Nina Stott is a daring spirit, a warrior unshy about being herself. She is someone who acts “like a prism, each person’s light reflecting through her, showing every single thing that [makes someone else] special” (259). However, she is tragically killed in a drunk driving accident. Without her sister Nina, Eleonora (Leo) doesn’t know what happy is supposed to feel like. Robin Benway’s novel A Year to the Day tells the story of Leo’s journey as she navigates the waters of grief and tries to regain her memory of that fateful night. Nina’s absence takes up space in Leo’s heart, reminding her of what hasRead More →

Set in a world similar to our current reality but not quite, The Darkening by Sunya Mara is a study of both psychology and sociology. Mara explores the consequences of classism and social hierarchies while also taking a deep dive into the effects of despair, vengeance, hate, pain, and anger. In the process, she also asks some critically important questions worthy of soul-searching. Seventeen-year-old Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries and refers to herself as “a hopeful little screwup from the fifth ring” (216). Her father’s fear has kept her safe, but Vesper wonders if it is wrong to want more out of lifeRead More →

Edited by G. Harron Davis, Cam Montgomery, and Adrianne White, All Signs Point to Yes is a collection of short stories targeting those who are addicted to reading their daily horoscopes. That many of the collected stories end with a kiss and several include references to the occult or witches shouldn’t alarm readers. After all, there is something magical about love. The thirteen authors who contributed stories prove that love is as universal as sexuality and ethnicity are diverse. Their works further share powerful morals, such as: regrets don’t serve anyone or that flirting isn’t a valid form of identification. These authors also invite criticalRead More →

Feeling small, alone, and unloved, Ellis Truman has been abandoned by her parents. With a father addicted to drugs and an alcoholic mother who is mostly absent, Ellis is often home alone. She grows up embarrassed of her house, her parents, and who she is. She grows up in a world of in-between, unsettled, angry, and unsure of where she belongs. Then, Sandry Albrey, who grew up in Indiana with Ellis’ father, offers Ellis a home.  Sandry knows Tru’s shortcomings as well as the depth of his love. It is from her that Ellis will also learn the true meaning of love. Although Sandry welcomesRead More →

With multiple allusions to film noir and with some genre blending, Katie Henry writes a humorous story—Gideon Green in Black and White—about Gideon’s serious approach to being a detective and solving mysteries. Dressing the part, sixteen-year-old Gideon wears a trench coat and a fedora and lives his life in the shadows. Using his difference to put distance between himself and others, Gideon makes his life mission one of truth-telling: “That’s a detective’s job. Telling the world what’s real, even if people don’t want to hear it” (12). For him, life is black and white and facts are facts. However, as time goes on, Gideon realizesRead More →

High school graduate Betty Lavelle is easily tormented and doesn’t like to be the center of attention. Generally level-headed and big-hearted, she’s a clothes geek, especially of sixties mod-inspired vintage style. She’s also a worrier who has a tendency to crush on people’s brains. She recently accepted an unpaid internship at Retrofit in order to provide a stepping-stone on her way to a career in the fashion industry. On an evening out to the mall in Berkley, California, Betty’s mother and older sister, Joy, are witnesses to a mass shooting in which two people die. Now, all three are traumatized. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,Read More →

Twelve years ago, Frances Frida Ripley (aka Frankie) was born near the sea during a storm, which seems to have imprinted on her, making her prone to volatility and moodiness. She is often impatient with her six-year-old sister, Birdie, and temperamental with her parents. Given her outbursts, Frankie has grown accustomed to her father’s admonishment: “Shouting creates negative energy and harmful interpersonal toxicity. Plus, it messes with our heads” (19). Frankie is frustrated by how adults always try to sort out or tidy up feelings, putting labels on them or nudging them into another shape. When Frankie doesn’t get her way, she rages. Her parentsRead More →

Too overcome by grief to write or even to think about college, Noreen Mirza runs. Running helps her forget since any memory of her Aunt Sonia—who adored Islamic art and architecture—is replaced by the demand for breathing. Running takes her out of her head and provides a respite from the grief. So, when her mother gets offered an assignment in Delhi, India, the two Mirza girls pack up and escape. Noreen justifies this gap year as a tribute to her beloved Sonia Khala who never got to make the trip she always talked about and who would be excited if she knew where Noreen wasRead More →

When Alder Madigan and Oak Carson first meet as next door neighbors in a Los Angeles, California, neighborhood, the two fifth graders decide they don’t like one another. Complicating any chance at a friendship is the mystery of their mothers’ dislike for one another. However, as time and coincidences transpire, the two accept that change is hard and that sometimes, one thing—like anger or a tree—has to end to make room for something else. Furthermore, the universe appears to have other plans. Those realizations—in the midst of a kitten coincidence, an apparition of a house that isn’t there inhabited by Mort the opossum, and theRead More →