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 →

Set in the marshes of South Carolina, Root Magic by Eden Royce tells the story of James (Jay) and Jezabel (Jez) Turner—eleven year old twins whose grandmother has just passed. The marsh is a place of fascination, fun, and fear for Jez, who almost loses her life there to a haint. Root Magic is Eden Royce’s way of paying tribute to her African American roots.  In an author’s note, Royce explains that although rootwork is not a religion, it is a spiritual and magical practice whose traditions are passed down in families. Rootwork, along with many of the African American food traditions, is one ofRead More →

Fifteen Reasons to Love the Novel, Love in English It’s dedicated to “everyone who has ever strained to find the [right] words” to accurately express their thoughts and feelings. Maria E. Andreu writes with authenticity from the immigrant experience and perspective, but she also writes to those of us who feel “foreign” or who sense a feeling of other—“some nameless thing [we] can feel but not fix” (13). Many of the chapters close with idiomatically clever poems as the protagonist, Ana, plays with language. These not only capture her confusion but convey her learning. The novel is peppered with Spanish, as well as hashtags (####)Read More →

A form of cognitive efficiency, labeling helps people make sense of their worlds. Although labels give our brains the ability to categorize and to draw useful conclusions, they can also limit thinking and lead to stereotypes. With labels like normal, mentally ill, or bipolar, we not only make assumptions about others but about ourselves and our potential abilities. These assumptions can even influence our identities. It is this identity labeling that concerns Journey Smith, the seventeen-year-old protagonist in Faith Gardner’s novel Girl on the Line. Journey doubts the truth about many of the things the world tells her and believes that her brain ruins everything asRead More →

Ember Williams leads an active life at Heller High. She covets a 4.0 GPA, runs track, and captains the debate team. On the surface, she looks like a high-achieving teenager with a bright future. But there are secrets at Heller High. Secrets that Ember wants to uncover and force into the light. The Red Court is a rumor, smoke vanishing into nothing under the fluorescent lighting of Heller High’s hallways. It’s rumored to be a secret society made up of female students, led by a mysterious ‘Queen of Hearts.’ They say the Red Court grants wishes. Desperate students can stuff a note in an unclaimedRead More →

With Heartstopper, Alice Oseman has created a heart-warming story of friendship that grows beyond those simple bounds, and the pictures in this graphic novel are as telling as its words. A drummer and mathematics wizard who is better at virtual sports than real ones, Charlie Spring is a sophomore at Truham School for Boys in England.  With the start of the new school year, he is seated next to a young man who is a year older and a star of the rugby team: Nicolas Nelson. When Nick sees the speed at which Charlie can run, he invites him to join the rugby team.  However,Read More →

We Unleash the Merciless Storm is Tehlor Kay Mejia’s sequel to We Set the Dark on Fire.  It picks up the story threads of Carmen Santos and Daniela Vargas, the two brides of Mateo Garcia.  In the upper class society of Medio, marriages are composed of one groom and two brides: a Segunda to nurture a man’s passions and emotions and a quick-witted and loyal Primera to nurture his logical and discerning nature. In this world, the power structure prioritizes the wealthy and leaves the rest to suffer.  Although the wealthy share a narrative about privilege and destiny, Dani knows their narrative is a lie,Read More →

Dressed in a disguise, the Queen of Mynaria plays the cello with passion and life as her ten-year-old daughter Princess Amaranthine sings in the ale houses.  But mothers die, and Mare becomes a different person after donning a surly personality, wearing it like a suit of armor.  Bold and brazen, she is vakos, a girl without magic and one with an affinity for trouble and without a knack for social pleasantries.  More comfortable in communities where horsemanship is a measure of rank, Mare falls in love with Dennaleia, Princess of Havemont who was betrothed to Mare’s brother, Thandi, and groomed to be a queen.  ButRead More →