With Plan A, Deb Caletti has written a story that conveys the power of choice. To develop this theme, Caletti creates sixteen-year-old Ivy Devries who lives in Paris, Texas, a place populated by conservative people with strict opinions. From a long line of fierce women, Ivy finds herself in a predicament: She’s pregnant. But how could that be when she hasn’t actually had sex? Although Ivy aligns herself with Thomas Hardy’s protagonist in Tess of the D’Urbervilles, “ruined forever. More of a problem than a person, already broken, her future sealed” (40), Ivy realizes she’s just a regular girl, who never imagined this would happenRead More →

Through his novel The Broke Hearts, Matt Mendez shares a story that spans generations and blurs genres. A sequel to Barely Missing Everything, the style of this follow-up is unique in that multiple stories are being conveyed within its pages. Told from various view points and with screen play scripts, flashbacks, and Lotería cards interwoven in the prose, The Broke Hearts illustrates how the past never leaves us and how “being a warrior is about doing the hard thing every time” (4). Mendez also shares insight about having hopes and dreams but how life gets in the way with moments of heart break. JD SanchezRead More →

With Phoenix Revived, Judy McCluney has written a story about the trials faced by two teens trying to make their way in the world.  Although told in a fairly straightforward, realistic fashion, McCluney does apply a richly developed allusion to the Egyptian myth of the phoenix while also setting the story in Arizona. Uprooted by her dad’s job in the Air Force, Sami has just moved from California to South Phoenix. More than anything, she wishes to fly away to a place of possibility where she hopes to work as a veterinarian. Unable to rely on her parents for monetary support to attend college, SamiRead More →

Kin: Rooted in Hope by Carole Boston Weatherford is a powerful textual tribute to “the ancestors who carried us through” accented by scratchboard-like illustrations by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. In this verse novel, the Weatherfords conjure the voices of their ancestors and speak to them and through them with their art. Seeking answers to key questions: “At what age is hope born, when does resistance first rise up, and when do dreams wither” (22-23), the mother/son pair tells a moving story of their family tree. Their goal is to give voice to their African-American ancestors who were “marginalized, muted, or muzzled” as they tilled fields intoRead More →

Although Forty Words for Love by Aisha Saeed is certainly a story about love, the plot runs much deeper to embrace other topics, as well. Topics like immigration, socioeconomic status, truth, and following one’s dreams also find a place in these pages. Saeed shares multiple morals as the story of Raf and Yas unfolds. When the story opens, readers learn briefly of Raf’s trek from Golub and about a sacred tree that allows or denies passage from one world to another. People from Raf’s world have a golden leaf birthmark that pulses and warms in warning if a person has moved beyond the perimeter ofRead More →

Although Finding Jupiter by Kelis Rowe is a romance novel, it is also about coping with loss, the effects of blame, and the importance of hope. Set in Tennessee, Rowe’s novel features two teens: Ray Evans and Orion Roberson. With her found poetry, Ray turns words into art. Entertained by romance, but not captivated by its drama, Ray spends her spare time on volleyball, classes, and art. Someone who likes creating beautiful things, Ray is also an artist on roller skates. After seeing the effect that love has had on her mother, Ray is afraid to love because of the risk of loss. She findsRead More →

Tired of watching life from the sidelines, Baylee Kunkel wonders who she would be if she weren’t wearing the body of a fat girl. Although Baylee projects a confident version of herself, she is wildly insecure, judging herself and holding on to negative feelings about her body image. When it comes to the way she looks and the way she presents herself to the world, Baylee lives by a strict fashion code: She does not tuck her shirt into her pants and she does not knowingly accessorize with something that will accentuate her adipose tissue. Yearning to be seen, to be wanted, and to beRead More →

Basketball defines Barclay Elliot. As captain of the Chitwood High School basketball team in Georgia, Barclay dreams of eventually putting his talent to the test at a big-city D1 school with his best friend Zack Ito. The protagonist in Time Out by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, and Carlyn Greenwald, Barclay believes that a team is a family who shares everything and supports one another; it is a place where talent, strength, and fortitude mix to hold one another up, no matter the burden. However, when his biggest fan and the father figure in his life, his grandpa Scratch dies before seeing the Wildcats win anotherRead More →

With I Am Not Alone, Francisco X. Stork has penned a powerful and poignant story. His protagonist Alberto Bocel is an undocumented Mexican in the United States working in order to send money back to Ticul, Mexico, for his mother’s medical bills. Alberto endures symptoms of a mental condition that leaves him oscillating between a cloud of forgetfulness or battling the voice in his head. As a result, he feels broken. When Alberto is accused of murdering Mrs. Macpherson, he wonders if he is capable of such cruelty. Did the voice in his head—whom he has named Captain America—use his hands to commit murder? AtRead More →