Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi is a book about dogs and humans. Eleven-year-old Quinn has lost his dad to a heart attack and his dog Murph to a vehicle accident, and now he’s losing his brother Jessie to a pack of bullies. Craving love and attention, Quinn accepts a job with Miss Lottie, who has created a family of dogs she is giving another chance. Quinn develops into a good belly rubber and an excellent chin scratcher, beloved by the pack of rescue dogs. When the story opens, four dogs comprise the pack. With his strength and courage, Tank is loyal and trusty—a true bulldogRead 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 →

Haunted by the spot on the wall where her finisher patch should go, seventeen-year-old Sadie Scofield is determined to finish the Texas River Odyssey after giving up and then getting injured when she partnered with her dad. Because Scofields never quit, Sadie is living in a shadow of regret as she clings to the “can’t keep up” memory and allows it to erode the relationship with her father. Anyone belonging to the discourse community of river rats or competitive boaters/racers will likely be on the same wave length as those in Holly Green’s young adult novel, In the Same Boat. Talking of sweepers, log jams,Read More →

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley gets a major update with The Block by Ben Oliver. In Oliver’s second book in The Loop Trilogy targeted for young adults, readers will experience a video game vibe, like that achieved in The Matrix. Along with the characters, they will wonder what is real and what is simulated. In this new dystopian world, everybody’s happy because Happy—an artificial intelligence—rules the world.  Galen Rye is in charge, and he decides who suffers as a battery—without hopes, dreams, and ambitions as they power the world with their energy harvested from pain, fear, and anger.  He decides who should be brainwashed intoRead More →

Seventeen-year-old Ambrose Cusk and another spacefarer, Kodiak Celius, are aboard the Coordinated Endeavor, a spaceship bound for Saturn’s moon Titan to rescue Ambrose’s sister, Minerva Cusk. Earth’s two remaining countries, Fédération and Dimokratía have combined their forces to accomplish this mission. Brought together by a crisis, each young man brings his expertise and biases to the mission. Ambrose’s skills include playing the violin, programming AIs, translating computer code, and having a high awareness of his feelings.  Kodiak’s gifts are piloting, mechanical engineering, survivalism, and hand-to-hand combat. The Dimokratía space program selects its spacefarers by testing millions of children in its orphanages and determining those whichRead 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 →

Nina Hamza’s debut novel, Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year is an epic read. Weaving elements of three classic middle grade books: Holes by Louis Sachar, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, Hamza shares some important perspectives with her readers. Ahmed’s father needs a liver transplant, a medical situation that precipitates the need to move from Hawaii to Minnesota. Initially, Ahmed’s dominant emotion is anger. That shifts to confusion for the twelve year old skinny brown boy with curly hair. As a Muslim of Indian descent, Ahmed struggles to find his place inRead More →

Seventeen-year-old Hannah Ashton is poised, disciplined, and focused.  Because her audition is approaching for the Corps De Ballet with the South Texas City Ballet Company, Hannah is relentless in her practice sessions. With its structure and predictable patterns, dancing keeps her panic under control.  To review her choreography when she can’t actually perform the steps, Hannah uses her hands as proxies for her feet. While engaged in this silent performance, Hannah’s best friend for twelve years, Astrid describes Hannah’s hands as looking like they are performing some kind of “badass sign language.” The only other pastime that consumes Hannah and can make her forget life’sRead 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 →