For her debut young adult novel, former stand-up comedian Kate Weston writes Diary of a Confused Feminist to serve several purposes: to create humor, to profile the feminist adventure from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Katarina Evans (a.k.a. Kat), and to shine a light on mental health, especially for those who endure anxiety and depression. If it can be said of humor, some of the lines spoken and thoughts pondered by the novel’s protagonist seemed a bit outside the realm of normal. But Weston herself admits that normal might not exist, given that every individual varies in that regard. In any case, the focus on sex,Read More →

Those who favor fantasy literature laced with an apocalyptic zombie thread will likely enjoy Dead Things Are Closer Than They Appear by Robin Wasley. The plot revolves around seventeen-year-old Isidora (Sid) Spencer who claims to have no best self; she is one self without a qualifier. This adopted Korean girl has an adopted brother, Matt Spencer, whom she loves deeply but doesn’t know completely. Matt has a secret: he is a Guardian of the fault-line in Llewellyn (Wellsie) where the ghosts look like rainbows made of smoke. People come to Wellsie “to stand where magic lies sealed beneath the earth” (1). The fault line hasRead More →

Set in the early 1800s, Sail Me Away Home by Ann Clare LeZotte tells the story of Mary Elizabeth Lambert. Mary, a deaf-mute living in Chilmark, Massachusetts, travels to Paris to return with ideas for starting a school in the Americas for the non-speaking deaf population. Like a bee pollinating flowers, Mary hopes to return with methods that will enable the languages of the deaf and the speaking to converge. Born with hereditary deafness, something that was not an anomaly in Martha’s Vineyard from 1740 to the late 1800s, Mary is determined “to treat all—no matter their dress, parentage, or how many acres their familyRead 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 →

Remember My Story by Claire Sarnowski with Sarah Durand recounts the memories of the author who befriends Alter Wiener, a Holocaust survivor, when she is only nine years old. The main purpose of the book is to share the truth that remembering the history of atrocities like the Jewish genocide can help prevent intolerance, violence, and hate. After hearing Alter Wiener’s presentation about his surviving the concentration camps, Claire is inspired by his attitude to “become better, not bitter.” Despite their huge age gap—Alter is 87—the two become fast friends, and together they spread the message that we can’t remove pain by hiding the truthRead More →

If You’ll Have Me is a graphic novel by Eunnie. The story’s protagonist is college freshman Momo Garnder. Sensitive and somewhat withdrawn, Momo is awkward with dating and friendships. Being single, she escapes the relationship drama she sees all-around her, but she also realizes she’s missing out on the fun. Caring about others gives Momo pleasure, so she’s always doing favors for others: sharing notes, loaning money, and serving as a designated driver.  However, in the process, she forgets the value of self-care. When one of Momo’s college friends tells her to “live a little,” Momo dares to open up to others. Soon, she findsRead More →

Bobert Bougainvillea is eleven years old and feels virtually invisible. Actually, he might be oscillating between visibility and invisibility, given that there is all kinds of evil scheming taking place in Nefaria. Such is the opening of Adi Alsaid’s first novel for middle grade readers, The Bravest Warrior in Nefaria. When Bobert is in a visible phase, he invites some classmates to the town square to do homework while he waits for his parents. Here the group discusses Nefaria’s gumball machine which has been cursed by Evil Wizard Matt.  In every corner of the kingdom, both commoners and nobles are known to be dreaming upRead More →

Middle-schooler Shane Johnson loves the sounds, action, and energy of basketball. On the court, he feels most whole and alive. After he is in a serious accident that leaves him in a coma for a month, Shane returns to basketball, but Travis Clark has taken over his position on the team. How will Shane regain that lost part of himself so that he no longer feels empty, helpless, and without a purpose? Now that he is on the road to full recovery, Shane is happy to be out from under the pain, anger, sadness, and stress that he thought would hover like a dark cloudRead More →