Set in Riverton, Washington, Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June follows the life of Jay Collier, a young man who feels alone in his difference. A hyper-organized list maker, Jay is a statistics geek, mathematician, and reality tv aficionado who can recite the MTV, VH1, and Bravo show schedules. He is also an award-winning hoedown costumier and a self-proclaimed “inexperienced and getting-desperate gay virgin” (60). Jay’s life grows more complicated when his ride-or-die best friend, Lu Fuhrman, goes into “Heterosexual Hookup Mode.” While Lu experiences various milestones with her boyfriend, Chip, Jay feels abandoned and like he’s living in quarantine. Then, his mom is promotedRead More →

Because of her parents’ arguing at home, racist comments and insensitivity from classmates at school, stress induced anxiety, and the typical horrors of high school, Quinn Jackson keeps a journal filled with lists.  A coping mechanism of sorts, her lists serve to calm her mind, provide a sense of focus, and give her a foundation.  She also lists her goals and dreams, her fears and worries.  Her journal contains her feelings when she doesn’t know how to express them out loud. When her journal turns up missing and she instead has a red-covered spiral that belongs to Carter Bennett, Quinn determines that Carter must haveRead More →

The author of A Love Hate Thing, Whitney D. Grandison has written a new book entitled The Right Side of Reckless. Set in Akron, Ohio, this latest work features several characters to which readers might relate as well as multiple morals about authoring our own life stories and the power of revision and second chances in that process. On probation for assault, seventeen-year-old Guillermo Lozano calls himself the Patron Saint of Fuckups. Although he has anger issues, Guillermo is determined to shed his reputation as a wild, fearless, and selfish delinquent to find a new life and a sense of belonging in Briar Pointe andRead More →

Known as the lonely girl who writes computer code, sixteen-year-old Xia Chan is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in an incubator program for gifted young programmers. As a young tech prodigy, Xia has developed a predictive outcomes application (app) she calls Wiser. Because of this technology, she has been targeted by the Foundry, an institute run by Lars Lang in Silicon Valley. Only twenty youth are accepted for this all-expense paid experience. For one year, they live on campus in the San Francisco Bay area and compete to be that year’s Founder. Whoever wins will receive “one million dollars in seedRead More →

The (Un)Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez is a huge undertaking. While it accurately depicts the “clique-centric hierarchy” and popularity contests that exist in high schools across the United States, it also dives deeply into ideologies—both political and personal. Along with Sanchez’s characters, the reader will confront some difficult questions and ponder possible solutions. One of those key questions is How do you claim space in a world that doesn’t want you? Sanchez expertly points out that everyone’s normal is different, and in a heteronormative society, that fact is bound to create some conflict. Initially, the book seems to be about a transgender teen who growsRead More →

Set on Wilneff Island in Nova Scotia, Molly Knox Ostertag’s graphic novel The Girl from the Sea revolves around the life of fifteen-year-old Morgan Kwon.  Morgan likes to keep her life tucked neatly into boxes, but she finds that plan unraveling when she meets Keltie. Keltie brings a sort of wild, chaotic, fairy-tale magic to Morgan’s otherwise grounded life. Keltie is a selkie, a seal who transforms into a human to walk on land for a period of time.  It is Morgan’s kiss that provides the magic for the transformation. But Morgan wants to keep that part of her life hidden from her friends Serena, Lizzie,Read More →

Set in North Carolina, The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver is a book about coping with grief. It confirms that healing is a complicated process different for everyone. When Liam Cooper’s brother, Ethan is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Liam loses the normal in his universe.  The sixteen-year-old, non-binary musician can find no life outside the music he makes with the aid of GarageBand software. Even his friends Joel and Vanessa consider him too morose. Feeling like he doesn’t belong anywhere and trying to navigate the grieving process alone, his anger and depression consume him. Initially, Liam believes that he will move through theRead More →

Better with Butter by Victoria Piontek takes on the topic of mental health awareness. Her novel features twelve-year-old Marvel McKenna who lives with an anxiety disorder. When she’s not thinking of global, world-ending tragedies, Marvel is thinking of small “me-centric concerns.”  In fact, her insides feel like a forest with “one worry pollinating another” (70). Targeting middle school readers, Piontek’s storyline opens the dialogue about mental challenges. Through Marvel, young readers will come to know that pep talks don’t magic someone back to health, nor can anxiety be teased or bullied out of a person either.  What people with such a condition need most isRead More →

Sixth grader Bea Embers is a bright, competitive, and strong-willed girl. She and her mother have always been a team of two, but their quiet mornings eating Corn Pops and sharing the ritual of their “three things they’re grateful for, big or small” come to an abrupt end when Mom gets pregnant and decides to marry Wendell Valentine, who has three sons: Cameron, Tucker, and Bryce and multiple pets. Her mother’s marriage also means moving away from Aunt Tam with whom they share a wall in their condominium in Vermont.  It further means not living in the same neighborhood as Maximilian, Bea’s best friend whoRead More →