March 2020, Nonfiction

What the Eagle Sees by Eldon Yellowhorn & Kathy Lowinger

What the Eagle Sees: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal by Eldon Yellowhorn & Kathy Lowinger. November 12, 2019. Annick Press, 119 p. ISBN: 9781773213293.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

“There is no death. Only a change of worlds.”
       —Chief Seattle [Seatlh], Suquamish Chief       

What do people do when their civilization is invaded? Indigenous people have been faced with disease, war, broken promises, and forced assimilation. Despite crushing losses and insurmountable challenges, they formed new nations from the remnants of old ones, they adopted new ideas and built on them, they fought back, and they kept their cultures alive.

When the only possible “victory” was survival, they survived.

In this brilliant follow up to Turtle Island, esteemed academic Eldon Yellowhorn and award-winning author Kathy Lowinger team up again, this time to tell the stories of what Indigenous people did when invaders arrived on their homelands. What the Eagle Sees shares accounts of the people, places, and events that have mattered in Indigenous history from a vastly under-represented perspective—an Indigenous viewpoint.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Harsh realities of war; Racism; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 4))
Grades 6-9. In Turtle Island (2017), Yellowhorn and Lowinger detailed North American Indigenous history up to 1492; here they document the resistance and resilience of Native peoples from European contact to the present. Thematic chapters explore early Viking settlements, slavery (especially as practiced by the Spanish), the prevalence of confederacies allying Indigenous groups, participation in wars (particularly the WWII Navajo code talkers), the changes horses brought to Indigenous society, forced migrations and massacres, attempts to assimilate Indigenous peoples into white society, prohibitions of Indigenous cultural activities, contemporary efforts toward reconciliation, and recognition of traditional knowledge. The tone is informative without becoming accusatory; indeed the facts (many of which will be new to young readers) speak clearly on their own. The choice of narrative style, inclusion of examples from all parts of North America, and an emphasis on personal stories over court decisions all result in a work that is highly accessible (and of interest) to a wide audience. Colorful, captioned illustrations (a mix of contemporary photographs, maps, and period reproductions) appear on almost every page, and numerous sidebars highlight topics of special interest. Framed with a discussion of the eagle and its importance to many Indigenous groups, Yellowhorn (a member of the Piikani Nation) and Lowinger have crafted a worthy and important addition to the historical record.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 1, 2019)
The co-authors of Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People (2017) team up again, this time addressing encounters between the Indigenous people of North America and European invaders. A standout overview of Indigenous struggles, this slim volume highlights the scope of influence Europeans had on this continent by going beyond the standard story of English Pilgrims to include the Vikings and Spanish. The book follows a series of nonconsecutive events that highlight the resistance strategies, coping mechanisms, and renewal efforts undertaken by Indigenous nations primarily in present-day Canada and the U.S. Visually engaging, with colorful maps, drawings, photos, and artwork, the book includes modern moments in Native culture as well as history based on archaeological findings. Young readers will be introduced to an Indigenous astronaut and anthropologist as well as musicians, social activists, Olympians, soldiers, healers, and artists. The chapter titled “Assimilation” is a fine introduction to Indigenous identity issues, covering forcible conversion, residential schools, coercive adoption, and government naming policies. By no means comprehensive in their approach, Yellowhorn (Piikani) and Lowinger have focused on pivotal events designed to educate readers about the diversity of colonized experiences in the Americas. Sections in each chapter labeled “Imagine” are especially powerful in helping young readers empathize with Indigenous loss. Essential. (author’s note, glossary, selected sources, image credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

About the Authors

Eldon Yellowhorn (Piikani Nation) is a professor of First Nations Studies and archeology at Simon Fraser University. He and Kathy Lowinger wrote the critically-acclaimed Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People (2017).

His website is www.sfu.ca/indg/about/people/eldon-yellowhorn.html

 

Kathy Lowinger is an award-winning author whose books include Give Me Wings! How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World (2015), and Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People (2017).

 

 

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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

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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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March 2020, Nonfiction

Broke by Jodie Adams Kirshner

Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises by Tina Connolly. November 19, 2019. St. Martin’s Press, 342 p. ISBN: 9781250220639.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A galvanizing, narrative account of a city’s bankruptcy and its aftermath told through the lives of seven valiantly struggling Detroiters

Bankruptcy and the austerity it represents have become a common “solution” for struggling American cities. What do the spending cuts and limited resources do to the lives of city residents? In Broke, Jodie Adams Kirshner follows seven Detroiters as they navigate life during and after their city’s bankruptcy. Reggie loses his savings trying to make a habitable home for his family. Cindy fights drug use, prostitution, and dumping on her block. Lola commutes two hours a day to her suburban job. For them, financial issues are mired within the larger ramifications of poor urban policies, restorative negligence on the state and federal level and―even before the decision to declare Detroit bankrupt in 2013―the root causes of a city’s fiscal demise.

Like Matthew Desmond’s EvictedBroke looks at what municipal distress means, not just on paper but in practical―and personal―terms. More than 40 percent of Detroit’s 700,000 residents fall below the poverty line. Post-bankruptcy, they struggle with a broken real estate market, school system, and job market―and their lives have not improved.

Detroit is emblematic. Kirshner makes a powerful argument that cities―the economic engine of America―are never quite given the aid that they need by either the state or federal government for their residents to survive, not to mention flourish. Success for all America’s citizens depends on equity of opportunity.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture; Discrimination; Drugs; Strong language

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 5))
The city of Detroit was put into bankruptcy in 2013, weighed down by years of blight, urban flight, and fiscal mismanagement. The mortgage crisis of 2007 to 2008, the great recession, and the near insolvency of the “Big Three” automakers all factored heavily in the city’s problems. The city’s troubles began years before with the relocation of auto plants and outsourcing of jobs, and the financial crisis added an exclamation point to it. A research professor at New York University, Kirshner frames her narrative through the lives of various Detroit residents struggling to stay in the city they love. Miles is middle-aged, staring into financial oblivion while attempting to find work. Reggie aspires to own a home and settle down with his family. Determined Broadmoor resident Cindy seeks to clean up her neighborhood. These three are joined by others and united by the crushing onus of government oversight and misplaced intentions. While Detroit’s bankruptcy ended in late 2014, some glaring problems remain. This is a powerful view of the seldom-seen victims of financial calamity.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2019)
A deep dive into the daily living of low-income Detroit residents as well as real estate speculators. Kirshner  received permission from seven individuals to conduct on-the-ground research about what occurs when a city is stuck under the weight of often arcane bankruptcy law. The burdens fall most heavily on people of color. Four of Kirshner’s protagonists are black: Miles, an ambitious mid-40s construction worker bedeviled by mistaken law enforcement paperwork suggesting he is a felon; Lola, a mid-20s single mother who cannot find a conveniently located job commensurate with her college education; Reggie, a mid-40s buyer of residential properties in a city decimated by abandoned homes often emptied through fraud initiated by white lenders; and Charles, a 50-ish faithful Detroiter who earned a livable income when the automobile industry was thriving in the city. The three white protagonists are Joe, a tree surgeon business owner who optimistically relocated from New Jersey; Robin, a late 40s property developer from Los Angeles who sees moneymaking opportunities purchasing abandoned houses in certain Detroit neighborhoods; and Cindy, an early 60s Detroiter who hung on as her longtime neighborhood shifted from mostly white to nearly all low-income black, with abandoned and vandalized houses on every block. Kirshner is masterful at explaining the predatory banking and insurance industry practices that have led to impoverishment across the entire city (except for the white establishment downtown), the heartlessness of white politicians (mostly Republicans) who seemingly operate from racist viewpoints, a judicial system that offers little justice for the poor, and bankruptcy law, which was never meant to be applied to city governments. Although immersed in the lives of her protagonists, the author wisely keeps a low profile within her eye-opening and sometimes heartbreaking narrative, which ends with a brief call to action. “We cannot allow the country to fragment into areas of varying opportunity,” she writes. A significant work of social sciences and urban studies.

About the Author

Jodie Adams Kirshner is a research professor at New York University. Previously on the law faculty at Cambridge University, she also teaches bankruptcy law at Columbia Law School. She is a member of the American Law Institute, past term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and technical advisor to the Bank for International Settlements. She received a prestigious multi-year grant from the Kresge Foundation to research this book.

Her website is jodieadamskirshner.com/

Teacher Resources

Author Interview on C-Span’s BookTV

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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

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One of Us is Next on Common Sense Media 

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March 2020, Nonfiction

Spies by Marc Favreau

Spies: The Secret Showdown Between American and Russia by Marc Favreau. October 1, 2019. Little, Brown and Company, 306 p. ISBN: 9780316545921.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A thrilling account of the Cold War spies and spycraft that changed the course of history, perfect for readers of Bomb and The Boys Who Challenged Hitler.The Cold War spanned five decades as America and the USSR engaged in a battle of ideologies with global ramifications. Over the course of the war, with the threat of mutually assured nuclear destruction looming, billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives were devoted to the art and practice of spying, ensuring that the world would never be the same.

Rife with intrigue and filled with fascinating historical figures whose actions shine light on both the past and present, this timely work of narrative nonfiction explores the turbulence of the Cold War through the lens of the men and women who waged it behind closed doors, and helps explain the role secret and clandestine operations have played in America’s history and its national security.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Though they were allies during WWII, tensions between the USSR and the U.S. quickly grew in its aftermath, driven largely by the development of nuclear weapons. As suspicion and fear grew between the two nations, two organizations dedicated to national security and the harvesting of information sprung up: the CIA in America and the KGB in Russia. Through profiles of spies on all sides of the conflict, acclaimed nonfiction author Favreau (Crash: The Great Depression and the Fall and Rise of America, 2018) unearths the human side of a long, secretive war. In four sections, he highlights key events (the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race) while returning, always, to the players, lingering over the stories of people like George Blake, an uncommonly skilled KGB agent, or Marti Peterson, the CIA’s first female operative in Moscow. Neutral in his observations, Favreau offers up a measured, exquisitely researched slice of history. The text is beautifully sourced, and the back matter includes multiple glossaries, an extensive further reading list, key facts on the KGB and CIA, and brief overviews on espionage in Russia and the U.S. since the end of the Cold War. With chapters that often read like fiction, Favreau skillfully captures the tension of an era that, while it may seem bygone, has sent increasingly clear shockwaves into our world today. Buy for classrooms or for pleasure.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2019)
The facts behind the fantastic lives of spies born from Cold War friction. A $20 million wire-tapping device, microfilm hidden in a pumpkin, crawling through sewers—it reads like fiction, but this isn’t James Bond. It’s the truth about some of the key players in obtaining enemy information (be that proclaimed enemy the USSR or USA). Spanning the period from 1945 to 1985 (dubbed “Year of the Spy”), the book recounts the journeys, goals, and outcomes of several spies—loyal, defected, and double agent—in tandem with the wars and threats to ways of life that produced them. Supported by transcripts of testimony, quotations, and stories that could easily be material for a summer blockbuster, Favreau (Crash, 2018, etc.) ably dissects their individual impetuses for entree into spydom, reasons for deceit, and cause for allegiance. The spies’ personal depths of dedication to creating false identities and the stress of shouldering secrets—or selling them—will inspire even reluctant historians to dig deeper and deeper. A breadth of supporting backmatter, including timelines, key KGB and CIA factoids, and glossaries for both the Cold War and espionage in general, is included, as is a list of suggested further reading for those whose interest has been exceptionally piqued. Ian Fleming couldn’t have dreamt up anything better. (historical notes, timeline, glossary, notes, primary sources, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Marc Favreau is an executive editor at The New Press. He is the acclaimed author of Crash: The Great Depression and the Fall and Rise of America and co-editor (with Ira Berlin and Steven F. Miller) of Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation and the editor of A People’s History of World War II: The World’s Most Destructive Conflict, as Told by the People Who Lived Through It, both published by The New Press. He lives in New York City and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

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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

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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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