Tag Archives: realistic

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice. February 26, 2019. Scholastic, 337 p. ISBN: 9781338298505.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 680.

Mega-bestselling author Luanne Rice returns with a ripped-from-the-headlines story of a girl who is kidnapped by her friend’s family.

Emily Lonergan’s best friend died last year.

And Emily hasn’t stopped grieving. Lizzie Porter was lively, loud, and fun — Emily’s better half. Emily can’t accept that she’s gone.

When Lizzie’s parents and her sister come back to town to visit, Emily’s heartened to see them. The Porters understand her pain. They miss Lizzie desperately, too.

Desperately enough to do something crazy.

Something unthinkable.

Suddenly, Emily’s life is hurtling toward a very dark place — and she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to return to what she once knew was real.

From New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice comes a breathless, unputdownable story of suspense, secrets — and the strength that love gives us to survive even the most shocking of circumstances.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Child abuse, Discussion of alcoholism and opioid addiction

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 8-12. After she loses her best friend, Lizzie, to cancer, Emily’s life takes a series of unimaginable turns—all at the hands of trusted adults. A deranged, suspenseful fate awaits her when she accepts a ride from Lizzie’s grieving parents, who kidnap her and try to turn her into the daughter they lost by dyeing Emily’s hair, forcing her to wear colored contacts, and imprisoning her in a room. Emily lives there in fear for 69 days, enduring the worst kind of emotional trauma and plotting her escape once her kidnappers enroll her in school. Rice has created a masterful narrative full of intrigue and heart-pounding moments that will draw in readers and allow them to experience what could happen when depression drives someone to do the unthinkable. Using flashbacks, rich descriptions, and realistic story elements, Rice weaves together a tense tale of mystery and surreal experiences. Reading like a Emma Donoghue’s Room (2010) with a YA twist, Rice’s latest doesn’t disappoint.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2018)
Nearly a year after the death of her best friend, Lizzie, 15-year-old Emily is abducted by Lizzie’s parents to fill the void in their lives. Emily wakes up in Maine, far from her Connecticut home, to find her hair dyed black and her eyes changed to green by contacts, making her look just like Lizzie. Lizzie’s mother tells her that as long as she cooperates, no harm will come to her or her family. Good behavior earns her a television and meals upstairs. Bad behavior means starvation and isolation. Emily begins to play along, determined to keep her family safe while at the same time finding a way to escape. But with Lizzie’s mother, father, and sister always watching, she fears she will be trapped in this nightmare forever. Then she meets Casey, a musically gifted boy who is legally blind. Together they come up with a plan to help Emily escape her prison. In this psychological thriller that studies the depths of grief, Emily’s empathy for her kidnappers keeps the sensationalism to a minimum by personalizing the betrayal. A preponderance of backstory slows the narrative and deflates the tension. Ultimately this is a story about love and loss threaded through with moments of a tense thriller. All main characters are Irish-American Catholics. An intriguing concept overtaken by thin characters and poor pacing. (Thriller. 12-15)

About the Author

Luanne Rice is the New York Times bestselling author of thirty-two novels including THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF SISTERS, her first YA novel. Five of her books have been made into movies and mini-series, many have been New York Times bestsellers and two of her pieces have been featured in off-Broadway theatre productions. She divides her time between New York City and the Connecticut shoreline.

Her website is www.luannerice.net

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96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy & Ava Dash

96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy & Ava Dash. January 15, 2019. jimmy patterson, 320 p. ISBN: 9780316477789.  Int Lvl: YA.

A modern retelling of a romantic Indian legend, 96 Words for Love is a star-crossed love story perfect for fans of The Sun is Also a Star and When Dimple Met Rishi.

Ever since her acceptance to UCLA, 17-year-old Raya Liston has been quietly freaking out. She feels simultaneously lost and trapped by a future already mapped out for her.Then her beloved grandmother dies, and Raya jumps at the chance to spend her last free summer at the ashram in India where her grandmother met and fell in love with her grandfather. Raya hopes to find her center and her true path. But she didn’t expect to fall in love… with a country of beautiful contradictions, her fiercely loyal cousin, a local girl with a passion for reading, and a boy who teaches her that in Sanskrit, there are 96 different ways to say the word “love.”

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Racial microaggressions, Child trafficking

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2018)
When Raya Liston spends a month at an ashram in India, she doesn’t just find herself: She also finds true love. Seventeen-year-old Raya has a plan: major in English at UCLA and make her Indian mother and biracial (half black, other half unspecified) father proud. Spending the summer after high school at the Rishi Kanva ashram in the Himalayas with her cousin Anandi is definitely not the plan—until she receives a phone call from her dying grandmother, Daadee, saying she’s left something important for Raya and Anandi hidden on the ashram grounds. Against her better judgment, Raya leaves for the ashram, where she unexpectedly falls in love with Kiran, a budding filmmaker who breaks rules as passionately as Raya follows them. In the process of falling in love and uncovering the secrets Daadee left, Raya realizes that the real question is not what she wants to do but who she wants to be. An insightful, layered feminist retelling of the Hindu myth “Shaktunala,” the book features a diverse cast of characters who grapple with equally diverse issues in a richly drawn setting. Raya’s candor and self-reflection infuse the narration with the perfect balance of insight and momentum. Her relationship with her family is particularly refreshing: Unlike in most books about diaspora, Raya’s Indian relatives support her, guiding her through conflict rather than creating it. A beautifully crafted, truly feminist coming-of-age story featuring nuanced characters in a unique setting. (Romance. 14-18)

Publishers Weekly (November 26, 2018)
On her deathbed, Raya’s grandmother, Daadee, tells her that she’s left things that Raya and her cousin Anandi should have at a remote ashram in India, which Daadee visited in her own youth. Worried about her future and confused by her anxiety about being accepted to UCLA, Raya travels to the ashram with Anandi, hoping to find personal clarity and locate whatever Daadee left behind. At the ashram, direction comes when Raya finds two of Daadee’s adolescent journals and falls in love with Kiran, a budding filmmaker from Delhi. Loosely retelling the Indian story of Shakuntala, both Daadee, through journal entries, and Raya, through her first-person narration, draw parallels to their own lives, struggling to find balance between their goals and the sacrifices that their newfound romantic entanglements would require. Well-known designer Roy and daughter Dash write in a pop culture-laden conversational tone to convey Raya’s concerns-stress about going to college and declaring a major, curiosity about sex and a future with Kiran. Though her feelings are portrayed as valid and relevant, the book’s too-quick pace leaves them underexplored and too quickly resolved, making the overall message about trusting one’s individual journey unsatisfying. Ages 13-up.

About the Authors

Rachel Roy is the daughter of an Indian immigrant father and Dutch mother. She is mother to Tallulah and Ava. Rachel is the founder & creative director of her eponymous brand and a tireless activist for using your voice to cultivate change in the world and to design the life you wish to live. Rachel founded Kindness Is Always Fashionable, an entrepreneurial philanthropic platform to help women artisans around the world create sustainable income for their families and communities. In 2018 Rachel was named a United Nations Women Champion for Innovation, and works for the UN advocating gender equality and other critical women’s issues. In 2015, Rachel published, Design Your Life.

Her website is rachelroy.com

Ava Dash is the daughter of fashion designer Rachel Roy. She attends college, works and lives in Los Angeles. Ava works with young adults that have aged out of the foster care system as well as former sex trafficked girls in India. Inspired from her travels with her mother, Ava hopes to start a give back business that provides critical resources to educate and empower the girls she has met on her travels to India.

Teacher Resources

96 Words for Love on Common Sense Media

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96 Words for Love on Amazon

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96 Words for Love on Goodreads

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96 Words for Love Publisher Page

Heronie by Mindy McGinnis

Heronie by Mindy McGinnis. March 12, 2019. Katherine Tegen Books, 432 p. ISBN: 9780062847195.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA

A captivating and powerful exploration of the opioid crisis—the deadliest drug epidemic in American history—through the eyes of a college-bound softball star. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a visceral and necessary novel about addiction, family, friendship, and hope.

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.

The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.

With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.

But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Drugs, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking, Underage smoking, Accidental death by overdose

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Senior Mickey Catalan is a talented softball catcher with a bright collegiate future ahead. She’s a little socially awkward, but she’s beginning to navigate romantic relationships while relying on the easy camaraderie with her teammates and her best friend, star pitcher Carolina. Then Mickey and Carolina are both injured in a car accident, and Mickey’s broken hip seriously jeopardizes her athletic future. Determined to play again, Mickey falls into the trap of opiate addiction in a rapid and wholly believable descent. McGinnis begins with a shocking scenario: Mickey wakes to find her fellow-addict friends dead after shooting bad drugs. The rest of the story unfolds in flashback. There’s nothing subtle here—from the double entendre title that sets the tone on—but McGinnis creates fully dimensional characters. Even the drug dealers have complex and interesting back stories. There’s also no romanticized happy ending, just the realistic portrayal of how easy it is to develop an opiate addiction and the very real consequences of addiction. A timely and important message for teens everywhere.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
A compassionate, compelling, and terrifying story about a high school softball player’s addiction to opioids. A promising life can be upended in a minute. One moment star catcher Mickey Catalan, who is assumed white, is living an ordinary life, talking about boys and anticipating a winning season with her best friend, pitcher Carolina Galarza. The next moment her car is upside down in a field, and their promising softball careers are in danger. Mickey’s divorced parents and Carolina’s tightknit Puerto Rican family are rooting for them to recover before the start of the season. After enduring surgeries, they are each given opioid painkillers, yet only Mickey spirals into addiction. From the novel’s opening line, the reader awaits the tragic outcome. What matters are the details—the lying, the stealing, the fear about college scholarships, the pain confronted in the weight room, and the desperate desire to win—because they force the reader to empathize with Mickey’s escalating need. Realistic depictions of heroin abuse abound, and the author includes a trigger warning. The writing is visceral, and following Mickey as she rationalizes about her addiction is educative and frightening. Even more frightening are the descriptive passages that reveal how pleasant the drugs make her feel. By the end, readers understand how heroin can infiltrate even the most promising lives. A cautionary tale that exposes the danger of prescription medications by humanizing one victim of America’s current epidemic. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author who has worked in a high school library for thirteen years. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, a post-apocalyptic survival story set in a world with very little freshwater, has been optioned for film my Stephanie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films. The companion novel, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST was released in 2014. Her Gothic historical thriller, A MADNESS SO DISCREET won the Edgar Award in 2015.

Her website is www.mindymcginnis.com

Teacher Resources

Heroine on Common Sense Media

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Heroine on Amazon

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Heroine on Goodreads

Heroine on LibraryThing

Heroine Publisher Page

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe. January 8, 2019. Balzer + Bray, 372 p. ISBN: 9780062824110.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

A hilarious YA contemporary realistic novel about a witty Black French Canadian teen who moves to Austin, Texas, and experiences the joys, clichés, and awkward humiliations of the American high school experience—including falling in love. Perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi, and John Green.

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Homophobic slur, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Underage drinking, Cigarettes, Discussion of suicide

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. For Norris Kaplan, Austin, Texas—location of his mother’s new professor gig—is the antithesis of his true home in Montreal, Canada. Gone are hockey hooligans and routinely spoken French, replaced by relentless heat and the ubiquitous orange of the UT Longhorns. Compounding these differences is the fact that Norris is a black Haitian Canadian kid stuck in cowboy country. He resolves to build a barrier of snark to keep everyone out until he can get back north, where he hopes to reunite with his estranged father. However, Norris doesn’t count on falling head over heels for the devilishly mysterious, soulful, and fiery Aarti Puri. Philippe’s protagonist is as acerbic as they come, tossing one-liners at breakneck speed. His repartee with other characters, especially his closest friends Liam and Maddie, is hilarious and engaging. These friendships are the most interesting aspect of the book, even over the love story, which has a few twists along the way. Readers looking for a diverse, fun, coming-of-age tale need not look any further than this fantastic debut.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas. Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract. Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

About the Author

Ben Philippe was born in Haiti, raised in Montreal, Qc, Canada, and now resides in New York. He is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and holds a BA in Sociology from Columbia University. He won the 2013 Tennessee Williams Fiction Contest and his writing has appeared in Observer, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, and others. He still doesn’t have a valid driver’s license.

His website is benphilippe.com/

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The Field Guide to the North American Teenager on Amazon

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Lizzy Legend by Matthew Ross Smith

Lizzy Legend by Matthew Ross Smith. January 8, 2019. Aladdin, 240 p. ISBN: 9781534420243.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.6; Lexile:.

A basketball-loving girl makes a wish to never miss a basket in this charming middle grade novel that pushes girl power to the max!

Lizzy Trudeaux loves basketball. She doesn’t have much by way of money, but she has access to the community court, a worn ball named Ginger, and she practices constantly. After fighting to join the boy’s team at her school, Lizzy is finally given the opportunity to show off her hard-earned skills.

When she answers what she believes is another bill collecting phone call, Lizzy receives a magical wish: the ability to sink every shot. Pure Swish. Now eviscerating the competition in the boy’s league is small potatoes—she has the skills to dominate in the NBA. With the help of her BFF Toby and some viral video action, Lizzy goes all the way to the Philadelphia Bells’ starting lineup, making history and taking names. Then, just as she’s about to go face to face with her hero, the best player on the planet, things begin to fall apart. But Lizzy isn’t a quitter and she’ll play her hardest for the love of the game.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fart shaming

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 4-7. Eighth-grader Lizzy Trudeaux falls asleep beneath a poster of LeBron James every night, and she never dreamed in a million years that she’d ever be able to actually play against him. But when a strange phone call prompts her to make a wish, she’s suddenly trading the blacktop near her home for the bright lights of a real basketball arena. She can’t miss a single shot—not even if she tries. Debut author Smith firmly roots this story of wish fulfillment in the contemporary basketball world, with all of the fast-paced excitement and chance for individual glory. Though tales of fame and fortune all too often pit BFFs against each other, Lizzy’s best bud Toby is instead along for the ride, nearly stealing every scene he’s in with his comic banter. Documentary-style cutaways to interviews with key players, along with short chapters and a balance of well-paced action and heart, give this sports story wide appeal. Hand to the kids who can’t stop arguing over Steph versus LeBron.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2018)
Lizzy Trudeaux is the best basketball player in middle school. Unfortunately, the boys’ coach denies her the chance to play with the boys because coed teams are against the rules. Lizzy and her father live under a mountain of debt and unpaid bills, but she practices on the trash-strewn court near their home every chance she gets. Collections agents call Lizzy daily (they don’t care that she’s only 13), but one odd robocall changes her life: “You have been pre-selected for one free wish.” Rather than hang up, Lizzy blurts out her secret fantasy: never to miss another basketball shot forever. After that, every shot is a “pure swish”—made without touching the net—even from 30 feet with her back turned. Her best friend, Toby, an enterprising “Buddha-shaped black boy,” fast-talks their way into the Mack Center, home of the Philadelphia Bells, where Lizzy shows off her new skills for the coach. Before she knows it, she signs a 10-day contract (she is only 13) and becomes Lizzy Legend. The narrative, broken into four “Quarters,” takes place in the not-too-distant past, with Lizzy narrating engagingly from the present. It’s ludicrous—and a whole lot of fun, with memorable secondary characters filling out the cast. The book subscribes to the white default; aside from Toby, the only people of color seem to be a Sudanese pro ball player and Spike Lee, who has a cameo. Not quite a slam dunk but an enjoyable sports fantasy nonetheless. (Fiction. 8-13)

About the Author

Matthew Ross Smith is an author and writing professor from Philly. His debut novel, Lizzy Legend (Aladdin Books/Simon & Schuster), will be published in early 2019. His second novel is forthcoming in 2020.

When not writing, he’s also the Founder and Executive Director of The Spaces Between Your Fingers Project, a nonprofit that provides free biographers for people with Alzheimer’s.

Her website is matthew-ross-smith.com/books

Around the Web

Lizzy Legend on Amazon

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Black Enough edited by Ibi Zoboi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Authors Panel

Reviews

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

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

About the Editor

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

Her website is www.ibizoboi.net.

Teacher Resources

Black Enough on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Black Enough on Amazon

Black Enough on Barnes & Noble

Black Enough on Goodreads

Black Enough on LibraryThing

Black Enough Publisher Page

The Unteachables by Gordon Korman

The Unteachables by Gordon Korman. January 8, 2019. Balzer + Bray, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062563897.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.3.

A hilarious new middle grade novel from beloved and bestselling author Gordon Korman about what happens when the worst class of kids in school is paired with the worst teacher—perfect for fans of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day.

The Unteachables are a notorious class of misfits, delinquents, and academic train wrecks. Like Aldo, with anger management issues; Parker, who can’t read; Kiana, who doesn’t even belong in the class—or any class; and Elaine (rhymes with pain). The Unteachables have been removed from the student body and isolated in room 117.

Their teacher is Mr. Zachary Kermit, the most burned-out teacher in all of Greenwich. He was once a rising star, but his career was shattered by a cheating scandal that still haunts him. After years of phoning it in, he is finally one year away from early retirement. But the superintendent has his own plans to torpedo that idea—and it involves assigning Mr. Kermit to the Unteachables.

The Unteachables never thought they’d find a teacher who had a worse attitude than they did. And Mr. Kermit never thought he would actually care about teaching again. Over the course of a school year, though, room 117 will experience mayhem, destruction—and maybe even a shot at redemption.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 4-7. Kiana, a bright kid whose mother ships her off to spend a couple of months with “Dad and Stepmonster,” never exactly registers as a student at her new middle school. But she allows the hand of fate to nudge her into the special, self-contained eighth-grade class (aka the Unteachables), along with six misfits that the school has given up on. Make that seven—why exclude Mr. Kermit? Framed during a cheating scandal two decades ago and publicly humiliated, this once-gifted, now-jaded teacher is slouching toward retirement. After he unknowingly wins his students’ loyalty, their efforts and far-reaching results on his behalf surprise everyone. The first-person narration shifts among a number of quickly sketched but vivid characters, from Kiana and her classmates to their teacher, principal, and nefarious superintendent. When the Unteachables go into action, outlandish situations tend to work out for the best, while offering the occasional disaster and plenty of laughs along the way. Korman’s latest delivers what his fans have come to expect: a well-paced story laced with humor and just as much heart.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2018)
An isolated class of misfits and a teacher on the edge of retirement are paired together for a year of (supposed) failure. Zachary Kermit, a 55-year-old teacher, has been haunted for the last 27 years by a student cheating scandal that has earned him the derision of his colleagues and killed his teaching spirit. So when he is assigned to teach the Self-Contained Special Eighth-Grade Class—a dumping ground for “the Unteachables,” students with “behavior issues, learning problems, juvenile delinquents”—he is unfazed, as he is only a year away from early retirement. His relationship with his seven students—diverse in temperament, circumstance, and ability—will be one of “uncomfortable roommates” until June. But when Mr. Kermit unexpectedly stands up for a student, the kids of SCS-8 notice his sense of “justice and fairness.” Mr. Kermit finds he may even care a little about them, and they start to care back in their own way, turning a corner and bringing along a few ghosts from Mr. Kermit’s past. Writing in the alternating voices of Mr. Kermit, most of his students, and two administrators, Korman spins a narrative of redemption and belief in exceeding self-expectations. Naming conventions indicate characters of different ethnic backgrounds, but the book subscribes to a white default. The two students who do not narrate may be students of color, and their characterizations subtly—though arguably inadequately—demonstrate the danger of preconceptions. Funny and endearing, though incomplete characterizations provoke questions. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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Fifteen and Change by Max Howard

Fifteen and Change by Max Howard. October 1, 2018. West 44 Books, 200 p. ISBN: 0765383756.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 500.

Zeke would love to be invisible. His mother is struggling to make ends meet and stuck with a no-good boyfriend. Zeke knows he and his mom will be stuck forever if he doesn’t find some money fast. When Zeke starts working at a local pizza place, he meets labor activists who want to give him a voice–and the living wage he deserves for his work. Zeke has to decide between living the quiet life he’s carved for himself and raising his voice for justice.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
Fifteen-year-old Zeke gets a job and becomes involved with community organizers who aim to unionize local food-service workers in this novel in verse for reluctant readers. Zeke hates their lives in the city with Paul, his alcoholic mom’s abusive boyfriend, a hypocritical Christian, and he misses his old home in small-town Wisconsin. Spurred to action by the idea of making enough money for them to move back, he takes a job at Casa de Pizza, where he comes to understand the desperate circumstances many of his minimum-wage–earning co-workers face. Zeke keeps the job secret, fearing Paul will try to steal his earnings. Pagelong free-verse poems evocatively describe Zeke’s experiences and quickly propel the story forward. The dynamics between the employees at Casa de Pizza (Zeke and several others are white, Timothy is black, Hannah is originally from Oaxaca) will be recognizable to teens who’ve worked in food service. Readers will easily sympathize with the all-too-true-to-life situations with which the characters are coping—racism and sexual harassment, Zeke’s awful home life, and a co-worker’s eviction with her children among them. Though short, this story develops the characters’ personalities, sketches in the history of the labor movement, and includes a subdued romantic subplot, effectively balancing these various elements. An auspicious ending may seem a bit unlikely to some, but this novel has many appealing aspects that will draw readers in. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Max Howard loves woods and words and finds them both in books. Max has worked lots of day jobs including pizza delivery driver, fashion show stagehand, and AP test scorer, but still finds the time to write for kids and adults. Currently, Max is writing a picture book called The Book Formerly Known As Barf. This is Max’s first novel.

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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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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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