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 →

Eleven-year-old Jarell feels awkward and out of place except when he’s drawing. Although his brother Lucas got all the athletic talent, drawing helps Jarell feel in control. Deriving from somewhere deep in his subconscious, he always draws the same futuristic world of towering buildings, powerful warriors, evil sorcerers, and glowing metal gloves with battle tech. To showcase Jarell’s talent, Remi Blackwood’s novel for middle grade readers, Future Hero: Race to Fire Mountain features colors like lava-flow red and obsidian. The first in a series, the book is also peppered with illustrations. The only place Jarell has ever felt truly at ease is the local barbershopRead 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 →

At age ten, Zhang Ai Shi becomes an object sorting machine. Favoring the practical and the essential, her dolls and dress-up clothes go in the give-away pile as the family packs for Duarte, California, from Taipei, Taiwan. Because the Chinese name for America is “the beautiful country,” Ai Shi anticipates the trip with excitement. However, what Ai Shi discovers “in the land of more” is that her world is rather small. As her parents endure vandalism and work relentlessly to make ends meet, Ai Shi must help out in “the store” while learning the paradox of being simultaneously grateful and sad. At school, she isRead 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 →

Although an important book about exploitation, genocide, and identity—one inspired by Yoruba-Nigerian mythology—Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye is difficult to read. Trapped in a world of monsters who will eat her alive should they realize she’s the enemy, Sloane Shade lives under Lucis rule and tyranny. Ten times more horrifying than the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the ruling class and its military are pitting children against children, training them to kill or be killed. Bound by the Lucis law regarding conscription, when a child turns fifteen, he or she reports for training for a war against the Shadow Rebels. Such is the fate ofRead More →

It’s the first day of seventh grade, and Maggie Diaz is eager for the new freedoms that West Memorial Middle School in Miami will hold. However, this messy and forgetful gal with strict Cuban parents discovers that life at this age and stage is complicated. Maggie has no phone, shares a bedroom with her abuela, and endures chaos at home with a teenage sister, a brand-new baby brother, a mother who is trying to complete her accounting degree, and a father who is working out of town. Furthermore, she feels left behind by her friends who are moving forward with their own interests. like bandRead More →