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