Fiction, Graphic Novel, March 2020

Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn

Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn. February 7, 2020. DC Ink, 208 p. ISBN: 9781401289782.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Cassandra Cain, teenage assassin, isn’t exactly Batgirl material…yet. Will she step out of the shadows and overcome her greatest obstacle–that voice inside her head telling her she can never be a hero?

Lucky for Cass, she won’t have to defy her destiny alone. With the help of her new mentors, noodle shop owner Jackie Fujikawa Yoneyama and a librarian named Barbara Gordon, she’ll attempt to answer this question the only way she knows how: learning everything she possibly can about her favorite hero. The only problem is that Batgirl hasn’t been seen in Gotham for years…Can Cass find Batgirl before her father destroys the world she has grown to love? Or will shehave to take on a heroic mantle of her very own?

Accompanied by the edgy art style of Nicole Goux, Sarah Kuhn, author of Heroine Complex and I Love You So Mochi, tells the harrowing story of a girl who overcomes the odds to find her unique identity.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2020 (Vol. 116, No. 9))
Grades 8-11. Trained from birth to be a perfect weapon, Cassandra Cain dispatches her father’s enemies with ghastly snaps, cracks, and crunches. Though her highly specialized training has left her with only the barest grasp of spoken language, she reads the love and regret in the eyes of her last victim as he croaks a farewell to his own beloved child, and so Cassandra goes on the run. She winds up hiding out in a Gotham City library, where she starts developing her language skills and hears the legend of Batgirl, as told by none other than former Batgirl Barbara Gordon. Struggling to open up, Cass eventually accepts Barbara, as well as Jackie, the tough but motherly owner of the neighborhood noodle shop, as her surrogate family. With their help, she dons a DIY costume and brings Batgirl back to the streets, starting with a crusade against dodgy library patrons, but eventually she confronts her own past in the form of her father and his assassins. There’s an inexhaustible supply of stories about choosing a path or identity in YA literature, but Kuhn deepens the theme and her character by centering her plot on Cass’ confused search for both human connection and heroic ideals. Add Goux’s lean, manga-inflected art with its rollicking, parkour-inspired action sequences, and you’ve got a top-tier entry in DC’s YA graphic novel line.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2019)
The story behind Batgirl. Cassandra Cain is trained to kill. Raised by a criminal mastermind, she knows only how to fight and execute. One day she freezes in the face of one victim’s desperation for her to pass on a message to his daughter. Not wanting to return home, she is found on the streets by noodle shop owner Jackie Fujikawa Yoneyama, who gives her a free meal. Cassandra also finds solace in the Gotham Public Library, where, having been raised with little conversation, she learns to comprehend language by listening to librarian Barbara’s storytimes about Batgirl. Fascinated, Cassandra begins to understand her life before, with her villain of a father, and to envision the life she wants to lead in the future, as a hero. This is an excellent introduction to Cassandra’s backstory and her journey to becoming Batgirl. The detailed illustrations and meticulous coloring add emotion and effectively convey movement. Dark memories and moments are shrouded in blue and purple while Cassandra’s safe, comforting spells are brightened by shades of yellow and orange. Cassandra’s sweet, touching story includes themes of self-discovery, relationships, family, and personal choices, and there’s enough action to keep readers interested. The cast of characters is diverse in race and ability; Cassandra has mutism, she and Jackie are Asian, and red-haired Barbara uses a wheelchair. Without a shadow of a doubt, readers will enjoy this hero’s backstory. (Graphic novel. 12-17)

About the Author

Sarah Kuhn is the author of Heroine Complex—the first in a series starring Asian American superheroines—for DAW Books. She also wrote The Ruby Equation for the comics anthology Fresh Romance and the romantic comedy novella One Con Glory, which earned praise from io9 and USA Today and is in development as a feature film. Her articles and essays on such topics as geek girl culture, comic book continuity, and Sailor Moon cosplay have appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Apex Magazine, AngryAsianMan.com, IGN.com, Back Stage, The Hollywood Reporter, StarTrek.com, Creative Screenwriting, and the Hugo-nominated anthology Chicks Dig Comics. In 2011, she was selected as a finalist for the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award.

Her website is www.heroinecomplex.com

Teacher Resources

Shadow of the Batgirl on Common Sense Media

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Fiction, March 2020

Shadowscent by P.M. Freestone

Shadowscent by P.M. Freestone. November 5, 2019. Scholastic Press, 362 p. ISBN: 9781338335446.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

An Ember in the Ashes meets Indiana Jones in an electrifying, steal-your-breath away, supercharge-your-senses YA fantasy adventure.

Across the Aramtesh Empire, scent is everything. Prayers only reach heaven on sacred incense, and perfumes are prized status symbols. 17-year-old Rakel has an uncanny ability with fragrances, but her skills aren’t enough to buy her dying father more time.

Ash bears the tattoos of an imperial bodyguard. When his prince, Nisai, insists on a diplomatic mission to an outer province, Ash is duty-bound to join the caravan. It’s a nightmare protecting Nisai on the road. But it’s even harder for Ash to conceal a secret that could see him exiled or executed.

Rakel and Ash have nothing in common until smoke draws them to a field of the Empire’s rarest flower. Nisai’s been poisoned, flames devour the priceless blooms, and the pair have “suspect” clinging to them like a bad stench. Their futures depend on them working together to decipher clues, defy dangers and defeat their own demons in a race to source an antidote . . . before the imperial army hunts them down.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 5))
Grades 8-11. In a society dependent on perfumes, oils, and elixirs, all Rakel wants is to use her gift for fragrances to make enough money to care for her dying father—easier said than done if you aren’t born into the right family. Ash’s only desire is to serve his best friend Nisai, the prince and heir to the empire, as his faithful Shield guard—and to protect a secret that could cost him his life. Yet somehow, when the prince is poisoned and left comatose, Rakel and Ash end up on the run to save their lives as well as Nisai’s. Journeying through the five provinces in search of a way to save him, Rakel must use her skills and Ash his swords to overcome the endless challenges before them. In her debut, Freestone crafts rich, fantastical imagery through mythical creatures, magical lands, and mysterious abilities, all tied up in an engrossing plot that will have readers begging for the sequel. Hand this book to fantasy-lovers and mystery aficionados alike.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2019)
A girl who gets mixed up in politics and the crown prince’s bodyguard must work together to save the prince—and themselves. Rakel has an affinity for scents: She can understand what’s in them and how to re-create them. In a world that runs on fragrances and magic, she should be able to care for herself and her ailing father. But when she goes to the city of Aphorai to find work as a perfumer, she learns that things are not so simple. Despite her best intentions, she is accused of a plot to assassinate the First Prince. Her only hope of survival lies in unraveling the components of the poison and concocting an antidote. Joined by the prince’s Shield, Ash, Rakel sets out on a quest through each of the kingdom’s regions, uncovering secrets about each of their pasts along the way. Following standard plot beats, Rakel and Ash confront corruption and conspiracy within their kingdom while exploring relationships, with each other and with others in their lives, both present and absent. While overdramatic at times, with characters painted in broad strokes, the romance and tension will appeal to readers hungry for adventures set against an intriguing, if underexplored magical world. Few physical descriptions make ethnicity difficult to determine in this desert kingdom; homosexuality is briefly mentioned and not stigmatized. A standard fantasy romp built on lush descriptions of fragrances. (Fantasy. 12-16)

About the Author

P. M. Freestone hails from Melbourne, Australia, and now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland with her partner, their Romanian rescue dog, and a collection of NASA-approved house plants. She is a Clarion Writers‘ Workshop (University of California) graduate and a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award winner, and holds degrees in archaeology, religious history and a PhD in the sociology of infectious diseases. She’s only ever met one cheese she didn’t like.

Her website is pmfreestone.com

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Fiction, March 2020

salt slow by Julia Armfield

salt slow by Julia Armfield. October 8, 2019.Flatiron Books, 195 p. ISBN: 9781250224774.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

In her electrifying debut, Julia Armfield explores women’s experiences in contemporary society, mapped through their bodies. As urban dwellers’ sleeps become disassociated from them, like Peter Pan’s shadow, a city turns insomniac. A teenager entering puberty finds her body transforming in ways very different than her classmates’. As a popular band gathers momentum, the fangirls following their tour turn into something monstrous. After their parents remarry, two step-sisters, one a girl and one a wolf, develop a dangerously close bond. And in an apocalyptic landscape, a pregnant woman begins to realize that the creature in her belly is not what she expected.

Blending elements of horror, science fiction, mythology, and feminism, salt slow is an utterly original collection of short stories that are sure to dazzle and shock, heralding the arrival of a daring new voice.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Armfield, winner of the White Review Short Story Prize, debuts a short-story collection that is both provocative and thrilling. A city is plagued with insomnia as Sleep disassociates itself and becomes its own ethereal entity. A teenager going through puberty finds her body changing in very unusual ways. A PhD student scavenges beautiful body parts of men to create the perfect male specimen for herself. A teenage girl gains a wolf as her new stepsister, and their bond grows dangerously close after the wolf-sister defends her from a persistent boy. As a woman in her thirties falls in love, her beloved becomes increasingly stiff and statuesque. A pregnant woman living during the time of the apocalypse realizes that the creature in her womb is not the child she expected. Armfield’s collection is exemplary as she pushes the limits of reality into beautifully eerie and unsettling worlds. She blends elements of horror, science fiction, mythology, and feminism in a way that is sure to shock and amaze readers of short fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2019)
Between man-eating insects, a fashionably dressed sister-wolf, and a hypnotic feminist girl band, Armfield leaves no supernatural stone unturned in this dazzling debut. Writing with an elegant and often poetic style, British author Armfield conjures nine uncanny worlds in her first short story collection. And while her tales are notable for their concepts, they don’t lack in substance, either. Behind each of her stories lie undercurrents of loss, metamorphosis, and the ever shifting nature of human relationships. The horror of her work comes not only from the eerie occurrences on each page, but also in the relatability of her characters and the connections a reader can draw between their situations and the absurdity of everyday life. In “Formerly Feral,” for example, an adolescent girl copes with her parents’ divorce, her father’s remarriage, and her own shifting identity as she faces school bullies and bonds with the newest member of her family—a wolf. “Smack” also deals with divorce but depicts the breakup of a marriage through the eyes of a wife holding on to her disintegrating relationship by locking herself—sans nutrition or power —in the beach house she and her husband once shared. Perhaps most extraordinary is “The Great Awake,” which captures the sleeplessness of city life and the bitter, competitive spirit that accompanies it. In this strange world, plagued by the “removal of the sleep-state from the body,” shadelike “Sleeps” step out of their human hosts while the tired people left behind reshape society to take advantage of the mass insomnia. The title story, meanwhile, follows a couple navigating both the salt waters that have flooded the Earth and their unspoken feelings about their future. While a story or two ends abruptly or doesn’t delve quite as deeply as the most spectacular in the collection, each piece is filled with magic, insight, and a rare level of creativity that mark Armfield as a fresh new voice of magical realism. Artistic and perceptive, Armfield’s debut explores the ebbs and flows of human connection in lives touched by the bizarre.

About the Author

Julia Armfield is a fiction writer and occasional playwright with a Masters in Victorian Art and Literature from Royal Holloway University. Her work has been published in The White Review, Lighthouse, Analog Magazine, Neon Magazine and The Stockholm Review. She was commended in the Moth Short Story Prize 2017 and won the White Review Short Story Prize with two of the stories in this collection. She lives in London, where she is at work on her debut novel.

Her website is https://www.juliaarmfield.co.uk/

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Fiction, March 2020

One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus. January 7, 2020. Delacorte Press, 375 p. ISBN: 9780525707974.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

The highly anticipated, #1 New York Times bestselling sequel to One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe‘s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

Sequel to: One of Us is Lying

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Homophobic slur; Mild sexual themes; Sexual assault; Strong language; Underage drinking; Violence; Sexual harassment; Alcohol abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. A year ago, in One of Us Is Lying (2017), Simon Kelleher, infamous creator of a gossip app, died during detention at Bayview High. Since then, the students in detention with him—nicknamed the Bayview Four—have all been cleared of his murder, graduated, and moved on. But Bayview remembers. At the high school, lesser copycat apps come and go, but nothing sticks until the game arrives as a mass text. The rules are simple: it’s truth or dare. When Phoebe, the first target, doesn’t pick one, her worst secret is leaked. As she teams up with Maeve, the sister of one of the Bayview Four, and her friend Knox, the game intensifies: the dares are getting dangerous, but everyone wants to keep their secrets. McManus offers a companion that, while set in the same sphere as her hit debut, takes entirely different cues, leaving readers new and old with a dizzying array of fresh twists. A nonlinear narrative and breakneck pacing, combined with the tech element and the already-intense high-school atmosphere, make this a thrilling read.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2019)
A dangerous texting game comes to Bayview High in this sequel to One of Us Is Lying (2017). Last year in a San Diego suburb, a gossip app led to a death and inspired weak copycats. Now an anonymous person is sending Truth or Dare messages to the students of Bayview High, and this time no one is safe. If you choose truth (or don’t respond), one of your secrets is revealed. Complete a dare and you’ve passed. The game mostly causes an entertaining stir—until a student winds up dead. Was it an accident, or was it murder? High school juniors Maeve, Phoebe, and Knox find themselves caught up in the mystery of who’s behind the texts. The Bayview Four make appearances, but the compelling heart of the story is the three main characters’ family drama and personal struggles. Maeve thinks she’s having a leukemia relapse, Phoebe slept with her sister’s boyfriend, and Knox interns at a legal aid firm whose staff members are receiving death threats. Shifting perspectives keep the pace steady while McManus (Two Can Keep a Secret, 2019, etc.) deftly weaves in commentary on the justice system, bullying, and slut shaming. Plenty of secrets and surprises will keep readers captivated until the satisfying end. Knox and Phoebe are white, Maeve has Colombian ancestry, and Bayview is a diverse community. A can’t-put-down read. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Karen M. McManus earned her BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and her MA in journalism from Northeastern University. She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying, its sequel One of Us Is Next, and Two Can Keep a Secret. Her work has been published in more than 40 languages.

Her website is www.karenmcmanus.com

Teacher Resources

One of Us is Next on Common Sense Media 

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Fiction, March 2020

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wang

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wang. January 7, 2020. HarperTeen, 414 p. ISBN: 9780062957276.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

“Our cousins have done this program,” Sophie whispers. “Best kept secret. Zero supervision.

And just like that, Ever Wong’s summer takes an unexpected turnGone is Chien Tan, the strict educational program in Taiwan that Ever was expecting. In its place, she finds Loveboat: a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop.

But not every student is quite what they seem:

Ever is working toward becoming a doctor but nurses a secret passion for dance.

Rick Woo is the Yale-bound child prodigy bane of Ever’s existence whose perfection hides a secret.

Boy-crazy, fashion-obsessed Sophie Ha turns out to have more to her than meets the eye.

And under sexy Xavier Yeh’s shell is buried a shameful truth he’ll never admit.

When these students’ lives collide, it’s guaranteed to be a summer Ever will never forget.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Physical abuse, Domestic abuse; Alcohol

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 7))
Grades 10-12. Ever Wong has spent 18 years being measured against the impossible standards of her parents’ admiration for high-achieving Chinese Americans. They literally ran her crush away (devastatingly into the arms of her best friend!) and, on the cusp of adulthood, are forcing her to pursue medical school instead of her true love, dance. When she’s sent to Chien Tan in Taipei, what she expects to be a laborious language and cultural program she finds is nicknamed “Loveboat” for a reason, turning Ever’s summer into one of love, mischief, and self-awakening that she will soon not forget. Wen’s depiction of a wild summer disguised as an educational summer camp is brimming with hormones under scant supervision and Loveboat’s rowdy reputation. Ever’s thorny friendship with Sophie and a love triangle between brilliant Rick, with his effortless charm, and bad boy Xavier provides a strong romance, but some heavy subplots make it a serious read, too. It’s Ever’s resulting growth in the face of parental expectations and heartache that will resonate most with readers far and wide.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2019)
A sheltered teen with a passion for dance finds love, drama, and herself at a summer camp in Taiwan. Eighteen-year-old Everett “Ever” Wong braces herself for a summer of curfews and vocabulary lessons after her parents reveal that they signed her up for a Mandarin language and Chinese culture program. But upon arriving at Chien Tan, Ever quickly discovers how the program earned its nickname, Loveboat. As her new roommate, Sophie, says, “Ever, you are never going to meet this many eligible guys in one place.” Ever seizes this opportunity away from her strict parents to experience a slew of forbidden activities, from sneaking out at night with other campers for illicit clubbing to taking classes at a local ballet studio. Complications arise when she unintentionally stumbles into a love quadrangle involving bad boy Xavier, handsome prodigy Rick, and glamorous Sophie. The novel evokes the style of bingeworthy Taiwanese TV dramas, complete with dramatic plot developments and characterizations that occasionally toe the line between exaggeration and caricature. Between hookups, glamour photo shoots, and camp classes, Wen addresses a number of hot-button issues for many Asian Americans, the foremost being the struggle to reconcile immigrant parents’ expectations with personal aspirations. Characters are predominantly Chinese American; a secondary character is Indigenous Taiwanese. An entertaining and heartfelt debut that takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of romance and self-discovery. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Abigail Hing Wen holds a BA from Harvard, a JD from Columbia Law School, and an MFA from the Vermont School of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing stories or listening to her favorite scores, she is busy working as an attorney in venture capital and artificial intelligence in Silicon Valley, where she lives with her husband and two sons. Loveboat, Taipei is her first novel.

Her website is www.abigailhingwen.com

Teacher Resources

Loveboat, Taipei on Common Sense Media

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Fiction, March 2020

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha. October 15, 2019. Ecco, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062868855.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A powerful and taut novel about racial tensions in Los Angeles, following two families–one Korean-American, one African-American–grappling with the effects of a decades-old crime

In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. But Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have their own problems. Grace is sheltered and largely oblivious, living in the Valley with her Korean-immigrant parents, working long hours at the family pharmacy. She’s distraught that her sister hasn’t spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons beyond Grace’s understanding. Shawn has already had enough of politics and protest after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. He just wants to be left alone to enjoy his quiet life in Palmdale.

But when another shocking crime hits LA, both the Park and Matthews families are forced to face down their history while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of more violence.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence; Racial slur

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
When Grace Park’s mother, Jung-Ja Han, is targeted in a drive-by shooting, Grace discovers the truth about her family’s pivotal role in the 1992 L.A. riots. Amid growing tension between South Central’s Asian shop owners and their African American customers, Grace’s mother shot and killed Ava Matthews, a teenage girl Grace had accused of shoplifting and assault, despite the later discovery of only two dollars clutched in Ava’s lifeless hand. Jung-Ja’s light sentence and the Rodney King trial ignited rioting. Fleeing backlash, Jung-Ja changed her name to Yvonne Park and hid in the suburbs. Shawn, Ava’s younger brother, has rebuilt his life after emerging from prison and leaving his fellow Crips gang members behind. Shawn’s cousin Ray has finally been released from prison, too, and Shawn is optimistic about Ray’s reunion with his community-activist mother, his wife, and the teenage twins Shawn has helped raise during Ray’s absence. But the past won’t go away, and Shawn and Ray face police scrutiny for Jung-Ja’s shooting. In addition, Ray has been keeping secrets. As Grace and Shawn desperately try to hold their families together, community outrage over another teen’s shooting places them—and Ava’s tragic death—back in the media spotlight. A gripping, thoughtful portrayal of family loyalty, hard-won redemption, and the destructive force of racial injustice. Cha, author of the Juniper Song PI series, offers a strong contender for the summer’s blockbuster read.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2019)
A real-life racial incident is transfigured into a riveting thriller about two families’ heartbreaking struggles to confront and transcend rage and loss. It is the late summer of 2019, but no matter how many years have passed, Shawn Matthews, a black ex-convict now working for a Los Angeles moving company, is burdened by memories of the early spring of 1991, when his teenage sister Ava was shot to death by a Korean woman who mistakenly believed she was stealing from her convenience store. The shooting and the resulting trial—in which the woman was convicted and received no jail time, after which she relocated to another part of LA—fed into racial tensions already festering back then from the Rodney King trial. And the city’s reactions to a present-day shooting death of an unarmed black teen by a police officer indicate that those racial animosities remain close to the boiling point. In the midst of the mounting furor, Grace Park, a young Korean woman, is shaken from her placid good nature by the sight of her mother being wounded in a drive-by shooting. “What if she is being punished?” her sister Miriam says, revealing a shocking fact about their mother’s past that Grace hadn’t known. An LAPD detective asks Shawn if he has an alibi for the drive-by (which he does). Nonetheless, the most recent shooting upends his fragile sense of security, and he starts to wonder where his cousin, Ray, himself just released from prison, was when Grace’s mother was shot. Cha, author of the Juniper Song series of detective novels (Dead Soon Enough, 2015, etc.), brings what she knows about crafting noir-ish mysteries into this fictionalized treatment of the 1991 Latasha Harlins murder, blending a shrewd knowledge of cutting-edge media and its disruptive impact with a warm, astute sensitivity toward characters of diverse cultures weighed down by converging traumas. Cha’s storytelling shows how fiction can delicately extract deeper revelations from daily headlines.

About the Author

Steph Cha is the author of Your House Will Pay and the Juniper Song crime trilogy. She’s an editor and critic whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. A native of the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two basset hounds.

Her website is stephcha.com

 

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Fiction, March 2020

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco. October 15, 2019. HarperTeen, 481 p. ISBN: 9780062821799.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A world split between day and night. Two sisters who must unite it. The author of The Bone Witch kicks off an epic YA fantasy duology perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon―until one sister’s betrayal split their world in two. A Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in eternal night, the other scorched beneath an ever-burning sun.

While one sister rules the frozen fortress of Aranth, her twin rules the sand-locked Golden City―each with a daughter by their side. Now those young goddesses must set out on separate, equally dangerous journeys in hopes of healing their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

Told from four interweaving perspectives, this sweeping epic fantasy packs elemental magic, star-crossed romance, and incredible landscapes into a spectacular adventure with the fierce sisterhood of Frozen and the breakneck action of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 8-12. Chupeco brings her trademark blend of magic, romance, Pan-Asian cultures, and inventive world building to a new series about twin goddesses whose falling out literally breaks the world in two. Asteria, mother of Odessa, rules the dark, frozen half, while Latona, mother of Haidee, rules the hot desert realm. The two daughters’ stories are told in parallel through four narrators: Haidee, Odessa, and their respective love interests, the warriors Arjun and Lady Tianlan. Chapter headings and distinct narrative voices guide the reader with ease from one action-packed scene to the next, featuring many different and imaginative locales as Odessa and Haidee navigate their ways to the origin of the world’s breaking, where their paths intersect. Of special note is a matter-of-fact lesbian relationship that avoids the pitfalls of tokenism and tragedy; it’s happily just another love story. Multiple plot twists, plenty of gore and intimacy, and a breathlessly cinematic tone will attract fantasy and romance fans alike, who will be anxious for the second part of this exciting duology.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
Can 17-year-old goddesses fix the world? Ever since the Breaking, the world of Aeon has stopped turning. One hemisphere exists in perpetual night plagued by ceaseless tsunamis while the other half is scorched by constant oppressive sunlight. Aeon is a dystopian world where critical resources are scarce and monsters and spectres lurk dangerously. Living in opposite hemispheres and unaware of the other’s existence, twin goddesses Odessa and Haidee embark on treacherous parallel journeys to the Great Abyss to revisit the site of the Breaking and try to heal the world that their mothers made so wrong. These are teens aching to understand the broken world they’ve inherited and figure out how to set it to rights. What are they willing to fight for and defend? In a book narrated by four alternating voices, Chupeco (contributor: His Hideous Heart, 2019, etc.) offers up an exciting page-turner that is so visually vivid that reading it feels like watching a movie. It’s chock full of narrow escapes, plot twists, and great characters—even a queer romance—that work in concert… Most characters are presumed white; two major and several secondary characters are coded as East or South Asian. Magical and exhilarating. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Rin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy.

Her website is www.rinchupeco.com.

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Fiction, March 2020

A Constellation of Roses by Miranda Asebedo

A Constellation of Roses by Miranda Asebedo. November 5, 2019. HarperTeen, 326 p. ISBN: 9780062747105.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

Ever since her troubled mother abandoned her, Trix McCabe has preferred to stay on the move.

But when she lands with her long-lost relatives, she finds out that the McCabe women have talents like her own that defy explanation: pies that cure all ills, palm-reading that never misses the mark, knowledge of secrets that have never been told.

Before long, Trix feels like she might finally have found somewhere she belongs. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll have to decide whether to take a chance on this new life . . . or keep running from the one she’s always known.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes; Strong language; Underage drinking; Discussion of domestic abuse; Discussion of a parent’s drug addiction

 

About the Author

Miranda Asebedo was born and raised in rural Kansas with a love of fast cars, open skies, and books. She carried that love of books to college, where she got her B.A. and M.A. in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Literature. A Seaton Fellowship recipient, her short fiction has appeared in Kansas Voices, Touchstone, and Midway Journal. If Miranda’s not writing or reading, she’s most likely convinced everyone to load up in the family muscle car and hit the road.

Her website is www.mirandaasebedo.com

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Fiction, March 2020

The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves

The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves. February 11, 2020. HarperTeen, 323 p. ISBN: 9780062489883.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

David Espinoza is tired of being messed with. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up— do what it takes to become a man—and wow everyone when school starts again the fall.

Soon David is spending all his time and money at Iron Life, a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As it says on the Iron Life wall, What does not kill me makes me stronger.

As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs; Mild sexual themes; Strong language

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Seventeen-year-old David Espinoza is sick and tired of being too skinny. After getting caught on video on the last day of school as a bully lays him out cold with a slap across the face, David begins to withdraw, deciding to devote himself to bulking up before the start of the next school year. He finds a gym close to home, run by a well-known young bodybuilder, but after a few workouts and not enough gains, he comes to the realization that all the YouTube bodybuilders he’s been following might well have bulked up with some extra help: steroids. David’s journey to an ideal body is fraught with pitfalls as he alienates his girlfriend and his family, develops muscle dysmorphia, and witnesses some truly horrific side effects of steroid use among his new friends. Aceves (The Closest I’ve Come, 2017) sometimes focuses more on the problem of steroids than David as a character, but the book still stands out through its examination of toxic masculinity, body image, and the dangers of pursuing perfection.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2019)
An intense look at male body dysmorphia from the author of The Closest I’ve Come (2017).David Espinoza has always been tormented for his skinny physique, but when the high school bully slaps him in the locker room and catches it on camera, the video becomes a viral meme in his Florida town. The Mexican American teen decides to join a gym and build enough muscle over the summer to lay to rest the incessant teasing. There, he meets bodybuilders who influence him to take steroids in order to speed up the results. With graphic detail, Aceves presents the psychological, physical, and emotional effects of muscle dysmorphia. David’s relationships fall apart—with his family, friends, girlfriend—and the author, who also experienced this disorder in his youth, authentically delineates the ramifications of this illness, which is more prevalent than many believe. After a shocking climax, David finally comes to grips with his addiction, perhaps a little too quickly, but readers won’t mind the not-so-pat resolution. Frank discussions about the sexual lives and drug use of adolescents add authenticity to the story, and the expletive-laden prose makes this more appropriate for older teens. Toxic masculinity, which is cringingly part and parcel of the testosterone-filled world that Aceves portrays, is threaded through the narrative in a contextualized way. David’s friends are mostly Latinx—he has a Puerto Rican girlfriend and a Dominican best friend Searing and thoughtful. (author’s note, resources) (Realistic fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Fred Aceves was born in New York to A Mexican father, and a Dominican mother, which makes him 100% Mexican, 100% Dominican, and 100% American. He spent most of his youth in Southern California and Tampa, Florida, where he lived in a poor, working class neighborhood. At the age of 21 he started traveling around the world, living in Chicago, New York, The Czech Republic, France, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico, his father’s native land.

Among other jobs, he has worked as a delivery driver, server, cook, car salesman, freelance editor, and teacher of English as a second language. His website is fredaceves.com/

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February 2020, Fiction

Jackpot by Nic Stone

Jackpot  by Nic Stone. October 15, 2019. Crown, 343 p. ISBN: 9781984829627.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go, who after school and work races home to take care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she–with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate Zan–can find the ticket holder who hasn’t claimed the prize. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this investigative duo unite…or divide?

Nic Stone, the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out, creates two unforgettable characters in one hard-hitting story about class, money–both too little and too much–and how you make your own luck in the world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Racial insensitivity, Strong language, Underage drinking, Mention of underage smoking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 8-12. Seventeen-year-old Rico Danger (pronounced DON-gur) helps her single mother pay rent and raise nine-year-old Jax, which leaves no time for making friends or having dreams. Then, while working at a gas station register, she sells a lotto ticket to a cute old lady, who—after no one claims the $106 million prize—Rico is sure has the winner. She turns to millionaire teen heartthrob Zan to help her find the woman, but when he takes a more-than-friendly interest in Rico, she must figure out how she can possibly fit into his upper-class world. Stone (Odd One Out, 2018) delivers a heartfelt, humorous teen romance fraught with the tension between financial privilege and the lack thereof. While presenting a shrewd depiction of the resulting power dynamics, the stakes feel surprisingly low, and the romance is somewhat humdrum. Despite puzzling chapter intervals written from the perspective of omniscient objects (e.g., a saltshaker, Zan’s bedsheets), there’s something about Stone’s storytelling—and Rico’s narration—that is entirely engaging, making this an ultimately hard-to-put-down, enjoyable read.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
Seventeen-year-old Rico’s family is living paycheck to paycheck and way beyond their means, even with Rico’s practically full-time job and her mother’s long hours. When a customer purchases the winning ticket at the Gas ’n’ Go where she works but doesn’t claim it, Rico begins searching for the elderly woman she believes to be the winner. She enlists the help of Zan, the superrich heir of Macklin Enterprises in their hometown of Norcross, Georgia. Rico tentatively begins to hope in the future as her feelings for the privileged and complex Zan and her camaraderie with new friends finally start balancing out her family’s struggles. Filled with rich character development, whip-smart dialogue, and a layered exploration of financial precariousness, Stone (Odd One Out, 2018, etc.) touches on rising health care costs, the effect of illness in the family, interracial dating, and biracial identity. Intermittent passages from the perspectives of inanimate objects—including the winning ticket—around the characters add humor, and the short chapters inject the narrative with suspense. Rico is white, Latinx, and black. Zan is Latinx and white, and they live in a predominantly white neighborhood. Readers will have to suspend disbelief at the book’s conclusion, but this romantic coming-of-age novel will have them hoping for their own lucky ending. Stone delivers a thoughtful and polished novel about class, privilege, and relative poverty. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.

Stone lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons.  Her website is www.nicstone.info

Teacher Resources

Jackpot on Common Sense Media

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