Tag Archives: Fiction

The Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

The Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. July 31, 2018. Doubleday, 304 p. ISBN: 9780385542722.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A mesmerizing debut set in Colombia at the height Pablo Escobar’s violent reign about a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both

Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to their gated community in Bogotá, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside the neighborhood walls, where the godlike drug lord Pablo Escobar continues to elude authorities and capture the attention of the nation.

When their mother hires Petrona, a live-in-maid from the city’s guerrilla-occupied slum, Chula makes it her mission to understand Petrona’s mysterious ways. But Petrona’s unusual behavior belies more than shyness. She is a young woman crumbling under the burden of providing for her family as the rip tide of first love pulls her in the opposite direction. As both girls’ families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy that will force them both to choose between sacrifice and betrayal.

Inspired by the author’s own life, and told through the alternating perspectives of the willful Chula and the achingly hopeful Petrona, Fruit of the Drunken Tree contrasts two very different, but inextricably linked coming-of-age stories. In lush prose, Rojas Contreras has written a powerful testament to the impossible choices women are often forced to make in the face of violence and the unexpected connections that can blossom out of desperation.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Criminal culture

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 18))
In this incomparable debut novel, Contreras draws on her own experience growing up in turbulent 1990s Bogotá, Colombia, amid the violence and social instability fueled by Pablo Escobar’s narcotics trafficking. In vividly rendered prose, textured with generous Spanish, Contreras tells the story of an unlikely bond between two girls on the verge of womanhood: Chula, the daughter of a middle-class family, and Petrona, the teenager hired to serve as the family’s maid. While Chula’s family can afford to protect themselves behind the suburban walls of a gated community, Petrona must support her many siblings as they struggle to survive the inner-city slums. Despite their differences, and driven by Chula’s curiosity about Petrona’s odd habits, the two become inseparably close until decisions must be made that will alter their futures forever. Contreras’ deeply personal connection to the setting lends every scene a vital authenticity, and a seemingly unlimited reservoir of striking details brings the action to life, like the trumpets and accordions on Christmas Eve, or the messy Afro of Petrona’s suspicious new boyfriend. A riveting, powerful, and fascinating first novel.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2018)
The perils of day-to-day existence in late-20th-century Colombia—a time of drug lords, guerrillas, kidnappings, and car bombs—are glimpsed through the eyes of a child and her family’s teenage maid, whose relationship exposes two facets of the class divide. Choosing a young girl to deliver a perspective on political chaos and terror is a mixed blessing in Contreras’ debut, set in Bogotá in the lawless era of Pablo Escobar. Her chief narrator is 7-year-old Chula Santiago, whose dreamy insights and immaturity both intensify and limit what the narrative can offer. Chula is the bright younger daughter of an oil worker employed by an American company and whose income allows the family to live in the relative safety of a gated neighborhood. The Santiagos’ maid, Petrona Sánchez, introduces a different perspective. Her family has been destroyed by the paramilitary that burned down their farm and abducted her father and elder brothers. Now Petrona, her mother, and her siblings live in “a hut made of trash” in the capital’s slums, prey to gangs, drugs, and thugs. While the two girls develop a bond, their separate experiences include political assassination, desolation, addiction, and dangers of many kinds alongside the fancifulness, games, and easy, often thoughtless distractions of childhood. Chula and her sister are indulged by their parents and leave town when threats appear at their most extreme. Petrona, struggling to support her family, falls under the sway of a shady but charismatic boy, Gorrión. Through Chula’s eyes, events take place in a drifting, foreshortened present, and her incomprehension at times denies the story a quality of three-dimensionality. But a sudden gear change reorders matters, plunging the narrative into a flurry of dangerous developments from which everyone emerges redefined. A tragic history is filtered through fiction, and the results are patchy: sometimes constrained by invention, sometimes piercing.

About the Author

Ingrid Rojas Contreras is an award-winning author who was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, Guernica, and Huffington Post, among others. She has been a fellow at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto, and has received scholarships and support from VONA, Hedgebrook, The Camargo Foundation, Djerassi Artist Residency Program, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture. She is the book columnist for KQED, the Bay Area’s NPR affiliate. She has taught at Stanford University, the University of San Francisco, and currently teaches writing to immigrant high school students as part of a San Francisco Arts Commission initiative bringing artists into public schools.

Her website is www.ingridrojascontreras.com/

Teacher Resources

The Fruit of the Drunken Tree Reading Guide

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The Fruit of the Drunken Tree on Amazon

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The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo. May 8, 2018. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 323 p. ISBN: 9780374304089.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Clara Shin loves her untethered L.A. life, where she lives with her young Korean Brazilian dad. But when a prom prank turns into a brawl, her punishment is the worst she can imagine: working all summer on her dad’s hot, cramped food truck, KoBra, instead of vacationing in Mexico with her mom. As if that weren’t bad enough, overachiever and perennial enemy Rose Carver must also work on the truck as punishment for her part in the scuffle. Clever strategies by Dad lead Clara and Rose to see each other less as adversaries and more as friends. Meanwhile, a Chinese boy named Hamlet expresses interest in Clara and helps her realize that perhaps her old self isn’t the one she wants to embrace going forward. Flip, hip narrator Clara may seem a tad unlikable at first, but readers can’t help but get caught up in her bumpy coming-of-age journey, applauding her increasing attachment to KoBra and her drive to help facilitate her dad’s dream of opening a restaurant. With massive amounts of humor, heart, and soul, this love letter to L.A. and its diversity is a celebration of friends, family, and food trucks.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
A spirited teenager learns about the meaning of love, friendship, and family. When spunky Clara Shin, the daughter of two Brazilian immigrants of Korean descent, is forced to make up for a school prank by taking a summer job working in her father’s food truck alongside her nemesis, Rose Carver, a perfectionistic, overachieving classmate who looks like a “long-lost Obama daughter,” she thinks it’s the end of her summer. Clara’s insouciant and rebellious demeanor hides profound feelings of rejection over her glamorous mother’s decision to leave the family when Clara was 4 to jaunt around the world as a social media influencer. Clara is most comfortable hanging out with a crowd of kids who are similarly rebellious and disengaged, but a budding romance with earnest Chinese heartthrob Hamlet Wong, who works in a neighboring food truck, and a developing friendship with Rose, who has never had a BFF, teach Clara that there’s an upside to taking risks and letting people get close. When Clara feels hurt by her father’s negative reaction to a well-intentioned surprise, she takes off on an adventure that ultimately opens her eyes to all the good things that await her back home. Clara’s personal growth during this summer of change is realistic and convincing. Snappy dialogue and an endearing cast of characters bring to life this richly-drawn portrait of multicultural LA. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Maurene Goo grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. She studied communication at UC San Diego and then later received a Masters in publishing, writing, and literature at Emerson College. Before publishing her first book, Since You Asked, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.

Her website is www.maurenegoo.com

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The Way You Make Me Feel on Amazon

The Way You Make Me Feel on Goodreads

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Love & Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

Love & Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves. May 15, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 9780316436724.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 890.

A darkly funny debut for fans of Becky Albertalli, Matthew Quick, and Ned Vizzini about a nineteen-year-old girl who’s consumed by love, grief, and the many-tentacled beast of self-destructive behavior.

Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny’s life. She’s failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is. With a starkly memorable voice that’s at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Love and Other Carnivorous Plants brilliantly captures the painful turning point between an adolescence that’s slipping away and the overwhelming uncertainty of the future.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking, Marijuana, Eating disorders, Alcohol abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Danny and Sara had a plan—best friends forever, stretching from kindergarten to old age, with a stint at college in between. But when Danny gets into Harvard, the plan derails, and so does the girls’ joined-at-the-hip status. However, this is only part of the reason Danny can’t tell Sara the truth about her freshman year: struggling with classes, developing an eating disorder, and going through a treatment program that introduced her to the girl she just can’t get out of her head—and who seems to pop up when she’s least expected. Gonsalves’ debut is a pitch-perfect take on what happens when the future you imagined doesn’t live up to expectations, and every misstep seems to unravel the person you thought you’d become. A heartbreaking twist raises the stakes of Danny’s transformative personal journey, but the struggle of holding on to an old friendship while discovering a new version of yourself should resonate with any reader. This genuinely funny novel about some harrowing topics manages to balance humor and pathos perfectly. Readers who connected with J. J. Johnson’s Believarexic (2015) or Sam J. Miller’s The Art of Starving (2017) will want this book, as will the many John Green fans who crave intelligent stories that occupy both shadow and light.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
When the life plan she’d laid out implodes, a college freshman finds herself having to regroup.On the surface, snarky protagonist/narrator Dandelion “Danny” Berkowitz seems destined to succeed: The attractive, upper-middle-class high school valedictorian has returned home from Harvard for the summer, ready to reconnect with her popular, equally overachieving, tennis-obsessed best friend, Sara. Unbeknownst to Sara or anyone else in their circle of friends, however, Danny spent second semester at a clinic undergoing in-patient treatment for an eating disorder and anxiety. Along with the internalized fear of failure both teens wrestle with privately, Sara has been saving face by keeping secrets of her own, spelling tragic consequences for their friendship. A turning point comes when Danny enters a romantic relationship with a mutual female friend without telling Sara, who then makes insensitive remarks about another girl who is a lesbian. Gonsalves juggles multiple serious adolescent challenges with operatic verve—eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual awakening and orientation, mental health, grief—and the resulting bildungsroman proves engaging and enlightening, particularly in her realistic depiction of compulsive behaviors related to food. All characters are assumed white. A feel-good debut sure to interest teens looking to feel better about not feeling so great. (author’s note, resource list) (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Florence graduated from Dartmouth College in 2015 with a major in philosophy. Upon getting her diploma, she promptly abandoned Kant and after numerous jobs and internships pursued her lifelong dream of becoming a novelist.

Her website is www.florencegonsalves.com/

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Love & Other Carnivorous Plants on Amazon

Love & Other Carnivorous Plants on Goodreads

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Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. April 17, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 224 p. ISBN: 9780316262286.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 360.

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.
 
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, Drugs, Bullying

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. Jerome, a young black boy gunned down while playing in a park with a toy gun, invites readers to bear witness to his story, to the tragedy of being dispatched simply because of a policeman’s internalized prejudice masquerading as fear. One day at school, while he and his new friend Carlos are being bullied, Carlos pulls out a toy gun to scare their attackers. Afterward, he gives it to Jerome so he can have a chance to play with it, to pretend that he is in charge. But when he is shot in the back while running from the police, his soul leaves his body and he becomes one of the army of ghost boys hoping to communicate with those still consumed with racial bias. While looking in on the preliminary court hearing, Jerome realizes that the police officer’s daughter can see and talk to him, and together they try to understand how the world around them could be so cruel. Rhodes (Sugar, 2013; Towers Falling, 2016) beautifully weaves together the fictional and the historical—Jerome comes across the ghosts of real-life individuals like Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin—in this gripping and all-too-necessary novel about police brutality, injustice, and the power of bearing witness to the stories of those who are gone.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
In a story that explicitly recalls the murder of Tamir Rice, Jerome, a 12-year-old black boy killed by a white Chicago cop, must, along with the ghosts of Emmett Till and others, process what has happened and how. With the rising tide of today’s Movement for Black Lives, there has been a re-examination of how the 1955 murder of Emmett Till became the fuel for the mid-20th-century civil rights movement. With this narrative in mind, Rhodes seeks to make Till’s story relevant to the post-millennial generation. Readers meet Jerome, who’s bullied at his troubled and underfunded neighborhood school, just at the time that Latinx newcomer Carlos arrives from San Antonio. After finding that Carlos’ toy gun may help keep the school bullies at bay, Jerome is taken by surprise while playing in the park when a white arriving police officer summarily shoots him dead. The police officer’s daughter, Sarah, is the only character who can truly see the ghost boys as they all struggle to process that day and move forward. Written in nonlinear chapters that travel between the afterlife and the lead-up to the unfortunate day, the novel weaves in how historical and sociopolitical realities come to bear on black families, suggesting what can be done to move the future toward a more just direction—albeit not without somewhat flattening the righteous rage of the African-American community in emphasizing the more palatable universal values of “friendship. Kindness. Understanding.” A timely, challenging book that’s worthy of a read, further discussion, and action. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Jewell Parker Rhodes has always loved reading and writing stories. Born and raised in Manchester, a largely African-American neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, she was a voracious reader as a child. She began college as a dance major, but when she discovered there were novels by African Americans, for African Americans, she knew she wanted to be an author. She wrote six novels for adults, two writing guides, and a memoir, but writing for children remained her dream.

Her website is www.jewellparkerrhodes.com/children/

Teacher Resources

Ghost Boys Reading Guide

Around the Web

Ghost Boys on Amazon

Ghost Boys on Goodreads

Ghost Boys Publisher Page

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Tangerine by Christine Mangan. March 27, 2018. Ecco, 309 p. ISBN: 9780062686664.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 980.

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

Optioned for film by George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures, with Scarlett Johansson to star

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Underage drinking, Smoking, Mention of prostitution, Murder

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Like a chameleon, noir adapts to its landscape and climate, finding in either sun or rain the climatological ingredients necessary to generate a mood of oppression, foreboding, and inevitability. So it is in Mangan’s hypnotic debut, set in 1950s Tangier, where a deadly, Hitchcockian pas de deux plays out under an unrelenting, Camus-like African sun. Alice, a fragile Englishwoman, has landed in Tangier after a sudden marriage to one of those British gentlemen whose pedigree masks his idler essence. The marriage is a way of escaping the scandal that caused Alice’s breakdown and forced her to leave college in Vermont. When Lucy, Alice’s college roommate, turns up at Alice’s door in Tangier, the dance begins, with Mangan switching the narration between Alice and Lucy, as we gradually learn what happened in Vermont and begin to get a feel for the psychological dynamics between the two women. The echoes of Patricia Highsmith reverberate almost too loudly here. Yes, Mr. Ripley has become a femme fatale, but Mangan’s take on that familiar theme never seems reductive, nor mere homage. That’s partially because of the electrical energy that crackles between Alice and Lucy, but it’s also related to Mangan’s ability to turn the mood and the setting of the story into a kind of composite force field that sucks the reader in almost instantly.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
In 1956, a pair of college roommates meets again in Tangier, with terrifying results.“At first, I had told myself that Tangier wouldn’t be so terrible,” says Alice Shipley, a young wife dragged there by her unpleasant husband, John McAllister, who has married her for her money. He vanishes every day into the city, which he adores, while Alice is afraid to go out at all, having once gotten lost in the flea market. Then Lucy Mason, her one-time best friend and roommate at Bennington College, shows up unannounced on her doorstep. “I had never, not once in the many moments that had occurred between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the dusty alleyways of Morocco, expected to see her again.” Alice and Lucy did not part on good terms; there are repeated references to a horrible accident which will remain mysterious for some time. What is clear is that Lucy is romantically obsessed with Alice and that Alice is afraid of her. In chapters that alternate between the two women’s points of view, the past and the present unfold. The two young women bonded quickly at Bennington: though Alice is a wealthy, delicate Brit and Lucy a rough-edged local on scholarship, both are orphans. Or at least Lucy says she is—from the start, there are inconsistencies in her story that put Alice in doubt. And while Alice is so frightened of Tangier that she can’t leave the house, Lucy feels right at home: she finds the maze of souks electrifying, and she quickly learns to enjoy the local custom of drinking scalding hot mint tea in the heat. She makes a friend, a shady local named Joseph, and immediately begins lying to him, introducing herself as Alice Shipley. Something evil this way comes, for sure. Mangan’s debut pays homage to The Talented Mr. Ripley and to the work of Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson. A vivid setting and a devious, deadly plot, though the first is a bit overdone and the second contains a few head-scratchers, including the evil-lesbian trope. Film rights have already been sold; it will make a good movie.

About the Author

Christine Mangan has her PhD in English from University College Dublin, where her thesis focused on 18th-century Gothic literature, and an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Southern Maine. Tangerine is her first novel.

 

 

Around the Web

Tangerine on Amazon

Tangerine on Goodreads

Tangerine Publisher Page

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. April 3, 2018. Balzer + Bray, 455 p. ISBN: 9780062570604.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

At once provocative, terrifying, and darkly subversive, Dread Nation is Justina Ireland’s stunning vision of an America both foreign and familiar—a country on the brink, at the explosive crossroads where race, humanity, and survival meet.

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Part of Series: Dread Nation (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Ireland delivers a necessary, subversive, and explosive novel with her fantasy-laced alternate history. America is changed forever when the dead begin to prowl battlefields during the Civil War. The horror births a new nation and a different type of slavery, in which laws force Native and Negro children to attend combat schools and receive training to put down the dead. Jane McKeene attends Miss Preston’s School for Combat in Baltimore. She studies to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette, to protect the white well-to-do. For Negro girls like Jane, it’s a chance for a better life; however, as she nears the completion of her education, she longs simply to return to her Kentucky home. But when families around Baltimore go missing, Jane finds herself entangled in a conspiracy that results in a fight for her life against powerful enemies. Ireland crafts a smart, poignant, thrilling novel that does the all-important work of exploring topics of oppression, racism, and slavery, while simultaneously accomplishing so much more. It explores friendship, love, defying expectations, and carving out your own path instead of submitting to the one thrust upon you. From page one, Jane is a capable, strong heroine maneuvering through a world that is brilliant and gut-wrenching. This will take readers on a breathless ride from beginning to end.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
Just days after Jane McKeene, notoriously known as the daughter of a white plantation-owner mother and an unknown “Negro” field-hand father, was born, the Civil War became a war between the living and the undead when bodies began to rise on the Gettysburg battlefield. Now seventeen, Jane is about to complete the combat training required by the Native and Negro Reeducation Act established in the aftermath of the Great Discord. Soon she will seek a position as a white society lady’s Attendant, a chaperone/bodyguard providing protection from scandal and “shamblers” (the undead) alike. Her tendency to break the rules—including sneaking out to help her disreputable friend Jackson search for his missing sister Lily—gets Jane and snooty classmate Katherine shipped off to the Survivalist (read: white supremacist) outpost of Summerland to be Attendants on the frontier (read: zombie fodder). But upon arrival, Katherine’s “passing light” appearance provides the girls with a handy, if distasteful, cover story—Katherine is a new-to-town white lady and Jane her Attendant—as they gain the sheriff’s trust, look for Lily, and uncover the town’s sinister secrets. This absorbing page-turner works on multiple levels: as unflinching alternate history set in post-Reconstruction-era Maryland and Kansas; as a refreshingly subversive action story starring a badass (and biracial and bisexual) heroine; as zombie fiction suspenseful and gory enough to please any fan of the genre; and as a compelling exhortation to scrutinize the racist underpinnings of contemporary American sociopolitical systems. An author’s note discusses the history of exploitative Native American boarding schools, the real-life basis for Dread Nation’s combat school system. katie bircher

About the Author

Justina Ireland enjoys dark chocolate, dark humor, and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. She lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows.

Her website is www.justinaireland.com

Around the Web

Dread Nation on Amazon

Dread Nation on Goodreads

Dread Nation Publisher Page

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss. May 8, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 408 p. ISBN: 9780062494276.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Luke and Toby have always had each other’s backs. But then one choice—or maybe it is a series of choices—sets them down an irrevocable path. We’ll Fly Away weaves together Luke and Toby’s senior year of high school with letters Luke writes to Toby later—from death row.

Best friends since childhood, Luke and Toby have dreamed of one thing: getting out of their dead-end town. Soon they finally will, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, never looking back. If they don’t drift apart first. If Toby’s abusive dad, or Luke’s unreliable mom, or anything else their complicated lives throw at them doesn’t get in the way.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2018)
When best friends Luke and Toby were kids, they tried to fix up a crop duster they found abandoned in the woods outside their rural North Carolina town, fantasizing it could one day fly them out of their troubled lives. When they got older, the plane became a hangout spot and refuge–when Toby’s dad beat him or Luke needed to escape the one-bedroom apartment he lived in with his neglectful mom and much younger brothers. Now that they’re high school seniors, the real escape plan is only a year away, when Toby will follow Luke to Iowa on a wrestling scholarship. Yet before readers learn any of this, the novel opens with Luke’s first letter to Toby from death row. With Luke’s letters as interludes, a third-person narrative flashes back to their senior year, focusing on a significant week in the boys’ lives. Everything fits together as readers start to understand the severity of Toby’s abuse, the depth of Luke’s loyalty (and stifled rage), and the complexities of their dynamic–especially once the boys’ respective love interests enter the scene. The outcome will surprise no one, which is, of course, the point: the reading experience is not about learning what put Luke in prison but when it will happen and how. Bliss stokes this tension, evoking the dread of death row and the claustrophobia of a dead-end town, a life you need to escape from. In this truly tragic story there is profundity at every turn, and readers up for heartbreak will come away understanding more about loyalty, empathy, and redemption. katrina Hedeen

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
From death row, a young man navigates prison and writes to his best friend in this powerful work of realistic fiction. A poignant story of loyalty, abuse, and poverty is woven throughout a narrative that alternates between flashbacks to Luke and Toby’s senior year of high school (presented from their perspectives in the third person) and the present-day experience of Luke’s incarceration (told in first person through his letters to Toby). This structure allows the novel to build a slow and gripping tension as it progresses, revealing the horrific events that led to Luke’s arrest only at the very end, as the other details of the boys’ lives naturally unfold. Both are seemingly white. The two struggle to guard their friendship fiercely even as Toby becomes sexually involved with a likable but troubled young woman and Luke falls for a different girl. The two have been lifelong friends, supporting each other through family struggles—Toby’s with a physically abusive father and Luke’s with a neglectful mother who leaves him playing a parental role to his two younger brothers. Readers will easily empathize with quiet, tightly controlled Luke, who’s college-bound on a wrestling scholarship, and goofy, self-effacing Toby. This compassionate and beautifully rendered novel packs an emotional punch. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Bryan Bliss is the author of No Parking at the End Times. He holds master’s degrees in theology and fiction and – shockingly – found a professional job that allows him to use both of those degrees. His political philosophy degree, however, is still underutilized. His nonfiction has been published in Image Journal, along with various other newspapers, magazines, and blogs. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children, both of whom wish he wrote books about dragons. Or wizards.

His website is www.bryanbliss.com.

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We’ll Fly Away on Amazon

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The Backward Season by Lauren Myracle

The Backward Season by Lauren Myracle. April 3, 2018. Katherine Tegen Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062342126.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 630.

From beloved and bestselling author Lauren Myracle comes the emotional conclusion to the Wishing Day trilogy, perfect for fans of Kate DiCamillo and Ingrid Law.

Now that her sisters Natasha and Darya have had their turn, Ava Blok finally gets her Wishing Day. But after seeing the unintended consequences of the wishes her sisters made, she’s not sure what to wish for. The only thing she’s certain of is that it’s her job to set things right.

Hopeful that she can put her broken family back together, and eager to prove her pessimistic older sisters wrong, Ava realizes that fixing the future means changing the past.

Will the journey her wishes take her on end up costing her everything?

Sequel to: The Forgetting Spell

Part of Series: Wishing Day (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 4-7. According to local tradition, the girls of Willow Hill are granted three wishes when they turn 13. Aware that previous wishes (magical or not) have caused pain, loss, and heartbreak within her family, Ava attempts to use hers to set things right. She emerges as a strong-minded character and a credible agent of change, completing the long-range story arc from the previous volumes in the Wishing Day trilogy. Layered in time, the narrative includes flashbacks revealing a girl’s experiences during the previous generation, as well as a climactic time-travel sequence that is pivotal in bringing the series to its satisfying conclusion.

About the Author

Lauren Myracle is the author of numerous young adult novels. She was born in 1969 in North Carolina. Lauren Myracle holds an MA in English from Colorado State University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. she has written many novels, including the famous IM books, ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r.

Her first novel, Kissing Kate, was selected as one of ALA’s “Best Books for Young Adults” for the year 2004. It was named by Booklist as one of the “Top Ten Youth Romances” of the year, as well as one of the “Top Ten Books by New Writers.” Her middle-grade novel, Eleven, came out 2004, followed by its YA sequels (Twelve, Thirteen, Thirteen Plus One) .

Her website is www.laurenmyracle.com

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Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir

Archival Quality  by Ivy Noelle Weir. March 6, 2018. Oni Press, 280 p. ISBN: 9781620104705.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 380.

After losing her job at the library, Cel Walden starts working at the haunting Logan Museum as an archivist. But the job may not be the second chance she was hoping for, and she finds herself confronting her mental health, her relationships, and before long, her grasp on reality as she begins to dream of a young woman she’s never met, but feels strangely drawn to. Especially after she asks Cel for help…

As Cel attempts to learn more about the woman, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out—the job is becoming dangerous, but she can’t let go of this mysterious woman. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save her when she’s still trying to save herself?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcohol, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Harsh realities of asylum life

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. The Logan Museum is creepy, but Cel is desperate for a job since she lost her old library position under ambiguous circumstances. Despite an awkward interview, Cel becomes the archivist and spends the night shift cataloging materials from the Logan’s collections. But bumps in the night and weird dreams of a girl in an asylum set Cel on edge, especially since she’s worried about her own mental health. But the ghost girl’s hints that something suspicious is going on with the secretive board are hard to ignore. With the help of librarian Holly and curator Aba, Cel sets out to solve the mystery of the girl and perhaps get to the heart of the museum’s purpose. Steenz’s blocky, thick-lined artwork depicts a refreshingly diverse cast of characters in a wide variety of skin tones and body shapes. Though the pace drags in the middle, and the mysterious origins of the museum are disappointingly underdeveloped, Cel’s ultimate decision to finally seek out professional help for her mental illness is satisfying.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2018)
In another time and in different societies, librarians and people with psychosocial disabilities held similar positions: namely guardians of human knowledge. The author, one of the American Library Association’s 2015 Emerging Leaders, reclaims this in Celeste “Cel” Walden, a woman of color fired from her library assistant job due to her multiply diagnosed mental illness. She interviews—and is hired—for an archivist gig at the Logan Museum, an 83-year-old institution housing “one of the largest collections of antique medical photographs, documents, and books,” according to the museum’s exceptionally groovy purple-and-blue–haired librarian, a black woman named Holly Park. With the job comes an apartment that archivists are strongly encouraged to live in due to the overnight hours. The museum also has an aloof, black chief curator named Abayomi Abiola, a history of use as a health facility of many sorts, and a mysterious board of directors…and a ghost connected to the time when the museum served as an asylum for people diagnosed with mental illness. The ghost spurs Celeste to seek justice for her and, in the process—with help from Holly and eventually Abayomi—helps Celeste seek wholeness for herself in terms of her condition. The author and illustrator bring a warm honesty, visually and narrativewise, to the characters, who are mostly people of color, as they navigate the complexities of mental illness, sexuality, love, and social responsibility. In their appealing protagonist, Weir and Steenz return both librarians and people with mental and emotional distress to their original, esteemed roles as keepers of truthful history. (Graphic fantasy. 12-adult)

About the Author

Ivy Noelle Weir has been writing stories for her entire life, and her essays on art, pop culture and librarianship have appeared in a variety of outlets. In addition to her writing, Weir is a visual artist and former librarian who studied photography at Parsons the New School for Design, art history at Goddard College, and holds an MLIS from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. A native of Philadelphia, she currently works in publishing and lives on a crooked old street in an apartment full of Halloween decorations with her partner and tiny dog.

Her website is www.ivynoelleweir.com.

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Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue by Jeff Seymour

Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue by Jeff Seymour. May 15, 2018. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9781524738655.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 760.

From debut author Jeff Seymour and bestselling illustrator Brett Helquist (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) comes this breathtaking fantasy adventure, starring an extraordinary new heroine and set in an unforgettable world where ships can fly.

It takes a very special crew to keep the cloudship Orion running, and no one knows that better than Nadya Skylung, who tends the cloud garden that keeps the ship afloat. When the unthinkable happens and pirates attack, Nadya and the other children aboard–all orphans taken in by the kindhearted Captain Nic–narrowly escape, but the rest of the crew is captured. Alone and far from help, only Nadya and her four brave and loyal friends can take back the Orion and rescue the crew. And she’ll risk life and limb to save the only family she’s ever known. But . . . this attack was no accident. What exactly are the pirates looking for? Could it be Nadya they’ve been after all along?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 6-8. Nadya and the others aboard the cloudship Orion are orphans taken in by Captain Nic until the day they can run their own ships. Nadya dreams of one day leaving the security of the cloud garden and becoming first mate, until the ship is attacked by pirates. When the crew is taken hostage, Nadya and her friends must risk their lives to save them. This brilliantly characterized debut features heroes who are well-rounded and layered; each come from tragic circumstances, but their connection is genuine and emotional as they deal with realistic conflicts and daily life aboard the ship. Opinionated Nadya often fails to see others’ perspectives, but as she learns to put aside their differences in order to honestly understand her teammates, it’s easy to form a real connection with her. An impressive read that explores ideas of what bravery means though rich writing, vivid descriptions, and a strong voice. Readers will be eager to explore this breathtaking and dangerous steampunk world set in the sky.

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2018)
Nadya Skylung, an orphan, was rescued by the cloudship Orion’s captain, Nic, as were the other orphans who are in the crew: Tam, Tian Li, Pepper, and Salyeh. In the cloudship’s garden, Nadya helps fellow skylung Mrs. Trachia take care of the special plants and animals that help keep the vessel aloft. As the book opens, Nadya hopes to be named first mate. Then the worst happens: Pirates attack the Orion. They are looking for skylungs, and Nadya fears they are looking for her. The action’s both nonstop and circular: The adults sacrifice themselves so that the children can escape, and then the children execute a daring rescue to save them. Nadya gets some but not all of her questions answered, leaving room for a sequel. The built world is complicated, with elaborate biological mechanisms that power the cloudship and humans with special properties to run it. With geography and naming conventions vaguely analogous to our own, Seymour constructs a racially diverse cast around Nadya, who presents white. The language he uses to describe his characters of color is sometimes poorly chosen: Tian Li is rather opaquely described as having “sandstone-colored skin,” and, worse, Salyeh is described as having skin “the dark brown of burning paper.” While the worldbuilding can be heavy-handed and confusing at times, readers who love action-adventure stories will enjoy reading about Nadya and her friends. (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

Jeff Seymour writes hopeful, heartfelt fantasy that blends modern characters with timeless plots and offers something new and fantastic on every page. His debut middle-grade novel, Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue, will be published by Putnam Young Readers in 2018, and his epic fantasy Soulwoven got over a million reads while being featured on Wattpad. In his day job as a freelance editor, Jeff helps shape and clean up stories for a talented roster of bestselling sci-fi and fantasy authors as well as newcomers to the business. In his free time, he plays more video games than he should, serves as support team to a wife with an incredible career of her own, pretends he knows anything about raising children, and gathers ideas for stories everywhere he goes

His website is jeff-seymour.com

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