Angie Thomas’ prequel to The Hate U Give is a good read.  Concrete Rose, which tells the story of Maverick Carter, is no fairy tale. However, it is deeply moving.  It reveals a young man who is full of potential despite the harsh world around him. Even though Garden Heights, the neighborhood in which Maverick grows up, is inundated by gangs, drugs, violence, and poverty—his mother, Faye, does her best to give her son a positive upbringing. Still, he confronts death, the challenges of teenage parenting, and multiple temptations head on. Thomas doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties that Maverick faces, and the reader gets to experienceRead More →

Author Christine Day claims to have written The Sea of Winter for young people who struggle with loneliness, a separation from friends, and uncertainty about the future. It is also for those learning to live with and recover from trauma. However, it’s not just a story for those who despair but for readers who can relate to athletes whose dreams are altered by injury. It’s for readers of Cynthia Leitich Smith, James Welch, and Jennifer Longo or for anyone struggling to find joy again and needing a reminder that pain is temporary. Twelve-year-old Maisie Cannon is a Makah/Piscataway girl whose sanctuary is ballet school. SheRead More →

A form of cognitive efficiency, labeling helps people make sense of their worlds. Although labels give our brains the ability to categorize and to draw useful conclusions, they can also limit thinking and lead to stereotypes. With labels like normal, mentally ill, or bipolar, we not only make assumptions about others but about ourselves and our potential abilities. These assumptions can even influence our identities. It is this identity labeling that concerns Journey Smith, the seventeen-year-old protagonist in Faith Gardner’s novel Girl on the Line. Journey doubts the truth about many of the things the world tells her and believes that her brain ruins everything asRead More →

By their own definition, Naomi and Malcolm Smith used to “live in sin” and had their first baby, Jemima Genesis (aka Genny), out of wedlock while in their teens. However, being God-fearing individuals and believers in the notion of God’s mercy in granting second chances, they marry and eventually answer the call to enter the seminary. Now, they serve as co-pastors at Resurrection Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. Naomi and Malcolm completed their family with two more daughters, naming each one after Job’s girls from the Bible. Of the Smith trinity, Genny went on to become the youngest Black woman to earn her PhDRead More →

Sixth grader and lover of horses, Waka Tanaka was born in the United States and lives in Kansas, but her Japanese parents worry that Waka’s Japanese language skills are lacking, so they decide to send her to Tokyo to live with her Obaasama, her grandmother. In her semi-autobiographical account, While I Was Away, Waka T. Brown shares Waka’s struggle to find a place in her grandmother’s home, to curate a friend group, and to read and write the complicated strokes of kanji. Brown also takes the reader on a tour of Japan with its culinary, linguistic, and cultural practices. In Tokyo, Waka experiences a life-changingRead More →

Ember Williams leads an active life at Heller High. She covets a 4.0 GPA, runs track, and captains the debate team. On the surface, she looks like a high-achieving teenager with a bright future. But there are secrets at Heller High. Secrets that Ember wants to uncover and force into the light. The Red Court is a rumor, smoke vanishing into nothing under the fluorescent lighting of Heller High’s hallways. It’s rumored to be a secret society made up of female students, led by a mysterious ‘Queen of Hearts.’ They say the Red Court grants wishes. Desperate students can stuff a note in an unclaimedRead More →

Z Brewer, an author who is also an outspoken mental health and anti-bullying advocate, has written a young adult novel that validates the challenges that accompany identity exploration. Into the Real is an affirming story about a person living a broken life and willing to do anything to be free of constraints. Living in a fog of insecurity and confusion about sexuality and gender identity, seventeen-year-old Quinn experiences an oppressive feeling of loneliness. As Quinn navigates the fog of more questions than answers, more heartache than support, this genderqueer teen envisions a world in which life can be conflict-free and peaceful. However, to reach thisRead More →

Betita is a nine-year-old girl with a loving family in modern-day America. She enjoys learning new words, spelling, drawing, and playing with other kids her age. What appears to be a rather normal life quickly begins to unravel into fear and uncertainty when her Papi doesn’t pick her up after school one day. After failing to reach her father, the principal drives Betita home. While her mother tries to hide her worry, Betita knows something is wrong, and she soon finds out that the almost-worst has happened. Her father has been deported, leaving her mother, who is newly pregnant, and Betita to fend for themselvesRead More →

Given the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the world, Katharyn Blair‘s novel Unchosen is eerily relevant. Fans of Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld, Mercedes Lackey, and Brandon Sanderson will also cheer for the strong female characters and appreciate the engaging and action-packed story. In Blair’s dystopia, someone has knowingly or inadvertently unleashed the Crimson, a virus-like curse that causes the end of the world as we know it. Rather than wearing face masks, people wear blindfolds because looking into the wrong eyes is a death sentence. When infected, a person’s irises turn from their natural color to purple and then to red. That individual has only oneRead More →