Fiction, November 2019

Becoming Beatriz by Tami Charles

Becoming Beatriz by Tami Charles. September 17, 2019. Charlesbridge Teen, 260 p. ISBN: 9781580897785.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Up until her fifteenth birthday, the most important thing in the world to Beatriz Mendez was her dream of becoming a professional dancer and getting herself and her family far from the gang life that defined their days–that and meeting her dance idol Debbie Allen on the set of her favorite TV show, Fame. But after the latest battle in a constant turf war leaves her gang leader brother, Junito, dead and her mother grieving, Beatriz has a new set of priorities. How is she supposed to feel the rhythm when her gang needs running, when her mami can’t brush her own teeth, and when the last thing she can remember of her old self is dancing with her brother, followed by running and gunshots? When the class brainiac reminds Beatriz of her love of the dance floor, her banished dreams sneak back in. Now the only question is- will the gang let her go?

Set in New Jersey in 1984, Beatriz’s story is a timeless one of a teenager’s navigation of romance, gang culture, and her own family’s difficult past. A companion novel to the much-lauded Like Vanessa.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Homophobic slur, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Violence, Domestic abuse, Marijuana dealing

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 7-10. Beatriz, first introduced in Charles’ Like Vanessa (2018), wanted to dance and become famous for it, until the day of her fifteenth birthday, when a rival gang drove by her family’s bodega and murdered her brother, Junito. He’d been the head of the Diablos, and Beatriz a blossoming Diabla, though she still harbored her dreams of meeting Debbie Allen and making her Fame dreams come true. After her brother was taken from her, though, she stopped dancing. It takes her a year of floating along with the Diablos and trying to do what she thinks Junito would have wanted before she goes back to dreaming and, ultimately, becoming whom she was meant to be. Though the situations and story line are heavy, and the average modern reader might not easily relate to a gang in the ’80s, Beatriz’s often funny, descriptive first-person narrative is a welcoming avenue into her story. Readers with diverse backgrounds will feel at home with Beatriz’s identities as Latina, Black, and American, and everyone will be cheering her on, right up until the satisfying, heartwarming end.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2019)
In a city where “cocaine is king,” can a teenage gang leader dare to dream of another life? Newark, New Jersey. 1984. Beatriz Mendez and her older brother, Junito, lead the powerful Latin Diablos gang. Everything changes on Beatriz’s 15th birthday when a Haitian gang leaves Junito for dead and Beatriz badly injured. A Like Vanessa (2018) spinoff, this page-turner opens dramatically with a visceral fight scene that introduces a fierce protagonist. Beatriz is a Spanglish-speaking Puerto Rican badass with “a blade tucked inside [her] cheek…to use on anybody who tries to step.” In the aftermath of Junito’s death, Beatriz struggles to maintain her standing as a Diabla, raise her grades (mostly D’s and F’s), and support her grief-stricken zombie of a mother. Though “dancing ain’t gonna pay the bills,” she allows her childhood dream of becoming a dancer to glimmer through her tough exterior each week when watching her favorite TV show, Fame. Told in the first person, this narrative is full of passion and humor, with flashbacks rooted in Beatriz’s beloved salsa music. Realistic newsprint clips effectively add context. A friendship/romance with a new boy contributes depth while avoiding predictability. As Beatriz transcends her trauma and self-doubt—“No such thing as a gangbanger turned famous dancer”—readers experience a necessary portrayal of a young Afro-Latina woman who makes her own path, one that isn’t straightforward, told in an extremely realistic voice. Inspiring and fresh. (historical notes) (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Tami Charles is a former teacher and full-time author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made it her mission to introduce her students to all types of literature, but especially diverse books. While it was refreshing to see a better selection than what she was accustomed to as a child, Tami felt there weren’t nearly as many diverse books as she’d hoped for. It was then that she decided to reignite her passion for writing. Tami is the author of the middle grade novel Like Vanessa (2018) and the picture book Freedom Soup (2019).

Her website is www.tamiwrites.com.

Teacher Resources

Becoming Beatriz Reading Guide with Discussion Questions

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Nonfiction, November 2019

Gun Violence by Matt Doeden

Gun Violence: Fighting for Our Lives and Our Rights by Matt Doeden. October 1, 2019. Twenty-First Century Books, 112 p. ISBN: 9781541555549.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1080.

In early 2018, teen-led March for Our lives events across the United States protested gun violence, demanded change to save lives, and registered voters toward that end. This authoritative exploration of guns, gun violence, and gun control explores the Second Amendment, the history of guns and gun laws in the United States, legal restrictions to gun ownership, and the devastation of mass shootings. Through an objective look at individual versus collective rights, readers will be able to offer well-informed answers to questions such as should young people own assault rifles? What about terrorists and the mentally ill? Read the book to make an informed argument and support your point of view.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, including discussion of mass shootings

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Accounts of gun violence, particularly in the U.S., are too often news headlines these days, and in their wake come polarized debates over gun control. This is especially true of mass shootings that number children and young adults among their victims. While examining escalating gun violence and mass shootings, Doeden presents a balanced approach to the debates concerning gun control and differing interpretations of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. He offers the perspectives and arguments from one side and immediately follows with the other, raising tough questions on both fronts. This structure effectively allows readers to consider the merits of the pro and con arguments. After giving the historical background of the Second Amendment, Doeden integrates dates and statistics into accounts of shootings from Columbine to 2018. Captioned color photographs, maps, diagrams, and special features provide enhancements (and breaks) in the text. Back matter offers a multitude of resources: a time line, chapter-by-chapter source notes, bibliography, and further information that includes books, films, and websites. A timely resource for young adults.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2019)
This compact introduction confronts head-on the highly controversial issue of gun ownership in the United States. Examining how gun ownership became a way of life in the Colonies, which in turn paved the way for the Second Amendment, this volume presents both the historical context for and contemporary concerns surrounding gun ownership. As gun technology became more compact and sophisticated, and automatic weapons became standard issue for organized crime, it became clear that some control was needed. However, legislative attempts in the 1930s and ’60s failed to stop gun violence. Subsequent years saw the rise of powerful gun lobbies such as the National Rifle Association and legislation that further protected the rights of individuals to use firearms for self-defense. Single-page features describe specific mass shootings as well as the murder of Trayvon Martin. The author reviews statistics to analyze the impact of gun legislation on civilian safety, among other subjects. One tremendous oversight in a guide focusing heavily on current events is the lack of mention of public outcry around police shootings of black and Indigenous people or the Black Lives Matter movement. Stock photographs predominantly portray white mourners and victims of gun violence, while a photo illustrating gun sales without background checks features a black customer, possibly sending an unintended message to readers A detailed analysis of America’s gun culture that unfortunately omits important context around racial bias. (timeline, glossary, source notes, selected bibliography, further information, index, photo credits) (Nonfiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Matt Doeden was born in southern Minnesota and lived parts of his childhood in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and Madison, Minnesota. He studied journalism at Mankato State University, where he worked at the college newspaper for three years. In his senior year, he served as the paper’s Sports Editor, which put him in charge of the entire sports section, the sports writers, and the photographers. He covered mostly college sports, but also the Minnesota Vikings, who held training camp at MSU.

His work allowed him to meet and interview people like Dennis Green, Cris Carter, Robert Smith, and more. Matt went on to work as a sports writer for the Mankato paper, and then he got a job as an editor with a small children’s publisher called Capstone Press, and in 2003 he decided to start his own business as a freelance writer and editor.

Since then, Matt has written and edited hundreds of books. Lots of them are on high-interest topics like cars, sports, and airplanes. He also writes and edits on geography, science, and even math.

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Fiction, November 2019

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton. August 6, 2019. Grand Central Publishing, 320 p. ISBN: 9781538745823.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

Then Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn’t quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies–from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis–fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.

Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 19))
When a wise-cracking, curse-spewing narrator identifies himself as a Seattle-born talking crow named S.T. who’s just witnessed an eyeball popping out of his “MoFo” owner’s head, readers willing to get on board this bizarrely captivating debut novel will know they’re in for a bumpy ride, seat belts not included. Unfortunately, the eyeball incident is just the beginning of S.T.’s troubles as Big Jim, his master and trainer, explodes into a zombie-like rage, forcing S.T. to flee the house on the hirsute back of Dennis, the floppy-eared family bloodhound, and into an unexpectedly frightening outside world. It seems every square mile of Seattle’s streets and parks is now teeming with frenzied undead MoFos, Big Jim’s contemptuous label for humankind, all of whom get especially crazed by beeping smartphones. Eager to find one or two disease-free humans to save the day, S.T. narrowly escapes gnashing zombie jaws and inexplicably uncaged zoo animals until he crosses paths with a wise fellow crow named Kraii, and realizes his true mission in life: to free other domesticated animals from their housebound prisons before it’s too late. While S.T.’s floridly descriptive, expletive-laden narration sometimes feels self-indulgent, Buxton’s quirky ideas and compelling nonhuman characters will satisfy literary fiction and zombie genre enthusiasts alike who are looking for something beguilingly different.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2019)
When a deadly virus changes humankind forever, S.T., a domesticated crow with a mouth like a sailor, and his dog, Dennis, teach the animal kingdom how to survive the apocalypse. After their owner becomes a slobbering, zombielike creature with a deadly cellphone obsession, unflappable crow S.T. and loyal canine Dennis venture out into Seattle. They soon realize other domesticated animals aren’t as lucky and are trapped in their locked homes. With his innate knowledge of the MoFo (human) world, S.T. uses his corvid intelligence and Dennis’ high-powered sniffer to come to the rescue. When old and new predators emerge in a city quickly returning to nature, S.T. and Dennis join forces with wild crows and other animals to keep their territory safe. It’s an intriguing and fun premise that starts with a strong and saucy voice, but this debut novel gets very muddled very quickly. In lieu of giving her lively animal characters a rich narrative arc, the author focuses too heavily on not-so-subtle morality tales about every injustice and environmental crisis in the world today. The science is messy, wins feel too easy, and losses don’t cut as deeply as they’re meant to, though it’s possibly saved by witty one-liners and the author’s sharp take on a bird’s eye-view of Seattle. A heavy-handed zombie apocalypse-meets-nature documentary meant to inspire humans to do better, but it loses its way.

About the Author

Kira Jane Buxton’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, NewYorker.com, McSweeney’s, The RumpusHuffington Post, and more. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle, Washington, home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, and a husband.

Her website is www.kirajanebuxton.com

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Fiction, Graphic Novel, November 2019

Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist by David Almond

Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist by David Almond. September 10, 2019. Candlewick, 80 p. ISBN: 9781536201604.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

There’s a poltergeist in Joe Quinn’s house, and Davie is determined to discover its source in this lively, hopeful graphic storybook from David Almond and Dave McKean.

Joe Quinn has been telling everyone about the poltergeist in his house, but no one believes him. No one, that is, except Davie. Davie’s felt the inexplicable presence in the Quinns’ house and seen random objects fly through the air. And there’s something else . . . a memory of Davie’s beloved sister and a feeling deep down that it might just be possible for ghosts to exist. Full of thoughts of hauntings and grief and God, Davie hovers on a precipice of uncertainty and possibility, a space that storyteller David Almond occupies comfortably and returns to again and again — here paired once more with the dynamic, dreamlike mixed-media art of Dave McKean.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Underage drinking, Underage smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 7-10. During a school holiday, Joe Quinn won’t stop talking about the poltergeist that’s haunting his house: breaking windows, smashing dishes—typical ghost mischief. His latest update to Geordie and unbelieving Davie (the story’s narrator) ends with an invitation to dinner, so they can see the poltergeist in action. To Davie’s dismay, Geordie accepts, and the friends convene at the Quinns’ table for an oppressively bizarre meal, where chips and slices of buttered bread periodically fly through the air and noises crash from upstairs. By the end of the visit, the pair’s positions have reversed, with Geordie convinced Joe is behind everything, and Davie feeling shaken and entertaining the possibility that the specter is real. This throws Joe into an existential funk, expertly rendered in McKean’s dark, mixed-media illustrations, where overlapping, scribbled sketches embody confusion and conflict, jarring collages evoke an unsettled atmosphere, and negative space echoes absence and haunting memories. Joe navigates his inner turmoil, including grief and religious confusion, forming earnest revelations about life’s poltergeists (i.e., disruptions) and finding peace.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2019)
A newly illustrated edition of Almond’s psychologically acute tale of ghosts and grief in a small British town. Originally published in the autobiographical Half a Creature From the Sea (2015), the atmospheric narrative is placed within equally shadowed, evocative scenes, sepia sketches alternating with painterly, often nightmarishly jumbled portraits or visions. Wounded souls battling tides of anger and loss abound: from inwardly focused narrator Davie, still hurting in the wake of his baby sister’s death, to the people around him, notably Joe Quinn, a mercurial youth with a dad in jail, a giddy mum, and, he claims, a household poltergeist. In the end the author leaves it to readers to decide whether the “ghost” is real or just Joe, but after a vicious fight with Joe followed by a bit of shared moon-gazing, Davie’s initial skepticism is transformed to a deeper feeling that has something of empathy to it: “I know the poltergeist is all of us, raging and wanting to scream and to fight and to start flinging stuff; to smash and to break.” The art amplifies the characteristically dark, rich tones of Almond’s prose all the way to a final Dylan Thomas–style promise that “the world and all that’s in it will continue to…hold us in its darkness and its light.” The cast is a presumed white one. A keen collaboration moving seamlessly between worlds inner and outer, natural and supernatural. (Graphic novella. 12-16)

About the Author

David Almond is a British children’s writer who has penned several novels, each one to critical acclaim. He was born and raised in Felling and Newcastle in post-industrial North East England and educated at the University of East Anglia. When he was young, he found his love of writing when some short stories of his were published in a local magazine. He started out as an author of adult fiction before finding his niche writing literature for young adults.

His works are highly philosophical and thus appeal to children and adults alike. Recurring themes throughout include the complex relationships between apparent opposites (such as life and death, reality and fiction, past and future); forms of education; growing up and adapting to change; the nature of ‘the self’. He has been greatly influenced by the works of the English Romantic poet William Blake.

Almond currently lives with his family in Northumberland, England. His website is www.davidalmond.com.

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Fiction, November 2019

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

Permanent Record by Mary H.K,. Choi. September 3, 2019. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 432 p. ISBN: 9781534445970.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

On paper, college dropout Pablo Rind doesn’t have a whole lot going for him. His graveyard shift at a twenty-four-hour deli in Brooklyn is a struggle. Plus, he’s up to his eyeballs in credit card debt. Never mind the state of his student loans.

Pop juggernaut Leanna Smart has enough social media followers to populate whole continents. The brand is unstoppable. She graduated from child stardom to become an international icon and her adult life is a queasy blur of private planes, step-and-repeats, aspirational hotel rooms, and strangers screaming for her just to notice them.

When Leanna and Pablo meet at 5:00 a.m. at the bodega in the dead of winter it’s absurd to think they’d be A Thing. But as they discover who they are, who they want to be, and how to defy the deafening expectations of everyone else, Lee and Pab turn to each other. Which, of course, is when things get properly complicated.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Marijuana, Strong language, Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Pablo has dropped out of college, is massively in debt, and feels aimless. One night when he is working the overnight shift at the 24-hour health food bodega, he meets Lee, who breaks him out of his rut. They have witty banter and great chemistry, but at the end of their encounter he figures out that she is Leanna Smart—the pop mega-star whose image is plastered everywhere and whose songs are inescapable on the radio. Navigating these barriers while falling in love pushes them into uncharted territory, and while it’s swoony and dramatic, it’s also messy and fraught. Choi (Emergency Contact) has penned a smart and funny read that is as much about finding your path as it is about falling in love. Pablo is a winning narrator with a natural voice, and readers will root for him in his romance with Lee, as well as on his rocky journey to self-actualization. Choi’s specificity, realistic dialogue, and humor ensure that the personal and romantic journeys feel warm and rewarding but never saccharine. Pablo’s friends and family, a diverse cast with rich inner lives of their own, are loving but firm with him, and readers will relate to the ultimate message of the book, delivered by his father: “Doing nothing is the only stupid.”

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
A chance encounter between a college dropout and a pop star in a New York City deli leads to unexpected romance—and expected complications. Korean Pakistani American Pablo Rind, a former NYU student struggling to figure out what he wants to do with his life, is weighed down by a mountain of student loans and credit card debt. Feeling paralyzed by his Korean anesthesiologist mother’s high expectations, he works the graveyard shift at a deli. Into his monotonous existence comes Carolina Suarez, aka mega-star Leanna Smart, who enters the store early one morning on a snack run. Mutual attraction (and a shared love of snacks) leads to a whirlwind, jet-setting romance, but when the disparity between their worlds puts pressure on their relationship, Pablo is given the opportunity to come to some hard realizations about himself and the responsibilities he’s been avoiding for too long. That, along with some prodding from friends and family compels him to finally face what he needs to do in order to change his life, stop taking his loved ones for granted, and pursue his dreams. While the language has a contemporary feel and the range of diverse, appealing characters accurately reflects modern-day New York, the plot frequently drags, and character development is weak. Hip characters and jargon adorn a predictable storyline and unconvincing romance. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Mary H.K. Choi is a Korean-American author, editor, television and print journalist. She is the author of young adult novel Emergency Contact (2018). She is the culture correspondent on Vice News Tonight on HBO and was previously a columnist at Wired and Allure magazines as well as a freelance writer. She attended a large public high school in a suburb of San Antonio, then college at the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in Textile and Apparel.

Her website is www.choitotheworld.com.

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Fiction, November 2019

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee. August 13, 2019. G.P. Putman’s Sons, 374 p. ISBN: 9781524740955.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. It’s 1890 in Atlanta, and Jo Kuan has a secret: she’s the anonymous author of the popular, yet polarizing, new agony aunt column “Dear Miss Sweetie.” After spending her life living in a secret basement room (a relic of the Underground Railroad) beneath the press offices of The Focus, a newspaper run by the Bell family, she’s picked up a masterful vocabulary to match her sharp wit, and the combination proves intoxicating to Atlanta’s young ladies. But if anyone found out that a Chinese American teenager was behind the column, she’d be run out of town or worse. Lee (Outrun the Moon, 2016) has concocted another thrilling historical novel, blending stellar plotting and a dynamic cast of characters with well-researched details and sharp commentary on America’s history of racism and prejudice. She pulls no punches when it comes to Jo’s experiences of being Chinese in the Reconstruction South: a meeting of Atlanta’s suffragettes proves unwelcoming despite their claim to want votes for all women, and though there’s stirring romance between Jo and the son of the Bell family, Jo acknowledges the difficulties in that path. But best of all is Jo’s first-person narrative, which crackles with as much witty wordplay and keen observations as her column. This spectacular, voice-driven novel raises powerful questions about how we understand the past, as well as the ways our current moment is still shaped by that understanding.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2019)
Jo Kuan leads a double life: a public role as a quiet lady’s maid and a secret one as the voice behind the hottest advice column in 1890 Atlanta. Chinese American Jo is mostly invisible except for occasional looks of disdain and derisive comments, and she doesn’t mind: Her priority is making sure she and her adoptive father, Chinese immigrant Old Gin, remain safe in their abandoned abolitionists’ hideaway beneath a print shop. But even if she lives on the margins, Jo has opinions of her own which she shares in her newspaper advice column under the byline “Miss Sweetie.” Suddenly all of Atlanta is talking about her ideas, though they don’t know that the witty advice on relationships, millinery, and horse races comes from a Chinese girl. As curiosity about Miss Sweetie mounts, Jo may not be able to stay hidden much longer. And as she learns more about the blurred lines and the hard truths about race in her city and her own past, maybe she doesn’t want to. In her latest work, Lee (The Secret of a Heart Note, 2016, etc.) continues to demonstrate that Chinese people were present—and had a voice—in American history. She deftly weaves historical details with Jo’s personal story of finding a voice and a place for herself in order to create a single, luminous work. An optimistic, sophisticated portrayal of one facet of Chinese American—and simply American—history. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Stacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays classical piano, raises children, and writes YA fiction.

Her website is www.staceyhlee.com/

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Fiction, November 2019

Rated by Melissa Grey

Rated by Melissa Grey. September 3, 2019. Scholastic Press, 320 p. ISBN: 9781338283570.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The ratings are real. One number, 0 to 100, determines your place in society. Earn a high rating, and the world is yours for the taking. But fall to zero, and you may as well cease to exist.

Societies thrive on order, and the Rating System is the ultimate symbol of organized social mobility.

The higher it soars, the more valued you are. The lower it plummets, the harder you must work to improve yourself. For the students at the prestigious Maplethorpe Academy, every single thing they do is reflected in their ratings, updated daily and available for all to see.

But when an act of vandalism sullies the front doors of the school, it sets off a chain reaction that will shake the lives of six special students — and the world beyond.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
Six mismatched students fight against the societal rating system that rules every aspect of their lives. Grey (The Savage Dawn) provides a glimpse into the panoptic future of globalized and wearable technology where teachers, parents, and peers can influence someone’s future by docking points from personal ratings. Access to food, hospitals, and education are all regulated by a person’s rating. A motley crew of students at Maplethorpe Academy are urged into action when someone graffitis, “THE RATINGS ARE NOT REAL,” onto the front door of their school. Bex, the overachieving dark-skinned brain; Javi, the ambiguously Latin and bronze-skinned gay beauty; jocks Chase (coded white) and Hana (Japanese)—dealing with an alcoholic father and an unspecified eating disorder, respectively; Tamsin, the white tarot-reading, rating-defying rebel; and Noah, the photography enthusiast, bi-curious, white recluse are individually targeted as all six receive personal messages. Unsure of who is sending them, the sextet investigates, uniting to fight the tyranny of the school princess and destroy the oppressive rating system. Ever wondered what a dystopian John Hughes young adult novel would be like? Grey closely hits the mark in her departure from fantasy and incursion into science fiction: The novel unfortunately falls into predictability, and the dystopian world is riddled with teen character stereotypes. An unappealing plot peopled with two-dimensional characters. (Science fiction. 13-17)

Publishers Weekly (June 24, 2019)
At elite Maplethorpe Academy, six students receive riddles and clues suggesting that all is not right with their society’s universal rating system, which decides everything from education and healthcare to social standing. Each teen has a reason to challenge or distrust the system, but only by working together can they decipher the messages and discover the truth behind current events. After graffiti warns that “the ratings are not real,” academically struggling jock Chase becomes close to overachieving Bex; professional e-gamer Javi is drawn to photographer Noah; and driven figure skater Hana befriends goth outcast Tamsin, whose rating is plummeting due to a bullying campaign. The six separate narratives don’t intersect until near the end, at which point the teens join forces, leading up to an open-ended conclusion. Grey (the Girl at Midnight books) presents an intriguing premise, but the lack of detail behind the rating system creates uneven worldbuilding, and the story hits perhaps too many buttons, between Chase’s dyslexia and alcoholic father, Hana’s anorexia, Noah’s sister’s leukemia, Javi’s confusion over his attraction to Noah, and Bex’s domineering parents. Still, despite the somewhat cluttered narrative, this is a provocative dystopian offering. Ages 12-up

About the Author

Melissa Grey was born and raised in New York City. She wrote her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. She is the author of The Girl at Midnight, The Shadow Hour, and The Savage Dawn. When she’s not penning novels, she’s writing video games for Voltage Entertainment, most recently Speakeasy Tonight and Starship Promise.

She can also ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time, for what it’s worth, which is not much at all. Unless there’s some kind of zombie apocalypse. Then it’ll be worth a whole lot more.

Her website is www.melissa-grey.com.

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Fiction, November 2019

His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Re-imagined edited by Dahlia Adler. September 10, 2019. Flatiron Books, 470 p. ISBN: 9781250302779.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Thirteen of YA’s most celebrated names reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s most surprising, unsettling, and popular tales for a new generation.

Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.

Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining “Ligeia), Kendare Blake (“Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Amanda Lovelace (“The Raven”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Transphobia

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2019)
A genre-bending collection of 13 twists on Edgar Allan Poe’s works. Editor Adler (contributor: It’s a Whole Spiel, 2019, etc.) does Poe proud with this creepy and atmospheric set of stories inspired by a handful of his most well-known works. All are well worth reading, but there are quite a few standouts, including Rin Chupeco’s (contributor: Hungry Hearts) ebullient “The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay,” in which an effervescent Filipina trans woman joins up with her dashing new half-French, half-Filipino boyfriend to solve the baffling murders of two American tourists on the island of Boracay. Lamar Giles’ (The Last Last-Day-of-Summer) unsettling “The Oval Filter” features African American football star Tariq, whose dead girlfriend’s distorted images appear on his phone—and they seem to be trying to tell him something. “The Fall of the Bank of Usher” by Fran Wilde (The Fire Opal Mechanism) is an adrenaline rush of a tale about assumed white orphans Rik and Mad, brother and sister twins, who must hack their way out of an intimidating Scottish bank for a life-changing prize—a challenge many before them have failed. Strong feminist themes appear throughout, and genres run the gamut from futuristic to gothic and lots in between. Diversity in race, gender identity, and sexuality is well represented. As a bonus, all of the original stories and poems are included. Poe’s ghost happily haunts this fresh, delightfully dark collection. (author bios) (Anthology. 14-adult)

Library Journal (September 1, 2019)
Thirteen of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works are reimagined by YA authors in this compilation of delightfully shivery tales with strong adult crossover appeal. Tessa Gratton’s “Night-Tide” reworks “Annabel Lee” in a story about family obligations and a lost love between two teen girls. Kendare Blake’s “She Rode a Horse of Fire” recounts an act of dark vengeance enacted by a ghostly woman to a callous young man. “Happy Days, Sweetheart,” by Stephanie Kuehn is a retelling of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” with a jealous high-school student as the guilty killer of her rival. In “The Oval Filter,” by Lamar Giles, a high school football player seeks the answer to who killed his crush, a social media influencer. This collection shines in getting readers to view Poe’s work in a new light, featuring characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds, queer protagonists, and other perspectives not represented in the earlier texts. Packaged in the book are the original stories, making comparisons between the old and the new works easy for readers. VERDICT A solid collection of thoroughly modernized Poe classics, recommended for YA shelves and classrooms or for die-hard Poe scholars.-Jennifer Mills, Shorewood-Troy Lib., IL

About the Editor

Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens and LGBTQReads by night, and a writer of Contemporary YA and NA at every spare moment in between. She’s the author of the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, the Radleigh University series, and Cool for the Summer (Wednesday Books, 2021); a contributor to anthologies All Out, The Radical Element, and It’s a Whole Spiel; the editor of the anthologies His Hideous Heart and That Way Madness Lies (2021).

She lives in New York with her husband, son, and overstuffed bookshelves. Her website is www.dahliaadler.com.

Teacher Resources

Collection of Edgar Allan Poe Lesson Plans

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Fiction, November 2019

Say, Say, Say by Lila Savage

Say, Say, Say by Lila Savage. July 9, 2019. Knopf, 176 p. ISBN: 9780525655923.  Int Lvl: AD, Rdg Lvl: AD.

Ella is nearing thirty, and not yet living the life she imagined. Her artistic ambitions as a student in Minnesota have given way to an unintended career in caregiving. One spring, Bryn–a retired carpenter–hires her to help him care for Jill, his wife of many years. A car accident caused a brain injury that has left Jill verbally diminished; she moves about the house like a ghost of her former self, often able to utter, like an incantation, only the words that comprise this novel’s title.

As Ella is drawn ever deeper into the couple’s household, her presence unwanted but wholly necessary, she is profoundly moved by the tenderness Bryn shows toward the wife he still fiercely loves. Ella is startled by the yearning this awakens in her, one that complicates her feelings for her girlfriend, Alix, and causes her to look at relationships of all kinds–between partners, between employer and employee, and above all between men and women–in new ways.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Sexual themes

 

About the Author

Lila Savage is originally from Minneapolis. Prior to writing fiction, she spent nearly a decade working as a caregiver. Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review. She is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner fellowship and graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2018. She lives in San Francisco.

 

 

Teacher Resources

Say, Say, Say Discussion Questions

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Nonfiction, November 2019

Gods of the Upper Air by Charles King

Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century by Charles King. August 6, 2019. Doubleday, 431 p. ISBN: 9780385542197.  Int Lvl: AD.

A century ago, everyone knew that people were fated by their race, sex, and nationality to be more or less intelligent, nurturing, or warlike. But Columbia University professor Franz Boas looked at the data and decided everyone was wrong. Racial categories, he insisted, were biological fictions. Cultures did not come in neat packages labeled “primitive” or “advanced.” What counted as a family, a good meal, or even common sense was a product of history and circumstance, not of nature. In Gods of the Upper Air,a masterful narrative history of radical ideas and passionate lives, Charles King shows how these intuitions led to a fundamental reimagining of human diversity.

Boas’s students were some of the century’s most colorful figures and unsung visionaries: Margaret Mead, the outspoken field researcher whose Coming of Age in Samoa is among the most widely read works of social science of all time; Ruth Benedict, the great love of Mead’s life, whose research shaped post-Second World War Japan; Ella Deloria, the Dakota Sioux activist who preserved the traditions of Native Americans on the Great Plains; and Zora Neale Hurston, whose studies under Boas fed directly into her now classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Together, they mapped civilizations from the American South to the South Pacific and from Caribbean islands to Manhattan’s city streets, and unearthed an essential fact buried by centuries of prejudice: that humanity is an undivided whole. Their revolutionary findings would go on to inspire the fluid conceptions of identity we know today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Suicide, Frank discussion of racist ideas and history

 

Related Video

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
King (Midnight at the Pera Palace, 2014) takes a sweeping look at the rise of cultural anthropology under Franz Boas (1858–1942), paying particular attention to the extraordinary women who studied under Boas and made further key advancements in the field. A native of Germany who began his own research on Baffin Island with the Inuit people, Boas came to New York to teach anthropology at Columbia University. Boas made waves by rejecting the idea of any innate superiority or inferiority in terms of intelligence or physical ability between people of different backgrounds. His research went against the notions his contemporaries were preaching in attempts to assert the supposed superiority of Anglo-Europeans. When the president of Columbia made a concerted effort to keep undergraduates from studying under Boas, the anthropologist found a new pool of eager young minds at Columbia’s sister school for women, Barnard. Among his more famous students were Margaret Mead, whose study of young Samoan women, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), became a bestseller; and Zora Neale Hurston, whose research brought her back home to Florida to document the cultural traditions of African Americans living in the region. King’s engrossing look at these extraordinary trailblazers deftly illustrates how crucial their research and work remains today.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2019)
The story of cultural anthropologist Franz Boas (1858-1942) and “a small band of contrarian researchers” who shaped the open-minded way we think now. In this deeply engaging group biography, King (Government and International Affairs; Georgetown Univ.; Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul, 2014, etc.) recounts the lives and work of a handful of American scholars and intellectuals who studied other cultures in the 1920s and ’30s, fighting the “great moral evils: scientific racism, the subjugation of women, genocidal fascism, the treatment of gay people as willfully deranged.” Led by “Papa” Franz, who taught for four decades in Columbia University’s first anthropology department, the group of “misfits and dissenters” (as a university president called them) included Margaret Mead, whose expeditions to Polynesia produced Coming of Age in Samoa (1928); Ruth Benedict, Boas’ assistant, Mead’s lover, and author of Patterns of Culture (1934); Zora Neale Hurston, the Harlem Renaissance writer whose ethnographic studies led to her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937); and Ella Cara Deloria, a Native American scholar and ethnographer. King offers captivating, exquisitely detailed portraits of these remarkable individuals—the first cultural relativists—who helped demonstrate that humanity is “one undivided thing,” that race is “a social reality, not a biological one,” and that things had to be “proven” before they could shape law, government, and public policy. “When there was no evidence for a theory,” Boas argued, “…you had to let it go—especially if that thing just happened to place people like you at the center of the universe.” King’s smoothly readable story of the stubborn, impatient Boas and his acolytes emphasizes how their pioneering exploration of disparate cultures contradicts the notion that “our ways are the only commonsensical, moral ones.” Rich in ideas, the book also abounds in absorbing accounts of friendships, animosities, and rivalries among these early anthropologists. This superb narrative of debunking scientists provides timely reading for our “great-again” era.

About the Author

A native of the Ozark hill country, Charles King studied history and politics at the University of Arkansas and Oxford University. He is the author of The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus, The Black Sea: A History  and The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture, as well as essays in the literary and popular press. He has worked with broadcast media such as CNN, the History Channel, and MTV. He teaches at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington, DC, where he is Professor of International Affairs and Government.

His website is www.charles-king.net/.

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