On par with books by David Levithan, All the Yellow Suns by Malavika Kannan is a story about a sixteen-year-old queer Indian-American girl who believes art’s power is to disrupt narratives and to recreate reality. Mayavati Krishnan is an optimistic, talented, and opinionated social justice activist. Set in Florida, Kannan’s book follows the lives of several brown teens who are fighting to be seen, not to be targeted and bullied by authority figures. Maya and her mother have been abandoned by Maya’s artist father whose true love is art. Because Rajendra made the choice to stay in India, Maya is angry, an emotion that sheRead More →

Basketball defines Barclay Elliot. As captain of the Chitwood High School basketball team in Georgia, Barclay dreams of eventually putting his talent to the test at a big-city D1 school with his best friend Zack Ito. The protagonist in Time Out by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, and Carlyn Greenwald, Barclay believes that a team is a family who shares everything and supports one another; it is a place where talent, strength, and fortitude mix to hold one another up, no matter the burden. However, when his biggest fan and the father figure in his life, his grandpa Scratch dies before seeing the Wildcats win anotherRead More →

Although Mason Deaver’s novel The Feeling of Falling in Love is indeed a love story, as the title implies, it is also about self-esteem, social class differences, and the exploration of sexual and gender identity. Neil Kearney, a transgender teen, has a “friends with benefits” relationship with his friend Josh. Both use the relationship for stress relief and mutual pleasure. However, when Josh decides he loves Neil, Neil panics and invokes the Pull-Out Clause. Now, he has a week to prove to Josh that he has moved on with his roommate, Wyatt Fowler.  What could possibly go wrong, especially since Wyatt claims to be aRead More →

With her novel Green Eyes and Ham, Mary Penney explores multiple topics relevant to middle grade readers. In her protagonist Abraham Hudson, readers will find a relatable character who confronts familiar conflicts. After all, the junior high years are fraught with challenges revolving around issues like first love, sexuality, friendship, and finding a sense of belonging where everything looks different, smells different, tastes different and where the language and customs are also unknowns. For twelve years, Ham has been homeschooled, but when his mother, who is a priest, experiences a cardiac event and needs to pare some of the stress from her life, Ham isRead 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 →

A senior at Grove Hill High School in Michigan, Aubrey Cash aspires to be a veterinarian, but her best friend Reese is cursed with a romantic streak.  As a cheerleader, she is constantly encouraging Aubrey to date. Using her “Disney Princess Face,” she plays matchmaker. But in Aubrey’s scientific mind, “The whole concept of true love is inherently flawed” (45). Basketball star, Webster Casey is new in town after his parents’ recent divorce. Because he lives across the street from Aubrey, the two form a connection until Webster inexplicably fails to take her to the homecoming dance as promised. After getting close to a boyRead More →

I suspect that many adolescent readers will find themselves in the pages of Francina Simone’s novel Smash It! The leading female in this book, which is dedicated to “theater kids,” seventeen-year-old Olivia James-Johnson considers herself a nerdy loser, a sad black girl with a “too curvy” body, and someone who does uncool things since she’s addicted to self-sabotage. Because she lacks self-confidence, she passes up doing what she wants because she’s afraid of being judged or looking like a clown. A talented flutist who loves dancing, she can find a beat and step into it with her whole body. “When I dance, I feel likeRead More →