021

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day

Publisher’s Book Description:

The story of a Native American girl struggling to find her joy again.

It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.

Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.

But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean? 

This book is out now

Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young

Publisher’s Book Description:

Brian Young’s debut novel, inspired by Navajo beliefs, features a seemingly ordinary boy who must save the life of a Water Monster—and help his uncle suffering from addiction—by discovering his own bravery and boundless love. An outstanding debut from a promising young Navajo author.

When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he’s in for a pretty uneventful summer. Still, he loves spending time with Nali, and with his uncle Jet—though it’s clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him.

One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds something extraordinary. A Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story—a Water Monster—in need of help.

Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save the Water Monster, and to help Uncle Jet heal from his own pain.

This book comes out in May of 2021

Native voices are featured in less than 1% of the kid lit titles published in previous years and are sorely lacking on our library shelves. I have long respected and admired the writing of Smith and she is the perfect person to be leading this initiative. I’m looking forward to reading all of the books!