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 →

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 →

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 →

Set in Vermont, the novel How to Pack for the End of the World by Michelle Falkoff revolves around the lives of several students who attend Gardner Academy, a prestigious private school in the city. During a Game Night ice-breaker activity held for first year students, readers encounter various personalities as the group engages in a series of Would You Rather inquiries. Deviating from questions which predominantly carry themes about something gross or sexual, Wyatt Christiansen asks: “If you knew the world was going to end tomorrow, would you rather die along with your friends and family and everyone you’ve ever known, or live amongRead More →

“Most people, it seemed, dreamt and fantasized about being able to fly like a bird” (86). For Quinn Cutler, her dreams have always been about the ocean. Since she was a child, she’s had a deep connection to the sea, specifically the water by her family’s summer home. They haven’t been there in years, though, not after Quinn almost drowned because she couldn’t stay away from the waves. Years later and Quinn has adjusted to living a normal life in the city. Well, as normal as it can be when your dad is running for Congress. While in the limelight, her family tries to remainRead More →

For almost four years, birthdays have been a problem for fifth grader Cadence Mariah Jolly, the main character in Sherri Winston’s novel The Sweetest Sound.  The trickiness of birthdays began the day after Cadence’s seventh birthday, when her mother left a farewell note on the coffeepot revealing that life in Harmony, Pennsylvania, was hampering her passion to be a singer.  When Chantel Marie Jolly abandons her family, her daughter’s world slips into darkness. Now, Cadence, whom everyone calls Mouse, is known as the shy and quiet girl whose mother has left.  For Cadence, spending an entire day reading and writing or listening to music andRead More →