By Erika L. Sánchez
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017
Contemporary Young Adult
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
By Mitali Perkins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017
Ages 14 and up, Grades 9 and up
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
By Sarah Nicole Lemon
Amulet Books, 2018
Young adult, contemporary
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
By Justina Ireland
Balzar + Bray, 2018
Young Adult, Fantasy
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
By Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser
Harper Collins, 2017
Non Fiction, Young Adult
Ages 14 and up, grades 8 and up
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
By Dhonielle Clayton
Freeform, February 2018
Ages 14 and up, Grades 9 and up
Other formats: e-book, audio
For teen readers who love an expansive read—a 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 turns—Dhonielle 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 all—the favorite—who 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
By Laurie Halse Anderson, Illustrated by Emily Carroll
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, BYR 2018
Young Adult, Graphic Novel
Ages 14 and up, Grades 9 and up
Other formats: kindle
Melinda is the kid no one likes, the girl who called the cops on a high school drinking party and got everyone in trouble. Now she roams through her life at school in baggy clothes, keeping near total silence.
But what really happened at that party? And why can’t Melinda bring herself to tell?
Laurie Halse Anderson’s groundbreaking young adult novel, Speak, was first published in 1999. All these years later, with the #MeToo movement in full swing, we find that Speak: the Graphic Novel is just as relevant today.
With chilling black and white illustrations by Emily Carroll and dialogue taken directly from the original novel, Anderson pulls the reader inside a girl’s experience with sexual assault at the hands of one of her own classmates. Melinda has not told anyone the truth and blames herself in the convoluted way of so many victims. And every day she sees her attacker continue to enjoy the highest social status at school, even as he grooms new victims for his aggressions. The sense of dread is palpable on the pages. Sinking deeper into her depression, Melinda finds respite only in her art class, where she can access her voice and feelings without words. The graphic format of the novel is a perfect complement to Melinda’s journey to use art as a way to name the most horrific acts and lay them bare.
This is a hard story: Melinda is blamed and cruelly ostracized. She learns to hate and hurt herself. But ultimately, the novel is about her resilience and survival despite an entire community that would prefer not to believe or support her. Her strength shines through all the trauma.
Sometimes, girls have to reclaim their power after its been stolen from them. Speak: the Graphic Novel shows them how to win it back. MM
Sometimes you have to be willing to try something new to discover who you are meant to be.
Misty Copeland is compelling and heartwarming in this first-person telling of how she became the first African American female principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.
Her unlikely path to making history began at thirteen, an age that made her a “late bloomer” in the world of serious dance. While most young ballerinas were concentrating on their pirouettes, she and her family were struggling with homelessness. Misty’s haven became the after-school program at her local Boys & Girls Club, and when she enrolled in a free ballet class on a whim, her life changed forever. Her love of dance helped her remain focused and firm through numerous family crises, personal struggles and periods of self-doubt. Though she dances beautifully and with much grace now, she openly shares how her life sometimes reflected the opposite, and how she used those circumstances to fuel her goals and dreams.
Though this book isn’t a cliffhanger, in the sense that readers already know how it will end, they still may find themselves gripped by Misty’s story and capable of learning some meaningful lessons that can serve them as well as they have served Misty.
Here We Are is whip-smart anthology of what it means to be a feminist and why it’s important, from voices teens will (or should, because they’re awesome!) recognize. Amandla Sternberg, Mindy Kaling, Michaela and Mia DePrince, Wendy Davis, and Matt Nathanson join well-known YA authors like Malinda Lo, Sarah McCarry, Nova Ren Suma, and many more writers to talk about the ins-and-outs of equality.
Perhaps the biggest draw of Here We Are is its scrapbook, mixed-media format. There are essays and poems, conversations between writers, Instagram images, comics, interviews, and illustrations (over forty pieces total), which prevent a book about a serious topic from seeming preachy, academic, or condescending to its intended audience. Here We Are isn’t just for teenagers; it’s about being a teenager, and the writers never forget it.
The book’s feminism considers what it means to be a girl, but it isn’t limited to what it is to be a straight, white, middle class American girl. There are perspectives from all kinds of backgrounds, and readers would be hard-pressed to not find something to relate to here. From the damaging effects of trying to be the “cool girl,” to accepting your own (and other people’s) bodies, to the use of sexual assault as a weapon, each aspect of girlhood and feminism is turned over and presented to the reader in a refreshing and relevant way.
Most teen romances are light and full of friendship and warmth; however, The Radius of Us is more gritty than syrupy sweet. This novel shares the story of two youths who are grappling with fear, worry, and challenges that are true-to-life in modern-day America: crime, trauma, immigration issues, and cultural differences.
The main characters are a white American girl named Gretchen and a Salvadoran boy named Phoenix. The two cross paths in an unlikely suburban setting and discover new worlds—each other’s—through their friendship and blossoming affection. They also learn how different doesn’t necessary mean dangerous and how developing empathy for others can be self-empowering.
This is a sobering, yet hopeful novel that will leave readers rooting for the characters to win and for the world around them to wake up and embrace the beauty in change.
In Prohibition-era Boston, speakeasies and underground clubs aren’t just places that serve black market liquor—they’re also places that house hemopaths and give them jobs as entertainers. Hemopaths carry an “affliction” that gives them the ability to control what others see and feel using art (spoken word poetry, music, etc.), and the two main characters, Ada and Corrine, use their powers in their acts at the Cast Iron Club, dousing the paying audience in warm fuzzy feelings. On the side, they perform low-level cons for the club’s owner; that is, until a job goes wrong and one of the girls ends up in a notorious “institution” for hemopaths, where they are experimented upon and killed.
On the surface, this book is a lot of fun (who doesn’t love a good fast-paced heist/flapper story/tale of solid girl friendships?), but it’s held together by the question of how society justifies its abuse and marginalization of people who are different. Hemopathy is outlawed, bringing up the question, how does a government outlaw a person? How do we, the people who live in a country, let that sort of thing happen?
The book is set in 1919, but what Ada and Corrine are dealing with will be familiar to any reader who is even remotely familiar with current events. Iron Cast is a fantastical way to consider the strength of female friendships, racial profiling, oppression, and human rights.
Starr Carter is just 16 years old when she sees a police officer shoot and kill her childhood friend Khalil. Suddenly, the RIP hashtags and Tumblr memorials to slain youth hit home, and Starr must decide whether or not to share what she knows.
The sole witness to the killing, she’s the only person who can reveal the truth. But in the real world, speaking up could put friendships, community alliances, and even her life at risk. She’s already in a precarious position as an outsider in both her poor neighborhood and at Williamson, the wealthy prep school she attends across town. Stepping forward amid national controversy and community unrest could cement her marginal status—or worse.
The magic of this book is the way it explores major social issues—police violence and racism—through the intimate prism of one teen girl’s life and perspective. It grapples with large questions of justice and equity on the same pages as family drama and social media snafus. It is big drama rendered in small strokes—memorable characters, textured relationships, and vivid language.
Readers will root for Starr as she navigates grief and works to honor her friend’s life and her own principles—her way.
High school can be exciting, but for teens who are struggling to fit in, it also can be a long few years to get through. Jade, the main character in the young adult novel Piecing Me Together, is among those who count the days until graduation.
Jade is openly smart and secretly sassy, and happens to love Spanish as much as she loves her modest neighborhood. Every morning, she boards a bus to attend a predominantly white private school on the other side of town, where she can check most of the “other” boxes that exist: minority student, thick rather than thin, child of a single parent, a product of a low-income household. She endures feeling invisible and “not enough” so that she can someday give wings to her mother’s dream that she experience a better life.
When she is coerced into joining a mentoring group that offers encouragement and opportunities, Jade balks. Yet once she settles in, she is surprised to learn that it is just what she needs, and that perhaps rather than solely being the recipient of others’ generosity, she, too, has much to give.
Author Renee Watson has produced a compelling first-person story that can help readers value their own, and others’, experiences and circumstances.
by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona
Young adult, graphic novel
Ages: 12-18, Grades 9-12
Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story* Harvey Awards Nominee for Best New Series, Best Writer* Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for: Best New Series * Best Writer (for G. Willow Wilson) * Best Penciller/Inker (for Adrian Alphona) * Best Lettering (for Joe Caramagna)* Best Cover Artist: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics
A regular teenager in New Jersey accidentally develops the ability to BECOME VERY LARGE or *shrink down very small* (among other superpowers), leading to a frenetic life of both trying to not fail high school, attempting to keep her family happy, and, oh yeah, save the world a few times.
Kamala Khan is ordinary: she goes to school, has a few close friends, attends her local mosque, and is close with her parents and (mostly annoying) older brother. She’s also a mega-nerd who writes fanfiction about her favorite superheroes and who plays MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role playing games) in her spare time. So when a strange mist floating through Jersey City abruptly gives her superpowers and has her teaming up with some of her heroes (hello, Wolverine and Carol Danvers), Kamala finds her life totally turned upside down.
The best part about Ms. Marvel is that Kamala isn’t a “chosen one.” The acts of bravery and heroism she performs are all stand-ins for moral choices teens and adults face every day, especially now. Kamala would be a hero even without her powers, because she fights for justice. Readers will be inspired to go out and be a little better, a little kinder, a little more heroic every day.
by Sonia Manzano
Scholastic Press, 2015
Ages 14 and older (Some sensitive adult content)
Additional formats: ebook
This is a compelling memoir about one of our cultural icons, Sonia Manzano, known to many as Maria on Sesame Street. For an entire generation of children, she was the face of their own family, foods, and language. But sometimes a girl’s rise to success is much harder than it appears.
Sonia Manzano grew up in the Bronx to parents who were Puerto Rican immigrants struggling economically and socially in New York. Themes of domestic abuse, sexism, and alcoholism run throughout, but above all, this is a story of a girl, blessed with her own gifts and imagination, who carves out a place for her dreams.
by Pat Schmatz
Candlewick Press, 2015
Young adult, science fiction,
Ages 14 and up
Additional formats: ebook
James Tiptree, Jr. Award winner * Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year * TriState YA Review Group Books of Note * CCBC Choices * Rainbow Project List
In a world where the government closely monitors gender, occupation, and emotion, Lizard (so named because she was found as a baby wearing a t-shirt with a lizard on the front) finds herself at a frightening summer agricultural camp. Kivali (that’s her true name) is a bender—meaning that she doesn’t identify as a girl or a boy—and she’s sent to a summer camp for teens in order to prepare for the adult world.
But is the camp, run by Miss Mischetti, really a place to help teens find themselves and help the world? Or is something more sinister at hand? What should Kivali make of the drugs that the campers are given and the strange, vaporizing disappearances? Kivali has to discover the truth behind her origins and why her anti-authority aunt has sent her away.
Pat Schmatz does some solid world-building here, complete with it’s own vocabulary that sci-fi readers will love.
by Renée Watson
Bloomsbury Books, 2015
Teens, contemporary fiction
Ages 12 and up
Additional formats: ebook and paperback
Maya and her identical twin sister Nikki live in a Portland, Oregon neighborhood that is being revitalized. Friends they have known for a lifetime are forced to relocate to other neighborhoods. While Nikki loves the new restaurants and coffee shops, Maya sees the history of their community disappearing in a sea of trendiness. Everything is becoming upscale, from the housing and stores to their own school, where Diversity Day now edges out Black History month.
This is a page-turner about two girls growing up and facing both personal and social transitions, including a difficult romance. I think Richmond teens will especially find a lot to think about here as our own city struggles with its identity and how to respect the history of all its citizens.
by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, Random House, 2015
Middle grade, contemporary fiction
Ages 10 – 14
Additional formats: ebook and audio
Multiple “best books lists” of 2015
Three middle school friends, a perfect set of three: Brig, an accident survivor who should have died when she was eight; Tabitha, ever-practical and cautious—the voice of reason; and Em, the popular soccer queen, now in a relationship with an 8th grade boy who encourages her to send him a selfie in jeans and a bra.
Newbery-award-winner Rebecca Stead fleshes out the crazy world of middle school and the dicey slope of everyday decisions and peer pressure with a wonderfully interconnected cast. I was especially fond of how she used the supporting characters to move the story along. Jamie, Brig’s brother, is locked in a dumb bet about how many steps he can take in a single day. Sherm, a classmate, writes letters to a grandfather that he refuses to speak to. A nameless second-person teen has run away for a day in the face of the fact that her “best friend” is a mean girl. Readers will find versions of themselves in these pages—and plenty of familiar experiences to keep them reading, thinking, and talking.
by Jennifer H. Lyne
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013
Ages 14 and up, Grade 7 and up
ISBN: 10: 054430182X/13: 978-0544301825
Additional formats: paperback, e-book
Sidney Criser is fourteen years old and grieving the death of her father. Her mother has taken up with a real jerk, and her beloved Uncle Wayne is trying hard to quit drinking. Life is bearable for Sid only when she’s riding horses.
When Uncle Wayne lands Sid a job at a fancy stable in Albemarle County, Virginia, at first, ever-confident Sid loses a bit of her edge around the wealth, power, and pedigree. However, she makes her own luck and nails an opportunity of a lifetime to show a made-horse on the elite show circuit. Then her dream starts to unravel.
In addition to the spot-on riding scenes, readers will relate to Sid’s family conflicts, the drama within her peer group at the barn, and the elements of romance, too. Sid’s connection to horses is strong and real and shows how having something we can hold onto—a place where we feel we belong—can help us overcome life’s hardest challenges. Lyne delivers a thrilling and moving novel that is a fantastic story for anyone with big a dream and looking for the courage to keep trying. -Gigi
Naila can choose some things for herself, like her hairstyle and her college major. But when it comes to whom she will marry, her parents are in charge.
The only trouble is that Naila is already in love with Saif. When they are caught sneaking off to the prom together, the repercussions are far worse than anything these American-raised teens could imagine. Naila’s parents take drastic action to save their daughter and their whole family from shame. She is sent back to family in Pakistan to be married.
Debut author Aisha Saeed offers a page-turner about culture clash in the lives of young women around the world. Readers will hold their breath as Naila fights to escape her fate against insurmountable odds and a dwindling supply of allies.
I admire this novel for its beautiful writing and for the rich characters in Naila’s extended family. Few are completely good or bad. Saeed is careful to offer a rich look at the beautiful aspects of traditional Pakistani family life, but she doesn’t shy away from the underlying struggle women face for autonomy and dignity worldwide. ~MM
by Leslye Walton
Candlewick Press, 2014
Ages 14 and up,
ISBN-10: 0763665665/13: 978-0763665661
Additional formats: Paperback, e-book, audio
Honors: William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist * Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy nominee, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award * Amazon Best Books of 2014 * Hudson Books Best Books of 2014 * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2014
If your family inheritance was not to be found in silver or gold, diamond or sapphire, but in your perfect ruby of a heart, destined by fate and genetics to be drawn to foolish love, would you hide yourself from all things?
Ava’s story begins with deep excursion into the Roux family birthright that will, ultimately, keep her locked away from the world for sixteen years, not only to protect her from the sort of love that has sealed the fortunes of her mother and grandmother, but because Ava is the most vulnerable of the Roux women.
Born with the wings of a bird into a clutch of women who are steeped in the art of protecting the heart from brokenness and brutality, Ava’s family cloisters her from the outside. Brutality is exactly what Ava’s mother and grandmother fear is in store for this child, if the world ever gets its claws in her. The girl’s very winged existence inspires both reverence and persecution from the community where she lives in Seattle in the 1940s.
All Ava wants is to be a girl, so out she goes into the world one summer solstice night with nothing and no one protecting her.
In a swirl of hauntingly realistic prose and magical realism, Ava Lavender explores the depths of beauty and terror and the heart’s capacity to rise above. – Gigi
by Isabel Quintero
Cinco Puntos Press, 2014
Young adult, 14 years and older
Additional formats: paperback
Awards: Junior Library Guild Selection * William Morris Award * School Library Journal Best Books 2014 * Amelia Bloomer List * 2015 YALSO Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers* 2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults * 2015 Tomás Rivera Book Award, Works for Older Children * 2015 Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Gabi is in her senior year of high school, and there’s more on her plate than just tacos, wings, and Rocky Road ice cream—all of which she loves. Her best friend, Cindy, is pregnant, and her other friend, Sebastian, has been thrown out of the house for being gay. Add that to drug abuse in her home, a meddling hyper-religious aunt, and a mom who’s stuck in old fashioned thinking, and you have a girl in pieces.
Written in diary format, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, is a terrific debut novel that offers a loving and difficult portrait of a girl growing up against a backdrop of cultural sexism, adult hypocrisies, and the madhouse called American high school. Sprinkled with Spanglish, Isabel Quintero captures the sound and feel of a modern Latina.
I love this book most for its unflinching voice. Gabi—a poet—is smart, funny, coarse, and strong. The diary entries, along with the poems she writes for her senior year ‘zine, allow us to hear her deepest secrets and fears as she learns to fight for the things she truly wants and deserves. ~MM
by Deborah Wiles
Scholastic Press, 2014
Middle grade documentary novel, ages 9 – 12
Additional formats: available as e-book and audio
Awards: National Book Award finalist * Golden Kite Award, 2014
All Sunny Fairchild wants to do is swim in the pool and stay away from her new stepmother, kind as she may be.
This isn’t just an ordinary summer, though. It’s Freedom Summer, and “agitators from the North” plan to come to Sunny’s town in Mississippi to register black voters.
Revolution is the second book in a trilogy about the tumultuous 1960s. What I love about this 522-page book (pretty hefty for middle grade) is its marriage of great storytelling and heart-wrenching documentary. We follow the journey of a strong girl whose eyes are opened to the racial discrimination she has never bothered to consider. But we are also following a carefully researched documentary of the sacrifices that went into the early Civil Rights era. Readers can see the startling artifacts of the time: KKK communiqués, pamphlets that were distributed by Freedom School volunteers, as well as news accounts of murders and disappearances. The frightening realities of the Deep South come alive.
I’m especially fond of how Deborah drew Sunny and her family. Sunny is imperfect: so proud, daring, and smart but also bullheaded and, at times, selfish.
Her family runs the gamut from those who want no change, to those fighting for it or flailing for some murky middle ground in the face of danger.
Raymond, a talented baseball player, is a wonderful counter character, and his family experiences offer a similar bold look inside the African Americans who were struggling to register for the vote and desegregate their communities.
Fact and fiction have met beautifully in this novel. A book like one this reminds us that a strong girl will see hard things in her lifetime. What matters is how she responds. ~MM
What happens when your own country turns against you in suspicion?
Dust of Eden, a novel in verse, is the story of Mina Tagawa and her family following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when their lives in Seattle are changed forever.
Told from the point of view of Mina, a middle school girl, Dust of Eden spans three years during which the Tagawa family goes from being seen as beloved neighbors to being perceived as enemies of the state. Taunts begin at school, even from lifelong friends. Mina’s father is soon arrested. And finally the family, under the requirements of Executive Order 9066, is forced into an internment camp in Idaho.
How does a girl survive when the world she has known her whole life turns against her? Is the answer to bear the pain with silent dignity—ngaman—as her grandfather does? Is it to prove your patriotism by enlisting in the service as her brother does? How do you forgive people who have hurt you for no reason?
This slim volume lays bare some of our nation’s difficult history, but it always stays true to the heart of a young girl as she tries to make sense of hate. I admire this book for its lovely writing, for its gateway to history, for Mina’s quiet strength, and for all the ways that her story reminds us of the high cost of fear disguised as patriotism. ~MM