Tag Archives: coming of age

29 Dates by Melissa de la Cruz

29 Dates by Melissa de la Cruz. December 18, 2018. Inkyard Press, 395 p. ISBN: 9781335541543.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

How many dates will it take to find The One?

Jisu’s traditional South Korean parents are concerned by what they see as her lack of attention to her schoolwork and her future. Working with Seoul’s premiere matchmaker to find the right boyfriend is one step toward ensuring Jisu’s success, and going on the recommended dates is Jisu’s compromise to please her parents while finding space to figure out her own dreams. But when she flubs a test then skips out on a date to spend time with friends, her fed-up parents shock her by shipping her off to a private school in San Francisco. Where she’ll have the opportunity to shine academically—and be set up on more dates!

Navigating her host family, her new city and school, and more dates, Jisu finds comfort in taking the photographs that populate her ever-growing social media account. Soon attention from two very different boys sends Jisu into a tailspin of soul-searching. As her passion for photography lights her on fire, does she even want to find The One? And what if her One isn’t parent and matchmaker approved?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Racial insensitivity

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. Ji-su has gotten used to the pressure her parents put on her to excel in school, but the summer before her senior year they’ve pushed into her personal life, arranging matchmaker-organized dates (seons) so she can meet the perfect guy to complement her perfect future. But when they suddenly send her from her ultracompetitive South Korean high school to one in San Francisco, Ji-su’s dating life gets even more complicated. 29 Dates is a sweet, unique take on the high-school rom-com. Ji-su’s parade of suitors allows the novel to consider any number of dynamics and types before zooming in on the all-important endgame pairing. The details of Ji-su’s life in South Korea and in the U.S. are intricately woven into the story in a way that makes the book feel cinematic and inviting. This latest by de la Cruz is perfect for fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2014), or those who love classic rom-coms and are looking for the next great narrative convention.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
A South Korean high school student spending her senior year in the United States navigates a new school, dating, and college pressures. Ji-su, who is enduring a succession of blind dates set up for her by her ambitious parents through a matchmaker, suddenly finds herself attending a private school in San Francisco, something her parents hope will help her stand out when she applies to college. Although she is heartbroken to leave behind her beloved besties, Euni and Min, she soon makes new friends, including Filipino-American heartthrob Austin; popular, high-achieving Korean-American Dave; and confident, friendly, Lebanese-American Hiba, who becomes a close friend. Ji-su continues going on arranged blind dates in California but also experiences feelings of attraction toward both Austin and Dave, all while applying to (and waiting to hear from) highly competitive colleges. The conceit of the book—following Ji-su through 29 blind dates over the course of her senior year—helps the plot move along swiftly and introduces readers to a wide variety of Korean boys with different personalities and interests, helping to break stereotypes about Asian males. Characters of a range of ethnicities populate the book, and the cultural details about life in Korea are realistically drawn and impressive in their accuracy. A surprise ending brings the story to a satisfying close that will thrill fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2014). A surefire hit wherever lighthearted romances are popular. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-18)

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 www.melissa-delacruz.com/

Around the Web

29 Dates on Amazon

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29 Dates on LibraryThing

29 Dates Publisher Page

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Black Enough edited by Ibi Zoboi

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi. January 8, 2019. Balzer + Bray, 416 p. ISBN: 9780062698728.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Black is…sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renée Watson.

Black is…three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds.

Black is…Nic Stone’s high-class beauty dating a boy her momma would never approve of.

Black is…two girls kissing in Justina Ireland’s story set in Maryland.

Black is urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—because there are countless ways to be Black enough.

Contributors:
Justina Ireland
Varian Johnson
Rita Williams-Garcia
Dhonielle Clayton
Kekla Magoon
Leah Henderson
Tochi Onyebuchi
Jason Reynolds
Nic Stone
Liara Tamani
Renée Watson
Tracey Baptiste
Coe Booth
Brandy Colbert
Jay Coles
Ibi Zoboi
Lamar Giles

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Marijuana, Sexual assault, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Police violence, Discussion of nude photographs of minors, Cigarettes, Homophobia

Authors Panel

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. What is it like to be young and black, and yet not black enough at the same time? That’s the question explored in this poignant collection of stunning short stories by black rock-star authors, including Justina Ireland, Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, and Brandy Colbert. The stories center on the experience of black teens, while driving home the fact that they are not a monolith; one person’s experiences, reality, and personal identity can be completely different from another’s. Family, friends, belonging, isolation, classism, and romance are among the topics that take center stage, and the stories’ teens come from a diverse array of backgrounds (e.g., economic, neighborhood, country of origin). Readers glimpse the struggles, achievements, heartaches, and joys of a host of black teens who are authentically and lovingly portrayed. From the kid with two black parents to the mixed-race kid with one black parent, all of the characters grapple with the heart-wrenching question most real-life black teens struggle with (and never should need to): Am I black enough? The additional magic of this collection is that it shirks off the literary world’s tired obsession with only depicting the struggles of black teens. With this, readers see everyday struggles as well as the ordinary yet remarkable joys of black teens that have nothing to do with the trauma of their history.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2018)
A diverse and compelling fiction anthology that taps 17 established, rising star, and new #ownvoices talents. Editor Zoboi (Pride, 2018, etc.) lays out the collection’s purpose: exploring black interconnectedness, traditions, and identity in terms of how they apply to black teens. Given that scope, that most stories are contemporary realistic fiction makes sense (Rita Williams-Garcia’s humorous “Whoa!” which dips into the waters of speculative fiction, is a notable exception). Conversely, the characters are incredibly varied, as are the narrative styles. Standouts include the elegant simplicity of Jason Reynolds’ “The Ingredients,” about a group of boys walking home from the swimming pool; Leah Henderson’s “Warning: Color May Fade,” about an artist afraid to express herself; the immediacy of Tracey Baptiste’s “Gravity,” about a #MeToo moment of self-actualization birthed from violation; Renee Watson’s reflection on family in “Half a Moon”; and the collection’s namesake, Varian Johnson’s “Black Enough,” which highlights the paradigm shift that is getting woke. In these stories, black kids are nerds and geeks, gay and lesbian, first gen and immigrants, outdoorsy and artists, conflicted and confused, grieving and succeeding, thriving and surviving—in short, they’re fully human. No collection could represent the entire spectrum of blackness, however, the presence of trans, Afro-Latinx, and physically disabled characters is missed: a clarion call for more authentic black-centric collections. A breath of fresh air and a sigh of long overdue relief. Nuanced and necessary. (contributor biographies) (Anthology. 12-18)

About the Editor

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and immigrated to the U.S. when she was four years old. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she was a recipient of the Norma Fox Mazer Award. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children. American Street is her first novel.

Her website is www.ibizoboi.net.

Teacher Resources

Black Enough on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Black Enough on Amazon

Black Enough on Barnes & Noble

Black Enough on Goodreads

Black Enough on LibraryThing

Black Enough Publisher Page

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich. October 9, 2018. Poppy, 368 p. ISBN: 9780316420235.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 590.

From the show’s creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the Broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Suicide, Suicidal thoughts

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Evan Hansen, a teen crippled by anxiety, starts each day by writing a letter of encouragement to himself. When loner Connor Murphy finds one of the letters at school and dies by suicide days later, his parents deliver the “Dear Evan Hansen” to Evan, who lies about being Connor’s best friend. As the Murphys embrace Evan, his lie goes viral, giving comfort to the grieving family and making him a social media darling. But as the lies build, Evan’s guilt forces him to admit the truth. In this stage-to-page adaptation, characters’ back stories offer depth only hinted at by the Tony Award–winning musical. Connor’s posthumous narration offers insights into his mental state, while Evan’s voice and interior monologues reveal the intensity of his own. The ending eases some of the rockiness of Evan’s life, and while there are no overt consequences for his deception, he is seemingly left to ponder his actions. Readers who long for acceptance will welcome this opportunity to experience Evan’s story.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
Emmich (The Reminders, 2017) joins the team behind the Tony-winning musical to create this novel adaptation. Awkward high school senior Evan Hansen has zero friends and a debilitating mixture of depression and anxiety. As a coping mechanism, his therapist assigns him to write letters to himself to reframe his thinking. When one of those letters is found on the body of Connor Murphy, a loner classmate and brother of Evan’s crush, Zoe, the Murphys assume that Connor addressed a suicide note to Evan and that the boys were secretly friends. Evan does nothing to dissuade this notion, and soon his lies build as he experiences belonging and acceptance for the first time. But as his anxiety winds ever tighter and others notice loopholes in his story, Evan begins to unravel as he fears exposure. Evan’s first-person narration is simultaneously sympathetic and frustrating, female characters feel underdeveloped, and the story’s representation of mental health issues is at times underwhelming. Inserted interludes of Connor’s ghostly first-person, post-death perspective provide marginal insight into his character, although it is here that readers learn of Connor’s fluid sexuality. Whether or not they’ve seen or listened to the musical, many readers will latch on to the story’s message that “no one deserves to be forgotten.” Evan presents as white, and other major characters are African-American and Latinx. Without the rich music and stage performance it’s a middling story with themes better handled elsewhere; impeccably timed for the musical’s national tour, however, teens will clamor to read it. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Dubbed a “Renaissance Man” by the New York Post, Val Emmich is a writer, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. His first novel, The Reminders, was a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers selection and his follow-up, Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel, based on the hit Broadway show, was a New York Times bestseller. He’s had recurring roles on Vinyl and Ugly Betty, as well as a memorable guest role as Tina Fey’s coffee-boy fling, Jamie, on 30 Rock. Emmich lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.

His website is valemmich.com

Teacher Resources

Dear Evan Hansen Educator’s Guide

Dear Evan Hansen review on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Dear Evan Hansen on Amazon

Dear Evan Hansen on Barnes and Noble

Dear Evan Hansen on Goodreads

Dear Evan Hansen on LibraryThing

Dear Evan Hansen Publisher Page

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America’s Secret Desert by Karen Piper. August 14, 2018. Viking, 336 p. ISBN: 9780399564543.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A poignant, surreal, and fearlessly honest look at growing up on one of the most secretive weapons installations on earth, by a young woman who came of age with missiles

The China Lake missile range is located in a huge stretch of the Mojave Desert, about the size of the state of Delaware. It was created during the Second World War, and has always been shrouded in secrecy. But people who make missiles and other weapons are regular working people, with domestic routines and everyday dilemmas, and four of them were Karen Piper’s parents, her sister, and–when she needed summer jobs–herself. Her dad designed the Sidewinder, which was ultimately used catastrophically in Vietnam. When her mom got tired of being a stay-at-home mom, she went to work on the Tomahawk. Once, when a missile nose needed to be taken offsite for final testing, her mother loaded it into the trunk of the family car, and set off down a Los Angeles freeway. Traffic was heavy, and so she stopped off at the mall, leaving the missile in the parking lot.

Piper sketches in the belief systems–from Amway’s get-rich schemes to propaganda in The Rocketeer to evangelism, along with fears of a Lemurian takeover and Charles Manson–that governed their lives. Her memoir is also a search for the truth of the past and what really brought her parents to China Lake with two young daughters, a story that reaches back to her father’s World War II flights with contraband across Europe. Finally, it recounts the crossroads moment in a young woman’s life when she finally found a way out of a culture of secrets and fear, and out of the desert.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
For designing and detonating missiles, China Lake was perfect—a desert wasteland within driving distance of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. But for Piper’s family, life at the military base was full of secrets and challenges, as she reveals in this fascinating memoir. The family moved there when Piper was a girl, so that her father, a WWII veteran, could work on the Sidewinder missile. Eventually, they all got into the missile business, her mother helping create circuit boards after taking a class for housewives and Piper herself working as a clerk in the summers. War surrounded them at China Lake, where streets were named after admirals, ships, and combat zones. But Piper was not allowed to know much of what went on there, even the work her own parents were doing, and years later she returned in search of answers. Here she offers an incredible view of a little-known community, from WWII all the way through 9/11, and examines how her family navigated life in a town built for war.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
A smart, self-aware memoir of life in a Cold War outpost.If you’re a government agency, there are three reasons to hide your activities from public view: because they really need to be kept secret, because the activities are fundamentally useless, or because “you want to rip the money bag open and get out a shovel, because there is no accountability whatsoever.” So an official told Piper (Literature and Geography/Univ. of Missouri; The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos, 2014, etc.) in what amounts to a mantra for all of China Lake, a test facility in the hottest, most forbidding part of the Mojave Desert. The author writes of a childhood spent in a household headed by two project workers at China Lake. It was a world of missiles and launches and secrets in a time when the world seemed to be falling to bits—there was Vietnam, for one thing, and then the Manson family zipping around in the nearby desert in their dune buggies (“The Mansons even shopped at our 7-Eleven in Ridgecrest, where Christine and I bought our candy”). By Piper’s account, it was a preternaturally strange place in a strange time punctuated by Amway rallies and enlivened with unhealthy spats of interoffice politics. But interesting things happened there, too, including experiments to turn the weather into a weapon, to say nothing of the business of turning hardscrabble China Lake, a place of prewar brothels and hermits, into a place suitable for straight-arrow military personnel, civilian contractors, and their families. Piper’s account moves among the personal and the universal, with fine small coming-of-age moments. The narrative threatens to unravel a little when, following her father’s death, Piper acts on clues he left behind to follow his footsteps in other arenas of the Cold War, but she pulls everything into an effective—and affecting—whole meant to “ensure that history was not erased.” A little-known corner of the Atomic Age comes into focus through Piper’s skilled storytelling.

About the Author

Karen Piper is the award-winning author of The Price of Thirst, Left in the Dust, and Cartographic Fictions. She has received the Sierra Nature Writing Award and the Next Generation Indie Book Award and fellowships from the Huntington, Carnegie Mellon, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is currently a professor of literature and geography at the University of Missouri.

Her website is www.karenpiper.com.

Around the Web

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles on Amazon

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles on Barnes and Noble

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles on Goodreads

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles Publisher Page

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert. April 10, 2018. Disney-Hyperion, 361 p. ISBN: 9781484726020.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 890.

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined.

Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family’s blessing to pursue the career he’s always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny’s lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can’t stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan.

When Danny digs deeper into his parents’ past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed facade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Homophobic slurs, Suicide

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 14))
Grades 9-12. When Danny Cheng’s father loses his job, his parents’ carefully constructed life starts to break apart. His father settles into a depression, and his mother becomes more manic. Both worry constantly about money and Danny’s safety. At the same time, Danny has problems of his own. He keeps deep secrets from those closest to him—about how he might be responsible for the death of his friend, Sandra, one year before, and about his true feelings regarding his best friend, Harry. As Danny struggles to make sense of his parents’ strange behavior, he uncovers evidence of secret lives, of names abandoned, and of a sister he thought had died long ago. Using the metaphor of quantum entanglement—that objects brought together will continue to act in concert even if they are taken apart—Gilbert effortlessly times characters’ present actions with key revelations about their past. With grace and respect, Gilbert manages to address the existential quandaries of both second-generation American teens and their immigrant parents who must make profoundly life-changing choices to give their children the best life possible. The result is both exhilarating and tortuous—Gilbert methodically lays bare her characters’ secrets as if she was slowly pulling a cloth off a fine painting.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
Family, art, love, duty, and longing collide in this painfully beautiful paean to the universal human need for connection. Cupertino, California, high school senior Danny Cheng has a tight circle of friends, adoring parents, and a full scholarship to his dream school, the Rhode Island School of Design. But lurking just beneath the surface are secrets and tensions that threaten to tear apart everything he holds dear. Closeted Danny has kept hidden his longtime attraction to his best friend, Harry Wong, who is in a serious relationship with Danny’s close friend Regina Chan. Some of his parents’ oddities also turn out to be more than just eccentricity; they are hiding something dark from their past. Danny knows he had an older sister who died in China, but little beyond that. He stumbles across a mysterious file of papers, but his parents refuse to explain. Meanwhile, some in Danny’s circle of school friends are struggling with demons of their own. Gilbert paints a vivid portrait of a largely Asian-American community, diverse in terms of socio-economic status, ethnicity, and religious faith. While the topics dealt with may be heavy, the book is suffused with the warmth of the characters’ love for one another. Imperfect in their human frailty and noble in their desire to do the best they can, they are universally recognizable and sympathetic. Exquisite, heartbreaking, unforgettable—and, ultimately, uplifting. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Kelly Loy Gilbert believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to complex, broken people. She is the author of Conviction, a William C. Morris Award finalist, and lives in the SF Bay Area.

Her website is www.kellyloygilbert.com

Teacher Resources

Picture Us in the Light Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

Picture Us in the Light on Amazon

Picture Us in the Light on Goodreads

Picture Us in the Light Publisher Page

The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury

The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury. March 20, 2018. William Morrow, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062741998.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 880.

A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.

But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket. Was this the man who attacked her and did she almost kill him? With her memories of the events jumbled, Tracy can’t be sure.

Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.

It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.

Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Hunting, Inhumane treatment of animals, Recollection of a sexual assault, Murder, Two instances of strong language

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Tracy lives to hunt, sometimes spending days in the Alaska wilderness with nothing but her wits and her knife. Ever since her mother died, her father has kept her on a tight leash, especially when it comes to training for the upcoming Iditarod. Tracy’s preternatural drive to hunt is insatiable, however, so she sneaks out regularly, which is where she is when the stranger attacks her. She fights back, waking up with a bruised head and bloody hands, but she’s convinced he’ll return to finish what he started. When her father takes on a hired hand, Tracy’s careful secrets start to unravel, and she discovers disturbing truths about her desperate need to hunt. Though the pacing can be haphazard and Tracy’s folksy, first-person narration doesn’t always ring true, debut author Bradbury cultivates vivid atmosphere with visceral action and a dynamic cast of characters. Tracy’s unsettling compulsion for hunting takes a magic-realist turn early on, which might disappoint fans of straightforward survival thrillers, but patient readers who like earthy, genre-blending, coming-of-age stories should be pleased.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
An Alaskan teenager on the cusp of adulthood is drawn to the feral life.Although the folksy and stubbornly ungrammatical voice of Bradbury’s first-person narrator, Tracy Petrikoff, takes some getting used to, it conveys a visceral sense of her world. In the nearly two years since her mother’s death, a month before Tracy’s 16th birthday, her home life has been thrown into disarray. Now nearing 18, Tracy hopes to enter her first adult Iditarod. But her father, Bill, a champion musher, has given up the sport and is deaf to Tracy’s pleas to let her train. Younger brother Scott has retreated into his books and photography. Other than tending the fleet of sled dogs her family still maintains, she is officially grounded—she’s been expelled from school for fighting. However, Tracy easily evades her father’s halfhearted discipline to set woodland traps. Her catches—martens, minks, hares, and squirrels—provide meat for the family and pelts to sell in the nearby village. Furthermore, trusty hunting blade in hand, Tracy gains essential strength from drinking the blood of her prey while also temporarily mind-melding with victims. One day in the woods, a strange man slams Tracy against a tree root and she blacks out. When the man, Tom Hatch, shows up at her home, bleeding from a stab wound, Tracy assumes she inflicted it. Returning to the scene of her supposed crime, Tracy finds a backpack containing wads of cash, enough to enter the Iditarod. Jesse Goodwin, a young drifter, appears, taking on the role of hired factotum. Tracy and Jesse develop a special bond after she learns Jesse was fleeing Hatch. However, Jesse is not what he seems. The ingredients of a thriller with surreal elements are all in place, as Tracy suspects that Hatch has recovered and may be seeking revenge. From here the plot veers off in directions that are not only unexpected, but at time beggar belief. Still, readers will warm to the unconventional persona Bradbury has crafted for Tracy, that of wilderness savant. A strange and soulful debut.

About the Author

Jamey Bradbury’s work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Sou’wester, and Zone 3. She won an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters.

She moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 2002 but kept leaving to join the Peace Corps, work in Vermont, and go to graduate school. The important part, though, is that she came back. If you’re ever in Anchorage, she recommends Spenard Roadhouse for drinks, Bear Tooth Theater Pub for movies and burritos, and Eagle and Symphony Lakes for hiking. She hails originally from Illinois.

Her website is www.jameybradbury.com

Around the Web

The Wild Inside on Amazon

The Wild Inside on Goodreads

The Wild Inside Publisher Page

Troublemakers by Catherine Barter

Troublemakers by Catherine Barter. April 1, 2018. Carolhoda Books, 360 p. ISBN: 9781512475494.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

When she was three, Alena’s activist mother died. She’s been raised by her half-brother and his boyfriend in East London, which is being targeted by a lone bomber. Alena desperately wants to know about her mother, but her brother won’t tell her anything.

Alena’s played by the rules all her life, but that’s over. When she starts digging up information herself and does something that costs her brother his job and puts the family in jeopardy, Alena discovers she can be a troublemaker–just like her mother.

Now she must figure out what sort of trouble she’s willing to get into to find out the truth.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. Alena has lived with her brother, Danny, since she was three. She knows he and his boyfriend share secrets about Alena and Danny’s mother’s troubled life. But every time Lena tries to talk to Danny about it, he shuts her down. At 15, Lena feels old enough to handle the truth, and if Danny won’t give it to her, well, she’ll start making trouble herself by trying to dig up the real story. Her two friends, Ollie and Tegan, will be there to help her through the triumphs and sorrows that soon come, as Lena tries to navigate her confusing past and uncertain future with a frightening present—an unknown person called the East End Bomber is terrorizing her area of London. Barter’s debut displays impressive skill and authenticity in relating issues of family secrets and grief. Readers will connect with Lena on her dramatic, heartrending journey as she begins to suss out the ambiguity of other people’s choices and fateful decisions that happened long before she was born.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2018)
A 15-year-old London girl struggles with family tensions against a backdrop of bombings, crime, and political skulduggery.Lena, whose mum died when she was only 3, has been lovingly raised by her brother, Danny (20 years her senior), and his partner, Nick. But Danny’s just gotten a job working for a law-and-order political candidate, and now there’s constant tension at home. There’s a bomber attacking East London supermarkets, and Danny’s boss—in statements Danny wrote for him—uses anti-crime language that Nick, who runs a hippie coffee shop that displays anti-establishment leaflets, despises. As the couple decide to separate to ease the tension in their relationship, Lena becomes increasingly curious about the mother she doesn’t remember, further infuriating her brother. Why is Danny so hostile toward their mother’s old friends? Real life is messy, Lena learns. As well as that: You don’t have to be political to be moral; good people sometimes do rotten things; doing right sometimes hurts the wrong people; and you don’t always get cinematic closure with the secrets of your past. Several secondary characters represent the multiculturalism of modern London; Lena and her family are assumed white. Amid a thoroughly contemporary story about terrorism, email leaks, and a divisive political climate, Lena’s coming-of-age is wonderfully individual and heartbreakingly real. (Realistic fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Catherine Barter grew up in Warwickshire, and then lived in Norwich for ten years, where she worked in a library, a bookshop, and for an organisation campaigning for the rights of garment workers. After gaining a PhD in American literature, she ditched academia for the lucrative world of independent bookselling. Currently she lives in East London and co-manages Housmans, a radical independent bookshop in King’s Cross.

Her website is catherine-barter.com

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Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala. March 6, 2018. Harper, 215 p. ISBN: 9780061284922.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 960.

In the long-anticipated novel from the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation, a revelation shared between two privileged teenagers from very different backgrounds sets off a chain of events with devastating consequences

On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.

When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.

In the tradition of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s AmericanahSpeak No Evilexplores what it means to be different in a fundamentally conformist society and how that difference plays out in our inner and outer struggles. It is a novel about the power of words and self-identification, about who gets to speak and who has the power to speak for other people. As heart-wrenching and timely as his breakout debut, Beasts of No Nation, Uzodinma Iweala’s new novel cuts to the core of our humanity and leaves us reeling in its wake.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Anti-gay attitudes and conversion therapy

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
When Harvard-bound, Washington, D.C., prep-school senior Niru’s parents discover the gay-dating app his best friend, Meredith, downloaded for him on his phone, everything blows up in his face like he knew it would. Although his Nigerian parents are fiercely loving, they are but bound by their faith, his father especially so, to reject Niru’s queerness and seek religious therapy for his “condition,” both locally and in their ancestral home. In his third book, Iweala—author of the multiple-award-winning novel Beasts of No Nation (2005) and Our Kind of People (2012), a nonfiction book about people living with AIDS in Nigeria—delivers with immediate poignancy Niru’s struggles between rejecting his parents’ constrictions and yearning for them; between embracing his sexuality and believing there’s a cure for it, and that it should be cured at all. Through Niru’s narration, which forms the bulk of the book, he, his parents, and his brother, who’s away at college but a constant presence in Niru’s thoughts, become full and realistically nuanced characters. A later shift in narration allows a different and perhaps more complete picture of Niru, which Iweala also handles elegantly. Portraying cross-generational and -cultural misunderstandings with anything but simplicity, Iweala tells an essential American story.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2018)
Iweala’s second novel, after Beasts of No Nation (2005), is a coming-of-age tale about immigrant identity and sexuality in America.Niru, an ambitious teenager, is in his senior year at a private high school in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Driven by his demanding Nigerian parents, he strives for success in both sports and academics. As he prepares to attend Harvard next year, trains to impress his track coach, and struggles to make a space for himself among his mostly white peers, he deftly reconciles his conflicting identities as the son of wealthy Nigerian immigrants and as an American teenager. There’s turmoil rippling beneath his life’s surface, though. When his closest friend, the attractive Meredith, tries to hook up with him, he panics and admits to himself that he’s attracted to men. Meredith excitedly tries to help him embrace his sexuality, but Niru’s impulses are unacceptable to his conservative Christian parents. After discovering flirtatious conversations with men on the boy’s phone, Niru’s father, Obi, takes him back to Nigeria to “cure” his son of what he considers “sinful nonsense.” The scenes of Niru’s clashes with his father are the most affecting moments in the novel: by depicting the fervor and violence of Obi’s anger about Niru’s queerness, Iweala does a stunning job of depicting the danger that many black youth face in trying to honor their sexual identities. Despite trying to suppress his desires and simplify his family life, Niru meets the seductive Damien. The two begin a tentative and tender relationship, but this is not a triumphant novel about Niru’s embracing his sexual identity. Instead, Iweala gives us a novel of keen insight into the mental and emotional turmoil that attends an adolescent’s discovery of his sexuality. Unfortunately, the book seems to lose steam toward its conclusion. Niru’s relationship with Damien is not explored as fully as it could be, while the implications of his parents’ pressure aren’t entirely untangled. The novel resolves with the sudden and disjunctive insertion of another character’s perspective, sabotaging the development of Niru’s own subjectivity. This is a deeply felt and perceptive novel that does not fulfill its promise.

About the Author

Uzodinma Iweala is the acclaimed author of Beasts of No Nation, which received the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York Public Library Young Lions 2006 Fiction Award, and the 2006 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. In 2007, Iweala was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists.

A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he lives in New York City and Lagos, Nigeria.

 

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When the Crickets Stopped Singing by Marilyn Cram-Donahue

When the Crickets Stopped Singing by Marilyn Cram-Donahue. March 20, 2018. Calkins Creek, 288 p. ISBN: 9781629797236.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Lexile: 730.

Set in the summer of 1939, this historical novel for readers aged 10-14 tells the story of a young girl who finds the strength to defy the social norms of her community when a dangerous man poses a threat to a friend. Twelve-year-old Angie Wallace and her friends embark on a quest to “love thy neighbor,” which includes newcomer Jefferson Clement. But soon the girls begin to suspect that he’s a dangerous man, even if the adults refuse to see it. Like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, the characters in this book must explore the nature of truth and justice as Angie struggles to stand up for what she knows is right.

It’s the calm before the storm of World War II in 1939 in small-town Messina, California. Angie Wallace and her friends have set out on a mission to “love thy neighbor”–even if that means inviting weird Dodie Crumper to join in their summer plans. But as they move through their neighborly to-do list, the girls can’t help but notice that there’s something strange about the sudden return of Jefferson Clement. He might be well-dressed and respected, yet with each interaction they become more aware of his dark intentions, especially when it comes to young girls. The adults in town either don’t notice or ignore the danger he poses, but when Angie is the only witness to a terrible accident, she must make a choice that calls into question everything she understands about truth and justice. With a setting that blossoms to life from the first page, When the Crickets Stopped Singing is the story of a transformative summer in a young girl’s life, when the idylls of childhood collide with the perils of the world beyond.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Predatory behavior, Allusions to sexual abuse of a child, Alcohol, Parental neglect

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Angie, Geraldine, and Reba Lu should be having a summer of fun, filled with church picnics and the Fourth of July celebration in their small California town. It’s 1939, and the three 12-year-olds even embark on a good-works project, widening their circle of friendship and offering support to people who could use it. Meanwhile, war looms in Europe, and another, more immediate threat clouds this patina of innocence. A mysterious neighbor has returned to town, and the girls begin to suspect his interest in them is not appropriate. For one thing, they spot Jefferson Clement focusing binoculars on them when they sunbathe. Then there are hints from acquaintances that Clement’s attentions are menacing. The plot ramps up dramatically when Angie witnesses a confrontation between Clement and her new friend Dodie, before Dodie is severely injured in a fall. Angie’s fear about testifying about what she saw speaks volumes about the difficulty of reporting sexual abuse. This well-plotted, nongraphic, non-message-driven treatment of an important topic is sure to spark discussions.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
In a small and apparently all-white town, Angelina and her friends face a sinister danger. It’s a roasting hot summer in 1939, and Angelina is troubled by news of Hitler as newscasters wonder when America might become involved. It’s a time of fresh-squeezed lemonade, telephone switchboards, and church picnics. Twelve-year-old Angelina, her best friend, Geraldine, and the new preacher’s daughter, Reba Lu, hatch a plan to curry favor with God by making a list of sinners to befriend and save. The list includes some eccentric characters, including Miss Emma, who’s a bit “tetched,” rarely leaves her room, and wears a live snake around her neck. Also on the list is Jefferson Clement, who has just returned to town after a yearslong absence. Except for his wife and Angelina’s mother, most folks seem happy to see Clement and his red carnation boutonniere. One night, among other troubling events, someone tries to sneak into the girls’ backyard tent as they sleep. Angelina is nearly certain she knows who it is. The atmospheric story unfolds through Angelina’s increasingly discerning voice, which illuminates how intensely afraid the girls are to tell the adults. In lingering, evocative prose, this story is demonstratively reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, including a stifling courtroom inquiry of the town scapegoat and a girl’s loss of innocence. The afterword includes discussion suggestions. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Marilyn Cram Donahue is the author of Straight Along a Crooked Road and its sequel The Valley in Between, as well as sixteen other books for children. She is also a regular school speaker and author-in-residence at writing retreats.

She lives in Highland, California. Her website is marilyncramdonahue.com

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All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson

All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson. February 6, 2018. Razorbill, 277 p. ISBN: 9780448494111.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in the waiting room of Massachusetts General Hospital:

Siblings Jason and Alexa have already experienced enough grief for a lifetime, so in this moment of confusion and despair, Alexa hopes that she can look to her brother for support. But a secret Jason has been keeping from his sister threatens to tear the siblings apart…right when they need each other most.

Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend, Aimee, who was on a bus with her theater group when the bridge went down. Their relationship has been rocky, but Scott knows that if he can just see Aimee one more time, if she can just make it through this ordeal and he can tell her he loves her, everything will be all right.

And then there’s Skyler, whose sister Kate—the sister who is more like a mother, the sister who is basically Skyler’s everything—was crossing the bridge when it collapsed. As the minutes tick by without a word from the hospital staff, Skyler is left to wonder how she can possibly move through life without the one person who makes her feel strong when she’s at her weakest.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Marijuana, Domestic abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. In the wake of a bridge collapse, several Boston-area teens find themselves at a hospital to hope—and mostly wait—for word on their loved ones. Alexa and her brother, Jason, consider life without their parents. Scott regrets the way things ended with his girlfriend. Skyler tries to summon the strength of her older sister, Kate. And Morgan, already touched by death, reaches out to bring them all together. What results is a remarkable story that explores growing up through the lens of mortality, told through multiple points of view and featuring flashbacks that allow readers to gain insights into each character. Lawson is adept at gripping the reader while eschewing typical tropes of YA literature (e.g., romantic entanglements and social drama). Rather, the spotlight is on the relationships the teens have with loved ones, the relationships they begin with each other, and the insights gleaned from a harrowing experience. Young readers looking for a change of pace will be rewarded by this quiet yet powerful meditation on life and death.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
A lot can happen in the hospital waiting room in the wake of a tragedy. When Boston’s Tobin Bridge collapses into the Mystic River, it takes nearly 200 drivers and passengers with it. A third-person omniscient narrator alternates through the perspectives of five teen characters—strangers who are connected to the victims—as they wait with hundreds of others at the hospital for news about the incident. Siblings Jason and Alexa are “well-to-do New England WASPs” from Back Bay whose lives have already been transformed after the death of a close friend—closeted Jason’s secret boyfriend. Cambodian-American Skyler, who is raised by her grandparents, is mixed up in an abusive relationship with an upperclassman. Scott and Morgan, who are both white, have their own secret back stories. Vanity Fair film critic Lawson’s teen fiction debut is a careful exploration of the rippling effects of tragedy. Alternating viewpoints give multiple sides of the same story, while flashbacks give the important contexts of the characters’ lives before the accident. Boston-savvy readers will know and appreciate all the local references. But the promising premise doesn’t quite deliver and is spoiled by a too-tidy conclusion. Patient readers will fall for the characters; others will wonder if it’s worth the wait—even with lives on the line. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Richard Lawson is the film critic for Vanity Fair and a co-host of V.F.‘s Little Gold Men podcast. He has written for The GuardianThe Atlantic Wire, Gawker, and Out magazine, and has contributed to the Dinner Party Download radio show.

Though currently living in New York City, Richard was born and raised in Boston. Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

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