Angie Thomas’ prequel to The Hate U Give is a good read.  Concrete Rose, which tells the story of Maverick Carter, is no fairy tale. However, it is deeply moving.  It reveals a young man who is full of potential despite the harsh world around him. Even though Garden Heights, the neighborhood in which Maverick grows up, is inundated by gangs, drugs, violence, and poverty—his mother, Faye, does her best to give her son a positive upbringing. Still, he confronts death, the challenges of teenage parenting, and multiple temptations head on. Thomas doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties that Maverick faces, and the reader gets to experienceRead More →

A form of cognitive efficiency, labeling helps people make sense of their worlds. Although labels give our brains the ability to categorize and to draw useful conclusions, they can also limit thinking and lead to stereotypes. With labels like normal, mentally ill, or bipolar, we not only make assumptions about others but about ourselves and our potential abilities. These assumptions can even influence our identities. It is this identity labeling that concerns Journey Smith, the seventeen-year-old protagonist in Faith Gardner’s novel Girl on the Line. Journey doubts the truth about many of the things the world tells her and believes that her brain ruins everything asRead More →

Perhaps the most widely recognized Supreme Court case in American history, Brown v. Board of Education was a nationwide assault on beliefs of white supremacy. But for all its renown, many Americans know little about the case itself or of the great changes in American society that propelled the Supreme Court to rule as it did on May 17, 1954. With his Scholastic published book Separate No More, Lawrence Goldstone enlightens readers about the long road to Brown v. Board of Education. In this nonfiction account, readers will learn the names of many personalities instrumental in proving that separate did not mean, and could notRead More →

By their own definition, Naomi and Malcolm Smith used to “live in sin” and had their first baby, Jemima Genesis (aka Genny), out of wedlock while in their teens. However, being God-fearing individuals and believers in the notion of God’s mercy in granting second chances, they marry and eventually answer the call to enter the seminary. Now, they serve as co-pastors at Resurrection Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. Naomi and Malcolm completed their family with two more daughters, naming each one after Job’s girls from the Bible. Of the Smith trinity, Genny went on to become the youngest Black woman to earn her PhDRead More →

Ember Williams leads an active life at Heller High. She covets a 4.0 GPA, runs track, and captains the debate team. On the surface, she looks like a high-achieving teenager with a bright future. But there are secrets at Heller High. Secrets that Ember wants to uncover and force into the light. The Red Court is a rumor, smoke vanishing into nothing under the fluorescent lighting of Heller High’s hallways. It’s rumored to be a secret society made up of female students, led by a mysterious ‘Queen of Hearts.’ They say the Red Court grants wishes. Desperate students can stuff a note in an unclaimedRead More →

Z Brewer, an author who is also an outspoken mental health and anti-bullying advocate, has written a young adult novel that validates the challenges that accompany identity exploration. Into the Real is an affirming story about a person living a broken life and willing to do anything to be free of constraints. Living in a fog of insecurity and confusion about sexuality and gender identity, seventeen-year-old Quinn experiences an oppressive feeling of loneliness. As Quinn navigates the fog of more questions than answers, more heartache than support, this genderqueer teen envisions a world in which life can be conflict-free and peaceful. However, to reach thisRead More →

Fans of Francina Simone’s novel Smash It! will likely also enjoy Robin Talley’s The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre. Both are written with “theater kids” in mind and with the message that nothing is perfect. Talley’s protagonist is cue-calling master Melody McIntyre who has her sights set on Broadway.  Mel has worked her way into the position of Stage Manager at Beaconville High School (BHS) in Massachusetts. Renowned for its theater program, BHS productions have not only won statewide awards but many of the program’s alumni have gone on to careers in the performing arts, both as actors and in technical roles. Mel is aRead More →

Given the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the world, Katharyn Blair‘s novel Unchosen is eerily relevant. Fans of Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld, Mercedes Lackey, and Brandon Sanderson will also cheer for the strong female characters and appreciate the engaging and action-packed story. In Blair’s dystopia, someone has knowingly or inadvertently unleashed the Crimson, a virus-like curse that causes the end of the world as we know it. Rather than wearing face masks, people wear blindfolds because looking into the wrong eyes is a death sentence. When infected, a person’s irises turn from their natural color to purple and then to red. That individual has only oneRead More →

Living in Brazil, Felipe cannot think about other people’s suffering because he has too many issues of his own, so being gay is a small detail in a truckload of crises. He is a shy, anxious, socially-challenged young man with low self-esteem, conditions which largely center around his obesity.  Given these challenges and his experiences with bullies, jumping to the worst-case scenario is Felipe’s specialty. Instead of having to endure this life in which he lost out in the talent lottery and his dad gave him the fat gene before abandoning him, Felipe wishes he were a superhero, one who could create force fields soRead More →