Teen Recommendations (13+)
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Equally a love letter to the power of music and a Holocaust remembrance. Lyrical, evocative language is the real strength of the book, though the story is equally engaging. It's almost more poignant because the heartbreaking details are reported so matter-of-factly, while the hopes and dreams are presented so magically, that the juxtaposition makes the harsh reality all the clearer. For fans of Number the Stars, Letters from Rifka, and other WWII tween/YA reads, this provides a new perspective, telling two Holocaust stories we don't often hear – a secular Jew's confusion over both her treatment, and afterward, her religion, and the significance of music during this terrible time. Exceedingly powerful, with illustrations acting like a garnish for the writing. -Broche
Unputdownable! 15yo Xiomara longs for the simple relationship she had with her mother before she became a curvy Afro-Latina, turning neighborhood boys’ heads despite wanting to be invisible to them. Burdened by her immigrant Catholic mother’s excessive devoutness, there’s no room for Xiomara to question her faith or wonder how she feels about Aman, a boy who encourages her interest in writing poetry & dubs her Poet X. Gutsy, yet vulnerable Xiomara finds her voice & tells her powerful truth in this stirring free verse story about becoming comfortable with oneself, finding your inner power, and learning how to wield it. Acevedo makes every word count. Her lovely metaphors adds dramatic dimension to the roller coaster ride of emotions. -Michelle
Spoiler alert: No one with cancer dies in this story. They do play Uno, shave their head, get stabbed, make new friends, enjoy glitter, attend camp, get kissed (!), and above all else, discover they are brave enough to continue living life, and as a result maybe, just maybe, Casen Martin, teen and formerly the youngest dancer at the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory before the big C happened, believes she might dance again. A heartfelt addition to the #ourvoices canon by a debut author. Ages 14+
Two days before Jane McKeene was born, the dead on the battlefields of the Civil War began to walk the earth. Though she was born to plantation owners, Jane’s mixed-race heritage and dark skin means she is now training at combat school to be an Attendant: a zombie-killer whose job it will be to protect the White woman she iscontracted to. But her tempestuous and curious nature embroil Jane and her friends in the politics and treacherous landscape of post-Reconstruction America in this alternate history. Cinder meets The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pride & Prejudice and Zombies featuring a new kick-ass heroine whose no-nonsenseapproach to life and zombie killing make for inspired storytelling. -Broche
This love story foiled by deportation reminds us of the difficulties that children of immigrants face and the importance of living your dreams instead of the dreams others have for you. As with Nicola Yoon's Everything, Everything, this story is a love letter to the universe, the oceans, atomic matter, chaos, and all that exists in betweem. Ages 14+. -MICHELLE
Fifteenyearold Will’s older brother Shawn was just murdered. Will hops on an elevator bent on revenge, but on each floor a new passenger gets on, a passenger who is in some way connected to Shawn. 7 floors with 6 visitors, BRILLIANT freeverse story. Every word precisely chosen to grab your heart and mess with your head. A book to be shared and talked about for ages 13+. -MICHELLE
Black Yalebound graduating senior Justyce McAllister’s life takes on a new harsh reality when he’s roughed up by a policeman while innocently helping a friend. Justyce, feeling powerless to escape systemic racism, writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Are Dr. King’s teachings still relevant? LikeThe Hate U Give,this story thoughtfully encourages dialogue about the challenges of racial issues in America. A mustread for ages 13+. -MICHELLE
When fifteen-year-old Leigh’s Taiwanese mother commits suicide, she is visited by a great red bird who delivers a package from her mother with a note:
I want you to remember.
Certain that her mother has been reincarnated, Leigh travels from the U.S. with her white father to meet her Taiwanese grandparents for the first time. X.R. Pan’s astonishingly beautiful debut sensitively deals with Leigh’s mother’s long fight with depression amid a lifetime of heartbreak. Like Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, the magical elements are both haunting and exhilarating as we follow brave young Leigh’s metamorphosis into the strong resilient and brilliant artist she was meant to be, reminding us of the power of grief. For 13+. -Michelle
What happens when water-- the thing most of us take for granted every day, the thing that any living being needs to survive-- disappears?
When the taps in suburban California stop working, families are forced to go to extremes just to survive. In the midst of the initial panic, Alyssa's parents leave to find drinking water but don't return, so she gets stuck with her little brother and creepy, apocalypse-obsessed neighbor. Together, they trek across a now unfamiliar landscape, meet unlikely new friends and charming foes, and test their odds against “water zombies”-- humans who are so dehydrated that they will do anything for a single drop of water. This is a topical story, with themes of climate change, unethical public policy, and resource scarcity. More than anything, though, this book tests themultifaceted nature of humanity...When true disaster strikes, will people react with greed and violence, or charity and cooperation? --Kalee C.
In the land of Orïsha, gods and magic were once abundant and celebrated. But then the King of Orïsha wiped out all magic and the gods disappeared-- or so it was thought. When Zélie, a young magi, is given the opportunity to return magic to Orïsha, she leaves homeand goes on an epic quest. Along the way, she teams up with a rogue princess, Amira, and together they outrun the crown-prince, who wants to prevent the return of magic at all costs.
I could not put this book down! The characters are robust and nuanced, and the West African-inspired fantasy is dazzling. Zélie and Amira's adventure kept me on my toes and left me wanting more-- I can't wait for the sequel! This book is perfect for readers who love mythology, empowering characters, and a touch of romance. --Kalee C.