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 →

Based on the YouTube sensation, Storybooth compiled by Marcy Kaye and Joshua Sinel is a collection of “amazing & heartbreaking & inspiring stories” told by “brave teens bold enough to share a piece of themselves with the world.” The collection features true confessions, secrets, struggles, embarrassments, heartbreaks, and other facets of diverse and fragile lives. The compilation is brimming with emotion, and many of the stories cover difficult subjects, like rape, homophobia, racism, suicide ideation, self-harm, bullying, abuse, and experimentation with sexual intimacy. The multifarious voices inspire readers and remind us that we are all in this world together, trying our best, not just toRead More →

Although Mason Deaver’s novel The Feeling of Falling in Love is indeed a love story, as the title implies, it is also about self-esteem, social class differences, and the exploration of sexual and gender identity. Neil Kearney, a transgender teen, has a “friends with benefits” relationship with his friend Josh. Both use the relationship for stress relief and mutual pleasure. However, when Josh decides he loves Neil, Neil panics and invokes the Pull-Out Clause. Now, he has a week to prove to Josh that he has moved on with his roommate, Wyatt Fowler.  What could possibly go wrong, especially since Wyatt claims to be aRead 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 →

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 →

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 →

In his nonfiction book Days of Infamy, Lawrence Goldstone reveals several events from the past that bear remembering, lest they be repeated. The book provides important history for young adults about how a century of bigotry led to Japanese American internment. With Executive Order 9066 authorized by President Franklin Roosevelt, anyone of Japanese heritage was considered an “alien,” a potential saboteur or enemy agent who could be denied rights otherwise guaranteed under the Constitution. To have one’s rights annulled in the name of national security—as was again done with the Patriot Act after September 11, 2001—is something we should have learned from; yet, here weRead More →

If books need labels, Café con Lychee by Emery Lee would be a romantic comedy that showcases queer interracial love between two people of color. Labels are suggestive of a category and, as such, provide a cognitive short-cut. Yet, labels also invite critical thinking. So, while Lee’s book does indeed feature two gay young men—one Japanese/Chinese, the other Puerto Rican—it dives deeper, emerging as a book about the universal experience of looking for acceptance and how fear makes people do terrible things. An openly gay boy, Theo Mori is a talented cook and soccer athlete. Even though his friends see him as confident, smart, andRead More →