Anyone interested in reading a book that will prompt a deeper understanding of the complexities of racism should find a copy of The Problem with the Other Side by Kwame Ivery. This occasionally humorous but heartbreaking novel follows the lives of a pair of teens in New Jersey whose sisters decide to run for study body president. By alternating between the perspectives of Sallie Walls and Ulysses Gates (aka Uly), Ivery invites his readers to confront their own biases while also considering the nuances of a mixed-race relationship in a world where two people with a simple pigmentation difference often cannot date without repercussions. WhileRead 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 →

The (Un)Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez is a huge undertaking. While it accurately depicts the “clique-centric hierarchy” and popularity contests that exist in high schools across the United States, it also dives deeply into ideologies—both political and personal. Along with Sanchez’s characters, the reader will confront some difficult questions and ponder possible solutions. One of those key questions is How do you claim space in a world that doesn’t want you? Sanchez expertly points out that everyone’s normal is different, and in a heteronormative society, that fact is bound to create some conflict. Initially, the book seems to be about a transgender teen who growsRead 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 →

In an effort to share with readers the challenges faced by a person who endures the misbehavior of brain chemicals, Bill Konigsberg writes his novel The Bridge in a nonlinear form. Under the influence of his pen, the reader’s brain trips over itself, unclear and unsure of reality. Does Tillie Stanley—a girl with a beautiful, smart, funny, and magnetic personality—jump from the George Washington Bridge to drown in the Hudson River in New York? Does Aaron Boroff—a creative, friendly, musically-inclined seventeen-year-old with a sense of humor commit suicide? Or do both decide to put their broken lives back together? Just when the reader believes he/sheRead More →

Living in Nevada, Andre Rosario (Dre) is the opposite of smooth.  He’s flamboyant, out-spoken, and prone to hyperbole.  He’s also resentful that everyone is watching, judging, and offering snaky commentary about him and the sacrifices he has made for his father’s presidential candidacy. This openly gay young man is talented with monster makeup and photography, posting his creations online with a web presence called Dreadful Dressup. Dre’s best friend and partner in creating Dreadful Dressup is Mel—Emelda Vincente-Perez.  Mel is fiercely loyal, politically committed to her beliefs, and ready to change the world. Dre isn’t as interested in making so public a statement. When DreRead More →