Tag Archives: LGBTQ

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

 

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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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Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. May 9, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 492 p. ISBN: 9780062418357.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Criminal culture, Homophobia, Racism

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Julie Murphy (Dumplin’, 2015) knows a thing or two about navigating the worlds of girls on the brink of self-discovery. In Ramona Blue, that girl is Ramona Leroux, over six feet tall and sporting blue hair. She’s also one of only two out lesbians in her little town of Eulogy, Mississippi, where she lives with her father and sister in the FEMA trailer they never left after Hurricane Katrina. Her sister, Hattie, recently pregnant, jokes that Ramona can do whatever she wants with her future, but Ramona has no such illusions. “My sport—” she thinks, “the special skill I’ve developed my whole life—is surviving.” Because of this pragmatism, Ramona has never doubted herself. It’s not easy being gay in Eulogy, but it’s a label she owns proudly, until her childhood friend Freddie moves back to town. Freddie’s a straight guy, African American, and well off, but a love of swimming connects the two. Freddie talks Ramona into spending time at the pool, and as she falls more in love with the sport, she realizes she’s falling in love with him, too, questioning everything she knows about herself—everything she’s fought to make her town and family accept. Murphy mines Ramona’s inner workings with particular skill. Ramona’s often-fraught relationships with her family are carefully, lovingly crafted, and her connection with Hattie is an especially important one. Her growing feelings for Freddie come slowly and organically, never feeling contrived. For many teens, Ramona will be a worthy companion as they undergo their own emotional journeys.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
In Murphy’s (Dumplin’, 2015, etc.) third novel, a teenage girl navigates the complexities of romance and identity.Ramona “Blue” Leroux—6 foot 3, white, blue-haired, and gay—has always known who she is and where she is (or isn’t) going. Living in a trailer in post-Katrina Eulogy, Mississippi, Ramona does her best to save and provide for her dad, older sister, Hattie, and soon-to-be niece. One of only three queer kids in town, she’s always been sure she’s attracted to women, and Ramona feels lucky that her coming-out experience was nothing more than “a blip.” But this year, everything is changing. She’s losing her sister to the coming baby and to Hattie’s irresponsible, irritating baby-daddy, who has squeezed into their trailer. Her summer fling with closeted, white out-of-towner Grace may not withstand distance. And then Ramona’s black childhood best friend, Freddie, unexpectedly moves back to Eulogy, and, as they reconnect through their shared history and a passion for swimming, she is surprised to find her desires and feelings for Freddie growing deeper. Ramona’s first-person narration is tender and compelling, and the love she feels for the diverse cast of secondary characters is palpable. Murphy beautifully incorporates conversations about identity and diversity—including the policing of Freddie’s black body, heteronormative expectations, and diverse sexualities (Ramona’s white friend Ruth identifies herself explicitly as homoromantic demisexual)—with nuance and care. An exquisite, thoughtful exploration of the ties that bind and the fluidity of relationships, sexuality, and life. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library.

Her website is www.juliemurphywrites.com

 

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. April 11, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 336 p. ISBN: 9780062348708.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 490.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

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Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Seventeen-year-old Molly has had 26, count ’em, 26 crushes and not one boyfriend. But wait, here comes number 27: sweet, adorable Reid. Could a relationship finally be in the offing? But what about flirtatious, hipster-cool Will? Doesn’t he count? Love sure is complicated, and for Molly, this annoying fact of life is exacerbated by her anxiety, hypersensitivity, doubts, and even self-hatred. At least partially responsible for all this Sturm und Drang is the fact that Molly is, as her grandmother indelicately puts it, zaftig. As Molly herself exasperatedly thinks, “chubby girls don’t get boyfriends.” But why shouldn’t she have the same kind of loving relationship with a boy that her twin sister, Cassie, has with a girl? In her second, relationship-rich novel, Albertalli has done an excellent job of creating in Molly a sympathetic, if occasionally exasperating, character. And her take on the agonies and ecstasies of adolescent love are spot-on, as she demonstrates, once again, that the heart, indeed, has its reasons the mind cannot know.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Seventeen-year-old twins Molly and Cassie are inseparable despite being wildly different: Cassie’s breezy self-confidence and high energy seem to make dating easy, while quirky introvert Molly experiences intense crushes on boys but, certain that she will be rejected, never acts on them. When Cassie starts dating the sharp-witted, “fucking adorable” girl of her dreams, their relationship is serious enough that Molly worries she is losing her sister and starts to withdraw resentfully into herself, not wanting to “vag-block” her sister. Naturally, enter a crush: Molly’s new coworker Reid, who’s funny, sweet, and unapologetically uncool. Molly’s emotional arc bends toward finding the confidence and courage to be “uncareful” and open herself to love without knowing what will follow. Her narrative voice is astute and frequently humorous, as when she describes her feelings about Reid as “the halfway point between vomiting and becoming a sentient heart-eye emoji.” The girls’ mothers’ upcoming wedding—joyfully set in motion after the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage early in the novel—provides the perfect set piece for the escalation and resolution of many intersecting plot points and the themes of family, intimacy, individuality, and change. It also allows for the matter-of-fact introduction of a multiracial family (Molly, Cassie, and one of their mothers are white, while their other mother, younger brother, and beloved cousin are not). A perceptive dramedy that tackles substantial themes with warmth and subtlety.

About the Author

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.

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The Upside of Unrequited on Amazon

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Ashes to Ashville by Sarah Dooley

Ashes to Ashville by Sarah Dooley. April 4, 2017. G.P. Putnam & Sons, 243 p. ISBN: 9780399165047.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 800.

Two sisters take off on a wild road trip in this poignant tale for fans of Counting by 7s and Fish in a Tree

After Mama Lacy’s death, Fella was forced to move in with her grandmother, Mrs. Madison. The move brought Fella all sorts of comforts she wasn’t used to at home, but it also meant saying goodbye to her sister Zoey (a.k.a. Zany) and her other mother, Mama Shannon. Though Mama Shannon fought hard to keep Fella, it was no use. The marriage act is still a few years away and the courts thought Fella would be better off with a blood relation. Already heartbroken, Fella soon finds herself alone in Mrs. Madison’s house, grieving both the death of her mother and the loss of her entire family.

Then one night, Zany shows up at Mrs. Madison’s house determined to fulfill Mama Lacy’s dying wish: to have her ashes spread over the lawn of the last place they were all happy as a family. Of course, this means stealing Mama Lacy’s ashes and driving hundreds of miles in the middle of night to Asheville, North Carolina. Their adventure takes one disastrous turn after another, but their impulsive journey helps them rediscover the bonds that truly make them sisters.

A heartrending story of family torn apart and put back together again, Ashes to Asheville is an important, timely tale.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Smoking; Car theft

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Five years have elapsed since 12-year-old Fella and her teenage sister, Zany, left Asheville, and now they’re headed back, sneaking out late at night with Mama Lacy’s ashes and racing to get there in time for what would have been her fortieth birthday. They left Asheville for West Virginia to be near family as Mama Lacy battled pancreatic cancer, but after Lacy’s death, Fella’s biological grandmother fought for her in court and won, separating her from Zany and Mama Shannon. Now the two girls are essentially on the lam. A chance meet-up with a stranger who steals Lacy’s ashes turns into an unexpected friendship with Adam, whose own father is on his deathbed—dying of cancer, too. There’s so much unspoken between the two sisters, but particularly painful for Zany is the financial ease that Fella lives in with Mrs. Madison, while she and Mama Shannon struggle to get by. Dooley’s portrait of two sisters still struggling with grief and huge life changes makes for a powerful, absorbing read. As their road trip turns treacherous, readers will anxiously turn the pages, hoping for a happy ending. The court battle for Fella’s custody shows the extent to which state battles over same-sex marriage create fissures in families and have an enduring and tragic impact on the lives of young people. A tender, touching, and timely read.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light. Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Sarah Dooley is the critically acclaimed author of Free Verse. She has lived in an assortment of small West Virginia towns, each of which she grew to love. Winner of the 2012 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, she has written two additional novels for middle-grade readers, Body of Water and Livvie Owen Lived Here. Sarah is a former special education teacher who now provides treatment to children with autism. She lives in Huntington, West Virginia, where she inadvertently collects cats. She’s a 2006 graduate of Marshall University.

Her website is www.dooleynotedbooks.com.

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Ashes to Asheville on Amazon

Ashes to Asheville on Goodreads

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10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac

10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac. February 28, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780399556258.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 560.

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Name-calling, Homophobia, Drug addiction

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
A white teen with severe anxiety struggles to manage her mental health and finds joy in a budding relationship with a new girlfriend. Most people worry, but Maeve has always done so to the extreme. With her severe anxiety and panic disorder, she is constantly working to balance her spiraling, catastrophizing thoughts—without the help of any medication. When her mom decides to spend six months in Haiti, Maeve is forced to move to live with her father and his family in Vancouver, disrupting her otherwise relatively stable life. In Vancouver, Maeve feels she has plenty to be anxious about: from her pregnant stepmother’s home-birth plan to the possibility her father might start drinking and using again. But when already-out Maeve meets Salix, a violin-busking “friend of Dorothy,” and their mutual attraction grows, she begins to find unexpected happiness in Vancouver. Mac crafts a beautifully awkward and affecting budding relationship between Maeve and Salix—one that neither miraculously cures Maeve nor leaves her entirely unchanged. With Maeve, Mac provides a realistic portrayal of the ways that anxiety can affect all relationships and permeate every aspect of life—demonstrated at times with humor through sardonic obituaries regularly composed by Maeve throughout the first-person narrative. With Maeve, Mac delivers a character who’s heartwarmingly real and sympathetic, and her story provides a much needed mirror for anxious queer girls everywhere. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Publishers Weekly (December 12, 2016)
Everyone tells Maeve that things will be fine, but they don’t know what it’s like to have an anxiety disorder, to visualize possible disasters constantly. Spending six months in Vancouver with her father and stepfamily is terrifying for nearly 17-year-old Maeve-she could die on the way, for one thing. Even after arriving safely, she finds cause for worry. Her father may be drinking again, the home birth her pregnant stepmother is planning is risky, and being around Salix-the girl she likes-is nerve-racking. But to Maeve’s surprise, Salix likes her. Even more surprising: when some of Maeve’s fears come to pass, she’s upset, but not helpless. Mac (The Way Back) is good at showing how a dread-filled mind works and how Salix, whom Maeve sees as wholly confident, also has to fight nerves. Mac’s not interested in villains: there is no evil stepmother, no homophobia. Instead, the struggles are internal, like Maeve’s anxiety and her father’s relapse, and relational, as people try to forgive and be honest with each other. The result is a low-key but affecting story. Ages 14-up. (Feb.)

About the Author

I live with my partner and two children in East Van, overlooking the shipyards and with a great view of the crows flying home to roost.

Or:

When Carrie Mac was born, her right eye gawked off in one direction while her left eye looked the other way. Well meaning adults thought she was a changeling and so they wrapped her up and put her on the porch for the fairies to take back, please and thank you. It was snowing. It was dark. No fairies came. The same well meaning adults decided she’d catch her death out there. So they brought her in and kept her after all.

She’s read millions of books, and has sat happily at the feat of a legion of storytellers. She is equally fascinated by disaster and grace. car wrecks, hurricanes, plagues, and genocides on the one hand, small and stunning everyday miracles on the other. She sometimes wishes she were a pirate. She’d often wished she’d run away and joined the circus when she had the chance. She spends a great deal of time in the company of her imagination, and when she isn’t, she’s wide eyed and awed by this planet and the people running amok all over it. Her website is www.carriemac.com.

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10 Things I Can See From Here on Amazon

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Radio Silence by Alice Osman. March 28, 2017. HarperTeen, 496 p. ISBN: 9780062335715.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Underage drinking; Cyberbullying

 

Book Trailer

Excerpt

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. “I was study machine Frances Janvier. I was going to Cambridge . . . Uni, job, money, happiness. That’s what you do. That’s the formula,” Frances mulls to herself as she spends an uncomfortable evening with friends, trying to relax and enjoy herself. Not that there’s much chance of relaxation or enjoyment, ever. Frances is a superstressed British teen, and the only thing she really loves is drawing and Universe City, a mysterious YouTube podcast with a haunting voice and a story that echoes her pain. Anonymous narrator Radio Silence describes a bleak world, seemingly a university campus that he or she is trying to escape. When Frances is invited to add her online fan art to the podcast, the story moves into high gear. Turns out the creator is neighbor Aled Last, twin brother of Frances’ former friend Carys. What emerges is an intense, highly engaging, well-plotted story of relationships, explorations into gay and bisexual identities, family trauma, a straitjacketlike education system, and, mostly, kids yearning to be their truest selves despite it all. Though a companion title to Oseman’s Solitaire (2015), this story stands alone and features believable characters in a unique setting. Readers this side of the pond will enjoy the school system comparisons and identify with the stress their witty, cyberworldly peers undergo as they hang on for dear life.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
Two teens connect through a mysterious podcast in this sophomore effort by British author Oseman (Solitaire, 2015).Frances Janvier is a 17-year-old British-Ethiopian head girl who is so driven to get into Cambridge that she mostly forgoes friendships for schoolwork. Her only self-indulgence is listening to and creating fan art for the podcast Universe City, “a…show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.” Aled Last is a quiet white boy who identifies as “partly asexual.” When Frances discovers that Aled is the secret creator of Universe City, the two embark on a passionate, platonic relationship based on their joint love of pop culture. Their bond is complicated by Aled’s controlling mother and by Frances’ previous crush on Aled’s twin sister, Carys, who ran away last year and disappeared. When Aled’s identity is accidently leaked to the Universe City fandom, he severs his relationship with Frances, leaving her questioning her Cambridge goals and determined to win back his affection, no matter what the cost. Frances’ narration is keenly intelligent; she takes mordant pleasure in using an Indian friend’s ID to get into a club despite the fact they look nothing alike: “Gotta love white people.” Though the social-media–suffused plot occasionally lags, the main characters’ realistic relationship accurately depicts current issues of gender, race, and class. A smart, timely outing. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Alice Oseman was born in 1994 in Kent, England. She completed a degree in English at Durham University in 2016 and is currently a full-time writer and illustrator. Alice can usually be found staring aimlessly at computer screens, questioning the meaninglessness of existence, or doing anything and everything to avoid getting an office job.

Her website is www.aliceoseman.com.

Around the Web

Radio Silence on Amazon

Radio Silence on Goodreads

Radio Silence on JLG

Radio Silence Publisher Page