New Releases – July 2015

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (Spencer Hill Press)

Book Description: Young actor Josh Chester has never been sure that acting is for him–he’s mostly interested in the parties and the hot Hollywood girls that come with the job. But he ends up taking a job on the hit TV series Daylight Falls, opposite Vanessa Park, a girl who is immune to his charms and also his polar opposite. Vanessa loves her job, despite her parents’ disapproval. She’s pretty certain about everything in her life, until she meets her new career handler, a gorgeous girl named Bri. Then things start to get a little confusing.

Under the Lights features an adorable romance between two young women, all set against the backdrop of Hollywood. As Vanessa confronts her emerging feelings for her handler, Bri, her co-star Josh confronts his realization that the Hollywood scene might not really be his cup of tea. Under the Lights is a story of self-discovery: learning that the person you always thought you were might not actually be the case anymore.

You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison (HMH Books for Young Readers)

“By junior year Maggie is resigned to being the overweight girl who will never be an A-lister. But she doesn’t dwell on it … and she has a great job at a record store. She also has a faithful best friend in Nash, who shares her taste in “teachers, music, art, literature, and boys.” Conflicts emerge when “new guy” Tom enters the scene, making Maggie’s and Nash’s hearts flutter. … In this compassionate first novel, Dinnison adeptly portrays the rising and falling hopes within an unconventional love triangle.” — Publishers Weekly

Adrift by Paul Griffin (Scholastic)

“In a terrifying survival story in which past traumas are as visceral and intense as present circumstances, five teenagers try to stay alive after becoming lost off the Atlantic coast. Raised in a blue-collar neighborhood in Queens, friends Matt and John are working in Montauk, N.Y., for the summer when they meet 17-year-old Driana Gonzaga, her Brazilian cousin Estefania, and Estefania’s boyfriend, João. … Profound moments … will haunt readers as much as the lethal injuries, worsening weather, class friction, and psychological instability the teenagers face.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Paperweight by Meg Haston (HarperTeen)

“This realistic tale opens as Stephanie (Stevie) arrives at a 60-day residential treatment facility for eating disorder, located in rural New Mexico. … Despite her flaws, it is hard not to feel for Stevie. A carefully constructed buildup still lends to a quick read, which is hard to put down. Haston deals respectfully with the difficult subject matters of eating disorders and focuses on the recovery rather than the disease.” — School Library Journal

Deceptive by Emily Lloyd-Jones (Little, Brown BFYR)

Book Description: You don’t belong with us.

These are the words that echo through the minds of all immune Americans-those suffering the so-called adverse effects of an experimental vaccine, including perfect recall, telepathy, precognition, levitation, mind control, and the ability to change one’s appearance at will.

When great numbers of immune individuals begin to disappear, fear and tension mount, and unrest begins to brew across the country. Through separate channels, superpowered teenagers Ciere, Daniel, and Devon find themselves on the case: super criminals and government agents working side by side. It’s an effort that will ultimately define them all, for better or for worse.

The Blind Wish by Amber Lough (Random House BFYR)

“As in the series opener, Zayele—raised as a human and untrained in using her magic—makes the titular wish and sets certain events in motion. The heart of this story is really twofold: how the sisters and secondary (human) characters Yashar and Rahela begin to find their places in a rapidly changing world; and the action-packed war that ends only in the face of an even bigger threat, ultimately pitting two human-jinn alliances against one another. … Enjoyable, thoughtful, packed with action, consequences, and a few kisses—readers will wish for a third book right away.” — Kirkus

About a Girl by Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)

“The conclusion to the ”Metamorphoses“ trilogy (St. Martin’s) follows Tally to a small town outside of Seattle where she seeks out her maybe-father to learn more about her past and her family. The place feels full of magic and people who intrigue her. Tally has a hard time thinking straight here, and her dreams are filled with vivid and terrifying images of blood. She falls for the mysterious Maddy, a girl who seems to hold the answers to her many questions. … This edgy, smart, and challenging title combines mythology, punk rock, science, a quest, feminism, art, dreams, and the power of stories and storytelling with unforgettable results. The well-developed cast of characters is racially and sexually diverse. The emphasis on the importance of female relationships—as family, as lovers, and as friends—is a welcome exploration of the many levels of intimacy. ” — School Library Journal, starred review

Show and Prove by Sofia Quintero (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

“Academic ambition and hip-hop intersect in the South Bronx, where two friends spend a summer growing up and, unwillingly, apart. Quintero details the summer of 1983, when the teens work what appears to be their final summer together as camp counselors. Raymond ”Smiles“ King is a smart, ambitious black teenager who has recently lost his mom to sickle cell anemia, and Guillermo ”Nike“ Vega is a Nuyorican Casanova and break-dancer who attempts to woo beautiful Sara, a new, mysterious girl in their neighborhood. … The story is powerful and thought-provoking, an homage to a climactic hip-hop era, when friends are caught between aspirations and predetermined social disadvantages. A must-read for fans of Walter Dean Myers’ All the Right Stuff and other lovers of proud urban realism.” — Kirkus

Down by Law by Ni-Ni Simone (Dafina)

Book Description: Lesson #1: You come for me, I come back even harder for you. Fair exchange. No robberies.

Isis Carter got schooled early on in surviving the streets. When some girls put a beatdown on her, she took back what was hers. When her brother was killed and her mom, Queenie, bailed, Isis fought to stay strong. And when her dad abandoned her for his new family, sixteen-year-old Isis buried the hurt by looking out for herself—and hookin’ up with bad boy Fresh…until a run-in with the law shatters Isis’s world and threatens to destroy her future.

Now the only person Isis can rely on is herself…until her secret crush K-Rock steps in. But when Isis lets her guard down, will she be given a second chance to get her life straight or will it cost her everything?

Hollywood Witch Hunter by Valerie Tejeda (Bloomsbury Spark)

Book Description: From the moment she first learned the truth about witches…she knew she was born to fight them. Now, at sixteen, Iris is the lone girl on the Witch Hunters Special Ops Team. But when Iris meets a boy named Arlo, he might just be the key to preventing an evil uprising in Southern California. Together they’re ready to protect the human race at all costs. Because that’s what witch hunters do. Welcome to Hollywood.

Naked by Stacey Trombley (Entangled Teen)

Book Description: When tough teenager Anna ran away to New York, she never knew how bad things would get. After surviving as a prostitute, a terrifying incident leaves her damaged inside and out, and she returns home to the parents she was sure wouldn’t want her anymore.

Now she has a chance to be normal again. Back in school, she meets a boy who seems too good to be true. Cute, kind, trusting. But what will he do when he finds out the truth about her past? And when a dark figure from New York comes looking for Anna, she realizes she must face her secrets…before they destroy her.

(Main character is half Puerto Rican.)

The New Order by Chris Weitz (Little, Brown BFYR)

Book Description: They thought they were the only ones left. They were wrong. After the unexpected revelation at the end of the first book, Donna and Jefferson are separated. Jefferson returns to NYC and tries to bring a cure to the Sickness back to the Washington Square tribe, while Donna finds herself in England, facing an unimaginable new world. Can the two reunite and prevent an even greater disaster than the Sickness? This second book in The Young World trilogy will keep you at the edge of your seat.

The Never Forgotten Regret

By Amber Lough

lough-theblindwishWe all have regrets. Some are small, such as eating that extra slice or two of pie. Some are medium, such as slipping $20 from our parents’ wallet. And some are gargantuan. I don’t need to list those for you, because those are the ones that never leave the echo chamber of your mind. Those are the ones that cycle, fore and back, in your consciousness. Rarely forgiven. Never forgotten.

I wrote The Blind Wish when I was going through a period of my life in which I was making one of those gargantuan mistakes. I will not say what that was, but I will admit that it affected how I wrote and the themes that weighed on me every day when I sat down to write. It filtered into my plotting, into my drafts, and like a virus, worked its way into each building block of that novel—each word.

To say writing that novel was “hard” is like saying that climbing Mt. Everest requires “a bit of extra mountain gear.” I was crackling along the edges and all I wanted was to give up. Give up the book, give up a writing career, give up my friends, family, and give up my life.

I was halfway through writing the first draft when I checked myself into a mental health hospital. And that was before I made my biggest regret. Or was it? Sometimes, when we look back at an awful decision, we wonder: which step was the wrong one? When did I cross that line? Was there a moment when I should have turned another way?

If I had a time machine, when would I go back and make that correction?

And if I did, would I have learned anything?

That’s one of the main themes in The Blind Wish, and it’s there for a reason. In both of my Jinni Wars books, one of the characters is impulsive. She acts before she thinks. She is self-centered. She is the darker part of us built for survival. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

Many reviewers commented on Zayele in The Fire Wish. They dislike her for what she did to Najwa. She’s a fault-filled character, and many readers don’t want to see the world through her lens. But she is real, because people are this way. And it has taken me nearly a lifetime to acknowledge that I am this way—sometimes—but it doesn’t describe all that I am. A person can be self-centered and impulsive, but it does not mean they are only self-centered. When that person’s survival is threatened, she will turn inward. She is the one who survives a desert island at the expense of others—and often realizes her mistake too late.

They say writing your second novel is much more difficult than writing the first. It was true for me for many reasons. I was no longer as naïve about writing careers, I had far less time to write it than the first book, and my own life was teetering on the edge of a cliff.

But I did it. And like Zayele in both of these books, I crawled out of my own self-made destruction. I crawled out by my own two hands (and a bit of help from my friends).

If you do read these books, think about your darker impulses. Think about how you have changed others’ lives with the choices—good, bad, and gray—that you have made. I think about these things every day when I see The Blind Wish’s cover on my phone screen. It’s a reminder of what I did, and how I survived.

And though my regrets are heavy, they make everything that is good shine brighter. They make me who I am, and at the moment, I can accept this. I may not like myself all the time, but I will use that bit of Zayele that I have in me to keep me alive when the days are dark. That part of me is selfish, but it will survive when the softer, kinder part of me—the Najwa part—wants to flee all that is hard and cold.


Amber Lough is the author of The Fire Wish. She is a lover of foreign words and cultures, nearly forgotten folktales, and groups of three. She spent much of her childhood in Japan and Bahrain. Later, she returned to the Middle East as an air force intelligence officer, deployed for eight months in Bagdhad. She lives in Germany with her scientist husband and two impish children. For a pronunciation guide, a cast of characters, and more, please visit Follow Amber on Twitter at @amberlough.

The Blind Wish is available for purchase.

For All the Girls Who are Part Monster

By Sarah McCarry

mccarry-aboutagirlWhat I remember about being seventeen and right at the edge of the life that was waiting for me is hard to put into words. I was smart and mean and funny and brave; I thought I was very tough, and very brilliant, and I was, though not at all in the ways I assumed. Some writers talk about the book of their heart; all three of my books live close to that synecdochic muscle, but Tally, the narrator of About A Girl, is a love letter to that girl I used to be. Cocky and sharp and un-humble, fierce and fearless and a little unkind, finding her way in the world and a way to seeing outside herself: not humility, which I (still) think is overrated, but compassion, which is a lifetime in the learning, and in short enough supply in the world we’re tasked with living in. Tally is clever in a way I never was, the language of mathematics as natural to her as the language of dreams is, and was, to me, but out of all the girls I’ve written, she’s closest to all the girls I’ve loved.

People always accuse women of writing autobiography, as if our imaginations are too tiny to conjure up stories we haven’t lived: I can tell you now that none of what happens to Tally ever happened to me. Like Tally, I’ve longed after the secrets of the universe, though she’d scoff and then some at my sad insistence on tarot decks and astrology charts. I’ve danced in the woods and fallen in love with witches and monsters, but none of them were three thousand years old; I’ve drunk at Kate’s bar in a town that’s real, but it was staffed by ordinary people instead of old gods. My parents are still-married Republicans, not a queer painter and her poet best friend and his husband and a long-dead siren. I failed physics—on purpose, in protest, but still.

But that lick of fire that runs through her, that arrogance and joy and wild-burning light, that faith in her own self, her own questions, her own leap and her own quest: that was mine, and though it’s tempered now by a lot of lessons and a lot of living, Tally’s voice sings in me still. May you love her as much as I do, and may you be reminded of the genius that lives in you, too.

sarahmccarrySarah McCarry ( / @therejectionist) is the author of the novels All Our Pretty Songs, Dirty Wings, and About A Girl, and the editor and publisher of the chapbook series Guillotine.

About a Girl is available for purchase.

An Unexpected Climb

By Amanda Sun

sun-stormIt’s summer in Japan, and the buzz of the cicadas cuts through the muggy heat that sticks to your skin. Thanks to a writer’s grant, I’m in Shizuoka, living in the setting of The Paper Gods as I finish the final draft of Storm. Every day is filled with details, wandering through Sunpu Park or the tunnels of Shizuoka Station, checking what kind of flowers and bushes grow at Toro Iseki or what kind of charms adorn high school students’ bags these days. Today I’m a tourist in the pages of my own books—I’m visiting Sengen Shrine, just west of the fictional Suntaba High where Tomo, Katie and their friends go to school.

Sengen is a beautiful shrine complex, complete with gardens, bright red bridges over silent ponds, carved golden dragons looming over entranceways, and shrine maidens selling good luck charms. But there’s a steep stairway set into the mountain that I can’t resist, even in this heat—I have to see where it goes, to see what’s at the top.


By the eighth stair I’m sweating, but I make my way up those stone steps to another set of shrine buildings. And then the dirt path wraps around the side to more stairs, and I just have to see where they lead as well.


Before I know it, I’m at the very top of a trail through the green hills that border Shizuoka City, and I’m looking down on the breathtaking view of houses and stores, the greenness of Nihondaira Mountain and its strawberry farms looming back at me from the other edge near Suruga Bay.


Writing a trilogy is a lot like that visit to Sengen Shrine. Some of the grounds are easier to walk and observe than others. Some take more exploring and more sweat. But I needed to see where Tomo and Katie’s story went. I wanted to bring my love of Japan and its culture to readers, to make them see what we had in common at the heart of all of us. I wanted to write a variety of characters that challenge us to think harder about how we view those different from us. I had to follow each step up that mountain until there was a complete view laid out in front of me, no matter how many tears or how much sweat went into that climb.

Writing isn’t always easy—most of the time it’s hard, and there’s no way around it but to go one stone stair at a time. And there’s nothing more wonderful than when you’ve reached the end of that journey, when you can finally catch your breath and look over everything you’ve written and know that you tried your best to tell the story in a way that captured everything it made you feel.

sun-guestpost-photo4When I climbed down those steep steps, I met an elderly man who was walking through the shrine gardens. We got to talking about the weather, and why I was there at Sengen Shrine. And then he reached into his pocket and placed a candy in my hands, wishing me a wonderful day. The brown sugar candy was sweet and delicious after that hike up the mountainside, and the wrapper came with an inscribed message – otsukaresama, which carries the meaning, “you’ve worked hard.”

There’s something bittersweet about walking away from a trilogy that you’ve finished. But I hope that with the conclusion of Katie and Tomo’s story in Storm, readers will all feel that same sense of wonder in coming down off that mountainside with a new view and experience, that they will be challenged to look at characters, and each other, complexly. For the journeys you take in your reading and writing, and in life, I hope you remember to take a moment and tell yourself: otsukaresama.


Amanda Sun is the author of The Paper Gods, a YA Fantasy series set in Japan and published by Harlequin Teen. The first two books, INK and RAIN, are Aurora Award nominees and Junior Library Guild selections. She has a new YA Fantasy coming in May 2016, HEIR TO THE SKY, about monster hunters and floating continents. When not reading or writing, Sun is also an avid cosplayer. Find her on Twitter at @Amanda_Sun and get free Paper Gods novellas at

Storm is available for purchase here.

New Releases – June 2015

The Six by Mark Alpert (Sourcebooks Fire)

“The Six are introduced as terminally-ill teens, but there’s plenty of high-speed action in which they engage. Their physical disabilities and limitations through disease are forgotten as the teens’ hearts, minds, and personalities shine through, even though their bodies are now steel data containers…questions of principle, power, and possibility keep this look at our modern, hardwired existence fresh and fascinating. ” — Booklist, starred review

Joyride by Anna Banks (Feiwel & Friends)

“Two teens form an unlikely bond across a racial and cultural divide. Sixteen-year-old Carly Vega lives with her older brother, Julio, both American citizens struggling to earn enough money to smuggle their undocumented, deported family back to the United States from Mexico. While studying her calculus homework during one dull midnight shift at a convenience store, Carly witnesses the old, irascible, and frequently drunk Mr. Shackelford getting mugged in the parking lot. She leaps to his aid, confronting the would-be perp before he gives up and escapes on Carly’s bicycle. The next day, the handsome and popular Arden Moss, an Anglo and the son of the local sheriff, confesses to Carly that he was the culprit … Banks offers a book brimming with original humor and mostly complex characterization (Mr. Shackelford is a delight) even as she tackles race and immigration issues. Both a heart-stopper and heart-tugger.” — Kirkus

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell (Simon and Schuster)

“A Kyoto teenager diagnosed with ALS connects with two new friends and weighs how to approach his imminent death from the neurological disease in Benwell’s resonant debut. … It’s a memorable and haunting story of a boy’s determination to seize control of the limited time he has left.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

This Book Is Gay by James Dawson (Sourcebooks Fire)

Book Description: Lesbian. Bisexual. Queer. Transgender. Straight. Curious. This book is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. This book is for anyone who’s ever dared to wonder. This book is for YOU. There’s a long-running joke that, after “coming out,” a lesbian, gay guy, bisexual, or trans person should receive a membership card and instruction manual. THIS IS THAT INSTRUCTION MANUAL. You’re welcome. Inside you’ll find the answers to all the questions you ever wanted to ask: from sex to politics, hooking up to stereotypes, coming out and more. This candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it’s like to grow up LGBT also includes real stories from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, not to mention hilarious illustrations. You will be entertained. You will be informed. But most importantly, you will know that however you identify (or don’t) and whomever you love, you are exceptional. You matter. And so does this book.

Glittering Shadows by Jaclyn Dolamore (Disney-Hyperion)

Book Description: The revolution is here.

Bodies line the streets of Urobrun; a great pyre burns in Republic Square. The rebels grow anxious behind closed doors while Marlis watches as the politicians search for answers-and excuses-inside the Chancellery.

Thea, Freddy, Nan, and Sigi are caught in the crossfire, taking refuge with a vibrant, young revolutionary and a mysterious healer from Irminau. As the battle lines are drawn, a greater threat casts a dark shadow over the land. Magic might be lost-forever.

This action-packed sequel to DARK METROPOLIS weaves political intrigue, haunting magic, and heartbreaking romance into an unforgettable narrative. Dolamore’s lyrical writing and masterfully crafted plot deliver a powerful conclusion.

Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen (Philomel)

“Set in early 1990s Manhattan as the AIDS crisis was hitting its peak, Jensen’s semiautobiographical debut novel in verse explores how shifting parental dynamics can affect a household. … When Mira discovers her father in a compromising position with his male teaching assistant, both her image of him and her understanding of her parents’ relationship collapse. … Jensen’s spare free-verse poems and accessible imagery realistically portray the fraught moments of adolescent identity formation with great empathy. Compelling snapshots of contemporary family drama and the AIDS epidemic as captured through a teen’s eyes.” — Kirkus

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (Delacorte)

“Audrey, 14, is on a long, slow upswing from disabling anxiety disorders that resulted from the vicious abuse of bullies at school. Under the guidance of thoughtful Dr. Sarah, Audrey begins to deal with her inability to make eye contact—or even to leave the house—by crafting videos of her quirky, near-farcical family, a nifty narrative device that especially shows off her ”twitchy“ mom. … An outstanding tragicomedy that gently explores mental illness, the lasting effects of bullying, and the power of friends and loving family to help in the healing.” — Kirkus, starred review

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn (St. Martin’s Griffin)

“Kuehn’s lacerating third novel centers on three deeply damaged teenagers, the “delicate monsters” of the title. Sadie, the half-Chinese daughter of a well-to-do California vineyard owner, is a sadist who has returned home to Sonoma after her role in the near-death of a classmate at her most recent boarding school. … Kuehn (Complicit) once again proves herself a talented writer in a tough, punishing novel about the damages we inflict on others and the shaky defenses we build to mask trauma and guilt.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

The Outside Circle by Patti Laboucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings (House of Anansi Press)

Book Description: In this important graphic novel, two Aboriginal brothers — both gang members — surrounded by poverty and drug abuse, try to overcome centuries of historic trauma in very different ways to bring about positive change in their lives. Pete, a young Aboriginal man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. After returning home one evening, Pete and his mother’s boyfriend, Dennis, get into a violent struggle, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially maintaining his gang ties, a jail brawl forces Pete to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey and encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation through a traditional Native healing circle. Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author’s twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of Aboriginal men who are gang-affiliated or incarcerated.

Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani (Tu Books)

“Claire’s parents are keeping secrets that could kill her. Sixteen-year-old Claire Takata is a spirited, inquisitive amateur locksmith and sleuth. Claire and her brothers have always believed their father died of a heart attack 10 years ago and that their mother met their stepdad after he died. … Claire’s grief and sense of loss are compounded when she eventually discovers that her father had been a member of the yakuza, transnational Japanese organized crime syndicates—and then her sleuthing attracts the attention of someone tied to her father’s past. … This fantastic debut packs a highly suspenseful blend of action, intrigue, and teen romance.” — Kirkus, starred review

Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil (HarperCollins)

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars in Gretchen McNeil’s witty and suspenseful sequel to Get Even. The members of Don’t Get Mad aren’t just mad anymore … they’re afraid. And with Margot in a coma and Bree under house arrest, it’s up to Olivia and Kitty to try to catch their deadly tormentor. But just as the girls are about to go on the offensive, Ed the Head reveals a shocking secret that turns all their theories upside down. The killer could be anyone, and this time he—or she—is out for more than just revenge.

The girls desperately try to discover the killer’s identity as their personal lives are falling apart: Donté is pulling away from Kitty and seems to be hiding a secret of his own, and Olivia’s mother is on an emotional downward spiral. The killer is closing in, the threats are becoming more personal, and when the police refuse to listen, the girls have no choice but to confront their anonymous friend … or die trying.

Surviving Santiago by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Running Press Kids)

“Tina, 16, travels from Madison, Wisconsin, to Santiago, Chile, to spend her summer visiting her father, whom she hasn’t seen in three years. Chile in 1989 is still under the rule of the Pinochet dictatorship, but the demand for democracy is growing. … She is bored and lonely until she meets Frankie. … Smooth dialogue, a quick pace, and palpable suspense combine to make a compelling read. Supporting characters are treated with compassion; violence brings suffering to those on all sides. A riveting story of love and acceptance amid a tumultuous political landscape.” — Kirkus

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler (Simon Pulse)

“Ockler’s breezy, seaside romance offers a modern spin on the classic tale of ”The Little Mermaid.“ After a boating accident steals her voice, Elyse d’Abreau leaves Tobago and her superstar dreams to seek solitude with friends in Atargatis Cove, OR. Unable to confront the fact that she will never sing again, Elyse cuts herself off from family and friends, until playboy Christian Kane recruits her to serve as first mate in a boating race to save the Cove from being ruined by developers. The race forces Elyse to confront her fear of the sea and the legendary mermaid, Atargatis, who helps her rediscover her inner power. Despite being unable to speak, Elyse’s lyrical and authentic voice shines through.” — School Library Journal

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older (Arthur A. Levine Books)

“When walking corpses—and worse—show up in the city, a teen discovers family secrets and ancestral powers. … This story about ancestors, ghosts, power, and community has art and music at its core; Sierra’s drawing and painting turn out to be tools for spirit work. Sierra’s Puerto Rican with African and Taíno ancestors; her community is black and brown, young and old, Latin and Caribbean and American. Sometimes funny and sometimes striking, Older’s comfortable prose seamlessly blends English and Spanish. Warm, strong, vernacular, dynamic—a must.” — Kirkus, starred review

Make It Messy: My Perfectly Imperfect Life by Marcus Samuelsson with Veronica Chambers (Delacorte)

“Aspiring chefs and fans of the Food Network will appreciate learning about the incredible journey of celebrity chef Samuelsson from this new edition of his autobiography Yes, Chef (Random, 2012), adapted for a teen audience. Samuelsson’s perfectly imperfect life began in Ethiopia. An orphan whose parents died of tuberculosis, Samuelsson and his sister were adopted by a couple living in Sweden, where they thrived under the warmth and protection of their new parents. … This new edition is a delightful read, and Samuelsson effectively connects his love of food to his personal journey. He is a clear and thoughtful storyteller, conveying his frustration about how his race made him an outsider. His refusal to quit amid adversity is admirable.” — School Library Journal

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (Soho Teen)

“Aaron Soto, 16, lives in the projects in a Bronx similar to the real one except for the existence of the Leteo Institute, a neighborhood facility where patients can have painful memories erased. … If anyone deserves to have his past wiped clean, it’s Aaron, who has experienced poverty, his father’s suicide, and the violent death of friends in his short life. But what Aaron wants most to forget is that he’s gay. … Silvera pulls no punches in this portrait of a boy struggling with who he is in the face of immense cultural and societal pressure to be somebody else.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (Disney-Hyperion)

“Spa days. VIP concert tickets. The envy of the girls in the lunchroom. Sixteen-year-old Samantha and her friends, the Crazy Eights, have it all—at least, that’s what Samantha has always let everyone believe. Nobody can know the real Sam, the crazy girl with OCD. If they found out, it would cost her everything. But when an unlikely new friend introduces Sam to a secret society of student poets, speaking her truth becomes increasingly appealing. … Clueless meets Dead Poets Society with a whopping final twist.” — Kirkus

Storm by Amanda Sun (Harlequin Teen)

Book Description: After almost a year in Japan, Katie Greene has finally unearthed the terrible secret behind her boyfriend Tomohiro’s deadly ability to bring drawings to life—not only is he descended from Kami, the ancient Japanese gods, but he is the heir to a tragedy that occurred long ago, a tragedy that is about to repeat.

Even as the blood of a vengeful god rages inside Tomo, Katie is determined to put his dark powers to sleep. In order to do so, she and Tomo must journey to find the three Imperial Treasures of Japan. Gifts from the goddess Amaterasu herself, these treasures could unlock all of the secrets about Tomo’s volatile ancestry and quell the ink’s lust for destruction. But in order to complete their quest, Tomo and Katie must confront out-of-control Kami and former friend Jun, who has begun his own quest of revenge against those he believes have wronged him. To save the world, and themselves, Katie and Tomo will be up against one of the darkest Kami creations they’ve ever encountered—and they may not make it out alive.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas (Bloomsbury USA)

“Ollie and Moritz are at the center of a unique and oddly compelling friendship in this epistolary debut. Ollie has a form of epilepsy that renders him ”allergic to electricity,“ while Moritz, born without eyes, has a pacemaker to help control his cardiomyopathy. Both boys live in reclusive isolation, but when they begin to exchange letters, they find an unexpected opportunity to share their hopes, challenges, sorrows, and the tragic secrets that unite them.” — School Library Journal

SHADOWSHAPER and the Power of Art

By Daniel José Older

digest-older-shadowshaperHere’s a phrase you’ll hear often in conversations about gentrification: “First, the artists moved in.” It’s a tiny, complicated sentence amidst a gigantic, complicated topic (which I wrote more about here). But embedded in it, you’ll find one of the central acts of erasure at the heart of gentrification itself. When people say this, they really mean the white artists came first, but the white goes unmentioned because, like whiteness itself, it’s presumed, normalized: the fallback category. (See also: writers only pointing out a character’s race when they’re not white.) The problem with saying  “First, the artists moved in,” is that it’s not true. There have always been artists in the America’s low-income neighborhoods, and hopefully there always will be. But they haven’t always been white and their art hasn’t always been the kind that galleries and art critics deem worthy of a pedestal.

The pages of Shadowshaper, my first YA novel, are filled with musicians and rappers, poets, painters, storytellers, journalists — all folks who get erased when we talk about a glorified first wave of white artists entering the hood like they’re some kind of daring explorers in the wilderness.

Sierra Santiago is just trying to pain a mural on the wall of one of those brand new, wildly out of place looking buildings on a block otherwise full of brownstones. A tear drips down the face of a fading mural adjacent to the one she’s painting, a memorial to a friend of her family’s. Then chaos erupts when a guy that was supposed to be dead shows up at the first party of the summer while Sierra’s trying to recruit her friend Robbie to help her unravel the mystery of the crying painting and her grandfather’s connection to a mysterious group called the shadowshapers.

Shadowshaper is about artists and the power of art. Amidst rapidly changing neighborhoods, police violence, and literary erasure, the painting a face on a wall, the act of remembrance, is truly a form of resistance. In the struggle to reclaim her own heritage, Sierra must find her voice. This is the first great adventure of every artist, but it’s an adventure that society glorifies or demonizes differently along coded race and gender lines. We find our voices as individuals and collectively, and once we find them, we must learn how to lift them — over the din and tangle of oppression and the industry and the market and bad advice about what will sell and what won’t sell — and say something difficult and true. In writing Sierra’s journey to finding her voice, I ended up finding my own.

Photo credit: Kevin Kane

Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). His first collection of short stories, Salsa Nocturna and the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, which he co-edited, are available from Crossed Genres Publications. You can find Daniel’s thoughts on writing, read dispatches from his decade-long career as an NYC paramedic and hear his music at and @djolder on twitter and youtube.

Shadowshaper is available for purchase here

Moving Beyond “Pretty”

By Jaclyn Dolamore

dolamore-glitteringshadowsIn 2009, by some odd coincidence, I ended up reading four books almost in a row with a character who was missing a hand. Each of these characters was in some way cool or charismatic…and they were all male. I found myself trying to recall if I had ever seen a fictional female with a missing hand, and at that time, I couldn’t think of a single one. I chalked this up to my general theory that fictional women just don’t get to be interesting in as many different ways as fictional men do, and thought, “Maybe someday I’ll write a cool one-handed girl,” in the vague way writers file away a lot of random ideas.

Fast forward several years, and the plot to my work-in-progress, Glittering Shadows, had taken various twists and turns and one of my female characters, um, kinda needed to lose a hand. While this might have been a decision purely based on plot, I nevertheless wanted to take it very seriously and write it as accurately as possible, so one of the things I did was to research prosthetics.

All the male characters I read about in 2009 had a hook, and it was usually described as being sharp and weapon-like, such as you see on fiction’s most famous one-handed character, Captain Hook. My series is set in a world based firmly on Europe between World Wars, so the technology needed to match the era. My research showed that the standard prosthetic for a missing hand—both at that time, and often still today—is indeed a hook, but not a sharp pirate hook. It is, in fact, a split hook that can open and close to grasp things, and is operated by a motion of the opposite shoulder through the use of bands.

I have to confess, when I first read about this, I felt a protective pang for my character. This didn’t sound…pretty, like a delicate Victorian prosthetic hand someone would post on Pinterest. This had all the romance of a medical supply store, with a dash of action movie bad guy. I didn’t want to do this to her! It makes me squirm to admit this was my vision. And yet, I had no idea this thought was lurking in the depths of my mind until I started thinking in the context of one of my own characters. This is actually one of the things I most LOVE about writing diverse fiction—it brings buried biases and stereotypes to the surface like bubbles—and often, they’re just as easy to pop with some real information.

My second thought, of course, went straight back to the same thought I had in 2009: the very fact that my gut reaction was “that isn’t pretty” is why I needed to write it. Because girls so often have to stay pretty, while at the same time, entertainment often reinforces that disabilities aren’t pretty. Why shouldn’t girls get to be both disabled and glam? Why should female characters be protected? And how do real girls with only one hand feel when their portrayals in fiction are largely male pirates and villains?

When I started watching YouTube videos demonstrating prosthetic hooks, I realized they didn’t really look like I expected either. They were more graceful, more capable of precision than I had imagined. I stopped cringing on my character’s behalf and started drawing sketches of her dressed to the nines. As, in the book, she grows to like her own reflection again, so did I shed some of my own conceptions of disability and beauty, and in a larger sense, of what women are allowed to be.

Jaclyn Dolamore spent her childhood reading as many books as she could lug home from the library and playing elaborate pretend games. She has a passion for history, thrift stores, vintage dresses, and local food. She lives with her partner Dade and three weird cats in a Victorian house in western Maryland. Visit her online at

Glittering Shadows is available for purchase.

5 Things I Learned While Writing INK AND ASHES

By Valynne E. Maetani

maetani-inkandashes-ag15When my sister turned eighteen, I decided to write Ink and Ashes for her. Because I never got to see myself in books other than those with settings involving war, an internment camp, or high fantasy, I wanted her to have a contemporary title with a Japanese American protagonist. I was tired of reading about people like me who were hated just because of the way they look and thought the greatest gift I could give her was a book I never got to read.

Following red herrings and guessing how a story might end has always been a thrill, so I knew this was the type of book I wanted to write. I also wanted a Japanese element which added mystery, and that naturally led me to the yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

The only problem was that I had never written a book before. Fortunately, writing a book was really fun and easy.

Until it wasn’t.

So here are some of the most important things I learned:

1. Writing is hard. In order to grow, I had to leave my ego at the door. I had to be willing to let my manuscript be ripped to shreds. I had to hear why parts of my story didn’t work. I had to learn where my weaknesses were, so I could discover my strengths.

2. Writing is hard. There were times I hated my book. I hated my characters. I wanted them all to die. But I also loved my book. I loved it enough that I couldn’t give up writing. I was passionate about my story even when I thought my manuscript would never be published. In fact, I was pretty certain my story would never see the light of day. No one had written a book like mine, and so I believed there wasn’t a market for my story. But having an underlying passion for what I was writing carried me through the times that were difficult.

3. Writing is hard. I think some of the hardest scenes to write for Ink and Ashes were the ones where I left a part of myself on the page. Allowing myself to be vulnerable was difficult, but it also meant I was writing a story no one else could write.

4. Writing is hard. But having friends who are writers has made the journey easier. Only writers truly understand why we do what we do—why we torture ourselves and yet love the craft. Writers understand exactly what it means to get an agent, to sell a book, to be on deadline, to write another book. They have been a support system that I couldn’t have done without.

5. Writing is hard. But it is also fun. It is worth the blood, the sweat, and the tears. It has brought joys and opportunities I could have never imagined; introduced me to people I wouldn’t have met otherwise; and filled voids that I wasn’t even aware of.

Writing is hard. But it wouldn’t be meaningful otherwise, and I can’t imagine life without it.

valynnemaetaniValynne E. Maetani grew up in Utah and obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In a former life, she was a project manager and developed educational software for children with learning disabilities. Currently, she is a part-time stage mom, part-time soccer mom, and full-time writer. Her debut novel, Ink and Ashes, is the winner of the New Visions Award 2013 and a spring 2015 Junior Library Guild selection. She lives in Salt Lake City, UT.

Ink and Ashes is now available.

Small Countries

By Lyn Miller-Lachmann

millerlachmannn-survivingI write novels that take place in small countries. In a publishing industry that encourages writers to appeal to the widest possible audience, setting a novel in Chile, a long, narrow country in South America with scarcely more than ten million people and only a few thousand immigrants in the United States, seems like a spectacularly bad career decision. Writing a novel about a small country earns me the same reaction that authors of diverse books often hear about their protagonists of color, protagonists with disabilities, or LGBTQIA protagonists: “Your books have limited audience, and we can’t publish/acquire/stock them, because they won’t sell.”

These kinds of comments ignore the fact that teens read plenty of books set in distant places with distinct cultures. Science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian novels dominate the list of best sellers. These genres are popular because they present complex and interesting worlds that transport readers away from their everyday lives. Characters grapple with life-and-death conflicts that, hopefully, most of us will not have to experience in our own lives.

The history of many places throughout the world is, sadly, full of the same life-and-death conflicts. Throughout history, most people have lived under oppressive regimes. Many writers of dystopian fiction have based their works on real places throughout history, from ancient Rome to Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Like its predecessor, Gringolandia, Surviving Santiago is set in a real-life dystopia of the past — Chile under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Until he and his allies shot and bombed his way to power in a military coup on September 11, 1973, Chile had enjoyed many decades of democracy and peace. Afterward, the name Pinochet became identified with political prisons and torture. The small faraway country of Chile became a cautionary tale of how quickly freedom can be lost, and, once lost, how hard it is to get back.

In the days after the 1973 coup, hundreds of thousands of people like Marcelo Aguilar, the father of my protagonist of Surviving Santiago, suddenly became enemies of the state. Many of those who survived the early wave of violence chose to leave the country, and some ended up in the United States. Others, including Marcelo, stayed to fight the dictator.

Sixteen-year-old Tina hasn’t seen her father in many years. After his arrest, she fled to the United States with her mother and brother while he remained in prison, tortured so badly that he suffers permanent physical and emotional damage. Ever since his release, he has neglected his family to work underground against the dictatorship. But he still wants to see Tina, and she maintains a grain of hope that he’ll be the old father she remembers from before his arrest and imprisonment.

Tina arrives in Santiago just before the dictatorship’s end, when many of its supporters didn’t want to let go. They feared the exposure of their misdeeds, or they saw these final months as an opportunity to punish the people who defeated them. It was a time of secrets, betrayal, and life-or-death situations, particularly for returnees like Tina who were basically strangers in their own land.

When Tina’s father ignores her, she finds companionship with a mysterious local boy, Frankie. They seem to have a lot in common: a love of Metallica, motorcycles, and action movies — and fathers who are alcoholics. She denies signs that Frankie may not be telling the truth.

Small country, but big conflicts with equally big stakes.

These are also universal conflicts that prompt further thought and discussion. When faced with a huge injustice, do you walk away or fight? What comes first — being there for your family or making the world a better place? How do you know when someone is really a friend? If a friend wants you to do something that you think is wrong, would you do it anyway to keep the friendship? And how would you help a friend who has made a bad decision and is now in danger because of it?

These questions arise in contemporary realistic novels, science fiction, fantasy, dystopian fiction — and historical fiction set in countries throughout the world. They are questions young people face whatever their background. Teen readers already know that a great story is a great story, whatever the setting. So why not publish more diverse books, books that highlight characters who may not be in the “majority” (whatever that is in our increasingly diverse society), and characters who live in, or travel to, small countries? Why assume that these books “have limited audience” and treat them differently from books set in the foreign worlds of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia?

lynmillerlachmannLyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of Gringolndia (a 2010 ALA Best Book for Young Adults) and Rogue. She has an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and an M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin. She is the former editor of MultiCultural Review, and has taught English, social studies, and Jewish studies. She is the assistant host of Vientos del Pueblo, a bilingual radio show featuring Latin American and Spanish music, poetry, and history. She grew up in Houston and currently lives in Albany, NY, with her family.

Surviving Santiago is now available.

New Releases – May 2015

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh (Putnam Juvenile)

“A reimagined tale based on One Thousand and One Nights and The Arabian Nights. In this version, the brave Shahrzad volunteers to marry the Caliph of Khorasan after her best friend is chosen as one of his virgin brides and is summarily murdered the next morning. She uses her storytelling skills, along with well-placed cliff-hangers, to keep herself alive while trying to discover a way to exact revenge on the Caliph. … A quick moving plot and sassy, believable dialogue make this a compelling and enjoyable mystery, with just the right amount of romance and magic. … The rich, Middle Eastern cultural context adds to the author’s adept worldbuilding.” — School Library Journal, starred review

Cut Off by Jamie Bastedo (Red Deer Press)

Book Description: A topical tale of one teen’s addiction to the Cyber World – and the Northern adventure that saved his life. Born into a Guatemalan-Canadian family, Indio McCracken enjoys sudden stardom as a classical guitar prodigy after his father posts a video of his playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” in record time. But Dad has a dream of raising the world’s next Segovia and locks the boy in his room to practice his art. Indio is now literally held captive by his musical gift. But here in his home prison Indio attempts escape into the cyber world, where he creates his own magnetic virtual identity and in the process develops a digital obsession that almost kills him. Facing school expulsion, or worse, unless he kicks his Internet habit, Indio is shipped off to an addictions rehab center in northern Canada where the adventure of a lifetime awaits him.

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum (Viking Juvenile)

“This powerful, well-researched work examines the Stonewall riots, which took place in 1969 in New York City when members of the gay community fought back in response to a police raid on a gay bar. … Quoting from a variety of firsthand sources (journalists, bar patrons, cops, and others), Bausum paints a vivid picture of the three nights of rioting that became the focal point for activists … Bausum describes the growth of gay and lesbian activism, setbacks, the impact of HIV/AIDS, and issues such as gays in the military and same-sex marriage, bringing readers to the present day and expertly putting these struggles into historical context.” — School Library Journal, starred review

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger (Knopf)

Book Description: Part Homeless Bird and part Matched, this is a dark look at the near future told through the alternating perspectives of two teens who dare to challenge the system.

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa, though, doesn’t want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

Undertow by Michael Buckley (HMH Books for Young Readers)

“In his first YA novel, Buckley delivers a solidly entertaining adventure with the perfect amount of romance and danger. … Lyric Walker used to be a ”wild thing.“ At 14, she and her friends ruled the dilapidated beach community of Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. Then one night, Lyric witnesses the arrival of the Alpha, strange creatures from the depths of the ocean, and learns a terrible secret her family has been keeping from her. … Sharp political commentary and strong parallels to the treatment of minorities in the U.S. ground the world in reality, while the well-rounded and ethnically diverse supporting cast will cause readers to root for them.” — School Library Journal, starred review

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton (HarperTeen)

“Gigi, June, and Bette are aspiring ballerinas attending the cutthroat feeder academy for the America Ballet Company in New York City. … African-American Gigi is the sweet dancer no one saw coming, nabbing roles that vicious, blond Bette and eternal understudy June (who is half-Korean) would kill for. Maybe literally. Shifting among the girls’ alternating points of view, first-time authors Charaipotra and Clayton skillfully craft three distinctive, complex characters; even amid moments of cruelty and desperation, the girls are layered with emotion, yearning, and loss.” — Publishers Weekly

Vanished by E. E. Cooper (Katherine Tegen Books)

“Two popular girls disappear unexpectedly, leaving their closest friend behind. Kalah plays second fiddle to Beth and Britney in every way. She’s the new girl; they’re an established duo. She’s a junior; they’re seniors. She’s Indian; they’re white. Beth and Britney have always had dimensions to their relationship that Kalah hasn’t understood, but now, Kalah and Beth have a secret too. Even though Kalah has a caring and dependable boyfriend, she and Beth have been kissing. Kalah thinks she might be in love. … What follows is both the emotionally nuanced story of Kalah’s loss and a genuinely chilling mystery.” — Kirkus

Vessel by Lisa T. Creswell (Month9Books)

Book Description: On April 18, 2112 the sun exploded in a Class X solar storm the likes of which humankind had never seen. They had nineteen minutes. Nineteen minutes until the geomagnetic wave washed over the Earth, frying every electrical device created by humans, blacking out entire continents, every satellite in their sky. Nineteen minutes to say goodbye to the world they knew, forever, and to prepare for a new Earth, a new Sun. Generations after solar storms have destroyed nearly all human technology on Earth and humans have reverted to a middle ages like existence, all knowledge of the remaining technology is kept hidden by a privileged few called the Reticents and books are burned as heresy. Alana, a disfigured slave girl, and Recks, a traveling minstrel and sometimes-thief, join forces to bring knowledge and books back to the human race. But when Alana is chosen against her will to be the Vessel, the living repository for all human knowledge, she must find the strength to be what the world needs.

The Hunted by Matt de la Peña (Delacorte)

“Previously, in The Living (Delacorte, 2013), Shy Espinoza’s cushy summer job aboard a cruise ship was short-lived. A tsunami sunk the luxury liner, and Shy survived harrowing moments at sea, after learning that some of the passengers were working for Laso Tech, an evil biotech company responsible for Romero’s Disease, a deadly contagion ravaging Southern California. In this episode, Shy and three friends survive in a dinghy for a month with some stolen vials of the precious Romero’s vaccine, only to wash ashore and see the California coast devastated. … Readers will be drawn to the raw and gritty setting, fast-moving plot, and diverse characters worth rooting for, such as Carmen, Shy’s feisty Mexican coworker and romantic interest, and the philosophical Shoeshine, an older black man who sees Shy as more than just a resilient and steadfast kid, but a larger-than-life hero.” — School Library Journal

Fell of Dark by Patrick Downes (Philomel)

“Teenagers Erik and Thorn are descending into madness on converging paths, heading toward a ruinous first encounter with each other. Both highly intelligent boys, their lives are filled with tragedy and abuse—real, imagined, or exaggerated. … Downes brilliantly plays with language and metaphor, and he explores the dualities of sanity/insanity, beauty/ugliness, voice/voicelessness in a chilling echo of real incidents of school violence. A stunning debut novel that offers sophisticated readers a glimpse into the psychological disintegrations of two distinct characters.” — Kirkus, starred review

Dime by E. R. Frank (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

“Thirteen-year-old Dime is a product of the foster system. She finds an escape in the books she reads, but she struggles academically because she is called on to help out with the younger foster children at home. One day she meets a girl who takes her in. Dime finds acceptance here, but is slowly groomed into becoming a prostitute. The book takes the form of a note that Dime is trying to write, whose purpose is unclear until the last chapters. … The conditions in which Dime and the other trafficked girls live are horrendous and difficult to read about; however, this novel serves to illustrate that small acts of kindness can make a difference.” — School Library Journal, starred review

Endangered by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins)

Book Description: The one secret she cares about keeping—her identity—is about to be exposed. Unless Lauren “Panda” Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer’s little game of Dare or … Dare.

But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn’t know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself … and everyone else on the Admirer’s hit list.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Book Description: Given the way love turned her heart in the New York Times bestselling To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which SLJ called a “lovely, lighthearted romance,” it’s no surprise that Lara Jean still has letters to write.

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg (Arthur A. Levine Books)

Konigsberg (Openly Straight) eloquently explores matters of family, faith, and sexuality through the story of 17-year-old Carson Smith, whose therapist mother has dragged him from New York City to Billings, Mont., where his alcoholic father is dying. After Carson meets Aisha, whose conservative Christian father threw her out of the house when he discovered she is a lesbian, the teens embark on a multistate road trip, chasing down fragmentary clues that might lead them to find Carson’s long-absent grandfather. … Bouts of humor leaven the characters’ intense anguish in a story that will leave readers thinking.” — Publishers Weekly

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

“Intrepid sleuth Scarlett has tested out of the last years of high school, founding a detective agency instead of going to college. Ever since the deaths of her Egyptian father and Sudanese mother, Scarlett’s insisted on taking care of herself. Her older sister, a doctor, is too busy to spend much time at home, so Scarlett is proudly independent. When she takes a case from a frightened 9-year-old, Scarlett discovers a terrifying conspiracy that’s endangered her own family for generations. … This whip-smart, determined, black Muslim heroine brings a fresh hard-boiled tone to the field of teen mysteries.” — Kirkus, starred review

The First Twenty by Jennifer Lavoie (Bold Strokes Books)

Book Description: Humanity was nearly wiped out when a series of global disasters struck, but pockets of survivors have managed to thrive and are starting to rebuild society. Peyton lives with others in what used to be a factory. When her adopted father is murdered by Scavengers, she is determined to bring justice to those who took him away from her. She didn’t count on meeting Nixie.

Nixie is one of the few people born with the ability to dowse for water with her body. In a world where safe water is hard to come by, she’s a valuable tool to her people. When she’s taken by Peyton, they’ll do anything to get her back. As the tension between the groups reaches critical max, Peyton is forced to make a decision: give up the girl she’s learned to love, or risk the lives of those she’s responsible for.

Occasional Diamond Thief by Jane Ann McLachlan (Hades Publications)

Book Description: 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a universal translator, she is co-opted into travelling as a translator to Malem. This is the last place in the universe that Kia wants to be—it’s the planet where her father caught the terrible illness that killed him—but it’s also where he got the magnificent diamond that only she knows about. Kia is convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond.

Using her skill in languages – and another skill she picked up, the skill of picking locks – Kia unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner.

But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? Can she trust the new friends she’s made on Malem, especially handsome but mysterious 17-year-old Jumal, to help her? And will she solve the puzzle in time to save Agatha, the last person she would have expected to become her closest friend?

Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humor, and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naïvely optimistic in Kia’s opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.

The Merit Birds by Kelley Powell (Dundurn)

“First-time author Powell traces a Canadian teenager’s reluctant trip to Laos, alternating among his perspective and those of two Laotian teenagers. With a bad temper and worse attitude, Cam sulks amid the unfamiliar customs of the village he and his mother will be calling home for his senior year. His attitude softens as he gets to know a smart, kind girl named Nok, a practitioner of traditional fa ngum massage. … the story offers an insightful window in Laotian life, history, and traditions while reminding readers that redemption can carry a heavy cost.” — Publishers Weekly

Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt (Bloomsbury)

“Seventeen-year-old Penny Landlow was born into the ‘family business’; her dad oversees a vast empire of illegal organ donation. … She has limited interaction with the outside world, which is compounded by her disease; Penny suffers from a rare condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Her body destroys its own platelets for no known reason, and the only treatment is healthy blood infusions every few weeks. … Her brother, mother, and father are brutally murdered, and Penny is forced into a heart-pounding, adrenaline-fueled race to discover the true murderers and survive … A crime narrative that satisfies a craving for suspenseful romance, entertaining adventure, and edge-of-your-seat survival drama.” — School Library Journal

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton (Push)

“Tretch Farm’s best friend Matt may have two dads—far from common in small-town Warmouth—but Tretch has a secret: he’s gay and in love with Matt. Debut author Walton offers a mostly upbeat alternative to accounts of tormented teens in the closet: 15-year-old Tretch is teased a bit at school (largely due to his close friendship with Matt), but he never doubts his family’s love. In fact, his biggest worry about coming out to them is that they’ll be so supportive that they’ll become socially isolated themselves.” — Publishers Weekly

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (Greenwillow Books)

“Alex is starting her senior year at a new high school, making a clean start after an incident at her previous school. She just wants to keep her grades up and perform her mandatory community service so she can get into college. But Alex knows she’ll have a hard time achieving these goals, since she has paranoid schizophrenia. … This is a wonderfully complicated book. Adolescence can be absurd, breathless, and frantic on its own. Combine it with mental illness, and things get out of control very quickly. Zappia sets a fast pace that she maintains throughout. … Zappia tackles some big issues in her debut, creating a messy, hopeful, even joyful book.” — School Library Journal