This book has it all: romance, real-life struggles, inspiration, and LOTS of humor. It’s also written from the refreshing perspective of Norris Kaplan, a Black French Canadian immigrant to the US. (Note that the author is writing from his own cultural perspective.) Norris keeps a journal of his smart-alecky observations of the Texas high schoolers he encounters, labeling them as jocks, loners, cheerleaders, et al. In spite of his reluctance to get involved with and make friends of kids at his new school, he does, and finds out that the labels become real people and real friends. All goes well until his journal gets discovered and his world falls apart. It’s up to Norris to figure out how to put it all back together. Genre: Realistic Fiction.
This book is fast-paced, vivid, intriguing, ominous, and other-worldly. It deals with lots of difficult topics, like disappearances, grief, mental illness and more. Even though it was creepy and supernatural, the characters were very real and made me feel like they might walk out of my neighborhood; it was scary and so good! Genres: paranormal/horror.
Lemon, Sarah Nicole. Valley Girls. Harry N. Abrams, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 978-1419729645. 400p. Gr 10+ P8 Q7
This is a strong story, showing a teenage girl pushing through adversity. It reminded me a lot of Cheryl Strayed’s novel, Wild, in that the protagonist is struggling to reform herself from drug abuse and low self-esteem by having a wilderness experience that challenges her. Even though this book has a lot of technical jargon about rock climbing, there’s a glossary in the back of the book that helps explain it. Genre: realistic fiction.
London, Alex. Black Wings Beating. (Skybound Saga, book 1). Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0374306823. 432p. Gr 7-12 P6Q8
This well-written book takes place in an alternate universe where those who are expert falconers rise to the top of society. The plot centers on two siblings who are trying to capture a famous eagle and tame it. However, more of the story has to do with the siblings’ abusive upbringing, and how they overcome their past. It’s the first of a trilogy, and I am looking forward to reading more! Genre: Fantasy.
Westerfeld, Scott. Spill Zone, book 1. Illustrated by Alex Puvilland. First Second, 2017. $22.99. ISBN: 978-1596439368. 224p. Gr 9-12. P8Q8
The Spill Zone is an area that resulted from a chemical spill that led to the destruction of a city and death of many of the residents, including the main character’s parents. There’s a lot of criminal activity, suspense, and weird stuff; it reminds me a lot of The Hunger Games, but there’s a lot of F-bombs, so probably not good for younger kids. Genre: Fantasy-SciFi/graphic novel.
Hamilton, Alwyn. Hero at the Fall. (Rebel of the Sands, book 3). Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018. $18.99. ISBN: 978-0451477866. 480p. Gr 7-12 P6Q7
This book is the exciting conclusion to the Rebel of the Sands trilogy, set in a mythical desert world. This action-packed fantasy centers around a strong female character and contains enough weirdness, suspense, and romance to please everyone. Nope, it’s not a stand-alone book; readers are advised to check out the first two books before tackling this one, as the characters and setting are too complex for a stand-alone. Genre: Fantasy
Fowley-Doyle, Moïra. Spellbook of the Lost and Found. Kathy Dawson Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0525429494. 368p. Gr 9-12. P6Q8
Set in Ireland, this book is a narrative about spellcasting, drinking, and wild adventures told from 6 different points of view. It’s pretty twisted and hard to follow at times, but overall a likeable book for mature high-schoolers. Genre: Paranormal/mystery.
McKinney, L.L. A Blade so Black. Imprint, 2018. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1250153906. 384p. Gr 10-12. P7Q9
This is an amazing mix of fantasy, humor, and magic that also happens to be an urban, Black version of Alice in Wonderland. There’s a strong female lead character, obviously, and a cast of “villians” that hover between the real, racist world and Wonderland. It’s really great fanfiction stuff! Genre: Fantasy
Alexander, Kwame. Rebound. (Crossover series.) HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0544868137. Gr 7-9 P8Q8
This series is absolutely awesome, it should be in every library! The characters are so real and lovable, and even though there’s a “message” here about overcoming difficulties, it’s not preachy at all. I think younger kids will really be able to relate to this and it’s very easy to read. Genre: Realistic Fiction
Howard, Greg. Social Intercourse. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1481497817. Gr 9-12. P5Q8
This was a fun book to read. You couldn’t predict what was going to happen from one page to the next. This was partly because the book is first-person narration from two completely different viewpoints: Jaxon, a star football player and Beckett, his sassy gay friend, against the backdrop of southern, religious conservatism. That story might sound really clichéd, but Jaxon has 2 moms and Beck is the “man” of his broken family. When the parents of the boys start dating each other, things get complicated, and they unite in trying to undermine that union, afraid that their families will be torn apart. In the middle of all this, the boys discover they are attracted to each other and fall in love. There are gay sex scenes in this book, so it might not appeal to every reader. There are also instances where the characters have to confront homophobia in their ultra-conservative community. I think this book is thought-provoking and sweet. Genre: LBGQT Romance
Desir, Christa. Four-Letter Word. Simon Pulse, 2019. $19.99. ISBN: 978-1481497374. 416p. Gr 9-12. P6Q5
This is a story about a group of kids who get involved with a nasty game called Gestapo, which pits them against each other and challenges them to do some amoral things. This book should’ve been exciting, but I found parts of it confusing, dry, and hard-to-relate to. Though the leading character is really well-developed and believable, the rest of the kids are dimensionless and flat. Genre: Mystery/thriller/Romance
Thomas, Kara. The Cheerleaders. Delacorte Press, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1524718329. 384p. Gr 9-12. P8Q8
This book is incredibly suspenseful, shocking, and tear-jerking. I didn’t know, from page to page, what emotion I was going to feel, it was such a roller-coaster. The characters were very real, which made it even scarier to me. It deals with so many difficult topics: drug use, abuse, crime, suicide, grief, sex – which makes the story more relevant to what teens go through all the time. It also made me feel more vulnerable, as a girl – maybe more paranoid about what I don’t always see. Genre: Mystery/Horror
March 2019 Young Adult and Adult Fiction Books reviewed by NHS Students.