In much the same way that Laurie Halse Anderson with Speak in 1999 aimed to shed light on the subjects of sexual assault, mental health, and forming an identity throughout one’s teenage years, Amber Smith chronicles the challenges of Eden McCrorey in her book The Way I Am Now (2023). Raped when she was barely fourteen, Eden struggles to acknowledge compliments and accepts only the love she things she deserves. Eden is afraid she will need depression, anti-anxiety, and sleeping medication forever. Although she feels things deeply and completely, Eden disconnects herself from most of what she loves: playing the clarinet and connecting at aRead More →

Told in five parts and written from the perspective of a Mars’ Rover intermixed with letters from Sophie, A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga targets middle grade readers who are fascinated by space, earth science, and computer coding. Inspired by NASA’s real Mars’ Rover, Warga creates Resilience. Under the influence of Warga’s pen and through anthropomorphism, Resilience learns important lessons about what it might mean to be human. Res develops relationships with two NASA scientists, Rania and Xander who work in California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and with a community of machines, namely Journey, Fly, and Guardian. Built for observation, Resilience awakens to knowledge. Although notRead More →

Dark Room Etiquette by Robin Roe should be required reading for any student of psychology. Set in Texas, this is a powerful book about the aftermath of a traumatic event and illustrates how the human mind is a total mystery. Roe tells the story of two years in the life of Sayers Wayte (Saye), a sixteen-year-old who turns eighteen in the course of the novel. As the story opens, Saye is basking in his status as a junior eligible for Homecoming Court at Laurel High School, as a popular young man with friends and a girlfriend, and as a member of the upper class whoseRead 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 →

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 →

Told in three parts, The Leopard Behind the Moon is written like an oral legend. Mayonn Paasewe-Valchev sets her tale in Sesa—a faraway place amid the marula trees where a group of people live in a village with strict laws about not going out at night or opening the magical door that protects them all. However, on the three-year anniversary of his father’s death, ten-year-old Ezomo sees the leopard that killed his father and feels compelled to follow it. His foolhardiness involves two of his friends: Muja and Chimama, and the three have quite an adventure.  Ezomo discovers that although the night is dark andRead More →

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker tells the colorful story of Olympia, a twelve-year-old artist who is named after a painting by French painter Manet.  Olympia’s (aka Ollie) dad Graham is an art restorer and her mom Doll is a sculptor.  The family lives in the Soho neighborhood in Manhattan, New York. Ollie’s best friends are Alex, an agile young man who Spiderman’s his way up a wall and who practices jumps like a stuntman in training; and Richard, a monster aficionado fascinated by science who is developing a scrapbook that he calls the Taxonomy.  Using her sketching talent, Ollie will occasionallyRead More →

Four Three Two One by Courtney Stevens recounts the story of four young adults, all unique in their idiosyncrasies as they board Charter Bus 21 in New York City on June 15 bound for Ellis Island: Chandler Clayton is allergic to sudden changes but artistic with a sketch pad or a chain saw and logs; Golden Jennings is eager to explore the world beyond the towering oaks and billowing blue grass of Kentucky with her vintage No. 3 Kodak; Rudy Guthrie is a talented soccer athlete and a writer who has just won a scholarship to Emerson College in Boston; and Caroline Ascott from a wealthyRead More →