|Book- Sixteen year old Violet is spending the summer in Lyric, Maine the town founded by her ancestors, following her brother’s suicide attempt and struggles with her unstable, hard-partying lifestyle. While staying with her uncle and working at the local aquarium, Violet meets Orion and is attracted to his intelligence and devotion to marine life. Through Orion, Violet befriends other local teens, including Liv, whose fascination with Lyric’s history is the basis for another powerful and complex relationship. While navigating her new friendships and complicated past, Violet also embarks on a mission to find the sunken Lyric, a legendary shipwreck of which Violet’s great-great-great grandmother was the sole survivor.
The Last True Poets of the Sea is a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but also a coming-of-age romance and adventure story that examines identity, family dynamics and mental illness. The complex exploration of important issues makes this a young adult novel that many adults of all ages will appreciate.
The Last True Poets of the Sea is available now on eAudiobook for instant download on Hoopla.
Books – Twelve authors. Twelve diverse stories. As editor Lamar Giles, cofounder of We Need Diverse Books wrote, “In these pages are all sorts of heroes.” From a one-act play about gun violence by Walter Dean Myers, a first-love story by Newbery Medal winner Jason Reynolds, a graphic story by cartoonist Gene Luen Yang, to a superhero story by Nicola Yoon, there is something for everyone here.
This book is part of We Need Diverse Books’ mission to ensure that young people find authentic stories that resonate with their lives and experiences. This book is for people who identify as minority–whether in race or sexual identity or popularity–to find positive representations of themselves. It is also a book for readers who want to try to gain a better understanding of the perspectives and experiences of others.
There are love stories. Some of the stories offer social commentary. Some may hold your attention; others may not. I found the collection very readable, but if I’m being honest, I did skip one story because the genre didn’t interest me. Months later, several of the characters stick with me. I highly recommend young adults and adults check out this collection.
Books – The weather outside is frightful, but reading a new book over winter break can be delightful! Here are some of my favorite Children’s and Young Adult books published in 2019. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman (YA Fiction)
I don’t usually read much science fiction, but this space-based story caught my attention right away with its compelling characters and adventurous plotline.
Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord (Juvenile Fiction)
A shorter chapter book about the impacts of true friendship–even the friendship of a rabbit!
The Big Book of Monsters by Hal Johnson (Juvenile Non-Fiction)
For fans of the scariest of creatures.
Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir (YA Graphic Novel)
I am a huge fan of fractured fairy tales, so this book was right up my alley! What happens when Alice, Dorothy and Wendy meet and their fantasy worlds collide?
Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer (Picture Book)
Daniel explores what makes a “good day” for the people around him.
Dear Justice League by Michael Northrup (Juvenile Graphic Novel)
Even superheroes are not perfect.
Sparkly New Friends by Heather Burnell (Beginning Reader)
A unicorn and a yeti become best friends who both love sparkly things. What is not to love?
The Line Tender by Kate Allen (Juvenile Fiction)
This beautiful, unique story of grief and connection to nature’s mysteries had me sobbing.
Strange Birds by Celia C. Pérez (Juvenile Fiction)
Four unlikely friends team up to protest a revered feathered hat connected to town history. A story of friendship, civic engagement, and bird facts!
Stargazing by Jen Wang (Juvenile Graphic Novel)
For fans of Raina Telgemeier’s books.
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (YA Non-Fiction Graphic Novel)
A powerful and important account of Japanese internment camps during World War 2.
Book – Author Laurie Halse Anderson first gained notoriety in 1999 for her novel Speak, which won numerous awards and honors and is rightfully considered a modern classic in Young Adult literature. In Speak high school freshman Melinda deals with great personal trauma all the while being ostracized by her peers. I highly recommend reading the original novel, if you haven’t already.
In 2018, the Graphic Novel Speak illustrated by Emily Carroll received strong reviews owing to its meaningful remake for established fans and introducing new readers to the story.
20 years after the publication of Speak, Anderson releases Shout – a powerful memoir in free verse. Here, she shares deeply of her complicated relationship with her parents, personal experiences with sexual assault and sexual harassment, and the reactions shared by readers over the years. Shout comes on the heels of last year’s #metoo and #timesup movements promoting awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Anderson is not a new voice in this conversation. Since the publication of Speak, she has advocated for open conversations about sexual assault.
Shout is a quick and powerful read and will interest fans who want to see how Anderson’s experiences found their ways into her books and learn more about her life as an author. Those interested in delving into the issues of sexual assault and harassment, will find jumping off points for thoughts and discussions.
Books—The 57 Bus is a “ripped from the headlines,” true story of one teenager lighting another’s clothes on fire on a public bus in Oakland. Author and journalist Dashka Slater goes beyond the headlines to present the story and characters in great detail and nuance.
Sasha is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and does not identify as male or female, instead using the pronoun “they.” Sasha has supportive parents and goes to a school where they have many friends, but on the public bus ride across Oakland from school back home Sasha’s skirt is lit on fire by Richard. How will this affect Sasha, their family, friends, and community?
Richard’s actions were unquestionably intentional. Sasha spent weeks in the hospital having painful surgeries in an to attempt to repair the burns. Should sixteen-year-old Richard be charged with a hate crime in addition to the obvious charges he faces? Should he be tried as an adult or a juvenile? What are the potential ramifications of these decisions?
I am not good at remembering the specifics of books and movies, nor do I remember the lyrics to many songs. (You really don’t want me on your trivia team.) I like most of the books I read, but ask me to recall the plot and characters a few months later, and we’ll be lucky if I can extract much information.
It’s too early to tell since I only recently read The 57 Bus, but I think my recall of it will be different. The characters and plot are memorable. The journalistic treatment of the story—seeing the perspectives of friends and family of both teens, in addition to getting a glimpse into the workings of the juvenile justice system, made this book a well-rounded and thought-provoking read.
Book – In As You Wish, author Chelsea Sedoti crafts a novel about the power of wishing. In the small, boring town of Madison, the residents have a secret. It is a secret they work hard to keep hidden from the prying eyes of the rest of the world, lest they be made a freak attraction.
In Madison, everybody gets a wish—one wish that will come true. On your eighteenth birthday, you are led to the cave of wishes where the deed is done. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. The residents spend their youth conjuring up the perfect wish–to be the most beautiful, the best sportsman, to have the unconditional love and devotion of their chosen mate. Many have made wishes that they will regret for the rest of their lives. But there are no takebacksies. No wish can be undone.
For 17 year old, Eldon, his upcoming wish is a source of stress and despair. He fails to relate to the giddy excitement of his fellow classmates and friends as their wishing days also draw closer. He is pressured constantly by his mother to do the right thing, to make a wish that will help his family and support those he loves. What Eldon desires more than anything is to just ignore the whole tradition altogether and never make his wish. Through the stories of other wishers and their mistakes, Eldon tries to understand how to make the best decision, a decision that could change his entire life for better or worse. He’ll do anything he can to not make the same mistakes as those around him.
Book–In John Green’s first novel since standout hit The Fault in Our Stars six years ago, Turtles All the Way Down follows 16-year-old Aza Holmes. She and her fearless best friend Daisy hear that the criminal billionaire father of Davis, one of Aza’s childhood friends, has gone missing, with a $100,000 reward offered for finding him. Daisy ropes Aza into trying to find him for the reward money. The actual heart of the book, though, is Aza and her struggles with mental illness, anxiety and intrusive thoughts.
Despite the mystery around which the plot revolves, all of the tension and interest in the story derive from Aza’s thoughts and her interior life. If you like John Green’s signature blend of philosophy, eloquence and navel-gazing, this is a great thing: you will love this book. If, like me, you prefer your books to be a touch more plot-driven and full of dialogue, you might prefer John Green’s other books, or possibly another author entirely. What I can say is that Aza has a strong narrative voice and her difficulties with mental illness feel utterly real. If you enjoy this book or want to read more YA books with mental illness themes, I recommend Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan or Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
Book–Henry “Monty” Montague, bisexual teenager and soon-to-be British lord, is a drunk disappointment to his abusive father. His last hurrah before descending into the doldrums of running the estate at his father’s side is his grand tour, the trip around the European continent that many young male aristocrats take to shore up overseas alliances and soak up some culture. Monty is not interested in alliances or culture; he’s interested in (read: has a massive crush on) his traveling companion, his biracial best friend Percy, and in getting drunk and laid as much as possible. Monty’s tour gets hijacked by his father sending along his sharp-tongued little sister Felicity and, even worse, a chaperone to keep Monty on a strict itinerary. However, when Monty swipes a MacGuffin from one of his father’s allies and highwaymen ransack their carriage to get it back, their tour takes a sharp turn toward adventure, complete with alchemy, pirates, and even true love.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is so darn much fun. Monty, Percy, and Felicity are all such well-drawn characters with great dialog and relationships with each other. While each of the characters has some darkness and secrets in them, the overall tone is optimistic. If I had any complaint about this book, it’s that it felt too modern. Monty’s coolness with his bisexuality (and conception of it as such) among other things seems anachronistic and is not entirely explained away by the Author’s Note at the end. If you enjoy this one, you might also like the Doctrine of Labyrinths series by Sarah Monette for a darker, more complex take on an adventuring and queer romance story or Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda if you were into it for the character dynamics and romance, but not the adventure.
Book – I love author Sophie Kinsella, my favorite books by her being The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me? and I’ve Got Your Number. They’re great romance reads with just the right amount of comedy and cute. But young adult novel Finding Audrey is definitely at the top of my list, still containing some of that romance, but centering on a young teen. Fourteen-year-old Audrey rarely leaves her house, and wears sunglasses everywhere she goes, even indoors. Since an incident occurred at her school, Audrey has become homeschooled and agoraphobic. She suffers from depression and anxiety that cause her to hide from everyone but her family. She avoids all eye contact and wears her dark sunglasses at all times. This is how Audrey lives, in fear of the next thing that will set off her nerves. That is until she meets her brother’s best friend, Linnus.
Linnus sees Audrey and he doesn’t follow the rules. He walks unknowingly into her sacred safe space that no one is allowed into. He takes Audrey by surprise but she finds herself curious to understand Linnus’ intentions. Slowly their comfortability grows, and the two become friends. Linnus pushes Audrey to move out of her comfort zone. But finding her way in this new world of possibilities is overwhelming for Audrey. Her past has lead her to a life behind closed doors, fearful to venture into the outside world, scared of judgement and the unknown. Linnus doesn’t judge her; his friendship helps Audrey to come out of her shell and give the outside world a second chance.
This is one of my favorite young adult books. Also on my very specific booklist of agoraphobia/anxiety-related fiction is Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall.
Book – The Selection Series by Kiera Cass is my #1 guilty pleasure reading. It’s “The Bachelor” (Dating competition) meets The Hunger Games (Caste system). America Singer lives in a society divided by castes. Each member of the kingdom is assigned a number based on their relatives. A One can afford all the luxuries and never have to worry about lack of shelter, food, or money. Eights are the lowest, the handicapped, drug users, those who have nothing. It’s rare for someone to rise about their status to a higher number. America is lucky to be a Five, meaning she and her family are artists who make money by performing for others, though they still struggle to support themselves.
Enter “The Selection.” Thirty-five girls are chosen to compete for the hand of the prince. All the young women of age are invited to apply. It’s a fairytale, the chance of finding true love with the prince. Participants also receive financial support for their families during their time in the competition. America has already found the (secret) love of her life, but reluctantly submits her application and is chosen. On arrival to the royal castle, America finds that Prince Maxon is not at all what she expected. As she forms friendships with the other applicants, America struggles to decide what she really wants. Will America stay true to her love back home? Will life in the royal castle change that stubborn, proud girl who first entered it’s gates? With the additional threat of rebels attacking the castle, will America be able to find what her heart desires?
I really love the character of America; she fights for what she believes in no matter the consequences and is fiercely loyal. We have the entire series in print at the library, as well as in Ebook on a pre-loaded Kindle available for 2-week Checkout. Visit Goodreads for a complete list of the series order.