Young Adult

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time

By Tanya Lee Stone in association with Girl Rising
Wendy Lamb Books, 2017
Non Fiction, Young Adult
Ages 14 and up, grades 8 and up
ISBN 978-0553511468
Additional formats: Kindle
Honors: A Junior Library Guild Selection

Worldwide, over 62 million girls are not in school. This staggering statistic was the catalyst for the 2013 documentary entitled Girl Rising, a film that profiled the stories of nine exceptional girls fighting to be educated. In the follow-up to this film, Tanya Lee Stone takes us deeper into this issue by exploring, in-depth, the barriers many girls face, illustrating the importance of investing in girls around the world and calling to action current and future activists alike.

In Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time, Stone captures the readers with full-color photographs and moving portraits of young girls in developing countries such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nepal, Peru, Sierra Leone, and others. She provides a framework for understanding their lack of education, highlighting barriers such as modern-day slavery, child marriage, poverty, human trafficking, gender discrimination, and lack of access. What results is a vivid and heart-wrenching look at the challenges many young girls face.

But Stone does not leave us without hope. Each profile is not just a story of adversity; it is also a story of hope and perseverance. Each of these girls has prevailed over their circumstances and attended school. This is an important feat, not only for them and for their community, but also for the world. “Why? Because education girls literally changes how nations behave. Educating girls changes how governments function. It changes economies and jobs….It can change entire cultures.”

This inspiring book ends with a call-to-action. Readers from first-world cultures may not experience these barriers first hand, but there are ways they can still help. Stone highlights several examples including writing for your school or local newspaper, supporting Fair Trade, or using what you’re passionate about to raise money for a non-profit organization.  

Around the world, there may be many obstacles to educating girls, but there are also many people willing to fight for their rights to be educated. Girl Rising:  Changing the World One Girl at a Time shines a light on this issue and rallies readers to the cause. – JD

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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

By Erika L. Sánchez
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017
Contemporary Young Adult
1524700487
Additional formats: ebook, audiobook
Honors: National Book Award Finalist

Julia is the black sheep of the family. She wants to go away to college, she loves loud music and wearing black and writing. Her sister, Olga, graduated from high school and stayed home with her parents in their Chicago apartment like a good Mexican daughter, attending part-time community college and maintaining a complete disinterest in boys. But now Olga is dead, and Julia has to handle both her own grief and the full brunt of her parents’ expectations.

In the midst of these tears and arguments, Julia discovers that Olga wasn’t as “perfect” as she pretended to be. Her sister had secrets, loves, dreams, and flaws. As Julia tries to get to the truth of who her sister was, she struggles with her own mental health, falls in love for the first time, and plans her future far, far away from her parents. The pressure becomes too great to bear alone, and Julia finds herself in Mexico for a “break,” where she discovers that her parents are also more complicated than she thought.

This is a powerful novel about the experience of being the child of an immigrant—never American enough, never Mexican enough—and also about how so much of growing up is about realizing that people with whom you think you have little in common are just as interesting and complicated as you are.

But it’s also just the story of a smart, funny, flawed girl having her first kiss, discovering books she loves, and living her life with her friends. There’s so much to relate to here for any reader, no matter where you are from or what age you are. – AN


You Bring the Distant Near

By Mitali Perkins
Farrar, Straus  and Giroux, 2017
Young Adult
Ages 14 and up, Grades 9 and up
ISBN: 978-0-374-30490-4
Other formats:  e-book, audio
Honors: Long list for the National Book Award 2017 * Walter Award Honor for Teen Literature * Multiple “Best Book” lists (PW, SLJ, Horn Book Fanfare, NYPL, Boston Globe, ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

I have always loved being transported by books, especially by sweeping tales that span the globe and pull me into lives of people who love and sacrifice over time.   

You Bring the Distant Near is nearly perfect for my appetite. In lush and poetic language, Perkins opens the novel in 1965 Ghana, with the imperious Ranee Das and her two daughters, Tara and Sonia, already locked in the pattern of what will be their lifelong battle of wills.  

Told in alternating voices, we follow three generations of the Das family women as the family  emigrated to the US. Reunited with their father, the girls begin the long and convoluted process of reimagining themselves in a new country. Deaths, secret loves, and the maddening complexities of race and culture are all explored as the girls move through high school and college, clashing with each other and with their parents along the way. Finally, in the last section of the book, it is Tara and Sonia as adults—an activist and a film star—who are mothers struggling to raise their own American daughters.

Nuanced, historically accurate, and populated with unforgettable characters, it’s a YA novel with easy crossover appeal. Perkins is at her best as she draws the intricate realities of immigrant families: how we stay connected, how our thinking changes, and how we struggle to remain a family when our identities pull from different sources.  But mostly, I love that You Bring the Distant Near is a testament to how strong girls are forged over time with love and suffering, each generation drawing strength from the one before. MM


Valley Girls


By Sarah Nicole Lemon
Amulet Books, 2018
Young adult, contemporary
ISBN: 1419729640
Additional formats: ebook, audiobook

Rilla is trouble. She’s a party girl from the wrong side of the tracks (though it remains a question if her tiny West Virginia hometown even has tracks) whose recent violent fight with a boyfriend has resulted in her family packing her up and shipping her off to Yosemite National Park to live with an older sister and get her life together. She gets arrested pretty much immediately, and decides this is it: rock bottom. She’s going to climb her way out, figuratively and literally, and become someone better.

Rilla gets close with a few friends of her park ranger sister, climbers who are in Yosemite for the summer. She learns the lingo and how to work the gear, takes odd jobs to afford her own equipment, overcomes an initially paralyzing fear of falling, all to become slick, cool, capable, competent, better. But no matter how high she climbs, she can’t escape herself, her past, or her dysfunctional and untraditional family history. Soon, climbing becomes less a way to run from who she is, and more a way for her to learn that who she is isn’t someone who needs to be run from. She’s strong, smart, and brave, and every rock she clambers over takes her closer to accepting those truths.

She’s not a typically charming main character. This is a hard girl from a hardscrabble place who is used to getting what she wants by being sneaky or through force. She’s insecure, she steals, she’s ungrateful. She cares too much about what her friends think and she makes impulsive decisions. She’s…well, she’s almost every reader at that age. Perhaps we’ve never ended up in a National Park Service jail cell, but we’ve all said things we regret to people we love, and we all have secrets. Watching Rilla put her foot in her mouth but sincerely try to make things right and to be kind and gritty is such a relief: here’s a character who is both likable and unlikable. Who is human.

I’m not an outdoorsy person and reading the descriptions of having to stay in the ropes for days at a time while climbing El Capitan in Yosemite (including, yes, peeing in your harness from thousands of feet up) didn’t change my mind about staying inside on my sofa. But it did give me such an insight into the appeal of climbing, and why we need to get more girls on those rocks. – AN


Dread Nation


By Justina Ireland
Balzar + Bray, 2018
Young Adult, Fantasy
ISBN: 0062570609
Additional formats: ebook, audiobook

The Civil War is over, but not because the North won. Not because the South won. Because the zombies won.

The dead began to rise on the battlefields of the war, forcing both sides to lay down their arms and defend the nation against the new threat. Now, the zombie hoard is said to be mostly contained. Slavery has ended, and an unsteady peace has begun. New laws have been enacted requiring Native and black children to attend combat schools where they learn to fight the living dead, and many of those children go on to work for wealthy white families as their personal bodyguards.

And that’s the path Jane is on. The daughter of a white mother and plantation owner, Jane avoided going to the schools as long as she could, but it was unavoidable. She’s close to graduation, and her only goal is to return home to defend her family, from whom she hasn’t heard in months. She doesn’t get involved in political questions. Racism is what it is, and she’s just doing what she can to survive.

But then friendly families around the city of Baltimore where Jane attends school begin to disappear. Jane becomes involved in a deep conspiracy run by politicians hell bent on making America safe again, and she can’t remove herself from the situation before she finds herself on a train heading for a frontier town, being forced to defend it against zombies or be killed.

This novel has so many fun elements: teen girl zombie slayers! Reconstruction-era, post-Civil War alternative history! A main character who reminds me more of Huck Finn than anyone else, complete with a “well, let’s see what happens” sense of reckless adventure. But the book is also dealing with very important and urgent political questions about who built, and continues to build, this nation, and what price are we willing to pay to commit to security (especially when the threats are manufactured to keep people scared). – AN


Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done


By Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser
Harper Collins, 2017
Non Fiction, Young Adult
Ages 14 and up, grades 8 and up
ISBN 978-0062472472
Additional formats:  Kindle, Audiobook
Honors:  A New York Public Library Best Book of 2017 * A Junior Library Guild selection * A Children’s Book Council Best STEM Trade Book for Students K-12

Andrea “Andy” Gonazales and Sophie Houser are teen tech superstars and creators of the viral video game phenomenon, “Tampon Run.” In their book, Girl Code:  Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done, the two tell the story of their rise to stardom, from their first time meeting at the Girls Who Code summer program to the development of a stigma-breaking video game to their quest into the venture-capital world of tech startups. Told in alternating voices, Girl Code is the comedic and inspiring story of two teen girls making it the male-dominated world of STEM.

Andy Gonazales is the daughter or Filipino immigrants. From early on, she feels the pressure to choose a career in technology. Sophie Houser is plagued with social anxiety and sees coding as a way to make an impact without having to speak in public. They meet in the summer program, Girls Who Code, and are paired together on a project challenging them to make a video game. In brainstorming a direction to take the project, the girls discover they are both interested in social justice and dispelling gender-biased stereotypes. Thus, Tampon Run is born.

Tampon Run receives immediate and far-reaching success, going viral overnight. Andy and Sophie are thrust into the spotlight, gaining a virtually all-access pass behind the scenes of the tech industry.  The two attend major tech-events, visit high-profile companies, and receive illustrious internship opportunities. Through these experiences, the authors give the reader insight into what it’s like to be a female in a traditionally male-dominated field as well the inside scoop on coding.

Written in funny and insightful conversational style, Girl Code is perfect for all the girls out there interested in STEM or just looking for some real-life inspiration from teens just like them. – JD


The Belles

By Dhonielle Clayton
Freeform, February 2018
Young Adult
Ages 14 and up, Grades 9 and up
ISBN: 978-1484728499
Other formats:  e-book, audio

For teen readers who love an expansive reada book that offers a touch of fantasy, fascinating historical references  (both imagined and real), vivid imagery and a storyline that has many plot twists and turnsDhonielle Clayton’s The Belles is the book for you. This YA read is rich in detail, with Ms. Clayton consistently painting word pictures and rendering fast-paced dialogue that helps readers experience the world of olden day New Orleans (Orleans in the novel), through the eyes of main character Camellia Beauregard.

Camelia is a Belle, a class of women revered for their beauty and their special ability to bestow beauty upon others. All she has ever wanted is to be the most beautiful Belle of allthe favoritewho gets to live with the King and Queen in the palace and care for the citizens’ of Orleans’s beauty needs from those revered quarters.

She and her sisters must each “audition” to become the favorite, and the experience leaves Camelia on a roller coaster of emotions and opportunity, a ride she is determined not to forfeit. Before long, however, she realizes that all wishes aren’t wisely granted, and that what appears to be the best position in which to sit or stand can often come with heavy burdens.

This novel deftly touches on modern-day issues, including the superficiality of outer beauty and the questionable steps many will take to achieve it at any costs; the dangers of leaving mental health concerns untreated; how jealousy and competition can ruin the closest of relationships; and how choosing integrity may cost one something, yet is often worth that sacrifice. Most importantly, Camelia realizes that beauty is not the source of happiness or what gives someone value.

Amid danger, a budding romance, and the unraveling of a startling mystery, readers will find a strength in Camelia that is inspiring and in and of itself the epitome of beauty. This story will linger with them long after they’ve reached “The End.” ~ SHA