Set in India on the estate of the Kaur Sher-Gil family, Tamarind and the Star of Ishta by Jasbinder Bilan captures the life story of Chinty’s daughter. Eleven-year-old Tamarind was born in India but moved to Bristol, England, with her father after her mother dies in childbirth. The young tween loves British football (soccer) but feels lost because her father won’t answer any of her questions about her mother. When Tamrind’s father remarries and decides to venture to India on a honeymoon, Tamarind goes to stay in the Himalyas at Alakapari with her mother’s family–who are virtually strangers. Initially, this time is fraught with confusion andRead More →

Readers of Sarah Dessen and Kasie West will likely enjoy This Might Get Awkward by Kara McDowell. Set in Page, Arizona, McDowell’s novel tells the story of Gemma Wells, who finds social situations awkward and awful and who—of her own admission—doesn’t know how to have fun. Despite her challenges to conquer her social anxiety disorder (SAD), Gemma can’t just “suck it up.” So, when her favorite beach is overtaken by a teen party at the end of the school year, her fantasies kick into high gear. Beau Booker, captain of the swim team and the most popular person at Page High, is in attendance. JustRead More →

Set in Ohio, Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson is about a post-apocalyptic world when an airborne virus more deadly than the corona virus has wiped out most of humanity. Terrified and overwhelmed, the few survivors must decide whether they wish to fight or they will give in to despair. Carson invites her readers to wonder what keeps us going since so many of our hopes and dreams—our reasons for living—are determined by sociocultural constructs. Do we recreate what we’ve lost or do we rebuild with something new and better? By asking what happens when all our reasons for living are taken away, CarsonRead More →

At seventeen years old, the protagonist in The Fall of Grace by Amy Fellner Dominy, Grace Marie Pierce, is living the life of a privileged girl, the pure embodiment of the American dream with money, security, friends, and hope for a golden future.  Hardly ever angry, Grace has been sheltered by wealth and fame as the daughter of Janelle Pierce, an investment broker who swaddles herself in luxury: exotic travel, expensive clothes, and other unlimited material comforts.  Janelle occasionally escapes the heat of Phoenix, Arizona, and the stress of the financial world by visiting her favorite place, Blue Lakes in Ridgway, Colorado, where the serenity and theRead More →

When coping with emotional turmoil, our subconscious often takes us away as a kind of protection.  In the event that disassociation doesn’t occur, we find other ways to deal with or to control deep psychological pain.  Because physical pain can cancel out emotional pain, some people resort to self-harm to feel a sense of control over an otherwise uncontrollable situation.  This external way to express inner turmoil distracts the sufferer from painful emotions or helps the person who self-injures to actually feel again. Inundated with impressions of horror and hiding those impressions until they are unbearable, Charlotte Davis, the seventeen-year-old protagonist in Kathleen Glasgow’s debutRead More →

The quiet calm of the wait and the comfort of savory smells make cooking a favorite activity for Maddy, the protagonist in Jewell Parker Rhodes’ recent release, Bayou Magic.  Although she was born Madison Isabelle Lavalier Johnson, Maddy is often called Bird Bones because she is small and thin.  At ten years old, Maddy is not yet comfortable in her own skin, and she wonders why she sees the world differently than her four sisters do. Maddy prefers listening, watching, and dreaming.  Now it’s her turn to have a bayou summer, and her sisters, who each took their turn, warn her of all the drawbacksRead More →

How do you become a man when you don’t have a man in your life?  What does it mean if your father left you and your mom?  Or worse, was never in your life to begin with?  In Dead Ends, the second book by Arizona author Erin Jade Lange,  the question of fathers and the legacies they leave to their children unites unlikely friends on a journey of discovery, healing, and transformation. In his high school, there are the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and Dane Washington is a “have not”.  What Dane does have, however, is a fierce temper and the power to back itRead More →

Getting boxed in by one aspect of your life is something everyone tries to avoid. It doesn’t matter what the social label is, in the microcosom of high school, once you become a jock, stoner, preppy, emo, slut, skater – whatever – the label sticks.  People see you and treat you accordingly.  It’s near impossible to “start over” within the confines of your life as you know it, even though most everyone wants too.  Usually it’s going off to college, or moving to a new town, that gives people the chance to wipe the slate clean and try out new, hidden side to their personality.Read More →

Coretta Scott King Honoree Jewel Parker Rhodes tells a beautiful tale of determination, hope, and connection in her forthcoming book for young readers, Sugar.  Reading this wonderful book brought to mind other strong-willed young girls who recognize and rise above their limited circumstances (Lillie in Freedom Stone, Deza in The Mighty Miss Malone, Zulaikha in Words in the Dust, and Addie in A Thousand Never Evers) to become more than their communities or their social circumstances would have expected them to be. Set five years after the end of the Civil War, 10 year old Sugar has lived her whole life on River Road sugar plantationRead More →