In her novel The Weight of Blood, Tiffany D. Jackson tackles a tough topic: segregated proms and their underlying societal racism. She also unpacks light-skin privilege and explores telekinesis so that she can effectively paint a picture of her protagonist, Madison Washington (Maddy). Under the thumb of an abusive father, Maddy is unaware that she’s strong, brave, and powerful. She dreams of someday being part of a movie crew and sharing a Hollywood set with famous superstars. She envisions working in the design department, sewing elaborate costumes or maybe creating in the kitchen, cooking gourmet meals. But more than anything, she “wants someone to loveRead More →

In her new book for middle-grade readers, The Secret Battle of Evan Pao, Wendy Wan-Long Shang not only explores how young people often deal with conflict but also wonders about their capacity for reconciliation. Through her main character, sixth grader Evan Pao, Shang shares what it means to be “Mr. Sensitive” in a world that often shows no mercy. A human lie-detector with bright and curious eyes, Evan has a sense for when people are not telling the truth. However, his ability fails him when it comes to his father’s swindling ways, which ultimately force the family to flee their home in California. Their moveRead More →

Joining Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, Marie Arnold’s book I Rise has potential to inspire activism while also offering rich allusions to influential personalities from the Black community as well as allusions to Black poets like Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, and Sonia Sanchez; in addition to Black musicians like Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, and Whitney Houston. Through her story telling, Arnold creates a safe space for all traumatized youth. Almost fifteen, Ayomide Bosia no longer has the energy to carry the sadness and pressure of activism life. She yearns to be young and unencumbered by the heavy responsibility that her mother shoulders daily. Ayo’sRead More →

With his novel—You Only Live Once, David Bravo—Mark Oshiro writes a time-bending adventure story for middle grade readers. The two protagonists, David Bravo and Antoine Harris have been friends forever, but now that they are entering Mira Monte Middle School in California, their lives are about to change drastically. When his teacher Mr. Bradshaw invites the class to give a short, introduce-yourself presentation about their cultures and backgrounds, David is faced with indecision. What does he include or leave out? Adopted as an infant, David’s knowledge of his origin story is limited. As he overthinks the task, David faces an identity crisis: Who is he?Read More →

The history of the Jewish Empire of Khazaria would die out completely if not for stories like Black Bird, Blue Road. In this historical fiction account, Sofiya Pasternack shares the story of Ziva and Pesha, twelve year old twins. Stubborn, persistent, passionate, and observant, Ziva aspires to be a judge. Her brother, Pesha may not have the same fire, but he is brilliant in his own way. Ziva is convinced that with his inventive mind, Pesha will find a cure not only for the leprosy that afflicts him but for other diseases, as well. Selfless and kind, Pesha also has a gift for learning languages.Read More →

The first installment in a duology, Twin Crowns by Catherine Doyle and Katherine Webber is a fantasy, adventure, and romance story all rolled into one. It features Wren Greenrock and her twin sister, Rose Valhart. The two girls were separated at birth and raised in diverse locales with different values and perspectives. Rose has lived the life of a pampered princess at Anadawn Palace while Wren grew up near the Whisperwind Cliffs beside the ocean in a commune of witches. Now that Rose is about to be crowned queen, her grandmother has determined that a witch would better serve the kingdom of Eana. So, sheRead More →

Readers of M.T. Anderson (Feed) and Cory Doctorow (Little Brother) will likely enjoy The Last Beekeeper by Pablo Cartaya. In fact, Cartaya’s book is a blend of dystopian fiction and environmental awareness literature targeted towards middle grade readers. For twelve-year-old Yolanda (Yoly) Cicerón, life is all tech and upgrades. Strong, intelligent, and stubborn, Yoly aspires to become a certified neurolink surgeon someday so that she can make some “real money” and live on Remembrance Road where all the designers, programmers, and scientists live. With such a position, she and her sister Cami can escape the poverty of farming the strawberry fields. In her early twenties,Read More →

Set in a world similar to our current reality but not quite, The Darkening by Sunya Mara is a study of both psychology and sociology. Mara explores the consequences of classism and social hierarchies while also taking a deep dive into the effects of despair, vengeance, hate, pain, and anger. In the process, she also asks some critically important questions worthy of soul-searching. Seventeen-year-old Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries and refers to herself as “a hopeful little screwup from the fifth ring” (216). Her father’s fear has kept her safe, but Vesper wonders if it is wrong to want more out of lifeRead More →

Based on the web comic from WEBTOON, Crumbs by Danie Stirling is a fantasy romance featuring characters Ray and Laurie. A number of this graphic novel’s scenes occur in a bakery owned by Laurie’s Aunt Marigold, who names pastries after enchantment spells she has concocted. A seer who attends Council Academy, Ray wants to put her visions to good use. The novel’s second protagonist, Laurie Garcia aspires to be a world famous musician who plays sold-out concerts in which the entire audience sings along. Yet neither character has a straight route to that sought-after goal. Ray struggles with parental expectations and her own assurance thatRead More →