Set in Ohio, Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson is about a post-apocalyptic world when an airborne virus more deadly than the corona virus has wiped out most of humanity. Terrified and overwhelmed, the few survivors must decide whether they wish to fight or they will give in to despair. Carson invites her readers to wonder what keeps us going since so many of our hopes and dreams—our reasons for living—are determined by sociocultural constructs. Do we recreate what we’ve lost or do we rebuild with something new and better? By asking what happens when all our reasons for living are taken away, CarsonRead More →

Having been raised by her grandparents, Maria (Ri) Fernández has a lot of questions: Why did her mother abandon her? Why is Grandma so cold to their Mexican American neighbors? Why doesn’t the family speak Spanish? Why is Grandma keeping secrets? Wishing to “be enough” in Grandma’s eyes and yearning to study journalism and become a writer—not the doctor or engineer that Grandma wants—Ri feels like an outsider in her own life.  She is tired of everyone else telling her what’s best for her without regard for what she wants. Estranged from her Mexican identity—mostly due to her grandmother’s insistence about the sacrifices she hasRead More →

Keeping It Real by Paula Chase follows the story of a group of black teenagers who are accepted to a program for disadvantaged youth called Style High. Sponsored by Flexx Unlimited, a hip-hop media company owned and operated by Marshall and Manita Johnson, Style High gives budding fashion designers some real experience working up concepts for approval, using their inspiration, and being ready for anything the fashion world might throw at them. So when fourteen-year-old Marigold Johnson’s best friend Justice Freeman gets accepted, Marigold decides she wants to work at Flexx for the summer.  After all, her parents own the company. Although her parents areRead More →

Collige virgo rosas is Latin for “gather, girl, the roses”—a favorite line of the dramatic and vivacious Cassandra Queen in Kyrie McCauley’s book We Can Be Heroes. But Cassie, who was a poet, a writer of music, and a budding actress, is now incorporeal—having been shot to death by her possessive and entitled boyfriend, Nico Bell. Seeking closure, Ghost Cassie returns to the town of Bell to take care of some unfinished business. Rather than accept a world where “it’s normal to lose someone you love to a bullet at school” (316), she wants the world to “read stories where girls are the heroes andRead More →

Just in time for Halloween 2021, Lucy Strange’s new middle grade novel, The Ghost of Midnight Lake, tells the story of twelve-year-old Agatha Rose Walters who thought she was an Asquith. The mystery of Agatha’s parentage, the presence of a Ghost Girl, and the lost Queen’s Stone—a legendary white opal—add intrigue to Strange’s story. Set in England’s Lake District in 1899, Lady Agatha loses her father. With his death, everything changes at once. Her cousin Clarence, the new Earl of Gosswater evicts her from the only home she has ever known and tells her that she is a nobody since her father is really ThomasRead More →

Although not the historical fiction giant that is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis uses Death as one of its narrators. Through her twelve-year-old protagonist Gauge, the Carpenter’s grandson, Vitalis explores the social custom of rites of passage and life after death. After his grandpapá dies, Gauge no longer has the protection he needs from Lord Mayor Vulpine who is terrorizing the village of Bouge and who blames Gauge for the death of his wife. To protect him from the Guards, who wish to arrest Gauge and set him out to sea to die because he is a VoyantRead More →

With its first line: “The prison is always quiet but never still,” I suspected The River Has Teeth would be suspenseful and riveting. Erica Waters did not disappoint.  Her novel joins the ranks of good psychological crime thrillers like Silence of the Lambs or the television series Criminal Minds. Besides the main plot thread of girls going missing in The Bend and the mystery of who is murdering them, the book carries several other threads to keep the reader engaged. One thread follows Della Lloyd and her family’s magic, murders, and infinite crimes in brewing potions for customers with vengeful thoughts. The Lloyds live inRead More →

Taking place in 19th century England, this book begins with torture and intrigue. Immediately we’re dropped into a London full of smog and flickering lanterns. The world is cold and merciless, setting the stage for an epic battle between good and evil. Will, the protagonist, finds himself hiding in London after his mother is murdered. It doesn’t take long for Will’s enemies to find him and when they do Will is thrust into a magical world he didn’t know existed. He is revealed to be the last champion for the Light, the last barrier standing between the world that he knows and one that isRead More →

Room to Dream is Kelly Yang’s third book in her Mia Tang/Front Desk series. It shares Mia’s current experiences as a seventh grader navigating friendship challenges and boyfriend drama. Mia also returns to China in 1995 with her parents after being absent for five years. While she cherishes the time with family, Mia wonders about the changes that “progress” is making. The big chains are “swallowing up” the small mom-and-pop businesses. Having been made aware of these changes an ocean away, when Mia returns to California, she notices that ethnic shops are closing in favor of hotel and restaurant chains. When Vacation Rentals offers toRead More →