Monthly Archives: January 2019

Dreams on Fire by Annette Daniels Taylor

Dreams on Fire by Annette Daniels Taylor. October 1, 2018. West 44 Books, 200 p. ISBN: 9781538382486.  Int Lvl: YA; Lexile: 400.

With an incarcerated father and an estranged drug-addicted mother, Shanequa’s dreams of higher education feel like a fantasy. When Shanequa gets the chance to attend a prestigious private prep school, she feels like her dreams might become reality. Shanequa finds it easier to lie to her new friends than tell them the truth about her family. When her lies are found out, and Shanequa strikes back in blind rage, her path changes forever.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Drugs, Racism, Underage drinking, Underage smoking


Book Trailer


Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Using realistic, raw, and powerful poetry that will reach the reluctant reader, Taylor’s novel tells a difficult story entirely through the poems of its young protagonist. Shanequa starts at a prestigious private prep school and, ashamed of her drug-addict mother, omits the truth about her family situation to the students there. When her new best friend Ashley proves false and provokes her, Shanequa’s punch to Ashley’s nose sets Shanequa on the same path as her incarcerated father. But she is smart and strong, as we see through her writing, and with the help of her family and an understanding teacher, she sets herself right. This is one of six titles in West 44’s YA Verse series, which effectively uses poetry to tell a story simply and with no frills, and yet ensure honesty flows through every word. Shanequa’s teacher Miss Precious says it best: “Shanequa’s poems have / meaning, strength, and power. / Writing honestly about the / painfully difficult / is her gift.” A beautiful, empowering choice for a wide spectrum of readers.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
America’s systemic race and class problems are viscerally rendered in this evocative account of a black teenage girl’s coming-of-age in a novel for reluctant readers. Shanequa’s life is one of constant heartbreaking struggle. Her father is in jail for second-degree murder, and her mother, depressed by the loss of her husband, succumbs to drugs and abandons her children, leaving Shanequa and her younger sister, LaKecia, to be raised by their grandmother. Yearning for a better life, Shanequa works her way into the prestigious Bidwell Academy for Girls, where she must strive to move forward while dealing with the ghosts from her past. Told in a series of short narrative poems, Shanequa’s struggles, dreams, and fears come alive on the page as she grapples with shame at being poor in a rich world and the indignities of being black and exoticized in a predominantly white educational environment. Taylor (Street Pharmacist, 2016, etc.) nicely employs the story’s framework to turn the protagonist into a shrewdly observational character with a unique voice by giving the readers small glimpses into her thoughts. Descriptions of the two sisters reveal that the darker-skinned Shanequa feels ugly in comparison to her lighter sibling, and casual discussion of various students’ cellphones underscores the class disparities at her school. A haunting and honest depiction of adversity and triumph that reveals America’s continuing struggle to give equal opportunities to all. (Verse novel. 15-18)

About the Author

Annette Daniels Taylor, an award winning playwright, poet and artist-filmmaker. Her debut YA novel, Dreams on Fire (October 2018) with West 44 books is an poetic urban teenage journey written in verse.The author of two poetry chapbooks, Street Pharmacist; and Hush now, Annette’s work explores identity, class, memory, place, and public history. Her drama A Little Bit of Paradise, available at, won the 2008 Artie Award for Outstanding New Play. Daniels Taylor is also a 2018-19 New York State Public Humanities fellow, a 2016-18 Arthur A. Schomburg fellow with the Department of Media Study, SUNY University at Buffalo and a Pink Door Poetry alum.

Her website is

Around the Web

Dreams on Fire on Amazon

Dreams on Fire on Barnes and Noble

Dreams on Fire on Goodreads

Dreams on Fire Publisher Page

Royal Pain by Raelyn Drake

Royal Pain by Raelyn Drake. August 1, 2018. Darby Creek, 96 p. ISBN: 9781541525672.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: 3.9; Lexile: 810.

When Noah’s grandfather dies, he finds out that there is much more to this mysterious side of his family than he’s ever known–Noah belongs to the royal family of the European country of Evonia. He must decide whether he wants to take on royal responsibilities or keep living a normal life–but if Noah’s grandmother has anything to say about it, he’ll stick around for true love. Perfect for reluctant readers, this coming-of-age story is laced with romance, mystery, and escapist fun.

Part of SeriesSuddenly Royal

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None



Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2018)
Seventeen-year-old Noah’s life is turned upside down when his grandfather dies, forcing his family to move to his mother’s home country, where she must assume her duties as part of the royal family. In Evonia, Noah must endure elaborate table manners, a never-ending itinerary of royal duties, and his grandmother’s matchmaking efforts. He is miserable in his new role until he meets Tori, a dynamic and beautiful girl who shares his passion for archaeology. When he learns that he is in line to assume the throne, he is faced with the most difficult decision of his life. The other titles in this reluctant reader series feature other teens forced to Evonia to assume their royal duties. In Becoming Prince Charming, by Loren Bailey, 17-year-old Mason discovers that being a slacker holds little charm for his new hardworking royal friends. In Royal Treatment by K.R. Coleman (Truth or Dare, 2017, etc.), 16-year-old Grace must trade in her blue hair and nose ring for updos and royal jewels, but she maintains her individuality when it comes to romance. In Next in Line by Vanessa Acton (Vortex, 2017, etc.), Carly, a high school junior, discovers she is a princess and only two places from the throne. In these stories linked only by location and familial ties, the focus is on individuality, personal responsibility, and moral character. Diversity is lacking, but the focus on family dynamics as more than angst-y teenager versus clueless parents is refreshing. Romance is present but limited to chaste kisses and some hand-holding. Formulaic plots and flat characters detract from the otherwise entertaining series, but readers who dream of one day being whisked away from their ordinary lives to a world of opulence will gobble these stories up. High-concept, easy-to-read romances with feel-good messages. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Raelyn Drake enjoys chai tea, tai chi, and coming up with more than two items for lists. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and rescue corgi mix, Sheriff.


Around the Web

Royal Pain on Amazon

Royal Pain on Barnes and Noble

Royal Pain on Goodreads

Royal Pain Publisher Page

Padres Parasimos, S.A. (Perfect Parents, Inc.) by Jamie Alfonso Sandoval

Padres Parasimos, S.A. (Perfect Parents, Inc.) by Jamie Alfonso Sandoval. August 27, 2018. Progreso Edelvives, 241 p. ISBN: 9786077460404.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

You imagine a world of extravagant parents. Would you like it?

Have you never had the desire to change your parents? What would you think of millionaires ?, or superheroes? And what about great detectives? Well, I change mine and … Ah …! Do you want to know more? So, what are you waiting for? Discover a world of different parents.


Potentially Sensitive Areas: None



About the Author

Jaime Alfonso Sandoval, Mexican author. He studied at the University Center for Cinematographic Studies of the UNAM and in the writers school of the SOGEM. His professional work has been almost twenty years and ranges from journalism to television script.

In his literature, Jaime Alfonso devotes special attention to works intended for children and young people and has the 2006 Barco de Vapor Award, twice the Gran Angular Literature Prize of 1997 and 2001, organized by Ediciones SM and Conaculta; the Story Prize FILIJ 1998; the National Prize of Children’s Literature 2001 of editions Castillo-McMillan; the Science Short Story Award for children of the Institute of Science and Technology of Mexico City in 2009; the National Prize of novel for young FeNal-Norma 2011, among others. Several of his books are in Classroom Libraries and he also wrote texts for the reading books of the SEP. Some of his works are translated into Dutch and French.

His website is

Around the Web

Padres Parasimos, S.A. on Amazon

Padres Parasimos, S.A. on Barnes and Noble

Padres Parasimos, S.A. on Goodreads

Padres Parasimos, S.A. Publisher Page

Snow in Love by Various

Snow in Love by Various Authors. October 30, 2018. Point, 253 p. ISBN: 9781338310184.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

What’s better than one deliciously cozy, swoon-worthy holiday story? Four of them, from some of today’s bestselling authors.

From KASIE WEST, a snowy road trip takes an unexpected detour when secrets and crushes are revealed.

From AIMEE FRIEDMAN, a Hanukkah miracle may just happen when a Jewish girl working as a department store elf finds love.

From MELISSA DE LA CRUZ, Christmas Eve gets a plot twist when a high school couple exchange surprising presents.

From NIC STONE, a scavenger hunt amid the holiday crowds at an airport turns totally romantic.

So grab a mug of hot cocoa, snuggle up, and get ready to fall in love…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None


About the Authors

Melissa de la Cruz grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. She majored in art history and English at Columbia University (and minored in nightclubs and shopping!).

She now divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband and daughter.  Her website is


Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.

Stone lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons. Her website is


Aimee Friedman was born and raised in Queens, New York, in an apartment filled with books and different languages. She wrote her first story at the age of five, and was off and running from there. Aimee wrote all through her years as a student at the Bronx High School of Science and then Vassar College. After graduating from college in 2001, she became a children’s book editor, a job she still does, and loves, to this day!

Aimee lives in New York City, where she can usually be found writing in cafes, window-shopping, or searching for the perfect iced latte. Her website is


I write YA. I eat Junior Mints. Sometimes I go crazy and do both at the same time. My novels are: PIVOT POINT and its sequel SPLIT SECOND. And my contemporary novels: THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, ON THE FENCE, THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND, PS I LIKE YOU, and BY YOUR SIDE.

Kasie’s website is


Around the Web

Snow in Love on Amazon

Snow in Love on Barnes and Noble

Snow in Love on Goodreads

Snow in Love Publisher Page

Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz. October 2, 2018. Starscape Books, 288 p. ISBN: 9780765394590.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.0.

An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz’s debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines’ North Manila Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Mild language, Violence


Related Videos


Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 6-8. Nora is a 12-year-old Filipino girl living with her mother in a cemetery, in the grave where her father is buried. Her mother is addicted to gambling on mahjong, and one day she doesn’t return home. Nora sets out to find her, starting a dangerous journey that uncovers not only family secrets but also Nora’s own strength and resilience. Cruz does a wonderful job showing readers a life that many will know nothing about. The description and imagery of life in the cemetery is rich, as the narrative exposes snapshots of various people including other children, families, and even missionaries. The subject matter becomes extremely heavy for the intended age group, as Nora worries constantly about finances and survival, and the tone is sad with Nora’s despair over her current and future life. This impactful debut novel shows young readers the devastating reality of life for some children in the world, introduces them to a new language and culture, and demonstrates the power of family and neighbors, courage, hope, and, most of all, perseverance.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2018)
According to 12-year-old Nora, “A home does not have dead people inside it.” Nora lives in the North Cemetery, Manila’s largest, with her mother, Lorna, after having lost her home and father to a disastrous fire. Now impoverished, Nora sells dried flower garlands by the cemetery gates and helps her mother wash laundry for others to get by. More than anything, Nora wishes to return to her old life and go back to school. Past hardships with family have made Nora reluctant to depend on others for help. But when her mother goes missing and she must confront a street tough named Tiger who may have the answers she needs, Nora learns to accept help from those in her community, including her spirited friend Jojo and his kind grandmother, Lola Mercy. Nora is an impressive young heroine whose extraordinary self-awareness helps her to bravely take on adult responsibilities to support herself and Lorna. Even when frustrated with her mother’s poor choices and conflicted about whom she can trust, she remains resilient. Nora’s story is a tribute to Filipino children, and readers of all backgrounds will find themselves immersed in the culture, learning bits of Tagalog and longing to savor the delicacies described throughout such as biko, champorado, and banana-que. Cruz’s touching debut breathes life, beauty and everlasting hope into a place where danger lurks and the dead rest. (glossary, author’s note, activity guide) (Fiction. 8-13)

About the Author

Marie Miranda Cruz is a writer of middle-grade and young adult novels, a clinical laboratory specialist, a proud mother of two grown up kids and the wife of a Jedi Knight.

Her website is


Around the Web

Everlasting Nora on Amazon

Everlasting Nora on Barnes and Noble

Everlasting Nora on Goodreads

Everlasting Nora Publisher Page

7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. September 18, 2018. Sourcebooks Landmark, 438 p. ISBN: 9781492657965.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The Rules of Blackheath

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let’s begin…

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…

The most inventive debut of the year twists together a mystery of such unexpected creativity it will leave readers guessing until the very last page.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mild language, Violence


Video Reviews



Booklist starred (May 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 17))
The Hardcastle family has decided to throw a party at Blackheath House as a memorial to their son, who was killed there years before. At 11 p.m., during the party, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered. Aiden Bishop is trapped inside a time loop with this murder mystery at its center. Each morning he awakens in another guest’s body and relives that same day until Evelyn’s death. If he does not find the killer by 11 p.m., Evelyn will die, and the cycle will begin again. However, there is a catch: he’s racing against time—he has eight days, eight do-overs, to solve the mystery. If he fails, he will be killed himself. This novel is so ingenious and original that it’s difficult to believe it’s Turton’s debut. The writing is completely immersive. The reader slips into the pages right beside Bishop, following closely in the adrenaline-packed hunt for the killer. Evelyn’s time line could easily be confusing, but Turton masterfully creates a natural flow while jumping through different characters on different days. There are certainly echoes of Agatha Christie here, but it’s Christie ramped up several notches, thanks to the malevolent twist on the Groundhog Day theme. Readers may be scratching their heads in delicious befuddlement as they work their way through this novel, but one thing will be absolutely clear: Stuart Turton is an author to remember.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
In this dizzying literary puzzle, the hapless protagonist is doomed to relive the same day over and over unless he can solve a murder at a masquerade ball. The narrator, Aiden Bishop, wakes up in a forest outside Blackheath House, “a sprawling Georgian manor house,” not knowing who or where he is—or why he’s screaming the name Anna. A man in a beaked plague-doctor mask brings him up to speed: For eight days, Aiden will wake up in the body of a different witness to the shooting of young beauty Evelyn Hardcastle. If at the end of that extended week, during which Aiden will remember all that occurs, he fails to identify the killer and break the bizarre murder cycle, he will have his memory wiped and be forced to start from the beginning. “It’s like I’ve been asked to dig a hole with a shovel made of sparrows,” Aiden moans. To be real or not to be real, that is the question for Aiden, who struggles after his own identity while being “hosted” by individuals who include the lord of the manor, a doctor, and a butler. Borrowing liberally from such cultural milestones as Groundhog Day, Quantum Leap, and Eyes Wide Shut—and, of course, the stories of Agatha Christie—the book has a built-in audience. It’s a fiendishly clever and amusing novel with explosive surprises, though in the absence of genuine feeling, it tends to keep its audience at arm’s length. Turton’s debut is a brainy, action-filled sendup of the classic mystery, though readers may be hard-pressed to keep up with all its keenly calibrated twists and turns for more than 400 pages.

About the Author

Stuart lives in London with his amazing wife and daughter. He drinks lots of tea.

​When he left university he went travelling for three months and stayed away for five years. Every time his parents asked when he’d be back he told them next week, and meant it.

Stuart is not to be trusted. In the nicest possible way.

He’s got a degree in English and Philosophy, which makes him excellent at arguing and terrible at choosing degrees.

Having trained for no particular career, he has dabbled in most of them. He stocked shelves in a Darwin bookshop, taught English in Shanghai, worked for a technology magazine in London, wrote travel articles in Dubai, and now he’s a freelance journalist. None of this was planned, he just kept getting lost on his way to other places.

He likes a chat. He likes books. He likes people who write books and people who read books. He doesn’t know how to write a biography, so should probably stop before he tells you about his dreams or something. It was lovely to meet you, though.

Her website is

Teacher Resources

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Reading Guide

Around the Web

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle on Amazon

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle on Barnes and Noble

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle on Goodreads

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Publisher Page

In Another Time by Caroline Leech

In Another Time by Caroline Leech. August 28, 2018. HarperTeen, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062459916.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 990.

Love is worth the fight

It’s 1942, and Maisie McCall is in the Scottish Highlands doing her bit for the war effort as a Women’s Timber Corps lumberjill. Maisie relishes her newfound independence and her growing friendships—especially with the enigmatic John Lindsay.

As Maisie and John work side-by-side felling trees, Maisie can’t help but feel like their friendship has the spark of something more to it. And yet every time she gets close to him, John pulls away. It’s not until Maisie rescues John from a terrible logging accident that he begins to open up to her about the truth of his past, and the pain he’s been hiding.

Suddenly everything is more complicated than Maisie expected. And as she helps John untangle his shattered history, she must decide if she’s willing to risk her heart to help heal his. But in a world devastated by war, love might be the only thing left that can begin to heal what’s broken.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes; Violence


Video Review


Booklist (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 7-10. As WWII rages on, Maisie McCall leaves a judgmental family behind to join up with the Women’s Timber Corps as a lumberjill, felling trees in the Scottish Highlands while the men are at war. As she learns to swing an ax and haul lumber, soft and quiet Maisie discovers strengths she never knew she had and forges fast friendships with the girls she meets. She befriends men as well, including John Lindsay, an enigmatic Canadian with the soul of a poet, who refuses to dance on nights out and loses his temper when he’s teased for not wearing a soldier’s uniform. Maisie and John grow closer despite his walls, but it’s not until a logging accident that Maisie truly begins to understand why John keeps her at a distance. WWII romances are not uncommon, but this particular backdrop—a logging camp in the Scottish Highlands—is not often portrayed, and is likely to intrigue readers. A slow-burning, character-driven exploration of the lingering scars left by war.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2018)
A teen lumbergirl finds wartime romance in the Scottish Highlands. It’s 1942. Seventeen-year-old Margaret “Maisie” McCall sees joining in Great Britain’s war effort as an honorable excuse to leave her unhappy home, but since she’s too young for the armed services, she signs up for the Women’s Timber Corps and becomes a lumberjill. Two weeks into her training she meets a man named John Lindsay at a local dance—he’s physically attractive and initially seems kind, but he’s clumsy and storms off before their dance is complete. A month later, in her remote first post in the Scottish forest camp of Auchterblair, Speyside, she runs into John again—he’s a lumberjack nearby. Weeks into a somewhat awkward romance, Maisie discovers that John has a prosthetic leg, which he’s somehow managed to hide from most of his fellow corpsman despite sharing a dormitory with them. Their romance proceeds despite John’s basic unlikability. The story unfolds from Maisie’s point of view but is told more than shown; the characters feel emotionally inconsistent, and the flat story arc provides little suspense. In alignment with the time and location, it follows a white default. An interesting setting and good use of historical details aren’t, in the end, enough to hold reader interest.(Historical fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who moved to Texas for an adventure ten years ago. She lives in Houston with her husband and three teenage children. Wait for Me was her debut novel, followed by In Another Time.

Her website is

Around the Web

In Another Time on Amazon

In Another Time on Barnes and Noble

In Another Time on Goodreads

In Another Time Publisher Page

Grenade by Alan Gratz

Grenade by Alan Gratz. October 9, 2018. Scholastic Press, 241 p. ISBN: 9781338245691.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 760.

It’s 1945, and the world is in the grip of war.

Hideki lives on the island of Okinawa, near Japan. When WWII crashes onto his shores, Hideki is drafted into the Blood and Iron Student Corps to fight for the Japanese army. He is handed a grenade and a set of instructions: Don’t come back until you’ve killed an American soldier.

Ray, a young American Marine, has just landed on Okinawa. He doesn’t know what to expect — or if he’ll make it out alive. He just knows that the enemy is everywhere.

Hideki and Ray each fight their way across the island, surviving heart-pounding ambushes and dangerous traps. But when the two of them collide in the middle of the battle, the choices they make in that instant will change everything.

From the acclaimed author of Refugee comes this high-octane story of how fear can tear us apart, and how hope can tie us back together.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Racism, Violence


Book Trailer


Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
In the waning days of World War II, two young soldiers tell both sides of their fight to survive. It’s 1945, and Okinawa has been forced into the middle of the war between Japan and the United States. Thirteen-year-old Okinawan Hideki has been drafted to fight in the Imperial Japanese Army. Told the Americans are “monsters,” Hideki is sent off with two grenades, one to kill as many Americans as possible and one to kill himself. Meanwhile, Ray, a young, white American Marine, has landed on the beaches of Okinawa for his first battle. Only knowing what he has been taught and told, Ray is unsure of what to expect facing the Japanese army and also the Okinawan civilians—who are “simple, polite, law-abiding, and peaceable,” according to an informational brochure provided by command. Switching between the two perspectives of Hideki and Ray, Gratz (Refugee, 2017, etc.) has created a story of two very harsh realities. He shows what happens to humans as the fear, violence, and death war creates take over lives and homes. The authentic telling can be graphic and violent at times, but that contributes to the creation of a very real-feeling lens into the lives changed by war. A large-type opening note informs readers that period terminology has been used for the sake of accuracy, and a closing author’s note elaborates on this. Intense and fast-paced, this is a compelling, dark, yet ultimately heartening wartime story. (maps, historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (October 1, 2018)
Gr 5 Up-In 1945, as the U.S. army neared mainland Japan, the Imperial Japanese Army evacuated its elite troops from Okinawa and left behind a force meant to slow down the Americans in the bloodiest way possible. They recruited the native Okinawans into this army, including teens like Hideki, one of the two narrators of this gripping World War II novel. As Hideki takes his two grenades (one to kill U.S. soldiers and one to kill himself), he is fated to come across the other narrator, a young American soldier, Ray. Based on research and firsthand accounts the author heard while in Okinawa, history comes violently to life in this character-driven, fictionalized account. The battle details are accurate and the characters and the growing sense of the battle’s futility are well drawn and poignant. There is some offensive contemporaneous language referring to Japanese people used within the narrative, which is explained in a note at the beginning and in greater detail in the detailed historical note at the end. While this is a chilling, realistic depiction of war, the violence is not glorified or graphically described. VERDICT An excellent World War II novel, best suited for mature readers who can handle the sensitive content and brutal realities of wartime.-Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

About the Author

Alan Gratz is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for young readers, including GrenadeRefugeeProjekt 1065, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016; Prisoner B-3087, a Junior Library Guild selection that was named to YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults list; and Code of Honor, a YALSA 2016 Quick Pick. Alan lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter.

His website is

Teacher Resources

Grenade on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Grenade on Amazon

Grenade on Barnes and Noble

Grenade on Goodreads

Grenade Publisher Page

The War Outside by Monica Hesse

The War Outside by Monica Hesse. September 25, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780316316699.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A novel of conviction, friendship, and betrayal.

It’s 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado–until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.

Haruko and Margot meet at the high school in Crystal City, a “family internment camp” for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day, and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother’s health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.

With everything around them falling apart, Margot and Haruko find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone–even each other?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Mild language, Racism, Accidental death of children



Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. It’s 1944 and WWII is raging, and Japanese American Haruko and German American Margot and their families—both regarded by the U.S. government as enemy aliens—have been remanded to the Crystal City, Texas, family internment camp. Though the German and Japanese populations there are largely self-segregated, Haruko and Margot meet and become unlikely friends. As their friendship intensifies, the two girls begin to fantasize about a life together outside the camp, but then two momentous things happen: they experience a moment of unusual, almost frightening intensity, and two little girls, one German and one Japanese, drown in the camp pool. After that, things change dramatically and irredeemably. Hesse (Girl in the Blue Coat, 2016) has written an extraordinary novel of injustice and xenophobia based on real history. The Crystal City camp actually existed, as did a few characters and situations portrayed in the novel. Hesse does a superb job of recreating life as it was lived by innocent people forced to exist surrounded by barbed wire fences and guards. In Haruko and Margot, she has written developed, multidimensional characters who live dramatically on the page. Readers will empathize with them and their plight, wishing the best for them but also understanding, thanks to the author’s unsparing honesty and integrity, that not all endings are happy ones.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
Interned in a Texas camp during World War II, Japanese-American Haruko and German-American Margot watch their families fall apart and are driven to depend on each other, even if they should not. In 1944, teenagers Haruko Tanaka and Margot Krukow are imprisoned with their families in Crystal City, a Department of Justice family internment camp for Japanese- and German-born prisoners of war. Different from the War Relocation Authority internment camps, these are specifically meant for enemy aliens, with the possibility of repatriation to their birth countries. Haruko, fearing for her brother, Ken, serving in the 442nd division of the U.S. Army, and resenting her secretive father for their situation, starts pulling away from her family. Margot tries to keep her small family together as her pregnant mother sickens and her father is pushed by frustration and persecution into Nazi ideology. Though vastly different, the two girls find themselves attracted to each other in more ways than one. Hesse (American Fire, 2017, etc.) painstakingly researched accounts from various archival records to convey the rich and complex emotions surrounding a shameful episode of injustice in American history, during which human beings were involuntarily and irrevocably changed through the choices of others. An exploration of lesser-known aspects of Japanese-American and German-American internment during World War II. (map, historical notes) (Historical fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Monica Hesse is the national bestselling author of the true crime love story American Fire, and the historical mystery novel Girl in the Blue Coat, which has been translated into a dozen languages and won the 2017 Edgar award in the Young Adult category. She is a feature writer for the Washington Post, where she has been a winner of the Society for Feature Journalism’s Narrative Storytelling award, and a finalist for a Livingston Award and a James Beard Award. Monica lives in Maryland. with her husband and a brainiac dog.

Her website is

Teacher Resources

The War Outside Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

The War Outside on Amazon

The War Outside on Barnes and Noble

The War Outside on Goodreads

The War Outside Publisher Page

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera. October 9, 2018. HarperTeen, 437 p. ISBN: 9780062795250.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Homophobia


Related Videos

Video Review


Booklist (July 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Arthur’s interning in New York for the summer, but even the proximity to Broadway can’t stop him from missing his life in Georgia. Ben’s an Alphabet City native, reeling from a breakup that fractured his friend group. When they meet by chance, Arthur is sure the universe has spoken, but Ben isn’t convinced. After several false starts, miscommunications, and second guesses, they have to wonder—how much of a say does the universe really get? Albertalli (Leah on the Offbeat​, 2018) and Silvera (They Both Die at the End​, 2017) each provide a first-person narrative for one of the boys, rounding out the will-they-won’t-they love story with a vibrant supporting cast. In the coauthors’ capable hands, Arthur and Ben are distinct, empathetic heroes; Broadway-loving Arthur, who has Ivy League aspirations, adapts to the ways his recent coming out changed his friendships, while Ben struggles in school but dreams of writing, and sometimes isn’t sure how to connect with his Puerto Rican heritage when he passes as white. A comforting exploration of self-discovery and self-creation.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
Ben and Arthur meet-cute in a Manhattan post office, leave without exchanging contact information, and spend the first act trying to track each other down, with a little help from “the universe.” When they finally locate each other, a series of creative attempts at first dates and “do-over” dates ensues before the relationship turns more serious. Underlying issues propel their conflicts: class differences, Arthur’s impending return to Georgia, misunderstandings about Ben’s ex-boyfriend. Homophobia plays a brief role; newly out Arthur’s insecurities play a more extended one. But mostly, the novel is a happy and often laugh-out-loud-funny rom-com, full of theater and other pop-culture references (Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, lots and lots of Harry Potter) and silly banter between Ben and Arthur and within their friend groups. (Particularly Ben’s, whose straight best friend is refreshingly comfortable being close with him.) The alternating-POV chapters make each protagonist’s concerns believable and sympathetic as we see the story unfold through their individual perspectives, even as much of the plot hinges on unbelievable luck. shoshana flax

About the Authors

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. These days, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, and writes very nerdy contemporary young adult fiction.

Her website is


Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His website is

Teacher Resources

What If It’s Us on Common Sense Media

What If It’s Us Reading Guide

Around the Web

What If It’s Us on Amazon

What If It’s Us on Barnes & Noble

What If It’s Us on Goodreads

What If It’s Us Publisher Page