Stacey Lee’s Kill Her Twice is a fascinating historical fiction/murder mystery written for young adults. Based loosely on the character Anna May Wong, who is considered the first female Chinese American Hollywood movie star, the novel tells the story of the challenges faced by Chinese people living in Los Angeles, California, in 1932. Lee presents her clues by alternating between the perspectives of two teens: May Chow, 19, and her sister Gemma, 17, who sell flowers in City Market. The girls’ father, Ba, always told his daughters that “his three fierce clouds—Mei Wun, or ‘beautiful cloud,’ for May; Gam Wun, or ‘fresh cloud,’ for [Gemma];Read More →

For her debut young adult novel, former stand-up comedian Kate Weston writes Diary of a Confused Feminist to serve several purposes: to create humor, to profile the feminist adventure from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Katarina Evans (a.k.a. Kat), and to shine a light on mental health, especially for those who endure anxiety and depression. If it can be said of humor, some of the lines spoken and thoughts pondered by the novel’s protagonist seemed a bit outside the realm of normal. But Weston herself admits that normal might not exist, given that every individual varies in that regard. In any case, the focus on sex,Read More →

A novel for middle-grade readers, Gigi Shin Is Not a Nerd by Lyla Lee tells the story of a seventh grade mixed race girl, Ji-Young who selected the American name Gigi. Living in Texas, Gigi draws for adventure. Although her parents want her to pursue a career that privileges math and science, Gigi loves art and creating comic characters like Meteor Girl and Choir Boy. When the opportunity to attend Starscape, a prestigious summer art camp, comes along, Gigi is determined to attend. However, when Gigi asks her parents about the camp, they tell her that money is tight. Frustrated by their lack of supportRead More →

Those who favor fantasy literature laced with an apocalyptic zombie thread will likely enjoy Dead Things Are Closer Than They Appear by Robin Wasley. The plot revolves around seventeen-year-old Isidora (Sid) Spencer who claims to have no best self; she is one self without a qualifier. This adopted Korean girl has an adopted brother, Matt Spencer, whom she loves deeply but doesn’t know completely. Matt has a secret: he is a Guardian of the fault-line in Llewellyn (Wellsie) where the ghosts look like rainbows made of smoke. People come to Wellsie “to stand where magic lies sealed beneath the earth” (1). The fault line hasRead More →

A graphic novel organized in five parts, K Is in Trouble by Gary Clement tells the story of young K. Although K has ambitions and hopes to be a writer someday, he more often finds himself misunderstood and admonished. As he navigates a world of mostly unkind adults, K tries to please but rarely receives compliments. Ultimately, this is a quick read on the absurdities of childhood. K talks to a beetle, converses with a crow, and finds himself tricked by a talking carp. These creatures have more patience with K than any of the adults he encounters.Read More →

Set in the early 1800s, Sail Me Away Home by Ann Clare LeZotte tells the story of Mary Elizabeth Lambert. Mary, a deaf-mute living in Chilmark, Massachusetts, travels to Paris to return with ideas for starting a school in the Americas for the non-speaking deaf population. Like a bee pollinating flowers, Mary hopes to return with methods that will enable the languages of the deaf and the speaking to converge. Born with hereditary deafness, something that was not an anomaly in Martha’s Vineyard from 1740 to the late 1800s, Mary is determined “to treat all—no matter their dress, parentage, or how many acres their familyRead More →

Written by Jessixa Bagley and illustrated by Aaron Bagley, Duel is a graphic novel about family relationships as much as it is about fencing. With creative word play and pictures, the pair tell the story of Lucy and Georgia (Gigi) Jones whose passion is fencing, a passion developed by their father and passed on to his two daughters. When Dad unexpectedly dies, the girls and their mother forget how to be a family, and soon, they are in turmoil. Feeling inadequate and unsure of themselves, the two tweens take out their frustrations on one another. Pushed to her limits, Lucy challenges her sister to aRead More →

Set in Melbourne, Australia, I Hope This Doesn’t Find You by Ann Liang features Sadie Wen and Julius Gong, two teens who are on a trajectory to future success. Having researched the highest-paying job and the most in-demand degrees, Julius plans to be a lawyer and Sadie a data analyst. Both young people attend Woodvale Academy, a selective high school for gifted students and populated predominantly by other young Asians. At Woodvale, “dreams, [like astronaut, playwright, and artist] are shattered and hobbies are traded for more stable, lucrative, practical careers” (130). Sadie has perfect grades and is the MVP in every sports team she isRead More →

Set in Oahu, Hawaii, in 1941, Heroes by Alan Gratz is a novel about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Two thirteen-year-old boys: Stanley Summer and Frank McCoy, whose fathers are pilots for the U.S. Navy, bond over their love of comic books. The two see the fleet of ships on Battleship Row as a metaphor for superheroes: the Justice Society of America. Frank is a writer and Stanley an illustrator. Together, they invent characters, write their origin stories, and draw them into situations where they emerge as heroes. However, Frank feels a bit like a fraud. Ever since The Incident in Florida, their last militaryRead More →