Just as Sara Zapata believes in doing good, no matter the cost, her brother Emiliano believes in the need to do something good with his life. Because of their convictions, they are forced to flee from Juarez, Mexico, to escape persecution and retaliation from human traffickers. Seeking asylum, they cross the border into the United States, but an attack ensues. Afterwards, Sara finds herself in the Fort Stockton Detention Center; however, her brother has escaped with the contraband that put their lives in jeopardy in the first place: Leopoldo Hinnjosa’s phone. Hinojosa is the man responsible for the enslavement and abuse of multiple women, andRead More →

Set in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon is a horror story. Along with the Fantastic Four, readers will drown in a sea of scary. If you don’t believe monsters are real, wait until you experience the creepy encounters of Hermon’s characters! Since his mother died, Justin Vaughn believes that everybody leaves, nothing stays the same, and nothing fits anymore. One of his best friends, Zee Murphy is back after a long absence, but he has been changed by the trauma of his experience while lost. Now, along with two other friends—Lyric Rivers, who is loyal and believes that friends help and don’tRead More →

Kim Johnson’s debut young adult novel is a stunning work of realistic fiction. It joins the ranks of stories written by Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, and Jesmyn Ward.  With This Is My America, Johnson uses art as a tool to inspire social action. Drawing on the idealism, perseverance, and passion of her protagonist Tracy Beaumont, Johnson encourages us to use our voices to demand justice and to become advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Rooted in United States history, where we have inherited a legacy of racial segregation and hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, this narrative reminds us that the past is alwaysRead More →

Three Keys

Try as I might, I was unable to limit my review of Three Keys by Kelly Yang to three keys to its greatness.  I started with It’s about a goat named Scape and the issue of immigration and how it’s easy to blame those in a weak spot; It proves that although most people don’t change, some people do; and It shares how small interactions have the power to change minds and to make a big impact for those vulnerable to exploitation, abuses, misinformation, and hopelessness. But I realized I couldn’t stop with that short list.  Yang’s book goes beyond any simple storyline to capture someRead More →

Wrecked by her parents’ divorce and then her brother’s disappearance three years ago, Andrea Murphy’s life has grown awful. The empty seat at the table, her unrelenting guilt that her brother’s disappearance is somehow her fault, and his ghost in the boxes stacked in the garage all haunt her. “I’m fine” is the lie she tells to hide the cracks and holes in her heart. As a reminder of his memory, she carries a missing piece of her brother in her pocket. When the pain grows too intense to bear, she rides her bike far and fast, letting the breeze whip through her hair whileRead More →

I suspect that many adolescent readers will find themselves in the pages of Francina Simone’s novel Smash It! The leading female in this book, which is dedicated to “theater kids,” seventeen-year-old Olivia James-Johnson considers herself a nerdy loser, a sad black girl with a “too curvy” body, and someone who does uncool things since she’s addicted to self-sabotage. Because she lacks self-confidence, she passes up doing what she wants because she’s afraid of being judged or looking like a clown. A talented flutist who loves dancing, she can find a beat and step into it with her whole body. “When I dance, I feel likeRead More →

Featuring illustrations by Robin Boyden, Get Me Out of Here! by Andy McNab and Phil Earle is a humorous novel written for middle grade readers.  The plot revolves around eleven-year-old Danny Mack’s desire to attend what he believes will be an epic, adventure-filled school field trip with mountaineering, kayaking, and zip-lining.  However, the trip costs more than his mother can afford. So, in order to raise the $150.00 participation fee, Danny undertakes a series of “get rich quick” schemes. His best friend Thomas Jefferson Raffles (aka Giraffles), who is always willing to stick his neck out for a pal, helps Danny to realize he’s notRead More →

Attracted to the bold, the risky, and the unknown, Hattie Darrow plays Don Quixote to Reid MacGregory’s role as Sancho Panza. Reid is content playing Hattie’s side-kick extraordinaire in pranks and at parties.  Where Reid is calm and reasonable, Hattie is spontaneous and daring; her energy luminesces around her.  From the time Reid met Hattie in middle school, Reid saw her potential and declared: “Being Hattie Darrow’s friend would make me better” (51). As the two are about to enter their senior year in high school, Hattie is still Reid’s social oxygen.  “Humiliation is a language [Hattie] doesn’t speak, and she doesn’t want [Reid] toRead More →

Jasbinder Bilan’s debut novel for middle grade readers, Asha and the Spirit Bird, is one rich with cultural detail and adventure. Set in a village in India called Moormandali, Bilan includes many Hindi and Punjabi words to add authenticity to the telling of this coming of age, epic journey. The story features eleven-year-old Asha Kumar and her twelve-year-old best friend, Jeevan Singh Gill.  The two children sneak away from home to travel from their village in the foothills of the Himalayas to find Asha’s papa in Zandapur. The journey calls on the children’s perseverance, courage, hope, and conviction that they will be successful.  Along theRead More →