Coles, J. (2018). Tyler Johnson Was Here. NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Jay Coles writes from the heart, he writes well (every sentence is handsomely and seductively infused with Black culture), and he has produced 2018’s fast-paced picture of American police brutality, of the systematic corruption rampant in its justice system, and of how racism impacts and traps people.
What a compelling cover!
Trevor Johnson is shot by a white policeman simply for the colour of his skin – all of this caught on videotape – leaving a grieving mother and twin brother, who together make their way through each day even though their grief is overwhelmingly painful and raw. Continue reading
Takano, I. (2008). Dreamin’ Sun Vol 1. LA: Seven Seas.
Shōjo manga is manga targeted at the teenage female demographic. I gravitated toward this cute cover with a pink background and read from right to left about how Shimana Kameko feels out of place in her own home now that her mother has passed away and her father remarried. She runs away to a park and begins speaking to a strange man in a kimono. Old Fujiwara Taiga offers to help her on three conditions: Kameko must tell him why she ran away from home, she must go find his lost apartment key, and she must have a dream. Kameko fulfills the three Continue reading
Crowley, C. (2017). Words in Deep Blue. NY: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers .
Heartbreaking but beautiful, . Two best friends, Henry and Rachel were inseparable childhood friends. Now as teens, Rachel is in love with Henry even when Henry becomes obsessed with Amy, the pretty, new girl at their school. Rachel’s life is in an up swirl because her family is moving away, and she decides to confess her love to Henry, so she writes Henry a love letter and leaves it in his favourite book. The letter asks Henry to meet her, only Henry never shows up. Wrecked, Rachel decides to push it all behind her. Three years later, Rachel returns to her home town after her younger brother whom she Continue reading
Bauxbaum, J. (2016). Tell Me Three Things. NY: Delacorte Press .
With the perfect mix of comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and joy, the characters in Julie Bauxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things come to feel like old friends who make any day better. This young adult novel is sure to appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Jennifer Niven, and E. Lockhart.
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son, and to start at a new school where she knows no one.
Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her Continue reading
Stone, N. (2017). Dear Martin. NY: Crown Books.
Powerful and poignant, this story is written about one young man’s struggle with race in Atlanta, Georgia. Following closely on the heels of the publication of The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas, Dear Martin also tackles contemporary confrontations between young, black man and white policemen.
Walters, E. (2017). 90 Days of Different: Orca Publishers.
Cute and lighthearted, Eric Walters’ new one, 90 Days of Different, chronicles the summer Sophie has turned eighteen, is waiting to go to university, and her boyfriend has recently dumped her because she’s too predictable and boring. While the book itself can be a little predictable, it is not boring. In fact once Sophie’s best friend, Ella, who agrees with the ex-boyfriend, challenges Sophie to do one new and different thing each day of the summer, it’s then very quick and charming. Sophie imagines this challenge will transform her from boring into fun, so she agrees to let Ella set and and schedule the entire summer of challenges.
The chapters swing quickly through hilarious situations where Sophie is far out of her comfort zone. As far as character development goes, Sophie does grow, but there are so many various things going on with a new addition each day, that we don’t get an in depth look at who Sophie is becoming.
Reynolds, J. (2017). Long Way Down. NY: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.
Masterfully told in verse, the new Jason Reynolds book has arrived. Fifteen-year old Will’s older brother was shot last night, yet he never cries. That’s one of the rules. No crying, no snitching, and get revenge. As Will gets on the elevator in his apartment building with a gun awkwardly stuck in the back of his pants, he begins the descent down, but at different floors different people from Will’s past – all dead now – hop on the elevator and proceed to unravel the patterns and complications of this ruinous cycle of violence.
Very suspenseful! You’ll fly through Long Way Down.
Spotswood J. (2016). Wild Swans. Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks.
Wild Swans is a story about a summer and about Ivy, a girl going into her senior year. After years of trying to live up to her grandfather’s expectations, Ivy has had enough. She has her summer all set up: no clubs her grandad makes her join, no extra credit, no nothing. Just pure fun. Bonfire parties, hanging out with friends, and the occasional volunteering. But when her mom comes back with two daughters, the whole summer spirals downwards. From flaring arguments with her estranged and irresponsible mom, to trying to get to know her new sisters, to her best friend, Alex, starting to take an unwanted interest in her, the summer’s shaping out badly. At first Ivy tries to deal with everything from far away, but soon enough realizes if she wants to enjoy her summer, she’s going to have to face her fears and try her hardest to accept her mom for who she is. This book is about a family just trying to come to grips with who they are and learning how to let go of tradition. It’s a book about a girl wondering who she really is and what she really wants to do.
Federle, T. (2016). The Great American Whatever. NY: Simon & Schuster.
The last page hasn’t been turned yet, but I had to let you know … The Great American Whatever is an endearing, laugh out loud journey with Quinn Roberts, a sixteen year old whose sister, Annabeth, recently died in a car accident. Quinn, Annabeth, and Quinn’s best friend, Geoff, grew up doing everything together from lemonade stands to making movies. Throughout the book we get to see the screenplay in Quinn’s head of how he thinks life should go juxtaposed with what really happens. Screenwriting was Quinn’s passion, but he lost the interest and ability to write since Annabeth’s death.
After months of hibernating in his bedroom, Geoff pulls Quinn out to their first college party where he meets Amir and develops an immediate Continue reading
Sáenz, B. (2017). The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Boston: Clarion Books.
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a heart-wrenching, joyful, and tearful story all in one. In his senior year at high school, an orphaned boy named Salvador, or Sal, who is adopted by a gay, single
father. Sal likes to consider himself a good kid with good grades who stays in line. Until the first day of school that is, when he punches someone in the face. Suddenly Sal is questioning who he is and his place is the world, as an adopted part of a Mexican-American family. And when things start to tunnel downhill, Sal and his best friend, Samantha, will have to be prepared for the worst.
I first became aware of Benjamin Alire Sáenz when I chose Aristotle and Dante Explore the Universe from an LGBTQ+ display at the public library during Pride Week in Vancouver. It remains my favourite of Sáenz’s, but beware because
anyone I’ve spoken to who has read Aristotle first, favours it, while anyone who has read Inexplicable Logic considers that one superior! 🙂 I enjoyed the romantic component of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and still think of that story of two boys, both loners, but who serendipitously connect and form a beautiful friendship.