Tag Archives: LGBTQ

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

The 57 Bus: A true Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater. October 1, 2017. Farrar Strauss Giroux, 320 p. ISBN: 9780374303235.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Racial slur, Graphic description of recovery from burns, Detailed description of a hate crime

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 7-12. Slater handles the sensitive subject matter of adolescence, hate crimes, the juvenile justice system, and the intersection of race and class with exemplary grace and emotional connection. Sasha, a genderqueer teen riding the 57 bus, was asleep when Richard Thomas, an African American teen, decided to play a prank by playing with a lighter by her skirt. But the skirt caught fire. Sasha spent grueling amounts of time in a hospital burn unit, and Richard spent the rest of his high-school career mired in a long trial and awaiting sentencing. In this true-crime tale, Slater excels at painting a humanistic view of both Sasha and Richard, especially in the aftermath of the crime. Readers will enjoy that Sasha’s life is completely developed, while other readers may have a few unresolved questions surrounding Richard’s upbringing. Ultimately, this book will give readers a better understanding of gender nonbinary people and a deep empathy for how one rash action can irrevocably change lives forever.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2017)
In the fall of 2013, on a bus ride home, a young man sets another student on fire.In a small private high school, Sasha, a white teen with Asperger’s, enjoyed “a tight circle of friends,” “blazed through calculus, linguistics, physics, and computer programming,” and invented languages. Sasha didn’t fall into a neat gender category and considered “the place in-between…a real place.” Encouraged by parents who supported self-expression, Sasha began to use the pronoun they. They wore a skirt for the first time during their school’s annual cross-dressing day and began to identify as genderqueer. On the other side of Oakland, California, Richard, a black teen, was “always goofing around” at a high school where roughly one-third of the students failed to graduate. Within a few short years, his closest friends would be pregnant, in jail, or shot dead, but Richard tried to stay out of real trouble. One fateful day, Sasha was asleep in a “gauzy white skirt” on the 57 bus when a rowdy friend handed Richard a lighter. With a journalist’s eye for overlooked details, Slater does a masterful job debunking the myths of the hate-crime monster and the African-American thug, probing the line between adolescent stupidity and irredeemable depravity. Few readers will traverse this exploration of gender identity, adolescent crime, and penal racism without having a few assumptions challenged. An outstanding book that links the diversity of creed and the impact of impulsive actions to themes of tolerance and forgiveness. (Nonfiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Dashka Slater has written many books, including Baby ShoesThe Sea Serpent and Me, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection, Escargot, and Dangerously Ever After. She is also an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in NewsweekSalon, The New York Times Magazine, and Mother Jones. 

She lives in California. Her website is www.dashkaslater.com

Teacher Resources

The 57 Bus Discussion Guide

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Vanilla by Billy Merrell

Vanilla by Billy Merrell. October 10, 2017. Scholastic, 320 p. ISBN: 9781338100921.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Vanilla and Hunter have been dating since seventh grade.
They came out together,
navigated middle school together,
and became that couple in high school
that everyone always sees as a couple.

There are complications and confusions, for sure.
But most of all,
they love each other.

As high school goes, though,
and as their relationship deepens,
some cracks begin to show.

Hunter thinks they should be having sex.
Vanilla isn’t so sure.

Hunter doesn’t mind hanging out with loud, obnoxious friends.
Vanilla would rather avoid them.

If they’re becoming different people,
can they be the same couple?

Falling in love is hard.
Staying in love is harder.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Underage drinking, Smoking, Strong and pervasive sexual themes, Online pornography

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Hunter and Vanilla have been boyfriends since middle school, but, now 17, their relationship has begun to fray. Ostensibly this is because Hunter is ready for sex, while Vanilla is not. But perhaps there’s something deeper here that the reader will learn along with the two boys. Merrell’s first novel—in verse, of course, Merrell being an accomplished poet—is a sometimes melancholy exercise exploring the enigmatic face of love and its various meanings. The two boys, though alike at first in their love, are two different people—Vanilla being a shy introvert, Hunter an outgoing though sensitive poet. Their story is told in alternating first-person voices, although in the book’s second half, a third voice is added to swell the duet to a chorus: that of a flamboyantly gay boy named Clown, who is, at first, Vanilla’s bête noire, teasing and making fun of him. But, like Vanilla and Hunter, he changes. A strength of Merrell’s thoughtful book is how he dramatizes the many changes the boys go through in terms of their fluid relationships and growing maturity. An important part of this is their evolving sexuality, a process not without surprises and satisfactions. The book is, in sum, a feast for those hungry for character-driven literary fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2017)
Falling in love was the easy part for Hunter and Vanilla…staying together’s the challenge.“You two have been married / since the seventh grade,” says their in-your-face queer classmate Clown. Hunter and Vanilla progressed slowly from being friends to being a couple, and now, at 17, everyone thinks of the two white boys as inseparable. Clown and another aggressively gay classmate regularly throw sexually charged, all-male parties for The Gang. The boys don’t usually attend though Hunter seems to want to. He’s ready to take their relationship beyond kissing and petting; Vanilla is not. Merrell’s debut novel for young adults explores the rocky relationship of the duo in minute emotional detail from both boys’ perspectives as well as from the outside through Clown’s eyes—which gives readers a more nuanced view of gender-fluid Clown as well. Different typefaces indicate the point-of-view character for each free-verse poem as they remember the early days of their relationship and coming out and as they fumble through first romance and new sexual-identity issues. The verse is at times beautiful, touching, and though-provoking but at other times feels merely like prose broken into short lines. It presents a mature and frank (though not explicit) picture of a relationship struggling to survive. Tighter construction might have added more punch to the poetry, but teens will identify with the quest for identity and ground in that most groundless of times. (Verse fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Billy Merrell is the author of Talking in the Dark, a poetry memoir published when he was twenty-one, and is the co-editor (with David Levithan) of The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities, which received a Lambda Literary Award.

Merrell is also a contributor to the New York Times-bestselling series Spirit Animals, and has published fiction, poetry, and translations in various journals and anthologies. Born in 1982, he grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and received his MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. He now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his husband, author Nico Medina.  His website is talkinginthedark.com

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Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta. October 10, 2017. Candlewick Press, 421 p. ISBN: 9780763691646.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. All theaters have their ghosts, but death is another matter. Death is exactly what Zara Evans encounters when she comes to the Aurelia Theater. New to professional theater, Zara has nevertheless been cast as Echo in the Greek tragedy Echo and Ariston, a role she’s always coveted. The legendary—and difficult—director Leopold Henneman, who claims to have visions, helms the production, and he demands excellence, something that’s easier said than done when members of the cast and crew start dying and people start saying the theater is haunted. As tragedies, both onstage and off, roll through the Aurelia, Zara grows close to Eli Vasquez, the assistant lighting designer. The two girls’ friendship blossoms into romance, and for Zara, it’s a light in a world that grows darker by the day: curse or no curse, there is something wicked in the Aurelia. With timeless, literary prose, Capetta spins a tale that is haunting indeed. Part love story and part mystery, this eerie offering studded with intriguing, secretive characters is beautiful and strange.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2017)
What do you do when all your dreams come true? What happens if those dreams have a nightmarish edge? Capetta explores the consequences of soured dreams in her latest.When 18-year-old Jewish Zara is cast in her dream roll of Echo in a Broadway production of the Greek tragedy Echo and Ariston, she believes all her hopes are falling into place. It seems even so when she falls unexpectedly for 19-year-old Latina lighting designer Eli (short for Eliza). Yet, amid the thrill of the stage and new romance, signs of cracks in the facade begin to appear. Almost as soon as she arrives in New York City to begin rehearsals, mysterious deaths begin to occur, and eventually Zara herself is in danger. Capetta deftly shifts the tone of the third-person-limited narrator in each chapter to highlight the distinct personalities and motives of the main characters. The style tries to balance the novel between a literary romance and a psychological thriller, occasionally faltering. The suspenseful plot can become tangled in metaphor, hampering the action, especially at the climax. Nevertheless, this tale will appeal to older teen audiences and likely some adults who enjoy their thrillers steamy, with more than a dash of romance.A twisted tale of theater, conspiracy, and romance that, like its protagonist, sometimes struggles with a minor identity crisis. (Romantic thriller. 14-adult)

About the Author

Amy Rose Capetta studied theater at the Stella Adler Studio as a teenager before spending four years in a Shakespeare troupe. Echo After Echo is her first book with Candlewick Press.

Amy Rose Capetta lives in Michigan. Her website is amyrosecapetta.com.

 

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Release by Patrick Ness

Release by Patrick Ness. September 19, 2017. HarperTeen, 279 p. ISBN: 9780062403193.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart.  At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Sexual harassment, Homophobic slurs, Homophobia

 

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Author Interviews

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Ness follows seventeen-year-old Adam through one eventful day. A goodbye party is planned for his ex-boyfriend Enzo, but first there’s a revelation from Adam’s pious brother, a threatening encounter with Adam’s lecherous male boss, a much more positive encounter with his current boyfriend Linus, and a confrontation with his evangelical minister father. Meanwhile, in occasional interspersed passages, the ghost of recently murdered classmate Katherine wanders the town. The book is full of references to Mrs. Dalloway and to Virginia Woolf (“Adam would have to get the flowers himself”; Katherine is drowned with weighted pockets), and its author’s note cites its debt to that book and to Judy Blume’s Forever. Release echoes the latter’s frankness about teen sexuality, as well as the gravity Forever gives to teen concerns: only Katherine needs to let go of her earthly life, but Adam needs to let go of things, too, and Ness treats these as equally important. The voice here is more grounded than Mrs. Dalloway’s, and most of the book is closer to realism than Ness’s in-some-ways-similar More Than This (rev. 11/13), but this book’s self-awareness lends its events a dreamlike feel. Though it functions as an accessible, standalone coming-of-age story, awareness of its influences makes for a layered reading experience. shoshana flax

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
An extraordinary, ordinary day in the life of Adam Thorn.Seventeen-year-old, tall, white, blond, evangelical-raised Adam begins his day buying chrysanthemums for his overbearing, guilt-inducing mother. From the get-go, some readers may recognize one of many deliberate, well-placed Virginia Woolf references throughout the narrative. He goes on a long run. He has lunch with his bright, smart-alecky best friend, Angela Darlington, who was born in Korea and adopted by her white parents. In a particularly uncomfortable scene, he is sexually harassed by his boss. He also partakes in a 30-plus–page act of intimacy that leaves little to the imagination with his new boyfriend, Linus, also white. The scene is fairly educational, but it’s also full of laughter, true intimacy, discomfort, mixed feelings, and more that elevate it far beyond pure physicality. Meanwhile, in parallel vignettes, the ghost of a murdered teenage girl armed with more Woolf references eerily haunts the streets and lake where she was killed. Her story permeates the entire narrative and adds a supernatural, creepy context to the otherwise small town. What makes these scenes rise about the mundane is Ness’ ability to drop highly charged emotion bombs in the least expected places and infuse each of them with poignant memories, sharp emotions, and beautifully rendered scenes that are so moving it may cause readers to pause and reflect. Literary, illuminating, and stunningly told. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking TrilogyThe Crash of HenningtonTopics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award.

Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London. His website is www.patrickness.com

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. September 5, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062457790.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Gun violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Imagine a world in which everyone who is about to die receives the shocking news in advance by phone, and you have the premise of the wildly imaginative new novel by Silvera. Eighteen-year-old Mateo receives such a phone call at 12:22 a.m., while 17-year-old Rufus receives his at 1:05. Both boys, who are initially strangers to each other, now have one thing in common: they will be dead in 24 hours or less. Alone and desperately lonely, the two find each other by using an app called Last Friend. At first dubious, they begin a cautious friendship, which they describe in their respective first-person voices in alternating chapters. The ingenious plot of this character-driven novel charts the evolution of their relationship as it deepens into something more than simple friendship. Silvera does a remarkable job of inviting empathy for his irresistible coprotagonists. As the clock continues to tick the minutes away, their story becomes invested with urgency and escalating suspense. Will they really die? Perhaps, but, ultimately, it is not death but life that is the focus of this extraordinary and unforgettable novel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
What would you do with one day left to live?In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived. Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

About the Author

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

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

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Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu. June 13, 2017. Soho Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9781616957902.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she
drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.

As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
What do you do when your life is built on a lie—your marriage, your family relationships, your entire identity? The heroine of Sindu’s fine debut, who goes by the Americanized name of Lucky (her birth name is Lakshmi), is a lesbian married to a gay Indian man, Kris (short for Krishna), and to make matters worse, her economic situation is also precarious: she is an unemployed millennial programmer. The child of immigrants from Sri Lanka, Lucky is caught in a double bind: Does she acquiesce or be true to herself? She wants to please her traditional family, especially her mother and grandmother, who want her to live the conventional life of a “good brown daughter.” Her feelings are further complicated when she learns that her first love, Nisha, is about to get married to someone she doesn’t love. When Lucky’s grandmother is injured in a fall, Lucky returns to her mother’s home to be her grandmother’s caretaker, and to confront her present and future. A timely tale with themes of immigration, free will, identity, and personal choice.

About the Author

SJ Sindu was born in Sri Lanka and raised in Massachusetts. Her hybrid fiction and nonfiction chapbook, I Once Met You But You Were Dead, won the 2016 Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest and was published by Split Lip Press. She was a 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow and holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She teaches Creative Writing at Ringling College of Art and Design. Marriage of a Thousand Lies is her first novel.

Her website is sjsindu.com

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The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller. July 11, 2017. HarperTeen, 372 p. ISBN: 9780062456717.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

Matt hasn’t eaten in days. His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal, but Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs to be as sharp as possible if he’s going to find out just how Tariq and his band of high school bullies drove his sister, Maya, away.

Matt’s hardworking mom keeps the kitchen crammed with food, but Matt can resist the siren call of casseroles and cookies because he has discovered something: the less he eats the more he seems to have . . . powers. The ability to see things he shouldn’t be able to see. The knack of tuning in to thoughts right out of people’s heads. Maybe even the authority to bend time and space.

So what is lunch, really, compared to the secrets of the universe?

Matt decides to infiltrate Tariq’s life, then use his powers to uncover what happened to Maya. All he needs to do is keep the hunger and longing at bay. No problem. But Matt doesn’t realize there are many kinds of hunger…and he isn’t in control of all of them.

A darkly funny, moving story of body image, addiction, friendship, and love, Sam J. Miller’s debut novel will resonate with any reader who’s ever craved the power that comes with self-acceptance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking, Marijuana, Eating disorders, Self-harm, Homophobic slurs, Homophobia, Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 9-12. Miller’s heartfelt debut novel tackles difficult subjects with a bold mix of magical realism, tender empathy, and candor. Matt, 16, lives in a rural upstate New York town with a single mother who slaughters hogs at the local processing plant. Matt is desperate because his beloved older sister, Maya, has left home, supposedly to record an album with her punk band, although he fears she’s met a worse fate at the hands of a group of high-school bullies led by handsome Tariq, an object of desire for both Matt and Maya. Feeling powerless, Matt realizes he can maintain control over one thing: the calories he consumes. As he restricts his food intake, Matt feels his other senses sharpen to the point where he believes he has superpowers, hearing and seeing other people’s thoughts, and influencing others with his own commands. Matt is delusional and anorexic, but he’s also an admirably strong character who is out and proud, brilliant, creative, and determined to survive. It’s not always easy to find novels with troubled gay male protagonists who aren’t doomed, and Miller’s creative portrait of a complex and sympathetic individual will provide a welcome mirror for kindred spirits.

Kirkus Reviews starred (May 1, 2017)
A bullied gay boy harnesses trippy, starvation-induced powers to avenge the disappearance of his beloved sister. Gay, Jewish, white, self-deprecating Matt hates his name but hasn’t changed it because honesty is the best policy. And he is honest, quickly establishing that he has suicidal thoughts and homicidal reveries and his family is at the bottom of the financial food chain. That forthright tongue isn’t fully reflective though, refusing to admit that his body dysmorphia and calorie counting = eating disorder. When he discovers that extreme starvation heightens his senses, the world around him begins to clarify (he can follow scents like a hound and read minds like a clairvoyant as his body slowly degenerates). Convinced that a triptych of king bullies, one of whom is dark and dreamy Middle Eastern Tariq, on whom he hates having a massive crush, is responsible for the disappearance of his older sister, Matt focuses his supernatural gift on them, hoping both to find his sister and to systematically destroy the high school ruling class—even if Tariq might secretly be into him. In first-person journal format, Matt schools readers on the art of starving as he toes the line between expiration and enlightenment, sparing no detail of his twisted, antagonistic relationship with his body. Matt’s sarcastic, biting wit keeps readers rooting for him and hoping for his recovery. In his acknowledgments, Miller reveals the story’s roots in his own teen experiences. A dark and lovely tale of supernatural vengeance and self-destruction. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Sam J. Miller’s debut novel The Art of Starving, rooted in his own adolescent experience with an eating disorder, was called “Funny, haunting, beautiful, relentless and powerful… a classic in the making” by Book Riot. His second novel, Blackfish City, will be published by Ecco Press in 2018. A finalist for multiple Nebula Awards along with the World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, he won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award.

Her website is www.samjmiller.com

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. June 27, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 513 p. ISBN: 9780062382801.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Henry Montague is the son of a lord, and as such, his behavior is entirely inappropriate. A lover of vice and hedonism, Monty prefers to spend his time drinking (acceptable) and trysting, both with girls and boys (decidedly not acceptable). Still, Monty is in high spirits as he prepares for his grand tour of the Continent. At his side is his best friend: polite, gentlemanly Percy is the orphaned product of an English lord and a woman from Barbados. Monty, of course, is hopelessly in love with him and plans to make the most of the tour, until his distinct flair for trouble gets in the way. Several miscommunications, one truly terrible party, and an act of petty thievery later, Monty and Percy find themselves on the run across Europe with Monty’s sister Felicity in tow. Tongue-in-cheek, wildly entertaining, and anachronistic in only the most delightful ways, this is a gleeful romp through history. Monty is a hero worthy of Oscar Wilde (“What’s the use of temptations if we don’t yield to them?”), his sister Felicity is a practical, science-inclined wonder, and his relationship with Percy sings. Modern-minded as this may be, Lee has clearly done invaluable research on society, politics, and the reality of same-sex relationships in the eighteenth century. Add in a handful of pirates and a touch of alchemy for an adventure that’s an undeniable joy.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
Eighteen-year-old Monty, spoiled heir to a wealthy estate in eighteenth-century Britain, embarks on a year-long “Tour” of Europe, after which he will settle unhappily into respectable life. One social offense and an antiquities theft later, Monty and his companions (prickly little sister Felicity and lifelong best friend Percy, with whom Monty is hopelessly in love) are on the run from a power-hungry duke. When Monty discovers that Percy–whose social status as the mixed-race nephew of a wealthy landowner is already precarious–suffers from epilepsy and will be permanently committed to a sanitarium upon their return, Monty is determined to retrieve the alchemical panacea that his stolen artifact supposedly unlocks. Mayhem, adventure, and a swoon-worthy emotional roller-coaster of a romance ensue. Lee’s attention to issues of privilege in this setting, and the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender as embodied by the three travelers (and the compelling secondary characters who populate their travels, including a formerly enslaved crew of so-called pirates who have been denied the papers they need to conduct legal seafaring business) add dimension to the journey. At the center of all this, Monty is pitch-perfect as a yearning, self-destructive, oblivious jerk of a hero who inspires equal parts sympathy, frustration, and adoration from readers–as well as from Percy himself. A genre tribute, satire, and exemplar in one: trope-filled in the most gleeful way. claire e. gross

About the Author

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Simmons College. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the historical fantasy novels This Monstrous Thing and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (HarperCollins), as well as the forthcoming The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (coming in 2018 from HarperCollins) and Semper Augustus (coming in 2019 from Flatiron/Macmillan). She is also the author of Bygone Badass Broads (Abrams, 2018), a collection of short biographies of amazing women from history you probably don’t know about but definitely should, based on her popular twitter series of the same name.

She currently calls Boston home, where she manages an independent bookstore, drinks too much Diet Coke, and pets every dog she meets.

Her website is www.mackenzilee.com

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The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz. July 25, 2017. HarperTeen, 352 p. ISBN: 9780062467775.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

A beautiful and evocative look at identity and creativity, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is a stunning debut in magical realism. Perfect for fans of The Walls Around Us and Bone Gap.

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Karcz’s bold debut straddles the line between magical realism and surrealism as high-school senior Mercedes Moreno comes to terms with her identity as an individual and an artist. When Mercedes’ mother leaves to take care of Mercedes’ terminally ill abuela, a piano mysteriously appears on her front yard, setting off a bizarre chain of events. Passionate fellow artist Lilia moves in next door and introduces Mercedes to the Red Mangrove Estate, an ephemeral building that houses artists and brings the most raw, significant paintings out of Mercedes. Expertly executed irony propels the narrative forward as Mercedes finds meaning and insight in her art at the estate but can’t bring anything outside. Her best friend, Victoria, has been instrumental as Mercedes struggles to accept herself as bisexual, but Mercedes still can’t bring herself to tell Victoria she’s in love with her. Mercedes emerges as a fiercely independent female protagonist who normalizes insecurity and indecision at the end of high school.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Mercedes Moreno rediscovers her muse at a mysterious, invitation-only artists’ sanctuary. Latina high school senior Mercedes is desperate to create a painting worthy of her junior-year award-winner, Food Poisoning #1. But Food Poisoning #2 isn’t coming along, and Mercedes feels blocked artistically and personally. Recently out as bisexual, Mercedes is secretly in love with her white, dancer best friend, Victoria. Mercedes is also stuck watching over her 14-year-old sister, Angela, while their mother is in Puerto Rico taking care of comatose Abuela Dolores. A week after their mom’s departure, a piano shows up on the sisters’ front lawn, and Lilia Solis, a beautiful artist Mercedes thinks might be Latina as well, moves in next door. Lilia invites Mercedes to accompany her to her “studio” in the Red Mangrove Estate, a shuttered old Sarasota beach condo, where Mercedes finds she has boundless energy to paint and meets other artists, musicians, and photographers fulfilling their artistic dreams. The catch? Nothing created at the Estate can be taken out of it; time inside the Estate seems to work differently; and Mercedes begins to crave being there. Unfortunately, the execution hobbles the premise. Mercedes remains mostly unlikable despite the first-person narration, and the dialogue comes across as affected and inauthentic, as in the way Victoria constantly calls Mercedes “dearie” or how often the teens wax philosophical about art. Initially compelling, this tribute to young artists ultimately underdelivers. (Magical realism. 12-17)

About the Author

Lauren Karcz is a fan of new books, old dogs, long sentences, Broadway shows, adverbs, and wandering art museums. She’s a professional language nerd, having worked as an ESL teacher, a language test developer, and now as a writer. Lauren lives with her family in Atlanta.

Her website is www.laurenkarcz.com

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Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert. August 8, 2017. Little, Brown, 336 p. ISBN: 9780316349000.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 820.

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Discussion of abortion, Discrimination based on sexuality, Marijuana, Discussion of a racist joke

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 9-12. Suzette’s back in California for the summer after spending the year at boarding school in New England, and she’s looking forward to being back home, though she’s nervous about reuniting with her stepbrother, Lion. Before she left for school, she broke a promise to Lion and told their parents his bipolar disorder was getting out of control. Now that she’s back, she’s worried she irrevocably altered their relationship, and while she’s trying to rebuild it, Lion starts to spiral again. Meanwhile, Suzette is facing some new truths about herself, too. At boarding school, she was surprised to fall hard for her roommate, Iris, and back home, she’s even more surprised to discover feelings for her old friend Emil, her mother’s best friend’s son. As the plot bounces back and forth in time, Colbert juggles all the moving parts expertly, handily untangling Suzette’s complicated feelings about herself and her relationships and gradually illuminating pithy moments of discovery. One of many notable strengths here is Colbert’s subtle, neatly interwoven exploration of intersectionality: Lion is desperate to be defined by something other than his bipolar disorder, and Suzette learns to navigate key elements of her identity—black, Jewish, bisexual—in a world that seems to want her to be only one thing. This superbly written novel teems with meaningful depth, which is perfectly balanced by romance and the languid freedom of summer.

Kirkus Reviews starred (May 15, 2017)
Sixteen-year-old Suzette was sent to boarding school when her bookish older brother, Lionel, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but now she’s back in Los Angeles for the summer.Despite the strange looks their family attracts—Suzette and her mom are black, while Lionel and his dad are white—Lionel and Suzette were always close before Lionel’s diagnosis. With Suzette back home, Lionel confides in her that he’s going off his medication. Fearing that to divulge his secret will ruin any chance of rebuilding their bond, Suzette keeps quiet even though she feels responsible for her brother’s well-being. Simultaneously, Suzette balances her blooming feelings for Emil Choi, a sunny, biracial (black/Korean) boy with Ménière’s disease, and for Rafaela, a pansexual Latina—whom, disastrously, Lionel is also falling for. To make matters worse, Suzette is still grappling with a homophobic act that exposed her relationship with her white boarding school roommate, Iris. Suzette’s engrossing present-tense narration intertwines with sporadic—but pertinent—flashback chapters. Colbert (Pointe, 2014) sensitively confronts misconceptions about mental illness, bisexuality, and intersectional identity (“people have too many questions when you’re black and Jewish,” thinks Suzette). A vibrantly depicted Los Angeles and a rich, though at-times unwieldy cast of characters create a convincing world. Readers will empathize with Suzette as she explores both her sexuality and the tricky line between honesty and betrayal. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Brandy Colbert was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri. Her debut novel, Pointe, won the 2014 Cyblis Award for young adult fiction and was named a best book of 2014 by Publishers Weekly, BuzzFeed, Book Riot, and more. She was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for spring 2014. Brandy works as a copyeditor and lives in Los Angeles, California.

Her website is brandycolbert.com

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Little & Lion on Amazon

Little & Lion on Goodreads

Little & Lion on JLG

Little & Lion Publisher Page