Tag Archives: LGBTQ

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer. February 12, 2019. Dial Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780525553236.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.9.

From two extraordinary authors comes a moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters.

Avery Bloom, who’s bookish, intense, and afraid of many things, particularly deep water, lives in New York City. Bett Devlin, who’s fearless, outgoing, and loves all animals as well as the ocean, lives in California. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and are both being raised by single, gay dads.

When their dads fall in love, Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same sleepaway camp. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends–and possibly, one day, even sisters.

But things soon go off the rails for the girls (and for their dads too), and they find themselves on a summer adventure that neither of them could have predicted. Now that they can’t imagine life without each other, will the two girls (who sometimes call themselves Night Owl and Dogfish) figure out a way to be a family?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 5-8. Two popular writers team up for a Where’d You Go, Bernadette–esque tale for the middle-school set. An entire country lies between anxious New Yorker Avery Bloom and adventurous Bett Devlin, but there’s something powerful connecting them: their dads are in love. At first horrified at the prospect of becoming—gulp—sisters, the two surprise themselves by bonding at a summer sleepaway camp while their dads motorcycle their way across China. But when their dads’ relationship sours, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get them back together. Even if the target readership eschews email these days, they’ll be hard-pressed not to be laughing out loud at the witty, clever email and letter repartee among the girls, their dads, and the rest of the supporting cast. Though the story lacks the emotional depth of more true-to-life novels dealing with blended families, such as Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick’s Naomis Too (2018), its escalating stakes and Parent Trap–like setup is sure to appeal to both authors’ fan bases. Alternately heartwarming and hilarious.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2018)
The Parent Trap gets a modern makeover in this entertaining and endearing middle-grade novel about two 12-year-old girls, one camp, and a summer that will bond them for a lifetime. Avery, an aspiring writer from New York, and Bett, a California surfer girl, are the lights of their respective single father’s lives—and each is very much used to it. So the news that their gay dads fell in love at a conference and have been secretly dating for three months does not sit well with either of them. Worse still, the girls are bundled off to a nerd camp where they are expected to bond like family while their dads head off on an eight-week motorcycle adventure in China. Sloan and Wolizter make strategic use of their tale’s epistolary (or rather email) format to create two disparate yet familiar-feeling three-dimensional characters who are from very different worlds. That they will eventually become sisters feels inevitable, but that does not diminish the enjoyment of watching Avery and Bett bond over animals at camp, gradually growing toward each other and then with each other. Their increasing closeness is tracked in the evolution of their correspondence, which becomes littered with nicknames and discussions of everything from periods and pet phobias to boys. Bett is African-American and was carried by a Brazilian surrogate, and Avery has both white and Jewish heritages. A sweet and amusing tale that celebrates diversity while reinforcing the power of love and the importance of family. (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Authors

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in California, the Netherlands, Istanbul, Washington, DC, and Oregon (where she graduated from high school). She wrote the screenplay for Angels in the Outfield and directed The Big Green, as well as a number of other successful family feature films.

The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband (the writer/illustrator Gary Rosen) in Santa Monica, California.

Her website is hollygoldbergsloan.com/

Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.

Her website is megwolitzer.com/

Teacher Resources

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Common Sense Media

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Bloom by Kevin Panetta

Bloom by Kevin Panetta. January 29, 2019. First Second, 368 p. ISBN: 9781250196910.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band―if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Writer Kevin Panetta and artist Savanna Ganucheau concoct a delicious recipe of intricately illustrated baking scenes and blushing young love, in which the choices we make can have terrible consequences, but the people who love us can help us grow.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Ari is sick of working at his dad’s bakery, and he can’t wait to get out of his dead-end beach town and move to the city with his band. He knows his dad will need help, though, so he tries to at least find a replacement before he leaves forever. Enter Hector, the adorable cooking-school dropout who’s in town cleaning out his late grandma’s house and is absolutely perfect for the job. Over baking, deliveries, and languorous summer fun, Hector and Ari get closer, and Ganucheau’s perfectly languid artwork, rendered in arcing brushstrokes and a minimal palette, beautifully showcases the quiet, everyday moments that draw them together. Her montages of baking are particularly lovely—the panel edges in these scenes transform into soft, organic shapes accented with sentimental flourishes—and it’s clear that she’s paid careful attention to the motions and techniques of making bread and cakes. When disaster strikes and the future of the bakery is called into question, Ari has to face some hard truths about himself. A quiet, earnest romance with warmth and depth.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
Summer love rises between two boys in a bakery. High school may have ended, but Ari is stuck with sourdough starter at his family’s bakery instead of summer gigs in the city with his band. As his family’s money grows tighter, Ari feels tethered in place. His friends start to drift toward their own futures. But the future of their band—and their friendship—drifts toward uncertainty. Under the guise of recruiting another baker to take his place, Ari hires Hector. A culinary student in Birmingham, Hector has temporarily returned home to find closure after his Nana’s passing. The two grow close in more than just the kitchen. Ari, who hates baking, even starts to enjoy himself. But will it all last? Panetta and Ganucheau’s graphic novel debut is as much a love story between people as it is with the act of baking. Ganucheau’s art, in black ink with varying shades of blue, mixes traditional paneling with beautiful double-page spreads of detailed baking scenes, where the panels sometimes take on the shape of braided loaves. The romance between Ari and Hector builds slowly, focusing on cute interactions long before progressing to anything physical. Ari and his family are Greek. Family recipes referenced in the text code Hector as Samoan. Delicious. A tender blend of sugary, buttery, and other complex flavors that’s baked with a tremendous dash of heart. (recipe, production art) (Graphic novel. 13-adult)

About the Authors

Kevin Panetta is a comic book writer. He has worked on books for properties like Steven Universe, Regular Show, Bravest Warriors, and WWE. Kevin came to writing after years dedicated to comics as a reader, retailer, and convention organizer. He lives in Washington, DC, with his cool wife and two cool dogs.

His website is kevinpanetta.com/

Savanna Ganucheau is a comic artist living in Australia, with a BFA in film from the University of New Orleans. In addition to creating the popular webcomic George and Johnny, Savanna’s artwork has appeared in notable publications including Jem and the Holograms, Adventure Time Comics, and Lumberjanes.

Her website is srganuch.carbonmade.com

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Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig

Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig. January 29, 2019. Fiewel & Friends, 448 p. ISBN: 9781250155825.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.

But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them―for good?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Underage smoking, Homophobia, Drug abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 10-12. Margo Manning: socialite, heiress . . . art thief? By day, she avoids the paparazzi, who have dubbed her Mad Margo. At night, she dons a platinum wig and commits heists with a group of drag queens. Margo, a consummate planner, eliminates any variables that may get them caught. Still, it’s a dangerous game they’re playing, and while Margo may not need the money, her friends do: Leif strains to pay the pricey tuition at his dance academy so he doesn’t have to return home to his deeply religious parents; mechanic Davon, essentially orphaned, makes ends meet by working at a drag club with his found family; and Margo’s best friend, Axel, and his younger brother, Joaquin, struggle to support their sick mother after their father is arrested for embezzlement. When the heist of a lifetime comes their way, the crew find themselves with difficult choices to make. At the same time, Margo is surrounded by upheaval in her father’s company, and she’ll need all her wiliness to navigate her way out. Roehrig (Last Seen Leaving​, 2016) takes a sharp dive out of thriller territory with this high-stakes adventure. Balancing Oceans 11–level heists, corporate espionage, and gender and sexual identity politics isn’t easy, but Roehrig manages it with aplomb, skillfully threading in Hamlet references to boot. Clever, thrilling, and a wildly good time.

Publishers Weekly Annex (February 25, 2019)
In this action-packed thriller, heiress and party girl “Mad Margo” Manning seems to have it all-clothes, parties, fast cars, and loyal friends. What she doesn’t have is the attention of her father, Harland, who spends time between running his businesses and dealing with a mysterious ailment. Margo attempts to rectify this by organizing heists to steal goods for hire with a team of her best friends, all in drag (code names include Liesl Von Tramp and Dior Galore). She knows how irate Harland would be if she ever got caught. When Harland suddenly dies from mysterious ailments, Margo takes it upon herself to figure out what happened. Using her skills as an art and jewel thief, as well as the expensive, state-of-the-art equipment that only an heiress can afford, Margo and her crew follow the evidence to catch a killer. With a knack for infusing tongue-in-cheek humor into darker subject matters, Roehrig (White Rabbit) effectively creates a likable thief whose actions seem justifiable. Margo’s crew is equally likable, each contending with their own issues, making them relatable despite their less-than-legal hobby. With a nod to Hamlet, Roehrig’s five-act structure keeps the dramatic tension high with cinematic break-in sequences that render this tale ripe for adaptation. Ages 13-up.

About the Author

Caleb Roehrig is a writer and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, Finland, he has a chronic case of wanderlust, and can recommend the best sights to see on a shoestring budget in over thirty countries. A former actor, Roehrig has experience on both sides of the camera, with a résumé that includes appearances on film and TV—as well as seven years in the stranger-than-fiction salt mines of reality television. In the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich.

His website is calebroehrig.com

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We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. February 26, 2019. Katherine Tegen Books, 384 p. ISBN: 9780062691316.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In this daring and romantic fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Latinx authors Zoraida Córdova and Anna-Marie McLemore, society wife-in-training Dani has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her biggest rival.

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.

Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

Part of Series: We Set the Dark on Fire (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. In Medio, a myth tells of the Sun God, who took two wives, one wise and loyal, the other sensual and nurturing. Now, selected young women train to become the dual wives of the nation’s politicians: the Primera to be his partner in work and business, and the Segunda to run his home and family. Daniela’s poor parents lied to get her into the school, hoping to secure her a better future, and indeed, Dani has become the top Primera student, keeping her emotions in check and her forged papers a secret. Mateo, her new husband, seems strangely cold and cruel, and it doesn’t help that the family has chosen Dani’s longtime rival, Carmen, as their Segunda. But the worst comes when Dani is contacted by a resistance group and asked to spy on Mateo and politicos like him. As she learns more about Mateo’s narrow-mindedness and oppressive politics—​and as she and Carmen grow startlingly closer—Dani’s sympathy for the resistance grows, but is there even a life for her beyond this one? Like the revolution, Mejia’s world is carefully built. With its achingly slow-burn romance and incisive examination of power structures, this is a masterfully constructed novel, made all the more impressive as it’s a debut. This timely examination of how women move through the world is potent and precise, and readers will be eager for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2018)
Power, truth, and lies intertwine dangerously in Mejia’s debut novel about oppression and resistance with a cunning Latinx teenage heroine. Medio, an island nation divided by a wall, is literally in between extremes: “On one side there was the might of a nation. On the other, desperation.” Clear parallels to Mexico in imagery and themes abound. Born on the wrong side of the wall without legal papers, 17-year-old brown-skinned Daniela “Dani” Vargas graduates after 5 years of diligent training at an elite finishing school to join the powerful Garcia family as their son’s Primera. In this well-constructed world, an ancient mythology forms the basis for a practice in which husbands have two wives each: Primeras are quick-witted and emotionally restrained while Segundas are brave and passionate. When Dani’s Primera training falters in the face of her ruthless, power-hungry husband, her past overwhelms her present, and she is recruited to spy for the resistance. Excerpts from the Medio School for Girls rulebook precede each chapter, a juxtaposition that effectively reveals Dani’s conflicted self-awakening. An action-packed third-person narrative, smart dialogue, and lush descriptions offer readers a fresh and steely heroine in a contemporary coming-of-age story. This well-crafted fantasy offers a mirror that reflects themes in our own difficult world, namely privilege, immigration, and individualism versus the common good. A queer subplot with sensual tenderness adds rich complexity to the story. Thrilling and timely. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Tehlor Kay Mejia is a YA author and poet at home in the wild woods and alpine meadows of Southern Oregon. When she’s not writing, you can find her plucking at her guitar, stealing rosemary sprigs from overgrown gardens, or trying to make the perfect vegan tamale. She is active in the Latinx lit community, and passionate about representation for marginalized teens in media.

Her website is www.tehlorkaymejia.com

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The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan. January 29, 2019. Scholastic Press, 336 p. ISBN: 9781338227017.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali has always been fascinated by the universe around her and the laws of physics that keep everything in order. But her life at home isn’t so absolute.

Unable to come out to her conservative Muslim parents, she keeps that part of her identity hidden. And that means keeping her girlfriend, Ariana, a secret from them too. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life at home and a fresh start at Caltech in the fall. But when Rukhsana’s mom catches her and Ariana together, her future begins to collapse around her.

Devastated and confused, Rukhsana’s parents whisk her off to stay with their extended family in Bangladesh where, along with the loving arms of her grandmother and cousins, she is met with a world of arranged marriages, religious tradition, and intolerance. Fortunately, Rukhsana finds allies along the way and, through reading her grandmother’s old diary, finds the courage to take control of her future and fight for her love.

A gritty novel that doesn’t shy away from the darkest corners of ourselves, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali provides a timely and achingly honest portrait of what it’s like to grow up feeling unwelcome in your own culture and proves that love, above all else, has the power to change the world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Sexual assault, Islamophobia, Homophobia, Homophobic violence, Domestic abuse, Conversion therapy

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Rukhsana Ali chafes against her conservative Muslim parents and their hopes for her future. The 17-year-old has her own plans, like going to Caltech for engineering and openly being with her girlfriend, Ariana. But when her parents ultimately find out about Ariana, they’re quick to send Rukhsana to Bangladesh to be married. Can she balance fighting for the life she wants for herself without devastating her family? Khan’s moving novel brings humanity and nuance to the topics of arranged marriage and familial obligations, and her characters are beautifully fleshed out. Rukhsana’s genuine love and respect for her family and culture amplify the stakes of her choice to determine her own path, and Khan’s account of Bangladeshi traditions, food, and various aunties to dodge rings true. While some characters might initially seem very black-and-white, as Khan gradually peels away the layers of their backstories, they become more fully formed. This moving novel offers readers a deep look into Bengali traditions and dreams for a more inclusive future, with a resilient girl at the heart of it all.

Publishers Weekly (October 15, 2018)
Like many American teenagers straddling two cultures-that of their foreign-born parents and that outside their home-Seattle high school senior Rukhsana has hopes that diverge from her family’s. Though her conservative Bengali-Muslim parents expect her to attend the nearby University of Washington and to marry a young man, she has secretly applied to Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., and is a closeted-to-them lesbian. Her parents eventually give in on Caltech, but when they discover her kissing her girlfriend, Ariana, they furiously spirit Rukhsana away to Bangladesh under false pretenses. Khan skillfully depicts Rukhsana’s mix of emotions toward her family-frustration and anger, love and loyalty-as well as resentment at the differing expectations her parents hold for her and for her carefree younger brother, Aamir. Relationships ring true, including the siblings’ teasingly affectionate relationship and Rukhsana and Ariana’s struggles navigating their romance under difficult circumstances. The complicated plot and the large cast of characters, both in Seattle and in Bangladesh, occasionally overwhelm, but Rukhsana’s voice offers a steady blend of compassion and humor as she schemes-with several likable allies-to follow her dreams, perhaps at the cost of losing her family. Ages 14-up.

About the Author

Sabina Khan is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and three daughters, one of whom is a fur baby. She writes about Muslim teens who are straddling cultures.

Her website is sabina-khan.com

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The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali on Amazon

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The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali Publisher Page

Pulp by Robin Talley

Pulp by Robin Talley. November 13, 2018. Harlequin Teen, 416 p. ISBN: 9781335012906.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.

In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Homophobic slur, Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Cigarettes, Homophobia

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Not many YA novels contain one lesbian romance, let alone four, but Talley’s newest pulls it off, while creatively spanning time and genre. In the present day, Abby Zimet is out and proud, despite chaffing against the “just friends” label newly instituted by her ex. Breakup stress is compounded by her parents’ crumbling marriage, and Abby finds escape in an unlikely place: vintage lesbian pulp fiction. So much so that researching the genre and writing her own pulp novel becomes her senior project. The book that starts her obsession is Women of the Twilight Realm, by Marian Love, passages of which intercut Abby’s narrative, along with 18-year-old Janet Jones’ story line, set in 1955. Janet’s own discovery of lesbian lit holds many parallels to Abby’s, but her closeted life offers a dramatic contrast. Talley pulls pre-Stonewall history, such as the lavender scare, the gay bar scene, and actual lesbian pulp authors, into this fun but substantive read. As Abby loses herself to her project, she eventually finds firmer footing in her own life and identity.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2018)
Two Washington, D.C., lesbian teens, 62 years apart, each discover classic lesbian pulp fiction—late midcentury paperbacks depicting a shadowy world of forbidden love. For 18-year-old Janet Jones in 1955, A Love So Strange is a revelation: She had no idea “other girls might feel the way she did.” Janet and her friend Marie, who are both assumed white, tentatively explore their growing attraction but face warnings from an African-American lesbian couple that Marie’s government job and reputation are in danger. For high school senior Abby Zimet in 2017, the world is different. She has been out to her accepting white Jewish family since ninth grade. Nursing a broken heart from the breakup with her bisexual classmate Linh, a Vietnamese-American girl, Abby turns to reading pulp novels and researching gay and lesbian life in midcentury D.C. Talley (Our Own Private Universe, 2017, etc.) adds complexity by tying Janet’s and Abby’s storylines together: Both girls write their own pulp novels, creating two additional plotlines. The books within a book are cleverly written to mimic pulp styles, and the superlative pacing will hook readers. The acknowledgments describe the author’s meticulous research and the actual historical events (e.g. the persecution of queer government employees during the Lavender Scare of the 1950s) and literature upon which the book is based. Readers familiar with D.C. may find the liberties taken with geography distracting. Suspenseful parallel lesbian love stories deftly illuminate important events in LGBTQ history. (bibliography) (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife, their baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby’s sleeping, she’s probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine’s character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

Her website is www.robintalley.com

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Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

GIrls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. November 6, 2018. Jimmy Patterson Books, 400 p. ISBN: 9780316561365.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Homophobic slur, Sexual assault, Strong sexual themes, Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 10-12. In Ikhara, there are three castes: the chimera-like, demonic Moon; the part-human, part-demon Steel; and the fully human Paper. Paper Lei’s otherworldly golden eyes draw unwanted attention, and when she is picked to become a Paper Girl—a member of the Demon King’s human harem—she cannot say no. Lei trains with other Paper Girls, learning exactly how few freedoms she is allowed, and dreading the day the king summons her. As she navigates this new world of social graces and subterfuge, she grows close to Wren, a Paper Girl with a mysterious past. Loving a fellow Paper Girl is dangerous enough, but Wren is involved with deadlier plots, and Lei learns just how far she’s willing to follow her heart. This glittering commercial romance has real stakes, and the lavish, intriguingly conceptualized world will capture readers. This is a story about violence against women and difficult choices, and it’s rarely easy to read. Love stories between women are still disappointingly few in fantasy, and romance and action fans alike will find much to savor here.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
Thrust into the beauty and horror of the Hidden Palace, will this Paper Girl survive? Ngan (The Memory Keepers, 2014, etc.) offers an amalgamation of Asian cultures set in a fantasy world reminiscent of imperial China. Individuals are separated into three castes: Moon, the ruling class that is wholly demon; Steel, who are human-demon hybrids; and Paper, the oppressed population that is entirely human. Seventeen-year-old Lei is dragged from her small village to become a Paper Girl, or concubine. Besides her long, raven hair, her only striking features are her unusual gold eyes. She reluctantly submits in the slim hope of finding her mother, who was abducted. While in the Palace, Lei lives as best she can, developing friendships and finding forbidden love in the arms of Wren, another Paper Girl, who possesses a feline elegance and is hiding secrets of her own. Lei’s natural clumsiness and the requirements of learning court manners keep her out of the King’s bed for a while, but sexual violence and the threat of it, though not graphically depicted, are prevalent throughout the story. Lei can be painfully naïve at times and, unfortunately, does not have fire superpowers as the title might suggest. The setup and worldbuilding are strong, but many supporting characters are unfortunately more interesting than Lei. Setting up a strong foundation for a hoped-for sequel, this is ideal for those seeking diverse LGBTQ fantasy stories. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Natasha Ngan is a writer and yoga teacher. She grew up between Malaysia, where the Chinese side of her family is from, and the UK. This multicultural upbringing continues to influence her writing, and she is passionate about bringing diverse stories to teens. Natasha studied Geography at the University of Cambridge before working as a social media consultant and fashion blogger.

She recently moved to Paris, where she likes to imagine she drifts stylishly from brasserie to brasserie, notepad in one hand, wineglass in the other. In reality, she spends most of her time getting lost on the metro and confusing locals with her French.

Her website is natashangan.com

Around the Web

Girls of Paper and Fire on Amazon

Girls of Paper and Fire on Barnes and Noble

Girls of Paper and Fire on Goodreads

Girls of Paper and Fire on LibraryThing

Girls of Paper and Fire Publisher Page

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

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

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

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

But what if it is?

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

 

Related Videos

Video Review

Reviews

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

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

About the Authors

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

Her website is www.beckyalbertalli.com.

 

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.

Teacher Resources

What If It’s Us on Common Sense Media

What If It’s Us Reading Guide

Around the Web

What If It’s Us on Amazon

What If It’s Us on Barnes & Noble

What If It’s Us on Goodreads

What If It’s Us Publisher Page

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee. October 2, 2018. Katherine Tegen Books, 450 p. ISBN: 9780062795328.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In this highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Felicity Montague must use all her womanly wits and wiles to achieve her dreams of becoming a doctor—even if she has to scheme her way across Europe to do it. A must-have for fans of Mackenzi Lee’s extraordinary and Stonewall Honor-winning novel.

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolizes is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

Sequel to: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Part of Series: Montague Siblings (Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Mild sexual themes, Racism

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Though her elder brother Monty may be content, cuddled up in the dregs of London with the boy of his dreams (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, 2017), Felicity Montague has grander ambitions. Unfortunately, it’s the eighteenth century, and ambition in a woman isn’t well received. Felicity, who is determined to become a physician, has been met with resounding rejection from the hospitals of Edinburgh, though she has received a proposal that she won’t be accepting. Then she learns her medical idol may need an assistant, and he’s more forward-thinking than most—but he’s about to marry Johanna Hoffman, Felicity’s childhood best friend turned nemesis. Still, Felicity never said no to a challenge before, and so begins an adventure featuring field surgery, pirates, sea dragons, and one truly massive dog. Felicity, comfortable discussing medical science and not much else, and who ultimately realizes that she’s not interested in romantic or sexual relationships of any kind, is a singular heroine; Lee navigates her narration with even more aplomb than she did Monty’s. Felicity’s reconnection with Johanna and her gradual awareness of her own dismissiveness toward traditionally feminine interests adds wonderful depth, and Sim, the Muslim pirate inspired by pirate queens through history, offers a different image of strength and a window into a wider world. Lee’s research is thorough and organically incorporated, and this action-driven adventure is a joy.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2018)
Felicity Montague fights to take up space in a world that demands she remain invisible. Barred from study at hospitals and universities because of her sex, Felicity chases her dreams of medical study from London all the way to Stuttgart, where her idol, Alexander Platt, an expert in preventative medicine, plans to marry before embarking on an expedition. Without any money of her own since she ran away from home, white English girl Felicity must rely on Sim, an Algerian Muslim woman with connections to piracy and secret motives. To make matters worse, Platt’s fiancee, Johanna Hoffman, also white, used to be Felicity’s best friend until falling out over their changing interests. As in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (2017), Stonewall Honor recipient Lee (Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World, 2018, etc.) develops a world rich in historical detail, crafts a plot wild with unexpected turns, and explores complex topics like colonization and identity. Felicity’s brother, Monty, and his boyfriend, Percy, play smaller roles in this volume; the story focuses on the relationships between Felicity, Sim, and Johanna as the three women fight their own battles for respect and recognition within societal systems built to suppress them. Traveling alongside Sim and Johanna challenges Felicity to acknowledge the flaws of her not-like-other-girls self-image and realize that strength comes in more than one form. An empowering and energetic adventure that celebrates friendship between women. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

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

Teacher Resources

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy on Amazon

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy on Barnes and Noble

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy on Goodreads

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy Publisher Page

Dodger Boy by Sarah Ellis

Dodger Boy by Sarah Ellis. September 1, 2018. Groundwood Books, 176 p. ISBN: 9781773060729.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile:.

In 1970 Vancouver, thirteen-year-old Charlotte and her best friend, Dawn, are keen to avoid the pitfalls of adolescence. Couldn’t they just skip teenhood altogether, along with its annoying behaviors – showing off just because you have a boyfriend, obsessing about marriage and a ring and matching dining-room furniture? Couldn’t one just learn about life from Jane Austen and spend the days eating breakfast at noon, watching “People in Conflict,” and thrift-store shopping for cool castoffs to tie-dye for the upcoming outdoor hippie music festival?

But life becomes more complicated when the girls meet a Texan draft dodger who comes to live with Charlotte’s Quaker family. Tom Ed expands Charlotte’s horizons as they discuss everything from war to civil disobedience to women’s liberation. Grappling with exhilarating and disturbing new ideas, faced with a censorship challenge to her beloved English teacher and trying to decode the charismatic draft dodger himself, Charlotte finds it harder and harder to stick to her unteen philosophy, and to see eye to eye with Dawn.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to marijuana, Harsh realities of war, Homophobic slur, Mild language, Cruelty to animals reference

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 5-8. As far as 13-year-old Charlotte is concerned, one of the best things about her longtime friendship with Dawn is their Unteen Pact, an agreement to skip the “bizarre behavior of boy-crazy girls acting fake-stupid.” But when 19-year-old Tom Ed, a draft dodger from Texas, comes to stay for a while with Charlotte’s Quaker family in Vancouver, B.C., Dawn develops a crush on him. And after he abruptly leaves the city, she rashly follows him without telling anyone. In a subplot, Charlotte gathers her courage to challenge a book-banning attempt at school without Dawn’s support. Meanwhile, she struggles with the knowledge that someone close to her is gay. Well-drawn individual characters and their relationships are at the heart of the story. Writing in third person from Charlotte’s point of view, Ellis realistically depicts the stresses on the girls’ increasingly ragged friendship, from disappointments, petty annoyances, and painful barbs to larger issues of trust and loyalty. An appended note fills in basic information about draft-eligible immigrants from the U.S. to Canada during the Vietnam War. An involving Canadian novel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
Draft dodging and literary censorship come to a head in this Canadian bildungsroman set in the 1970s. While the Vietnam War rages, 13-year-old Charlotte and her best friend, Dawn, are doing their best to grow up without becoming awful teenagers in the process. While attending a supremely muddy be-in in full hippie regalia, the two befriend clean-cut Tom Ed, a well-mannered Texan draft dodger in need of a place to crash. Charlotte’s Quaker family takes him in, and Charlotte finds a true friend in the American guest. Meanwhile, the girls’ favorite English teacher is facing a censorship battle over Catcher in the Rye, and Charlotte feels a calling to help. Scintillating prose, rich dialogue, and charming characterizations mark a novel that straddles the boundary between middle-grade and YA. Charlotte, despite her determination to be an Unteen, has an age-appropriate fascination with menstruation and the concept of sex, and Tom Ed occasionally forgets his boundaries to drop the occasional swearword (“faggot,” “asshole”), adding to the book’s liminal feel. Charlotte, part of an all-white cast of characters, is a curious, confused, and delightful companion, wrestling with questions about her best friend’s flakiness and her brother’s emerging same-sex attraction. Ellis extends her insightful characterizations to the secondary cast, such as a censor’s daughter who is “snobby and scary, like she was just getting ready to be mean.” A whip-smart historical that highlights that transitionary period to which few would ever desire to return. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Writer, columnist, and librarian Sarah Ellis has become one of the best-known authors for young adults in her native Canada with titles such as The Baby Project, Pick-Up Sticks, and Back of Beyond: Stories of the Supernatural. In addition to young adult novels, Ellis has also written for younger children and has authored several books about the craft of writing.

Ellis was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1952, the youngest of three children in her family. As she once noted, “[My] joy in embroidering the truth probably comes from my own childhood. My father was a rich mine of anecdotes and jokes. He knew more variations on the ‘once there were three men in a rowboat’ joke than anyone I’ve encountered since.

Her website is sarahellis.ca

Around the Web

Dodger Boy on Amazon

Dodger Boy on Barnes and Noble

Dodger Boy on Goodreads

Dodger Boy Publisher Page