Set in Melbourne, Australia, I Hope This Doesn’t Find You by Ann Liang features Sadie Wen and Julius Gong, two teens who are on a trajectory to future success. Having researched the highest-paying job and the most in-demand degrees, Julius plans to be a lawyer and Sadie a data analyst. Both young people attend Woodvale Academy, a selective high school for gifted students and populated predominantly by other young Asians. At Woodvale, “dreams, [like astronaut, playwright, and artist] are shattered and hobbies are traded for more stable, lucrative, practical careers” (130). Sadie has perfect grades and is the MVP in every sports team she isRead More →

Set in Minnesota, Just Keep Walking is a middle grade novel written in part to encourage resilience and perseverance in tweens. Erin Soderberg Downing creates twelve-year-old Josephine Conlan, aka Jo, to carry her message about not giving up in the face of adversity and challenge. Jo’s older brother, Jake, is in college now, and her dad side-stepped into a new family despite his promise to take his daughter on the Superior Hiking Trail the summer of her seventh grade year.  With all of her alone time, Jo experiences “too many uncomfortable silences. Too much time to think about the way things used to be. TooRead More →

Set in the 70s in Santa Monica, Clouds over California by Karyn Parsons tells the story of a mixed-race sixth grader. Stephanie Morrison, aka Stevie, moves to a new neighborhood at a critical time in her life, so making friends adds a layer of challenge. Her best friend from her former school has moved on, and talking about boys and fingernail polish are not Stevie’s thing. For Stevie, the library is a kind of church. She’s also loves to skate and imagines herself in an Olympic arena as a Roller Derby queen defending the team’s lead. When her older cousin Naomi comes to live withRead More →

With I Am Not Alone, Francisco X. Stork has penned a powerful and poignant story. His protagonist Alberto Bocel is an undocumented Mexican in the United States working in order to send money back to Ticul, Mexico, for his mother’s medical bills. Alberto endures symptoms of a mental condition that leaves him oscillating between a cloud of forgetfulness or battling the voice in his head. As a result, he feels broken. When Alberto is accused of murdering Mrs. Macpherson, he wonders if he is capable of such cruelty. Did the voice in his head—whom he has named Captain America—use his hands to commit murder? AtRead More →

Because Ronnie Riley believes that no one should feel alone for who they like or who they are, this nonbinary, neurodivergent author writes a book for tweens who might also need a safe place to discover themselves. Riley’s novel, Jude Saves the World features Dallas Knight, who is gay, and Jude Winters, who is nonbinary and lives with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The two twelve-year-olds share a “ride or die” friendship. When they welcome Stevie Morgan into their circle, challenges ensue. Another challenge for Jude—whose pronouns are they/them—is whether to share their identity with their grandparents. Jude’s mom says they’re not ready for thatRead More →

Shaheer Atique is afraid of getting attached to a place because it always ends up in the rearview mirror. His highly talented and ambitious father chases hospital jobs, so Shaheer and his grandfather are always on the move. The trio’s latest stop is Virginia. When quiet and withdrawn Shaheer attends the first day of eighth grade, he encounters several people who tease him, laughing at his hair, which “must be a wig.” Before long, he realizes he is a doppelgänger for Ashar Malik, a defense man on the hockey team. Ashar’s dream is to use his position on The Husky Bladers to get noticed andRead 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 →

Melody Bird’s favorite place is the graveyard.  It’s full of history and beauty, not sadness, and it’s always peaceful and absent of shouting. After her parents split up because of Dad’s deceit, team MC—Melody and her mom Claudia—support one another. One day while walking in the graveyard with her dachshund Frankie, Melody discovers a house overgrown by weeds and vines. After some research, she learns that this is a plague house, a quarantine facility that is hundreds of years old. Melody can’t wait to share her find with her best friend, Matthew Corbin. Matthew has a fear of germs and a tendency towards obsessive compulsiveRead More →

A senior at Grove Hill High School in Michigan, Aubrey Cash aspires to be a veterinarian, but her best friend Reese is cursed with a romantic streak.  As a cheerleader, she is constantly encouraging Aubrey to date. Using her “Disney Princess Face,” she plays matchmaker. But in Aubrey’s scientific mind, “The whole concept of true love is inherently flawed” (45). Basketball star, Webster Casey is new in town after his parents’ recent divorce. Because he lives across the street from Aubrey, the two form a connection until Webster inexplicably fails to take her to the homecoming dance as promised. After getting close to a boyRead More →