Because of her parents’ arguing at home, racist comments and insensitivity from classmates at school, stress induced anxiety, and the typical horrors of high school, Quinn Jackson keeps a journal filled with lists.  A coping mechanism of sorts, her lists serve to calm her mind, provide a sense of focus, and give her a foundation.  She also lists her goals and dreams, her fears and worries.  Her journal contains her feelings when she doesn’t know how to express them out loud. When her journal turns up missing and she instead has a red-covered spiral that belongs to Carter Bennett, Quinn determines that Carter must haveRead More →

The author of A Love Hate Thing, Whitney D. Grandison has written a new book entitled The Right Side of Reckless. Set in Akron, Ohio, this latest work features several characters to which readers might relate as well as multiple morals about authoring our own life stories and the power of revision and second chances in that process. On probation for assault, seventeen-year-old Guillermo Lozano calls himself the Patron Saint of Fuckups. Although he has anger issues, Guillermo is determined to shed his reputation as a wild, fearless, and selfish delinquent to find a new life and a sense of belonging in Briar Pointe andRead More →

Known as the lonely girl who writes computer code, sixteen-year-old Xia Chan is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in an incubator program for gifted young programmers. As a young tech prodigy, Xia has developed a predictive outcomes application (app) she calls Wiser. Because of this technology, she has been targeted by the Foundry, an institute run by Lars Lang in Silicon Valley. Only twenty youth are accepted for this all-expense paid experience. For one year, they live on campus in the San Francisco Bay area and compete to be that year’s Founder. Whoever wins will receive “one million dollars in seedRead More →

Nina Hamza’s debut novel, Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year is an epic read. Weaving elements of three classic middle grade books: Holes by Louis Sachar, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, Hamza shares some important perspectives with her readers. Ahmed’s father needs a liver transplant, a medical situation that precipitates the need to move from Hawaii to Minnesota. Initially, Ahmed’s dominant emotion is anger. That shifts to confusion for the twelve year old skinny brown boy with curly hair. As a Muslim of Indian descent, Ahmed struggles to find his place inRead More →

Better with Butter by Victoria Piontek takes on the topic of mental health awareness. Her novel features twelve-year-old Marvel McKenna who lives with an anxiety disorder. When she’s not thinking of global, world-ending tragedies, Marvel is thinking of small “me-centric concerns.”  In fact, her insides feel like a forest with “one worry pollinating another” (70). Targeting middle school readers, Piontek’s storyline opens the dialogue about mental challenges. Through Marvel, young readers will come to know that pep talks don’t magic someone back to health, nor can anxiety be teased or bullied out of a person either.  What people with such a condition need most isRead More →

Told in 33 chapters by seven voices, Linked by Gordon Korman shares the story of a swastika that sets in motion a series of unintended consequences.  Because the administration at Chokecherry Middle School believes that information is the best antidote to the poison of prejudice, the 600 students who attend are subjected to tolerance education. Still, the swastikas continue to show up. What initially seemed to be a sick joke turns into something more sinister. The persistence dredges up 40-year-old memories of the Ku Klux Klan in Shadbush County and the Night of a Thousand Flames.  Soon, the quiet town of Chokecherry, Colorado, is madeRead More →

Like Jake, Reinvented by Gordon Korman, Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson, and the Boomerang Effect by Gordon Jack, Julie Murphy invites her readers of Pumpkin to think critically about the prevailing philosophies that construct the social realities in which we all participate, sometimes without our awareness.  Murphy’s novel shares insight about the politics of high school and about the complicated dance adolescents perform between yearning for independence and basking in the comfort of not yet having to fend of themselves, of wanting to stand out and simultaneously blend in as they search for acceptance. Waylon is a flamboyantRead More →

Young readers looking for a good ghost story with adventure and history stirred in will find it in Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab.  In this third volume in the City of Ghosts series, Schwab features twelve-year-old Cassidy Blake whose parents are the Inspecters: World-traveling, ghost-hunting, paranormal investigators. As they travel the world to produce film accounts of their findings, Cassidy tags along from Paris to Edinburgh and beyond.  This episode has the family filming in New Orleans, a place where color, style, and sound collide; a place of contradictions. Although Cassidy has always had a brain that doodles, helping to show her things thatRead More →

We humans are social creatures, highly gregarious and communicative. We are wired to be open to the world, so I am always shocked when I encounter intolerance, blatant displays of ignorance, or various other forms of hate. Life just seems too complicated as it is to add to the challenges with human pettiness. This is the frustration in which seventeen-year-old Shadi Nasreen navigates two years after the 9/11 attacks.  She is a Persian girl who detests the posturing of people trying to prove piety in the face of persecution and despises the bullying she must endure because she wears the face of the enemy. InRead More →