Tag Archives: Lamar Giles

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

You’ve Got Mail, Young Writer

By Lamar Giles

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.

Three weeks ago I got an email from a 15-year-old girl in Ohio. I’ve been waiting on her email for 20 years. That math is weird, but not a typo. More on that in a bit…

I remember when email became a thing (yes, I’m THAT old).

In 1995, America Online was the most popular way to access the Internet, and you paid by the hour (unless, of course, you had those FREE TRIAL disks that came in the mail…10 hours at no cost to you). When someone contacted you through your AOL Account, a perfectly chipper synthesized voice announced, “You Have Mail.” If you’re not ancient, like me, this probably sounds like nonsense. Hang on, this rabbit hole gets wider and brighter. I promise.

With increased web presences, a bunch of writers opened up a new corridor of accessibility by adding a simple “contact” link. Not the super famous writers mind you. You weren’t going to send Stephen King a .jpg of you and your cat in your Pet Sematary Halloween costumes. Though, many of the mid-listers, including some of my very favorite writers, were suddenly a click away. I wasn’t shy about sending a note to a writer I liked, particularly after reading their latest. I complimented them, asked questions, and told them about my aspirations because I knew, even then, what I wanted to do. Most were extremely cool, and gracious, and encouraging.
However, none were like me.

I didn’t know of any black males who liked horror and fantasy stories, let alone wrote them. When I asked for recommendations at my local library, I got pointed towards Alex Haley and Malcolm X…great men and writers, but not quite what I was looking for. As much as the Internet and email opened up the world of pro-writers to me, I felt as lonely and isolated as ever. Perhaps moreso. In all the World Wide Web, I felt like an anomaly. Until, I wrote to a man named Brandon Massey.

Brandon was me. An older, wiser, published version of me. A black male who liked and wrote fantastic horror stories. I enjoyed his first novel, Thunderland, a great deal and I told him so, via email.

I expected the sort of responses I’d been getting. Polite, encouraging, but essentially an upgrade on the form Thank You letters from the pre-email days. Not so this time. Brandon answered all of my questions in detail, asked about the sort of things I wrote, and what I was working on currently. For the first time in all of my letter writing campaigns, I sensed I wouldn’t be overstepping my bounds by writing him again. And again. And again.

I’d moved on from America Online by that point, but I was more excited than ever to know that I had mail. I won’t bore you with extensive details of what happened next, because it’s a retread of my publishing history, from my first major short story sale to the Dark Dreams anthology to Endangered, on shelves now. I just want to stress the importance of connecting with Brandon.

I saw what I COULD be.

It only took a total overhaul of the way the world communicated to make it possible. Imagine that.

What Diversity in YA, and We Need Diverse Books, and The Brown Bookshelf, and everyone else raising diversity awareness in the industry does isn’t just about showing the books. It’s showing the possibilities. All of these groups are the AOL of modern publishing. A new way of doing things, with no hourly charges. Yay!

For those aspiring kids who, for far too long, were unable to find the books and writers that represent them, there are resources. They can tweet the writers, and follow all those awesome Instagram photos from conferences. The modes of connecting are changing daily (I’m still trying to figure out SnapChat). By comparison, simple emails seem way obsolete. That’s okay. Change is good (despite what the haters say).

While email might be doing a slow fade, I’m so happy it hasn’t gone away completely. Remember that 15-year-old girl I told you about? Right.

She read Endangered, and likely clicked the contact link on my website. She loved the book, specifically the character Panda, who reminded her of herself, and wasn’t a stereotypical sidekick to a more important dominant character, and she hopes to be a writer someday.

That. Last. Part.

I was in a time loop. Back to ’95, writing to writers, waiting for responses. But, wait, I was on the other side now. In the present, connected to the past, or something…didn’t I just see this in INTERSTELLAR?

It’s amazing to be doing what I’m doing, and to be in the position to respond to her email. I gave her her first editorial note. Cut “hopes to” and “someday”. Just be a writer.

I shared a bit of my personal story, passed on some advice that Brandon Massey once gave me, and invited her to ask more questions as needed. Then, I gave her my expectation…that she do the same for the young writer who contacts her through whatever means are available (Mind-Mail?) in 20 years.

Maybe, by then, the massive gap in publishing representation will be as outdated as screaming modems, those AOL trial disks, and all that other stuff that seems so ridiculous now.

Though I wouldn’t mind more notes like the one I told you about. It’s still quite nice to know when you’ve got mail.

Lamar Giles

Lamar Giles writes novels and short stories for teens and adults. He is the author of the 2015 Edgar® Award Nominee FAKE ID, a second YA thriller ENDANGERED, a third, currently untitled YA novel from HarperCollins, as well as the forthcoming YA novel OVERTURNED from Scholastic Press. Lamar Giles is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books. He resides in Virginia with his wife. Check him out online at www.lamargiles.com or follow @LRGiles on Twitter.

ENDANGERED is available for purchase here.

10 YA Books About African American Teens by African American Writers

It’s Black History Month, which means there are plenty of lists floating around these days about African American history. For a change of pace, here’s a selection of YA novels about African American teens of today, written by African American writers. Descriptions are from Worldcat.

Pull by B.A. Binns (Westside Books) — After his father kills his mother, seventeen-year-old David struggles to take care of his two sisters–and himself–while dealing with his grief, guilt, and trying to fit in at a tough new school while hiding his past.

Kendra by Coe Booth (Push) — High schooler Kendra longs to live with her mother who, unprepared for motherhood at age fourteen, left Kendra in the care of her grandmother.

Not a Good Look by Nikki Carter (K-Teen Dafina) — Sunday Tolliver is this close to making her music industry career dreams come true–until her mother spends her entire college fund. Now Sunday’s only chance to get to college means slaving as a personal assistant to her diva cousin, Dreya.

A la Carte by Tanita S. Davis (Alfred A. Knopf) — Lainey, a high school senior and aspiring celebrity chef, is forced to question her priorities after her best friend (and secret crush) runs away from home.

Fake ID by Lamar Giles (Amistad) — An African-American teen in the Witness Protection Program moves to a new town and finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery when his first friend is found dead.

Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson (Delacorte) — Joshua Wynn is definitely what you would call a good guy. He’s a preacher’s son who chooses abstinence and religious retreats over crazy nights and wild parties … One Sunday, Joshua’s mind drifts from his father’s sermon to a beautiful girl in the fifth row. She’s gorgeous, wearing a dress cut down to there, and she looks like the little girl he crushed on as a kid. It turns out that Maddie Smith is back in town, but instead of throwing her a welcome-back picnic, the community condemns her for her provocative clothes and the rumors about her past … But can Joshua save Maddie without losing himself?

Hot Girl by Dream Jordan (St. Martin’s Griffin) — Kate, a fourteen-year-old Brooklyn girl and former gang member, risks losing her first good foster family when she adopts the risqué ways of her flirtatious new friend, Naleejah.

DJ Rising by Love Maia (Little, Brown) — Sixteen-year-old Marley Diego-Dylan’s career as “DJ Ice” is skyrocketing, but his mother’s heroin addiction keeps dragging him back to earth.

Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins) — Two best friends, a writer and a runner, deal with bullies, family issues, social pressures, and their quest for success coming out of Harlem.

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum) — Ali lives in Bed-Stuy, a Brooklyn neighborhood known for guns and drugs, but he and his sister, Jazz, and their neighbors, Needles and Noodles, stay out of trouble until they go to the wrong party, where one gets badly hurt and another leaves with a target on his back.

10 African American Authors to Know

Lamar Giles

Alaya Dawn Johnson

Stephanie Kuehn

Kekla Magoon

Walter Dean Myers

  • The 2012–2013 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, and winner of the Margaret Edwards Award for lifetime achievement.
  • www.walterdeanmyers.net

Jason Reynolds

Ni-Ni Simone

Sherri L. Smith

Jacqueline Woodson

Bil Wright

  • A playwright, director, and author of the YA novels Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy and Sunday You Learn How to Box.
  • www.bilwright.com

New Releases – January 2014

More Than Good Enough by Crissa-Jean Chappell (Flux)

Book description: Trent Osceola’s life is turned upside down when his mother announces that he will be moving to the Miccosukee reservation to live with his father, who was recently released from prison. Only half Miccosukee, Trent feels alienated from rez society and starts to question who he really is. When he changes schools, he reconnects with Pippa, a childhood friend who moved away, and together they tackle the class assignment to make a film of their lives. When he starts to see himself through Pippa’s eyes, Trent’s not sure he likes what he sees. Will he ever be good enough for the rez, for school, and for her?

Fake ID by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins Amistad)

“This engrossing thriller blends gritty crime storytelling with solid, realistic family drama. … Giles ably handles multiple themes, not shying away from the racial tension that exists in the small southern town (Nick is African-American, and Eli and Reya are Latino), while avoiding making it a primary focus. This mature crime story expands beyond high school walls to address the challenges of maintaining meaningful relationships and the cost of loyalty.” — Publishers Weekly

Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave by Shyima Hall with Lisa Wysocky (Simon and Schuster)

“This memoir of modern domestic slavery ends with hope and determination, as young author Hall (born Shyima El-Sayed Hassan) is “one of the fortunate 2 percent” to be freed from servitude.” — Kirkus

Secret (Elemental Series #4) by Brigid Kemmerer (KTeen)

Book description: Keep his brother’s business going or the Merricks will be out on the street. Keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his own twin–or he’ll lose his family. Keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who’s supposed to be his “girlfriend’s” partner. Of course there’s also the homicidal freak Quinn has taken to hanging around, and the Elemental Guide counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers.

There’s a storm coming. From all sides. And then some. Nick Merrick, can you keep it together?

Shadowplay by Laura Lam (Strange Chemistry)

Book description: The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes. He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates. People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus–the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he’s perfecting… A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

Beware of Boys (Charly’s Epic Fiascos Series #4) by Kelli London (KTeen Dafina)

Book description: Reality TV stardom gets way too personal for Charly St. James when three of the world’s hottest heartthrobs want her to be their dream come true…

Now that Charly’s a star, she wants to give back any way she can. So she’s made The Extreme Dream Team’s newest mission to help three sizzling celebs’ charitable foundation build a super swanky retreat for teen girls who’ve battled an illness. But keeping things running smoothly is next to impossible when too many ideas–and egos–collide…

Handsome singer Mēkel is dazzling Charly with a chance to join the glitterati. Boxer Lex has powerful hood moves and charm she can’t resist. And hanging around movie heartthrob Faizon has Charlie feeling movie magic. The harder Charly struggles to keep things on track, the more they’re coming apart–especially when her kinda boyfriend and co-star, Liam, starts competing for her attention. Now, Charly needs to figure out fast what–and who–she really wants most…

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson (Dial)

“Nelson crafts a stirring autobiography in verse, focusing on her childhood in the 1950s, when her family frequently moved between military bases. … An intimate perspective on a tumultuous era and an homage to the power of language.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Diamonds and Deceit by Leila Rasheed (Disney-Hyperion)

“In the second installment of this soapy series, the focus shifts to Lady Ada’s secret half sister, Rose, who was raised as a housemaid at Somerton and elevated to a member of the family at the conclusion of Cinders & Sapphires (2013). … Add this to the list of recommended reading for Downton Abbey enthusiasts.” — Kirkus

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum)

“The “greatest” in the title doesn’t just refer to the scene in which 15-year-old Ali defends a friend with Tourette syndrome by throwing a winning punch at a party—it also hints at what an accomplishment Reynolds’s novel is. Set in the non-“Cosby” part of Brooklyn, in the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, the story centers around the party incident and the evolving relationship between Ali, his best friend Noodles, and Noodles’s brother Needles (the one with “the syndrome”). … Snappy descriptions (the barbershop is the “black man’s country club”) and a hard-won ending round out a funny and rewarding read.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos (Egmont)

“Harry Jones opens his story by submitting a 250-word essay to a college admissions board-only he goes a book length over the limit. In so doing he recounts his traumatic past: the terrifying scene in which neighborhood bullies tied him to a tree and left him as a storm rolled in…and how the tree was struck by lightning, leaving him with disfiguring burn scars all over his face. He then describes his physical and mental recovery. … Distinguished in every way.” — School Library Journal, starred review

Do-It-Yourself/The Uhura Paradox

By Lamar Giles


Anyone ever notice that the acronym for Diversity in YA (DiYA) is really close to DIY, as in Do-It-Yourself? Maybe you haven’t. PROBABLY you haven’t. I’m weird. Oh, OH…and in an episode of Star Trek that you might have missed, Lt. Uhura turned into a white lady.

(This is the part where you stare at the screen like, “Huh-wha???”)

Bear with me. I do have a point.

Here’s the brief on what happened. A company called ThinkGeek produces a line of popular sci-fi/fantasy decals, the likes of which you’ve probably seen in the back window of some minivan. A family of four (for example, a father/mother/son/daughter combo) who love Star Wars might have Anakin, Amidala, and tiny Luke and Leia decals as representations of themselves. Cute. Whatever the family dynamic is, there’s conceivably a way to mix and match decals to fit the unit. Unless, of course, the family features a black intergalactic linguist or an Asian starship helmsman (yeah, Mr. Sulu got hit, too). Because, for reasons that may be perfectly innocent, the company produced all the characters in the Star Trek decal set with the same skin tone. White. Well, except for the aliens, who were their canon-accurate blue, green, and brown shades.

Innocent. Perfectly.

Further details can be found in the link above, so I won’t get into the fallout (big, loud) and the expla-pology (typical) that followed. However, I will tell you what THAT has to do with you, and me, and this blog, and YA books, and doing-it-yourself.

We’ve seen incidents of skin color bias —“Whitewashing”—our entire lives. For most of my life, there were no outlets to express frustration over it outside of my living room or dorm room with like-minded friends who were awake enough to see it, too. Only in recent years with rise of the internet, and social media, have I seen my living room expand to the size of the entire planet. And those conversations can now be had in 140 character bursts, with friendlies and not-so-friendlies alike. Each time a “Whitewashing” incident occurs, and the hurt parties become vocal, I see a mix of responses that are so similar to the last incident, I can’t help but wonder if the posters/commenters are using copy/paste.

“There are bigger issues in the world; you people are searching for things to be angry about.”

“It’s probably an honest mistake. Most people today don’t care about color.”

“Everything isn’t about race. The media wants to create a divisive environment, because, you know, ratings.”

And so on…

There’s a simple translation that fits every one of those statements, and it goes like this: “I’ve never seen the problem because it’s not my problem. I’d prefer if we not talk about this again.”

That’s not a hostile translation. It’s not a statement that would likely be spoken in anger. It. Just. Is.

However, it’s a request I cannot oblige. Here’s what I’ve learned: there’s no value in being quiet about the terrible, horrible, mind-blowing lack of diversity in our (SIGH) decals, or TV, or movies, or…books.

Perhaps I’m a little late to the party, because it appears Cindy and Malinda figured this out a while ago when they started DiYA. I’m speculating here, and they’re more than free to correct me, but I imagine that their efforts to spotlight the diverse work in our field is due, in some part, to the realization that no one sticks up for you, before you. If you want people to sit up, pay attention, and speak out about an issue you find important, you must first Do-It-Yourself.

DiYA is DIY in my favorite form. The site spotlights great and diverse work that will not get the same coverage and enthusiasm everywhere. The work featured here may not be what you see on the NYT Bestseller lists. There may be no TV and movie adaptations because the characters don’t look like the magazine cover models in your grocery store, or the actors in primetime. Not yet. Soon, though. If you push, stay vocal, and DIY.

If no one is talking about the lack of gay characters in your favorite genre…DIY

If you want to see a book with a strong protagonist who happens to have a disability…DIY

If you want everyone who’s ever felt marginalized to tell the decision makers, and the gatekeepers, and their fellow consumers that they will not remain silent when they spot missed opportunities to fill the diversity void…DIY.

I wrote a book called FAKE ID, it’s available now. It’s a mystery about a black boy who’s a modern, smart, badass (with a sensitive streak). His name is Nick, nobody else was going to write him, so I did it myself. I think he’s awesome, and I hope you’re willing to give him a try this spring. In any case, should he one day be featured on a decal, they better get his shading right. Or, I’m going to have something to say about.

Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be the only one.

Lamar “L. R.” Giles writes stories for teens and adults. He’s never met a genre he didn’t like, having penned science fiction, fantasy, horror, and noir thrillers, among others. He is a Virginia native, a Hopewell High Blue Devil, and an Old Dominion University Monarch. He resides in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his wife.