Award-winning author Minh Lê and illustrator Chan Chau collaborated to produce Enlighten Me, a graphic novel for young readers. After he is threatened with disciplinary action at school following a fight, Bihn and his family travel to Three Jewels Mountain Retreat for meditation exercises. Binh Bui, a Vietnamese boy, is taunted for eating cat and takes on the school bully. Thinking he is a hero, like those he sees in his video games, Binh is confused by the reaction of his parents and his vice principal. While at Three Mountains, Binh learns from the teachings of Sister Peace about the diamond of knowledge that grantsRead More →

On par with books by David Levithan, All the Yellow Suns by Malavika Kannan is a story about a sixteen-year-old queer Indian-American girl who believes art’s power is to disrupt narratives and to recreate reality. Mayavati Krishnan is an optimistic, talented, and opinionated social justice activist. Set in Florida, Kannan’s book follows the lives of several brown teens who are fighting to be seen, not to be targeted and bullied by authority figures. Maya and her mother have been abandoned by Maya’s artist father whose true love is art. Because Rajendra made the choice to stay in India, Maya is angry, an emotion that sheRead More →

Readers will likely relate to the popularity food chain and power plays that transpire in junior high school. This social dynamic is the focus of Tae Keller’s middle grade novel Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone. With this book, Keller takes readers to the seventh grade classroom of Gibbons Academy in Florida and explores themes like identity, anxiety, friendship, bullying, and redemption. She also invites us to wonder whether we are truly alone in the universe and whether other life might exist beyond Earth. Mallory Moss is struggling to define herself—is she a fun, brave, and trustworthy friend or a timid, insecure, and fearful follower? BelievingRead More →

Basketball defines Barclay Elliot. As captain of the Chitwood High School basketball team in Georgia, Barclay dreams of eventually putting his talent to the test at a big-city D1 school with his best friend Zack Ito. The protagonist in Time Out by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, and Carlyn Greenwald, Barclay believes that a team is a family who shares everything and supports one another; it is a place where talent, strength, and fortitude mix to hold one another up, no matter the burden. However, when his biggest fan and the father figure in his life, his grandpa Scratch dies before seeing the Wildcats win anotherRead More →

An Earl’s daughter, Lady Ela Dalvi doesn’t fall from grace; she is shoved by her former best friend, Poppy Landers who concocts a tale that sullies Ela’s reputation. Vowing to get revenge, Ela invents a new personality and becomes Miss Lyra Whitley, an enigmatic heiress who plans to infiltrate the glittering ballrooms of London, 1817. After all, “money has a way of opening the tightest, most elite circles” (10), and the recipe for high society female accomplishment in the United Kingdom during the late Regency era and later were fortune, connections, beauty, and virtue. On this defiant journey across class boundaries, Lyra’s disguise seeks position,Read More →

Dark Room Etiquette by Robin Roe should be required reading for any student of psychology. Set in Texas, this is a powerful book about the aftermath of a traumatic event and illustrates how the human mind is a total mystery. Roe tells the story of two years in the life of Sayers Wayte (Saye), a sixteen-year-old who turns eighteen in the course of the novel. As the story opens, Saye is basking in his status as a junior eligible for Homecoming Court at Laurel High School, as a popular young man with friends and a girlfriend, and as a member of the upper class whoseRead More →

Fond of precision and happiest when she’s in charge, nine-year-old Jessie Treski always says exactly what she means. Her brother in the fifth grade, Evan refers to his sister as “Obsessy Jessie” because of her intensity. Yet, Jessie looks to her big brother as someone “who always [has] the answers and who always [helps] her when she [can’t] figure things out on her own” (134). Furthermore, Evan will often play translator for his sister since Jessie considers feelings a mystery and finds reading people’s facial expressions confusing. These two siblings play the role of protagonists in Jacqueline Davies’ latest book The Bridge Battle. Because Jessie’sRead More →

As the title implies, a reader should be prepared to be confused when reading Katzenjammer by Francesca Zappia. The novel takes the reader down a nightmarish path of distress experienced by the main character, Cat. While it is clear that Cat suffers from depression and bewilderment in a world that makes no sense to her, the reason for that distress is not made clear until the novel’s conclusion. Through Cat, readers encounter a version of school that is unfortunately all too real for some students who experience bullying because of their differences. The dichotomy of us versus them is set out early in the novel.Read More →

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 →