Published in 1999 but particularly timely in this age of #MeToo, Speak is a must-read for teen girls and women still working to find their own voices, and for boys and men seeking a greater understanding of how sexual assault and harassment actually affect women. More info →
Justice Unending is not the type of book I’m usually drawn to, but I’ve lately found myself more open to fantasy and science fiction-type books than I have been in the past. This is the first book I’ve read in the YA "steampunk" genre, and I enjoyed the how the realistic older technology melded with the fantasy world. The world in which the story is set is highly original (a walled-off country ruled by immortals that must inhabit the bodies of humans, who die when their bodies are chosen) and the story is tense and fast-moving. When Faye’s sister is chosen by one of the “Unendings,” Faye tries to say goodbye one last time and finds herself the host of an Unending who is leading a rebellion against the ruling immortals. The world is richly drawn, with an original take on compliance with ruling classes and power systems. The book is ripe for a sequel, with many aspects of the world left to explore. Full disclosure: The author is a long-time colleague and I’m ridiculously proud of her for writing and publishing this book. However, I did buy the book and am not in any way affiliated with the marketing of it. I hope you’ll check it out! More info →
When 16-year-old Starr is witness to a police officer shooting her unarmed best friend, she is torn between staying silent and speaking out. Starr lives in two worlds: the world of her affluent private school and that of her black neighborhood that is rocked by the shooting. The case quickly makes national headlines and as tensions rise, Starr feels the pull to tell her side of the story and refute attacks on her friend's character, even as she faces intimidation from police and local gangs. This powerful novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement delves into the shootings of unarmed black people by police officers, the lack of justice in the aftermath, and white privilege. It is not just for a YA audience but is a must-read for everyone. One of the best of 2017. More info →
This YA novel is similar to The Hate U Give in many ways--a black high school student, working hard in a private school with mostly white classmates, has run-ins with police that end in violence. In Dear Martin, Justyce studies the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and writes him letters, hoping for clarity in how he can stand up to injustice in a nonviolent way. As in The Hate U Give, Justyce finds himself torn between his black family and neighbors and his white friends, many of whom are convinced that black people have already achieved equality. Justyce, meanwhile, finds that just walking or driving while black can get him killed, and the smallest bit of evidence taken out of context--a photo, a conversation--is enough to label him a thug in both a court of law and the court of public opinion. This is a powerful, quick read, told mostly through dialogue and Justyce's letters to Martin. I sometimes have trouble with fiction audiobooks, but this was excellent. More info →
"Butter" is a teenage boy, and he is obese. He is much more than that, but that is what his classmates see, and that is how they know him. In an act of desperation, Butter makes a horrifying pledge to eat himself to death--live online. The sudden popularity that results is both unexpected and unsettling, as his newfound "friends" push him to keep his promise. As the date draws nearer and the pressure grows, Butter must sort out what he really wants and what real friendship means. While Butter can at times be frustrating and doesn't always do the right thing, he emerges as an empathetic character who is undeniably human and trapped by his own weaknesses, decisions, and the bullies who see him only as entertainment. More info →
Eleanor and Park are 16-year-old misfits, both alone and in their own worlds, until they're not. They find each other on the bus. Soon they are sharing a seat, as well as music, quips, and literature references. This is the teen romance that will be appreciated by teens and adults alike, both for its eyes-wide-open view of the outcome of teen romances and for its willingness to acknowledge their importance in our lives. These are the underdogs who you want to see come together, because of how they enhance and support one another. They are awkward, endearing, and authentic, and you will root for them both from beginning to end. More info →
Will Grayson and Will Grayson are two teen boys who live near one another, but their names are where their similarities end. Their lives overlap--and continue to overlap, thanks to the fabulously loud and flamboyant Tiny Cooper, one Will's best friend and the other's love interest. It's Tiny who really shines here, and this is one teen book that is less about finding love than it is about finding love in your friends, in yourself, and in the person you choose to be. More info →
Melinda is starting high school an outcast, rejected by her friends and the rest of the school for calling the cops at a summer party. With surprising humor and insight, she navigates the halls and grows increasingly isolated, retreating into herself and speaking less and less. She finds solace and purpose in her year-long project for art class, which helps her come to terms with what happened to her at that party. When she realizes her former friend is in danger, she must find her voice again and speak up for both herself and others.