When they encounter big feelings, young people often feel confused. What do they do with their anger, resentment, jealousy, or love? To help tweens better understand these overwhelming emotions that are capable of causing damage if not handled with care, Aida Salazar pens Ultraviolet. In particular, this novel in verse examines puberty, gender, first crushes, and rites of passage for young boys of color. It encourages a society that provides space to explore emotions, vulnerability, and hormonal confusion rather than burying them behind attitudes of being “macho” or “manning up.” Afraid of bees and plagued by other irrational fears, Elio Solis tries to understand hisRead More →

Enrolled at Riverstone High School (RHS) in Ohio, Jasmine and Jackson Ghasnavi are the mixed race (half White, half Iranian) children of doctors. Jasmine is a senior who loves pottery, and Jackson’s passion is theatre. When their parents divorce, Jackson develops abandonment issues and Jasmine struggles to find a lasting relationship. Jackson helps his sister cope with her breakups by constructing breakup lists. At the recommendation of his therapist, Jackson also uses lists to cope with his own anxiety. These lists and teen relationship drama form the plot for Adib Khorram’s novel The Breakup Lists. As a former “theatre kid” himself, Khorram infuses his novelRead More →

Set in Paris, 1942, The Night War by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells the story of twelve-year-old Miriam Erika Schrieber (Miri). In the face of danger, Miri’s parents have always told her “Verne heldishe (be brave)” and “We don’t choose how we feel, but we choose how we act. Choose courage” (16).   These words become Miri’s mantra when she is forced to flee the Pletzl, a Jewish neighborhood in Paris during a roundup of Jewish people. In a moment, with two-year-old Nora Rosenbaum in her arms, thrust there by a mother wanting to save her child from the Nazis, Miriam becomes Marie when a CatholicRead More →

Stacey Lee’s Kill Her Twice is a fascinating historical fiction/murder mystery written for young adults. Based loosely on the character Anna May Wong, who is considered the first female Chinese American Hollywood movie star, the novel tells the story of the challenges faced by Chinese people living in Los Angeles, California, in 1932. Lee presents her clues by alternating between the perspectives of two teens: May Chow, 19, and her sister Gemma, 17, who sell flowers in City Market. The girls’ father, Ba, always told his daughters that “his three fierce clouds—Mei Wun, or ‘beautiful cloud,’ for May; Gam Wun, or ‘fresh cloud,’ for [Gemma];Read More →

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 Oahu, Hawaii, in 1941, Heroes by Alan Gratz is a novel about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Two thirteen-year-old boys: Stanley Summer and Frank McCoy, whose fathers are pilots for the U.S. Navy, bond over their love of comic books. The two see the fleet of ships on Battleship Row as a metaphor for superheroes: the Justice Society of America. Frank is a writer and Stanley an illustrator. Together, they invent characters, write their origin stories, and draw them into situations where they emerge as heroes. However, Frank feels a bit like a fraud. Ever since The Incident in Florida, their last militaryRead More →

Jumata Emill writes a killer murder mystery with his new young adult novel, Wander in the Dark. It will lead readers down circuitous paths as they attempt to follow the clues and resolve the murder of Chloe Danvers. Set in New Orleans at the time of mardi gras in February, the novel features the family drama of Marcel and Amir Trudeau. The two teen brothers are estranged, however, because their father, Martin Trudeau is himself guilty of adultery. Now the famous chef is married with a second family who seems to have it all in Amir’s eyes: connections, cash, and closeness. When Marcel invites AmirRead More →

In her historical mystery The Voice Upstairs, Laura E. Weymouth tells a riveting ghost story with plot twists that keep the reader intrigued and engaged until the surprising ending. Under the influence of Weymouth’s pen, Wilhelmina Price (aka Wil) and Edison Summerfield (aka Ed) serve as protagonists and the voices that carry the story, which is set in 1920s England, forward. Triggered by her mother’s passing, Wil develops a death sense, which enables her to see a soul leave a body prior to death. She can also slip into the shadowland—the world between life and death—where she can lend her body and voice to aRead More →

Set in Colorado, Backcountry by Jenny Goebel tells the story of thirteen-year-old Emily Walker. Daughter of a mom with grit and determination who tells her to play it safe and an athletic dad who tells her to go for it, Em is a lead attacker for the Impalers’ volleyball team. Strong, adventurous, and Identifying as an athlete, Em feels like she has to compete with Dad’s real estate clients for attention. Because a bad appraisal or inspection often takes precedence over Emily and her mother, Emily believes that her dad only pays attention to her life when she is winning tournaments and trophies. When EmilyRead More →