With his novel All That’s Left in the World, Erik J. Brown tells a post-apocalyptic story. It features “a gay guy, a broken straight boy, a cartography genius with PTSD, a seventy-year-old woman with a shotgun fighting zoo animals” (264), and a host of not-so-supportive others with an occasional kind character thrown in. There’s also a white supremacists commune, lest we forget the corrupting forces of racism, greed, and power. After a super-flu virus has nearly wiped out the American population, Andrew sets out from Connecticut on foot to find other survivors. Near Philadelphia, he is caught in a bear trap and staggers into aRead More →

Brandy Colbert writes an important book, a story that needed to see the light of day. Black Birds in the Sky is a nonfiction account of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. It is filled with sad and horrifying cruelty as it recounts one of the most deadly and destructive acts of racial violence in American History. Colbert makes her readers aware of just how much the past inform the present. She enlightens us, explaining that history is full of progress and setbacks. The Unites States, in particular, has a violent genocidal foundation. Traumatic times often get passed over in classrooms and conversations because they makeRead More →

A magical and enchanting tale of adventure, The Color of Dragons by R.A. Salvatore and Erika Lewis will likely intrigue readers of Christopher Paolini or Anne McCaffrey. Besides a story about finding one’s self, Salvatore and Lewis tell a story about love, loyalty, and other things worth fighting for. Seventeen-year-old Maggie and Griffin are both orphans trying to find their place in the world. Just as Griffin must decide if his place is with the corpulent and greedy King Umbert serving as his champion: “Sir Griffin, the mighty Draignoch Slayer” (92), Maggie must determine whether she owes allegiance to Xavier, the magician and perhaps theRead More →

Angie Thomas’ prequel to The Hate U Give is a good read.  Concrete Rose, which tells the story of Maverick Carter, is no fairy tale. However, it is deeply moving.  It reveals a young man who is full of potential despite the harsh world around him. Even though Garden Heights, the neighborhood in which Maverick grows up, is inundated by gangs, drugs, violence, and poverty—his mother, Faye, does her best to give her son a positive upbringing. Still, he confronts death, the challenges of teenage parenting, and multiple temptations head on. Thomas doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties that Maverick faces, and the reader gets to experienceRead More →

Z Brewer, an author who is also an outspoken mental health and anti-bullying advocate, has written a young adult novel that validates the challenges that accompany identity exploration. Into the Real is an affirming story about a person living a broken life and willing to do anything to be free of constraints. Living in a fog of insecurity and confusion about sexuality and gender identity, seventeen-year-old Quinn experiences an oppressive feeling of loneliness. As Quinn navigates the fog of more questions than answers, more heartache than support, this genderqueer teen envisions a world in which life can be conflict-free and peaceful. However, to reach thisRead More →

Given the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the world, Katharyn Blair‘s novel Unchosen is eerily relevant. Fans of Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld, Mercedes Lackey, and Brandon Sanderson will also cheer for the strong female characters and appreciate the engaging and action-packed story. In Blair’s dystopia, someone has knowingly or inadvertently unleashed the Crimson, a virus-like curse that causes the end of the world as we know it. Rather than wearing face masks, people wear blindfolds because looking into the wrong eyes is a death sentence. When infected, a person’s irises turn from their natural color to purple and then to red. That individual has only oneRead More →

Similar to the Harry Potter and Charlie Bone series’,  Ed Masessa’s Wandmaker series focuses on magical learning. Wandmaker’s Apprentice is the second novel in the series and picks up from the dramatic events of Wandmaker. In that first novel, Henry and his sister, Brianna, came to terms with their different abilities connected to wand making. In this world, hidden behind the scenes from ours, magical ability is harnessed through different wands for various purposes. For those in this magical world, “your wand is an extension of you” (99). After defeating the villainous Dai She, Henry and Brianna are taken in by Wand Master Coralis. CoralisRead More →

The third and final installment of Gordon Korman’s Masterminds series packs a punch to conclude an epic trilogy. Masterminds: Payback begins right where Masterminds: Criminal Destiny left off. Amber, Malik, Tori, and Eli have been split up escaping from the “Purple People Eaters” chasing them. They’ve been on the run ever since they discovered that their entire lives were fake. They were raised as experiments in a town called Serenity. Living in a fake city where nothing goes wrong, the four pre-teens were actually clones of the most notorious and terrible criminals in the world, living science experiments for something called Project Osiris. “Basically, theRead More →

As far as the world is concerned, Jonathan Grisby is a trouble-making delinquent, a criminal. As far as Jonathan is concerned, the world is right. After a mysterious incident leaves Jonathan riddled with guilt and pain, he is sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, “a dark place for dark youths” (2). Slabhenge is a building made of decaying, grey stone, sitting far from land in the foaming sea. The tall, jagged building has no land surrounding it, only a small dock where mail, supplies, and new criminal boys are delivered. When Jonathan first arrives, it’s clear that Slabhenge is not the “kind ofRead More →