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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

LGBT: The Next Generation

By Bill Konigsberg

I have a nephew who grew up in rural Arizona. Yep, that would be the conservative, rural part of the state that is known for politicians who want to make sure people don’t lose their constitutional rights to walk into a bar with a semi-automatic rifle.

Anyway, my nephew Sam came out when he was 14. He told his mother and father, and they helped him come out to friends at school, and they supported him, and soon enough, there he was, a 14-year-old boy who played on the soccer team and happened to be gay.

And no one died in the process. No newspapers covered this story. No one picketed, and there wasn’t really any trouble.

This pretty well flew in the face of my first novel, Out of the Pocket. That novel was pretty much a by-the-numbers coming out story. The main character, Bobby Framingham, is a football player. He has a secret. Should he come out, or shouldn’t he? He is outed, it becomes a huge story, and in the end it turns out, well, I don’t want to give it ALL away. I suppose I should keep some things mysterious for those who haven’t read it yet.

So as I started thinking about writing another novel, I was thinking about Sam. How his situation was so different than mine was, back in the 1980s. How it was even different than someone who came out in the 90s or early 2000s.

You see, Sam’s biggest complaint wasn’t homophobia, though there were, actually, some issues of homophobia that he later told us about. His biggest complaint was really about labels.

It’s not fair, really. Sam is gay. But he’s a lot of things. He’s a soccer player. He’s a flashy dresser. He’s an amazing writer. Why is it that every time someone mentioned Sam up in his high school, they led with the same thing: “The gay kid”?

This is how Openly Straight was born. I wanted to delve into what it’s like to be a gay kid in a world in which it’s more or less okay to be a gay kid, but at the same time it’s frustrating because you’re always pigeon-holed into a role that isn’t necessarily – apt?

I mean, how does kicking a soccer ball or having a flair for fashion really relate to whom you love?

What would happen, I wondered, if a kid like Sam tried to go “label-free?”

The book was a challenge to write at first, because my experience was so different than that growing up. Then, one day, something happened that changed everything.

Long story short, I was living in Billings, Montana, and I decided one day to go play racquetball at the local health club. I wear a wedding ring, because my partner and I had a civil union back in 2006.

A guy saw my ring and asked me about my wife. What was her name?

I thought, hmm. What do I do in this situation? Do I come out, because that’s the right thing to do? It could be awkward. He wasn’t really asking for my life story, after all. He was just some guy I was playing racquetball with, and I’d probably never see him again.

“Rachel,” I said.

Driving home, I wondered if I was going crazy. Was I, an out 38-year-old guy, suddenly going back in the closet? What was going on there?

The result of this exploration is Openly Straight. Why would someone want to put away a label? Can one do so? What does it mean to be “one of the guys,” and is there a barrier to being “one of the guys” in a world where gay is no longer the worst thing you can be? And are we even at that point yet?

I think this book hasn’t been written before, and that’s something I’m excited about. Being able to explore some new territory that feels important. I hope I did it justice, because I think these issues of identity, about what it means to be a person, and what it means to be a gay person, are super important.

I’m not sure I came up with all the answers, or really any answers. But I’m quite sure I came up with a bunch of questions that will make readers think. A lot.

Openly Straight is available now. Visit Bill Konigsberg’s website or follow him on Twitter.

New Releases – May 2013

Get Over It by Nikki Carter (KTeen Dafina)

“Wholesome, down-to-earth fun.” — Kirkus

How To Be a Star by M. Doty (Poppy)

Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman (Delacorte)

“A gripping tale with important lessons for any young man.” — New York Times

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (Arthur A. Levine)

“A sometimes painful story of self-discovery, it is also a beautifully written, absolutely captivating romance between two boys, Rafe and Ben, who are both wonderfully sympathetic characters. With its capacity to invite both thought and deeply felt emotion, Openly Straight is altogether one of the best gay-themed novels of the last ten years.” — Michael Cart, Booklist starred review

Mystic (Soul Seekers Book #3) by Alyson Noel (St. Martin’s Press)

Since arriving in the dusty desert town of Enchantment, everything in Daire Santos life has changed…and not always for the better. While she’s come to accept and embrace her new powers as a Soul Seeker, Daire struggles with the responsibility she holds navigating between the worlds of the living and the dead—and her mission to defeat the evil Cade Richter. …

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler (Simon Pulse)

“Narrator Jude’s voice is steady, honest and clear as she faces head-on her responsibility for her father’s care, her desire to step from her sisters’ shadows, her own genetic connection with her father’s disease and forbidden love. At its core, this is a touching father-daughter story made even stronger by realistic family complications and Jude’s need to find her own voice.” — Kirkus

Swans & Klons by Nora Olsen (Bold Strokes Books)

“Philosophical dystopia fans of all orientations will find much to appreciate in this story that tackles big ideas.” — Kirkus

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez (Running Press Kids)

“Sanchez’ expertly crafted narrative … [pulls] readers into Frenchie’s anger and pain without straying into clichés of teen angst… . An exceptionally well-written journey to make sense of the senseless.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second)

“Shen’s plot ably balances drama, humor, angst, and robotic geekery, giving the book an immediate YA appeal, but one that’s broad enough to be enjoyable to older readers, as well. Visually, Hicks’s wide-eyed, inky b&w panels infuse the characters with real emotion and personality, capturing the book’s heartfelt youthfulness.” — Publishers Weekly

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (HarperCollins)

“Most fascinating in this stirring coming-of-age novel are the blurred lines between perception and reality, genius and madness, peace and turmoil. Debut author Smith embraces the complexities of grief, family dynamics, creativity, mental illness, and love and pens them with a thoughtful, subtle hand.”— The Horn Book

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson (Delacorte)

“A sensitive and compelling read that will inspire teens to contemplate how they can make a difference.” — School Library Journal, starred review

Coda by Emma Trevayne (Running Press)

“Atmospheric and emotionally rich, this intense story practically sings with defiance, swaggering like the rock and punk of old. A strong debut from an author to watch.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review)