LaCour N. (2017). We Are Okay. New York: Dutton Books for Young Readers.
We Are Okay‘s entrancing cover with a girl standing on her bed looking out into the ocean is perfect for this psychological mystery told through flashbacks. Marin is at university in upper state New York, having fled from California and the very people who love and want to support her following her Gramps’ death. Truly an orphan now, it’s turns out to be the secrets Marin encountered, slowly revealed to us, that made her abruptly leave home and cut off all ties.
When the story begins Marin is staying on an isolated college campus over winter break. Her roommate, Hannah, just left for Christmas, and now she is expecting a visit from her best friend, Mabel. As you may imagine, the December New York setting is stark, cold, and isolated, ready to match Marin’s depression. We aren’t privy to the background of Marin and Mabel’s relationship, yet like the rest of the story it Continue reading
Werlin, N. (2017). And Then There Were Four. New York: Penguin Random House.
Five prep school kids are tossed together under mysterious circumstances. When one is murdered, they begin talking and piecing together what they know about their families, and a terrifying idea surfaces. What if they are all targets? The premise is classically entertaining, mimicking Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, when a group of strangers are assembled on a remote island only to be murdered one by one.
The chapters alternate between two of the five friends, Saralinda and Caleb, she speaking in the present tense, he in the past for some reason, but both pushing forward the pace of the story. Nancy Werlin knows how to create complex characters whose voices captivate us. We become swept up into the mystery as they go on the run from their cloistered, island-esqe school to an actual island, Fire Island in New York. Here there are no cars, only dirt paths through tall grass, and little Continue reading
Gardner, W. (2017). You’re Welcome, Universe. New York: Knopf.
You’re Welcome, Universe is Whitney Gardner’s debut novel that smoothly weaves layer upon layer of diversity, beginning with Julia, a teenager who is Indian American and Deaf. She has two moms (who are also Deaf) but the story doesn’t pause for very long on this LBGQT+ detail; it simply is the way it is. Deaf culture, however, is a world that gets explored. And the inclusion of art is inter-dispersed throughout the pages of the book with drawings done by the author.
Julia’s character is real and raw and flawed. Often she is frustrated by people’s cluelessness regarding deafness, and she can be very abrupt about it. When we first meet her, she is in the principal’s office for spraying graffiti on school property. Nevermind she was covering up slurs about her friend, she still gets expelled.
Graffiti is another underrepresented world that is allowed a front row in this novel, and its validity is exposed. Julia’s passion for her art takes her around the city at night when she draws and then “tags” – not her name since graffiti is illegal – but a special signature that is hers alone. Little does Julia expect someone else to draw over her drawings, making them even better! An all-out graffiti war unfolds as we all wonder who is behind it.
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
Gino, A. (2015). George. NY: Scholastic Press.
Stonewall Book Award for Children’s (2016)
California Book Award Gold Medal for Juvenile (2015)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Middle Grade & Children’s (2015)
This is an easy read that could be started and finished in a day, but that’s in order to find out more about George, not only because it’s a thin book! So who is George? She’s physically a boy, but thinks … What if I’m a girl?
Navigating third grade proves to be sticky at times while George is trying to figure everything out and fend off typical bullies at school at the same time. It’s awesome that her bestie, Kelly, is by her side. Kelly is the epitome of a friend who truly listens and embraces the truth, She even celebrates it. George’s family is great, too.
George could make a fantastic handbook for how one is suppose to behave when someone they love thinks they’re transgender. George has an older brother who respects who George is. “Oh. Ohhh. Ohhhhhhhhh,” he 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.