Tag Archives: romance

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail. February 27, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780670013081.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3;l Lexile: 620.

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J.

It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.

It s all good. Well, almost all. She’s trying

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Eighth-grader Gracie is certain that she likes A.J., but when she learns he likes her best friend, Sienna, she goes all out to help the two get together. She texts him on Sienna’s phone for her as if she were Sienna, and she consults with Emmett, A.J.’s best friend and her neighbor. Emmett and Gracie have been best buds since they were little, and there’s nothing they won’t do for each other. But when Gracie turns 14, she’s not certain if she can handle some of the shifts and changes that begin to take place. This modern, middle-school retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac is heartwarming, funny, and tender, offering a story of young love and loyalty, friendship and family. Characters are pitch-perfect for middle-school musings and milieu: a whirlwind of activity and emotional confusion that is the bane and fuel of any early teen’s existence. Call it cute, call it clever—Vail fluently captures the spirit of today’s American middle-schoolers. See Kristina Springer’s Cici Reno (2016) for another tween take on Cyrano.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
As eighth grade comes to a close and her fourteenth birthday approaches, Gracie Grant discovers she has a problem. Out of the blue, Gracie realizes she like-likes longtime and suddenly very attractive classmate AJ Rojanasopondist. But that’s not the problem. AJ like-likes someone, as well–Gracie’s best friend, Sienna. Despite nursing a mild heartache, Gracie sincerely tries to be happy for her bestie, so much so that when Sienna panics about what to say to AJ in a text, Gracie helps compose it for her. Then she writes anotherâç¦and another, until eventually Sienna hands over her phone, and all texting of AJ, to Gracie. As their correspondence unfolds, Gracie is surprised by AJ’s sense of humor, which feels oddly familiar–kind of like Gracie’s close friend Emmett. Guilt over playing Cyrano to Sienna’s Christian, exacerbated by complex family dynamics (Gracie’s sister died as a young child) and Gracie’s tendency to overthink things, makes her prone to brief but intense emotional outbursts and moments of painful awkwardness in nearly all of her relationships. Gracie’s breakneck narration is presented in and out of text messages, folding in an effortlessly diverse cast, including Latina Sienna and Filipino-Israeli Emmett. Through her protagonist’s rollicking commentary, Vail captures the anguish and hilarity at the heart of middle school. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Rachel Vail is the author of children’s books including Justin Case, Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, and Righty and Lefty. She is also the author of several books for teens and middle grade readers, including If We Kiss, You Maybe, Gorgeous, Wonder, and Never Mind, which she wrote with Avi. Vail was born in New York City and grew up in New Rochelle, NY, just down the street from her future husband, though she didn’t know that until much later. She attended Georgetown University, where she earned her B.A. in English and Theater. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.rachelvail.com.

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. March 28 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 533 p. ISBN: 978031641684.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep

Part of Series: Strange the Dreamer (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes; Mention of rape

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. By now, fans of Laini Taylor know what to expect: beautiful prose, strange and whimsical fantasy worlds, sympathetic monsters, and wrenching, star-crossed romance. Her latest, first in a two-book set, certainly delivers on that, and there’s something quietly magical at play here. Lazlo Strange, an orphaned infant who grew up to be a librarian, has had a quiet first two decades of life. But Lazlo, reader of fairy tales, longs to learn more about a distant, nearly mythical city, called Weep after its true name was stolen. When a group of warriors from that very place come seeking help, Lazlo, never before a man of action, may actually see his dream fulfilled. Weep, though, is a city still reeling from the aftermath of a brutal war, and hidden there is a girl named Sarai and her four companions, all of whom have singular talents and devastating secrets. What follows is the careful unfolding of a plot crafted with origamilike precision. This has distinct echoes of Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011), though ultimately it’s a cut above even that: characters are carefully, exquisitely crafted; the writing is achingly lovely; and the world is utterly real. While a cliff-hanger ending will certainly have readers itching for book two, make no mistake—this is a thing to be savored.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Lazlo Strange is a lowly librarian with a keen and singular interest in the mysterious city of Weep, which lost contact with the rest of the world over two hundred years ago. When an envoy from that fabled city suddenly appears at the Great Library in the kingdom of Zosma, recruiting the best minds for a formidable but undefined problem, Lazlo manages to finagle a spot on the delegation. Meanwhile, we are introduced to teenage Sarai, who is “godspawn”—half-human, half-god—and who for the past fifteen years has lived in an impregnable metal citadel that hovers in the sky over Weep, ever since the gods were slaughtered in retribution for their brutal acts of sexual violence. Sarai has the power to fragment her consciousness into a hundred moth-shaped pieces and send them down to torment the citizens of Weep with nightmares. Much to her surprise, Sarai finds that, unlike others, Lazlo can actually see her when she enters his dreams, and what starts as an uneasy alliance between enemies blossoms into an improbable romance that will have tragic consequences as the plot draws to its cliffhanging conclusion. Taylor’s work (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, rev. 11/11, and sequels) sits at the nexus of the fantasy, horror, and romance genres. Here she has spun another mesmerizing tale with captivating twists and turns, an array of intriguing characters, strange and beautiful language, and baroque flourishes of the imagination; and, once again, she has set her readers up for an epic finale in the concluding volume of the duology. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author and a National Book Award finalist. She is the author of the global sensation the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and the companion e-novella, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the highly acclaimed Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter Clementine.

Her website is www.lainitaylor.com.

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Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain

Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain. March7, 2017. Simon Pulse, 352 p. ISBN: 9781481488754.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In the tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a lovably flawed high school student chronicles her life as she navigates the highs and lows of family, friendship, school, and love in a diary that sparkles with humor and warmth.

I’m Chloe Snow, and my life is kiiiiind of a disaster.

1. I’m a kissing virgin (so so so embarrassing).
2. My best friend, Hannah, is driving me insane.
3. I think I’m in love with Mac Brody, senior football star, whose girlfriend is so beautiful she doesn’t even need eyeliner.
4. My dad won’t stop asking me if I’m okay.
5. Oh, and my mom moved to Mexico to work on her novel. But it’s fine—she’ll be back soon. She said so.

Mom says the only thing sadder than remembering is forgetting, so I’m going to write down everything that happens to me in this diary. That way, even when I’m ninety, I’ll remember how awkward and horrible and exciting it is to be in high school.

Part of Series: Chloe Snow’s Diary

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-10. As if starting high school wasn’t daunting enough, Chloe Snow has to do it without her free-spirited writer mother—who bolted to Mexico to find her “muse”—and alongside her religious best friend, Hannah, and Hannah’s judgmental, picture-perfect family. Fortunately, Chloe has a caring dad; a new best friend, Tristan; and the lead in the school’s musical! In the spirit of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series, Chloe’s daily diary serves as the book’s format. Encompassing an overwhelming majority of Chloe’s record is her obsession with Mac, a senior boy with a girlfriend and Chloe’s secret hookup. Chloe, Hannah, and Tristan all have intense relationships with senior boys, which, aside from seeming a little improbable, starts to become how they define themselves. But despite Chloe’s dominating obsession with Mac, and the book’s abrupt ending, Chloe is refreshingly honest and unfiltered about very real issues facing high-school students: unsteady family dynamics, drinking at parties, balancing old and new friends, and the stigma of slut shaming.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
The chronicles of Chloe Snow’s journey from self-absorbed high school freshman to slightly less self-absorbed sophomore.Fourteen-year-old Chloe is technology-addicted and obsessed with getting her first kiss. Her mom has trotted off to Mexico for four months to write, leaving Chloe and her dad behind, which she first presents with nonchalance in her diary. Many of Chloe’s relationships begin to change around the time she unexpectedly gets the lead in the school musical. It becomes clear that her mom is not coming back as promised. She becomes increasingly distant from her best friend in favor of a new one, and she develops a naively close relationship with a senior boy who has a girlfriend, which ultimately brings on a painful barrage of cyberbullying. When Chloe is forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about her parents’ relationship, she is startled into seeing her own behavior more clearly as well. The narrative is told through Chloe’s diary, immersing readers in her singular perspective, though a few long passages are much too detailed to be credible as diary entries. What feels like token diversity among minor characters and Chloe’s passing acknowledgment of her own privilege as a straight, white, middle-class girl come across as superficial, though accurately reflective of life in many mostly white communities like hers. Awkwardness, drama, and a pinch of burgeoning self-awareness. (Fiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Emma Chastain is a graduate of Barnard College and the creative writing MFA program at Boston University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

 

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Confessions of a High School Disaster on Amazon

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Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray. April 4, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 512 p. ISBN: 9780316394031.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything–including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Alcohol; Body humor

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 7-11. A trial run for a major offensive against Earth turns into a rescue operation for Genesis soldier Noemi Vidal, as she tries to save a friend from a surprise attack by Earth mechs (mechanized warriors) and ends up boarding a disabled Earth warship from an earlier battle. The ship isn’t empty; for the last 30 years, a one-of-a-kind mech, Abel, has waited for someone to release him from his tin prison. Noemi needs for Abel to complete a deadly mission that will give her planet more time to prepare for the coming war, but his sacrifice becomes less desirable as they get to know each other. This first-rate STEM-packed adventure explores what it means to be human and whether people are truly their brothers’ keepers. The point of view alternates between the two main characters, but Gray too often chooses to tell rather than let the narrative unfold through dialogue and action. There are subtleties to be found, though, in the deft handling of the developing relationship between Noemi and Abel.) | Twitter

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
A teen soldier teams up with an enemy android to end an interplanetary war. During a practice for her Masada Run, Genesis soldier Noemi (a human of Latin American and Polynesian ancestry) discovers an Earth ship abandoned during the last war. The reference is purposeful: it’s a suicide mission to damage the Gate between Earth and Genesis in order to stave off Earth’s offensive. Abel (a mech with artificial intelligence and self-awareness, modeled after his white creator) has waited alone on that ship for 30 years. Abel’s far more advanced than his task-oriented peers, with a (delightfully passive-aggressive) personality of his own, and he wants to return to his “father” but is programmed to recognize Noemi as his new superior and obey her. Using Abel, Noemi realizes she can destroy the gate and save her fellow soldiers’ lives, so she tears across the universe on the desperate, long-shot mission. Abel discovers the changes the past 30 years have wrought: Earth’s environmental degradation makes new homes like pristine Genesis necessary, but Earth leadership can’t be trusted not to destroy them too. Meanwhile, Noemi also learns the fuller picture and connects with people from different walks—including Abel, who she begins to suspect is more than a machine. Nuanced philosophical discussions of religion, terrorism, and morality advise and direct the high-stakes action, informing the beautiful, realistic ending. Intelligent and thoughtful, a highly relevant far-off speculative adventure. (Science-fiction. 12 & up)

About the Author

Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.

I live in New Orleans. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing.

Her website is www.claudiagray.com.

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Defy the Stars on Amazon

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History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. January17, 2017. Soho Teen, 304 p. ISBN: 9781616956929.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 820.

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Discussion of abortion

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. After Griffin and Theo break up, after Theo moves to California for college, and even after Theo finds a new boyfriend in Jackson, Griffin continues to believe that they’ll end up together. Then Theo drowns, and all that’s left for Griffin is their fugitive history together. Griffin’s affecting account of that history is told partly in flashbacks that are simultaneously elegiac and melancholy. The present, meanwhile, finds him bereft, grieving but discovering, perhaps, a weird sort of comfort in continuing to speak to Theo, reliving their past while sharing what is happening in the here and now. But will Griffin, who is so stuck in the past, find a future? Silvera’s splendid sophomore novel is filled with tantalizing questions about lies and honesty, love and loss, and past and present, with answers gradually metered out through Griffin’s growth as well as that of the other characters populating this beautifully realized, character-driven work of literary fiction. Silvera leaves his readers enriched and challenged, inviting them to join Griffin in questioning the meaning of life and love. In those questions, they will find an unsparing honesty that brings closure to the novel and to Griffin’s quest to let go of the past and embrace the future.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
Seventeen-year-old Griffin loses Theo, his best friend and first love, twice: first when the young men break up, and again, as the book opens, when Theo drowns. Dual timelines carry readers simultaneously through Griffin and Theo’s sweet, finely drawn romance (and its inevitable dissolution) and Griffin’s heartbreaking journey through the grieving process, marked by disorientation, resentment, and an unlikely (and unhealthy) relationship with Theo’s hated subsequent boyfriend, Jackson. Both narratives are informed by Griffin’s struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, which is neither minimized nor sensationalized but chronicled matter-of-factly as part of his life. Silvera’s prose is raw and lyrical, a good fit for Griffin’s intensity, and the minutiae of both romance and grief are closely observed and deeply felt. The mysteries of what lies in between the two timelines–for instance, how Griffin became estranged from another friend–keep the pace moving. Griffin and Theo’s breakup is messy, realistic, and painful, overshadowed but not subsumed by the subsequent pain of Theo’s death, and readers will identify with Griffin’s confusion and denial in response to both. Griffin himself is an indelible character who will linger in readers’ sympathies after the last page is turned. claire e. gross

About the Author

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

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

Teacher Resources

History Is All You Left Me Reading Guide

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History Is All You Left Me on Amazon

History Is All You Left Me on Goodreads

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History Is All You Left Me Publisher Page

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik. March 28, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780544829695.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

An unforgettable story about autism, sisterhood, and first love that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sophie Kinsella, and Sarah Dessen.

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along. Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. LaZebnik hits it out of the park with her story about pretty, popular Chloe and her loving relationship with her older, autistic sister, Ivy. On the surface, Chloe has it together—handsome boyfriend James; best friend Sarah; and an effortless, sunny disposition. At home, however, there’s her stepfather, Ron, whose first experience at parenting is marked by micromanagement. When Chloe goes out without her sister, Ivy lets her know that she’s lonely, which gives Chloe an idea: she’s going to find Ivy a boyfriend. There’s a young man in Ivy’s class, named Ethan, whom she seems to like, so Chloe starts working on getting them on a date. Then she finds out that Ethan’s brother, David, someone she knows and despises, will be coming along, too. They start to get along as they get to know each other and realize that they have more in common than they knew. With perceptiveness and ample skill, LaZebnik paints a vivid picture of what the sibling of a person with high-functioning autism might go through. Never resorting to stereotype, she depicts appealing, three-­dimensional characters who flesh out a narrative that is compassionate, tender, funny, and wise all at once. This insightful, well-­written story will entertain readers while inspiring meaningful empathy.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
The complexities of Chloe’s love life intertwine with her autistic sister’s. White high schooler Chloe has never had trouble fitting in socially. With her father dead of cancer, her mother recently remarried to a know-it-all, and her older sister, Ivy, on the spectrum, Chloe doesn’t have the time or energy to worry about her peers’ perceptions. And she certainly doesn’t care if she’s the object of snarky white classmate David’s insults. But when Ivy begins to question Chloe’s dating rituals, Chloe decides that perhaps Ivy needs a boyfriend of her own. After some investigation, Chloe convinces Ivy to try a date with Ethan from her specialty school. Ever the protective sister, Chloe accompanies Ivy only to discover that Ethan’s assisted by his brother—who is none other than David. As the dates continue, the real sparks form between Chloe and her former nemesis as they both understand the responsibilities of having an autistic family member. Chloe’s realistic narrative never sugarcoats both the challenges and gifts of living with someone with autism. In a twist that provokes more thought, Ivy may be more attracted to classmate Diana than Ethan. While the author expertly handles myriad issues regarding sexuality for those with autism and their families, the pacing does lose speed. An eye-opening look at autism and those it touches. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Claire grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, went to Harvard and moved to LA. She’s written five novels for adults and four YA novels.

She lives in the Pacific Palisades with my husband Rob (who writes for “The Simpsons”), her four kids and too many pets to keep track of.

Her website is www.clairelazebnik.com.

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Things I Should Have Known on Amazon

Things I Should Have Known  on Goodreads

Things I Should Have Known  on JLG

Things I Should Have Known  Publisher Page

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. March 8, 2016. Candlewick, 320 p. ISBN: 9780763674670.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 680.

After a freezing winter, a boiling hot summer explodes with arson, a blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam, who is shooting young people on the streets seemingly at random.

Not only is the city a disaster, but Nora has troubles of her own: her brother, Hector, is growing more uncontrollable by the day, her mother is helpless to stop him, and her father is so busy with his new family that he only calls on holidays.

And it doesn’t stop there. The super’s after her mother to pay their overdue rent, and her teachers are pushing her to apply for college, but all Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. There is a cute guy who started working with her at the deli, but is dating even worth the risk when the killer especially likes picking off couples who stay out too late?

Award-winning author Meg Medina transports readers to a time when New York seemed about to explode, with temperatures and tempers running high, to discover how one young woman faces her fears as everything self-destructs around her.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs; Domestic abuse; Racism; Murder

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. It’s 1977 in New York, and almost-18-year-old Nora is about to graduate high school and is saving up for her own place. Of course, it’s not as easy as just moving out. Her Cuban immigrant mother, who only speaks Spanish, relies on her to navigate everyday life. Meanwhile, she coddles Nora’s firebug younger brother, Hector, whose short temper is getting more violent by the day. No matter what Nora tells her mother, she does nothing about Hector and faults Nora for his delinquency, and, before long, his terrifying, uncontrollable rages become too scary to handle on her own. Medina artfully links Nora’s escalating domestic turmoil with the infamous summer of 1977, marked by blackouts, sweltering heat, racial tensions, arson, and the Son of Sam killings, all of which simmer menacingly in the background. Medina weaves historical context throughout Nora’s first-person narrative, expertly cultivating a rich sense of atmosphere while still keeping her characters sharply in the foreground. Nora herself is wonderfully multifaceted—hardened by responsibility, delighted by disco, crazy about the handsome boy at her job, and, all the while, stalwart and determined to make her life on her own terms. Powerfully moving, this stellar piece of historical fiction emphasizes the timeless concerns of family loyalty and personal strength while highlighting important issues that still resonate today.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2016)
This vividly evoked coming-of-age story is set against actual events in 1977 New York City, when tensions rose throughout a city enduring an oppressive heat wave, culminating in the historic blackout of July 13th. Seventeen-year-old Nora Lopez faces an insecure future after graduation. The very real fear of an at-large serial killer is magnified by the violence at home, where her brother Hector’s increasingly volatile behavior is dismissed by her mother as merely hormones. College seems impossible: Nora’s mother barely scrapes by with her unstable (and decreasing) factory hours. Nora helps out financially with her job at Sal’s Deli but also manages to stash away some cash in hopes of someday getting away. For now, she escapes by hanging out with best friend Kathleen, going to the movies, and planning a big night out to celebrate their eighteenth birthdays. Nora even starts to fall for Pablo, the sweet new stock boy at Sal’s (and “a stone-cold Latin fox,” according to Kathleen), but the looming fear of a killer targeting young couples and the weight of her family’s secrets make her pull away. Nora is an empathetic character, and Medina depicts her troubled family and their diverse Queens neighborhood with realistic, everyday detail. Numerous references to New York’s budget crisis, arson wave, and “Son of Sam” newspaper articles deliberately ground the story in a real time and place, while an ample sprinkling of seventies disco and funk song references creates a brighter soundtrack for the dreams and romance of teenage girls, hinting at a hopeful future for Nora. lauren adams

About the Author

Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and Young Adult fiction.

She is a two-time Pura Belpré award winner, receiving the 2016 honor distinction for her picture book, Mango, Abuela and Me, and the 2014 medal for her young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.

 

Meg’s work examines how cultures intersect, as seen through the eyes of young people. She brings to audiences stories that speak to both what is unique in Latino culture and to the qualities that are universal. Her favorite protagonists are strong girls.

In March 2014, she was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America. In November 2014, she was named one of Latino Stories Top Ten Latino Authors to Watch. When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and/or diversity in children’s literature.

She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.

Her website is megmedina.com.

Teacher Resources

Burn Baby Burn Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Burn Baby Burn on Amazon

Burn Baby Burn on Goodreads

Burn Baby Burn on JLG

Burn Baby Burn Publisher Page

Crazy Messy Beautiful by Carrie Arcos

Crazy Messy Beautiful by Carrie Arcos. February 7, 2017. Philomel Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9780399175534.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

When your namesake is Pablo Neruda—the greatest love poet of all time—finding “the one” should be easy. After all, sixteen-year-old aspiring artist Neruda Diaz has been in love many times before. So it’s only a matter of time before someone loves him back.

Callie could be that someone. She’s creative and edgy, and nothing like the girls Neruda typically falls for, so when a school assignment brings them together, he is pleasantly surprised to learn they have a lot in common. With his true love in reach and his artistic ambitions on track, everything is finally coming together.

But as Neruda begins to fall faster and harder than ever before, he is blindsided by the complicated nature of love—and art—in more ways than one. And when the relationships he’s looked to for guidance threaten to implode, Neruda must confront the reality that love is crazier, messier, and more beautiful than he ever realized—and riskier, too, than simply saying the words.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 8-11. Names have power, and for Neruda Diaz, the name of “the Poet,” Pablo Neruda, has shaped his conception of the world. Neruda longs to have a whirlwind romance as described in the Poet’s works, but he must balance his ideas of romantic love with the reality of his father cheating on his mother, being forced to work with his nemesis on a mural, and his growing feelings for edgy goth girl Callie. As that relationship grows, the schism between his desire for love and his doubt in it grows wider. It is in learning more about who the Poet truly was that Neruda comes to understand that love is crazy, messy, and beautiful—like all of life. The book shines most in Neruda’s interplay with Callie, who hides her artistic side behind her hard edges, and Ezra, a repentant ex-convict friend whose regret provides guidance for Neruda’s challenges. Arcos has written a classic story of a budding artist finding out the reality behind the artifice, and does so while keeping a wonderful sense of humor.

Publishers Weekly (November 28, 2016)
For 16-year-old Neruda Diaz, love is a mystery, maybe the mystery. He comes by his fixation honestly: he’s named after Chilean love poet Pablo Neruda, his parents are still in love, and he thinks that beautiful Autumn Cho might be the one for him. Then mystery turns tragic: Neruda’s parents’ marriage is less stable than he thought, and-like her predecessors-Autumn isn’t interested. Neruda gets to paint a mural at school, but has to work with a guy he hates, and he and a girl he barely knows have to interview each other for a class assignment. Arcos (There Will Come a Time) makes Neruda thoughtful and real, and Callie Leibowitz, that near stranger from school, is tough, funny, and interesting. Neruda is half Chilean, his Los Angeles is realistically diverse, and he’s a reflective, engaging protagonist. Arcos capably probes the mysterious without attempting to solve it as Neruda discovers the difference between crushing on someone he doesn’t know and loving someone he does, learning that friendship, too, is a kind of love. Ages 12-up. Agent: Kerry Sparks, Levine Greenberg Rostan. (Feb.)

About the Author

Carrie Arcos writes young adult fiction. Her debut novel, Out of Reach, was a 2012 National Book Award finalist for young people’s literature. She lives in Los Angeles, CA with her family.

Her website is  carriearcos.com.

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Crazy Messy Beautiful on Amazon

Crazy Messy Beautiful on Goodreads

Crazy Messy Beautiful on JLG

Crazy Messy Beautiful Publisher Page

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. November 1, 2016. Delacorte Press, 384 p. ISBN: 9780553496697.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 650.

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 22))
Grades 8-12. On a summer morning in New York City, Daniel and Natasha wake up as strangers. This is a day that could catapult their lives into entirely new directions that neither of them wants to take. Natasha has only hours left to prevent her family’s deportation to Jamaica, after a minor legal infraction jeopardizes their stay in the U.S. Daniel dreads sealing his fate with an alumni interview that will pave his way to a career in medicine, as his Korean family expects. Despite a day packed with Natasha’s desperate race against time and a tangled system, and Daniel’s difficult tug-of-war between familial pressures and autonomy, love finds a way in, takes hold, and changes them both forever. Yoon’s sophomore effort (Everything, Everything, 2015) is carefully plotted and distinctly narrated in Natasha’s and Daniel’s voices; yet it also allows space for the lives that are swirling around them, from security guards to waitresses to close relatives. It’s lyrical and sweeping, full of hope, heartbreak, fate, and free will. It encompasses the cultural specifics of diverse New York City communities and the universal beating of the human heart. Every day—like every book—begins full of possibility, but this one holds more than others.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 1, 2016)
Natasha and Daniel meet, get existential, and fall in love during 12 intense hours in New York City.Natasha believes in science and facts, things she can quantify. Fact: undocumented immigrants in the U.S., her family is being deported to Jamaica in a matter of hours. Daniel’s a poet who believes in love, something that can’t be explained. Fact: his parents, Korean immigrants, expect him to attend an Ivy League school and become an M.D. When Natasha and Daniel meet, Natasha’s understandably distracted—and doesn’t want to be distracted by Daniel. Daniel feels what in Japanese is called koi no yokan, “the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them.” The narrative alternates between the pair, their first-person accounts punctuated by musings that include compelling character histories. Daniel—sure they’re meant to be—is determined to get Natasha to fall in love with him (using a scientific list). Meanwhile, Natasha desperately attempts to forestall her family’s deportation and, despite herself, begins to fall for sweet, disarmingly earnest Daniel. This could be a sappy, saccharine story of love conquering all, but Yoon’s lush prose chronicles an authentic romance that’s also a meditation on family, immigration, and fate. With appeal to cynics and romantics alike, this profound exploration of life and love tempers harsh realities with the beauty of hope in a way that is both deeply moving and satisfying. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Nicola Yoon grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason.

Her website is www.NicolaYoon.com.

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The Sun Is Also a Star on Amazon

The Sun Is Also a Star on Goodreads

The Sun Is Also a Star on JLG

The Sun Is Also a Star Publisher Page

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach. February 23, 2016. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781481418805.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 850.

“I’ve got some questions for you. Was this story written about me?”

I shrugged.

“Yes or no?”

I shrugged again, finally earning a little scowl, which somehow made the girl even more pretty. It brought a bloom to her pale cheeks and made sharp shelves of her cheekbones.

“It’s very rude not to answer simple questions,” she said.

I gestured for my journal, but she still wouldn’t give it to me. So I took out my pen and wrote I can’t on my palm.

Then, in tiny letters below it, I finished the thought: Now don’t you feel like a jerk?

Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Underage drinking

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Best-selling author Wallach’s sophomore effort puts an atypical twist on the standard boy-meets-girl equation. Skipping school on Halloween, mute high-school senior Parker Santé meets silver-haired Zelda Toth at the luxurious Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Zelda totes a stack of $100 bills, claims to be immortal, and plans to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. The two make a deal: she’ll spend her money on Parker as long as he promises to apply to and attend college. What follows is an adventurous, epiphany-filled three days that test their handshake agreement. Although Wallach’s zippy writing is terrifically clever, “dumb, not stupid” Parker’s musings do not always cohere completely into a story. Zelda’s manic-pixie-dream-girl qualities become especially exaggerated by Parker’s seeming ease with her eventual decision. Still, Wallach offers much for teen readers to ponder: immortality, the future, how we make peace with the death of loved ones, and the choices we make with the time we have on this earth.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2016)
Two introspective teens — one silent and one possibly immortal — share a life- changing weekend in this contemporary, fantastical romance. Parker Sante, seventeen, has psychogenic aphonia; he stopped talking after his father died five years ago. He resists treatment and communicates via notebook, deliberately distancing himself from his peers and his future. Then he meets Zelda — a mysterious, silver-haired girl who says she’s lived for centuries. She’s on her way to finally end it all by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, but first she invites Parker to help spend her life savings; smitten, he accepts. Parker recounts their adventures with a whip-smart, sardonic narrative voice in this fast-paced romp around an atmospheric San Francisco, interspersed with Parker’s fantasy short stories and sustained by a steady course of philosophic (and flirtatious) banter. While Parker tries to unravel the truth about Zelda’s wild claim, Zelda is on a mission to help Parker shed his apathy so he can enjoy the pleasures life has to offer. A romantic wish-fulfillment fantasy? Absolutely, but the pair’s ample chemistry and illuminating conversations about what makes life worth living make both their fast-burning romance and Parker’s eventual transformation feel organic and well earned. jessica tackett macdonald

About the Author

Tommy Wallach is a novelist, screenwriter, and musician from Seattle, WA. He currently lives in Brooklyn, like everybody else. His first novel, “We All Looked Up,” is a NYTimes bestseller, the rights for which have sold in over a dozen countries. His second novel is “Thanks for the Trouble,” which Tommy adapted for film under the aegis of Anonymous Content (Spotlight, Revenant, Mr. Robot).

Tommy is also a musician, and has recorded with Decca Records and performed at the Guggenheim Museum. He released a full-length companion album of original songs to go with his first novel, which is available wherever fine music is sold (i.e. the internet).

His website is www.tommywallach.com.

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Thanks for the Trouble on Amazon

Thanks for the Trouble on JLG

Thanks for the Trouble on Goodreads