Featured Fiction Books
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
by Ben Phillppe
Seventeen-year-old Norris Kaplan has just had his world turned upside-down. When his mother has to relocate to find work in her field, Norris finds his identity as a Black, French-Canadian hockey fan challenged by his new existence in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. While on the surface this is a classic fish-out-of-water tale, there are many more layers to the story. Lots of different elements of identity are brought to bear in Norris's narration: his Haitian/immigrant heritage, racial identity, and viewpoint on American high school stereotypes. The protagonist's smart and funny demeanor will engage readers, even when he makes obviously bad decisions. Norris is particularly adept at letting his assumptions about his peers impact his ability to relate to them as individuals, either as friends or romantically. The authorial decision to have the "outsider" be the character influenced by stereotypes rather than the opposite makes for a very compelling reversal that ultimately works. The unresolved ending allows teens to revel in the messiness of high school social blunders and see the value in doing the hard work of making amends. VERDICT A witty debut with whip-smart dialogue that will find much love among fans of authors like John Green and Jason Reynolds.-Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR Copyright 2019 Reed Business Information
All American Boys
by Jaso Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
Rashad Butler is a quiet, artistic teen who hates ROTC but dutifully attends because father insists "there's no better opportunity for a black boy in this country than to join the army." He heads to Jerry's corner store on a Friday night to buy chips, and ends up the victim of unwarranted arrest and police brutality: an event his white schoolmate Quinn Collins witnesses in terrified disbelief. Quinn is even more shocked because the cop is Paul Galluzzo, older brother of his best friend and Quinn's mentor since his father died in Afghanistan. As events unfold, both boys are forced to confront the knowledge that racism in America has not disappeared and that change will not come unless they step forward. Reynolds and Kiely's collaborative effort deftly explores the aftermath of police brutality, addressing the fear, confusion, and anger that affects entire communities. Diverse perspectives are presented in a manner that feels organic to the narrative, further emphasizing the tension created when privilege and racism cannot be ignored. Timely and powerful, this novel promises to have an impact long after the pages stop turning. VERDICT Great for fostering discussions about current events among teenage audiences. A must-have for all collections.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal Copyright 2015 Reed Business Information.
by Kathryn Stockett
This dystopian horror novel imagines a world where the height of entertainment is watching a livestream of convicted felons getting hunted down and murdered by professional executioners in the most macabre prison imaginable. The facility, set on a remote island, is managed by a man known only as The Postman, and he makes money by streaming the prison feed over an app and selling related merchandise. His innumerable young fans are rabid for watching violent justice being served to death row criminals. In fact, they "ship" them, lust after them, and follow their moves—just like any other reality television stars. The latest addition to the island is Dee Guerrera, a 16-year-old who has been framed for the murder of her stepsister. Now Dee and the other innocent inmates must band together and fight for their lives if they are to find a way out. The fast-paced action will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games, though character development is often sacrificed to keep up the frantic pace. There are many graphic descriptions of blood, guts, and gore relating to the murders and lots of colorful language. Embedded in the novel are chat transcripts from the app, which have the potential to spark discussion and raise moral and ethical questions that relate to contemporary social psychology and use of social media. VERDICT A gory thriller that moves at breakneck speed, this book will be hard to put down for older teens with a penchant for horror.—Shannon O'Connor, Unami Middle School, Chalfont, PA Copyright 2018 Reed Business Information.
Strange the Dreamer
by Laini Taylor
Lazlo Strange is a foundling who has grown up alone and unloved, sustained only by his fantasies and stories of a city known as Weep. As an adult, Lazlo finds his way to the Great Library of Zosma and becomes a librarian, tasked with supporting scholars in their work. His fixation with Weep continues, and he searches for scraps of information about it and its inhabitants and even teaches himself its language from books in the library. Then Eril Fane, the liberator of Weep, pays a surprise visit to Zosma. Lazlo seizes the chance to join an expedition to the city he has dreamed of for so long, and he is caught up in an old conflict between Weep's mortal residents and blue godlike beings who had terrorized the city until Eril Fane slew them. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants of Weep, five children of these magical beings have survived and live in the giant seraph that hovers over the city, blocking the light. When Sarai, one of these Godspawn, visits Lazlo in his dreams, their growing relationship leads to the revelation of long-hidden secrets and opposition from other Godspawn, who desire revenge on mortals. This is the first in a pair of planned companion novels by the "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" author, and it has all the rich, evocative imagery and complex world-building typical of Taylor's best work. There is a mythological resonance to her tale of gods and mortals in conflict, as well as in Lazlo's character arc from unassuming, obsessed librarian to something much more. VERDICT This outstanding fantasy is a must-purchase for all YA collections.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ Copyright 2017 Reed Business Information.
Featured Non-Fiction Books
#Notyourprincess: Voices of Native American Women
by Lisa Charleyboy
According to the foreword, Charleyboy's intent for this anthology is to provide a "space to not only write a love letter to all young Indigenous women trying to find their way, but also to help dispel those stereotypes so we can collectively move forward to a brighter future for all." Charleyboy and Leatherdale have selected art, poetry, and prose created by Indigenous teenage girls and women that touch on a plethora of topics, from Standing Rock to ReMatriate, a collective of Indigenous women dedicated to showing the multiplicity of Indigenous identity through social media. Each entry is titled and accompanied by the author's name and their tribal ancestry or affiliation. In addition to the text, art pieces such as Lianne Marie Leda Charlie's Tagé Cho (Big River) and Pamela J. Peters's Real NDNZ Re-Take Hollywood, which recasts iconic movie stars as Indigenous actors/actresses, deepen the conversation and provide alternative ways of looking at identity, history, and inherited trauma. Some entries are in dialogue with readers, while others offer deeply personal insights—and all emphasize the damage that ignoring or changing the rich histories of Indigenous people does, especially in regards to women. This portrait of girlhood is a necessary addition in line with #ownvoices and We Need Diverse Books movements. And with a hashtag as a title, it should garner much-needed attention on social media, in libraries, and on bookshelves. VERDICT A stunning anthology of creative writing and art—a love letter, indeed. All YA collections will want this.—Alicia Abdul, Albany High School, NY Copyright 2017 Reed Business Information.
Boots on the Ground
by Elizabeth Partridge
Rather than offering a history of the causes and effects of the Vietnam War, Partridge brings the conflict to a personal level, with accounts of eight men, two women, four U.S. presidents, Martin Luther King Jr., and Maya Lin. Chapter by chapter, the author introduces an unseasoned Marine tasked with life or death decisions, a nonviolent follower of King who fires at the enemy until his machine gun is red hot, and an 18-year-old South Vietnamese woman who must flee the encroaching North Vietnamese Army. Partridge's interviewees all survived their year in-country, but what they saw and participated in haunted them long after. Late chapters on the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial and an epilogue provide closure. Photos of exhausted soldiers, pensive presidents, a helicopter evacuating the wounded, and stacks of coffins add visual immediacy to the emotional stories of young people at war and the protests stateside. Occasional racial slurs and strong language fit the circumstances of their use. VERDICT A stirring choice. —Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX Copyright 2018 Reed Business Information.
Featured Graphic Novels
by Hiro Mashima
Up-Lucy is a wizard who's looking to join the Fairy Tail Guild, which is famous for its members' out-of-control antics. When she meets Natsu, she never imagines that he's really Salamander of Fairy Tail. He spends much of his time as an ordinary guy who suffers from severe motion sickness in trains, boats, and even horse-drawn carriages. But when he taps into his magical abilities, he turns into an awesome fighter who uses fire to vanquish his enemies. By the end of the first volume, Lucy has joined the guild as well as Natsu and his flying cat as a team member. In the second volume, the team steals a magical book from the evil Duke Everlue and joins forces with Erza Scarlet to fight a guild that plans to use death-curse magic. Lucy and Natsu are the central figures in a large cast of characters, many of whom have unique abilities. Readers never see Erza's special skills in action, but it's clear that they involve lots of blood. The beings summoned by Lucy from the celestial spirit world are often temperamental and sometimes politically incorrect. The humor is often jaw-droppingly funny, meaning that the characters' jaws drop so low and so often that they look like something out of a Tex Avery cartoon. The illustrations are lively and keep the stories moving briskly. Each volume is filled with magic and humor and ends with a suspenseful cliff-hanger that will draw readers into the rest of the series.-Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
by Hiro Arikawa
In the near future, Japan can legally restrict or censor any offensive media. Only libraries can acquire and circulate materials, censored or not. The Library Defense Force (LDF) was formed to protect libraries and their collections. While in high school, Iku Kasahara witnessed an LDF agent stop a government raid on a bookstore. She vowed to join the organization and be like her hero. Fresh out of college, new recruit Iku struggles through LDF training, which is like military boot camp. Based on the light novels by Hiro Arikawa, this adaptation to manga is well crafted. The artwork features natural, realistic character design and movement. Characters' faces are distinctive and expressive. Scenes are nicely detailed; layouts are not overcrowded. The action is fluid and easy to follow. The writing is very good, with engrossing story lines and nuanced characters. However, a problematic area is the treatment of women. Tall and athletic, Iku is the first woman to apply for a combat Defense Force position and not the traditional Librarian post. At one point, her superior slaps her across the face. In other instances, Iku is comforted by encouraging pats on the head from that same officer. Library Wars delivers an appealing, determined female lead in the midst of an intriguing war on censorship being waged in bookstores and libraries. Readers will be curious to see if future story lines focus on Iku's adventures as an LDF agent or on her quest to find her mystery hero.—June Shimonishi, Torrance Public Library, CA Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.