Juliet Takes a Breath: The Graphic Novel by Gabby Rivera and Celia Moscote BOOM! Box / BOOM! Studios Publication Date: December 1, 2020 ISBN: 9781684156115
Meet Juliet, a queer Puerto Rican college student from the Bronx eager to begin her internship in Portland with white feminist author Harlowe Brisbane. Unfortunately, Juliet quickly feels overwhelmed and frustrated as she realizes there’s a lot she doesn’t know about women’s history, feminism, or even her own identity. Compounding her misery are a break-up with her girlfriend Lainie and a fight with her mother, who refuses to accept that Juliet is a lesbian. When Harlowe uses Juliet’s internship to justify her own racism, Juliet is forced to look elsewhere for community. She finds love and support in her extended family, a writing group for queer women of color, and a very cute library intern named Kira.
Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon; narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, A.J. Beckles, Jordan Cobb, Dion Graham, Imani Parks, Shayna Small, and Bahni Turpin Quill Tree Books Publication date: June 22, 2021 ISBN: 9780063088122
Blackout subtly weaves six unique novellas featuring Black characters by six Black authors into one connected story in New York City during a summer blackout. Tiffany D. Jackson’s story focuses on exes Tammie and Kareem who run into each other at the same summer internship opportunity. Nic Stone’s contribution is a queer male/male love story about Tremaine and JJ. Ashley Woodfolk tells a cute sapphic romance between Joss and Nella that takes place at a senior living facility. Dhonielle Clayton tackles a friends-to-lovers romance in the New York Public Library. Angie Thomas tells of a love triangle with some emotional baggage. Nicola Yoon’s meet cute of Seymour and Grace is a heartwarming end to this high-interest book about Black Love.
Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park Sourcebooks/Sourcebooks Fire Publication Date: June 1, 2021 ISBN: 978-1728209425
Sunny Song is an aspiring influencer, but those plans come derailed when she accidentally makes an inappropriate livestream, AKA #BrownieGate. Her parents respond by sending Sunny to a technology detox camp at a working farm. There Sunny is supposed to be learning how to live without technology. She still tries to boost her social media following and win a coveted spot on a team of content creators, thanks to a secret illegal phone that she snuck in with her. However, Sunny feels conflicted as she grows close to the son of the camp owner and may just be convinced to take the whole digital detox camp more seriously.
Sunny’s story feels very relevant to a world full of distraction due to technology and social media. She is a likable character but has her flaws and makes mistakes, which makes her more relatable. The plot is nicely paced, with a fun hook right at the beginning that pulls the reader into the story.
Small Favorsby Erin A. Craig Penguin Random House / Delacorte Press Publication Date: July 27, 2021 ISBN: 978-0593306741
The residents of Amity Falls live small, peaceful lives, toiling away on farms, helping their neighbors, and tending to the town. Ellerie Downing’s life is no different. She helps her father with the beekeeping, cooks and mends for her family, and takes care of her two younger sisters. But something wicked is stirring in the woods surrounding Amity Falls. The monsters of legend that stalked the area have returned and have cut off their peaceful little town from the rest of the world.
As summer turns to fall and supplies start to run low, the residents turn to a tricky and magical creature who promises to give them their heart’s desire in return for a small favor. But when the town folk begin to turn on each other, Ellerie realizes that something even more sinister is at play in Amity Falls and she must race against time to save her town and her family.
The Hazards of Love, v.1: Bright World by Stan Stanley Oni Press Publication: March 30, 2021 ISBN: 9781620108574
The Hazards of Love is a fantastical cautionary tale of why you should never make a deal with a magical cat. Amparo is a known delinquent and is facing suspension for pulling the fire alarm at their school. To make matters worse, they have a crush on lolanthe, a straitlaced and rule-abiding student. Enter a magical cat with a solution to their problem. Instead of fulfilling the promise of making Amparo a “good person,” the scheming cat takes over their body and then imprisons Amparo’s soul in a strange place called Bright World. Bright World is full of unusual, brutish, and dangerous human-animal crossbreeds that feed off human memories, slowly turning them into mindless zombies before finally eating their bodies. Amparo must use their quick wits to escape and return home but soon finds themselves in thrall to a black deer named El Ciervo.
Middletown by Sarah Moon, narrated by Hope Newhouse Publisher: Dreamscape Media Release date: April 5, 2021 ISBN: 978-1662083341
The story opens with thirteen year old Eli sleeping with her seventeen year old sister, Anna, while waiting for her mom to come home after a night of drinking. This time, their mom is caught drunk driving for the second time and is sentenced to mandatory rehab for at least 90 days. Anna and Eli struggle to find money to pay the bills and feed themselves while attending school and navigating parent-teacher conferences. On top of this, Eli has feelings for one of her best friends, Mina. At the same time, she finds out that Anna was sexually harassed by the coach at her high school and tries to encourage other girls to speak up. When the schools try to get in contact with a guardian and send a social worker to their home, Anna and Eli run away to try and find a place where they belong.
The narrator does a great job of capturing the different female voices within the story. The audiobook captures the pacing and progression of the story in an engaging way.
Similar to Crank by Ellen Hopkins, this story draws attention to the resilience required to overcome addiction and continue to be in relationship with family and friends. For readers who enjoy texts about being resilient, try Parenthesis by Élodie Durand, No Longer Human by Junji Ito, and The Sea in Winter by Christine Day.
– Caitlyn Seale
The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.
In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks by Don Brown Etch/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication Date: August 10. 2021 ISBN: 978-0-358-22357-3
Award winning author and illustrator Don Brown takes a look at the infamous 9/11 attacks and explores the tragic events of that day and its far-reaching, worldwide effects. This graphic novel encompasses the story of that day and beyond, incorporating personal stories with compelling illustrations.
Brown has managed to tell a complex story in a simplified and focused way that has the reader turning the pages quickly. The emotion of the day and the immediate aftermath is felt deeply, while moving on to the hope of recovery and the investigation into the attack’s origins. This is an easily accessible way for the reader to satisfy any curiosity surrounding that fateful day in our recent American history.
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride Macmillan / Feiwel & Friends Publication Date: August 17, 2021 ISBN: 978-1250780362
After Black teen Moth is in a car accident that kills her parents and brother, she has no other options but living with her aunt in Virginia. Unable to dance since the crash, the only solace and peace she seems to be able to find are in the memories of her grandfather and his Hoodoo practice, but then Sani appears and is everything Moth needs most – stoic, solid, comforting. Moth and Sani decide to take a road trip to Sani’s ancestral Navajo homeland, and as Sani gets closer to his own roots, Moth begins to find her wings again.
Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero by E. Lockhart and Manuel Preitano DC Comics Publication Date: September 7, 2021 ISBN: 9781401293222
Willow Zimmerman is a Gotham City teenager who is trying to make a difference in her spare time by protesting gentrification efforts in her neighborhood, Down River. She also needs money, and a job at a local job shelter is not enough to support her and her mom. When an old friend of the family offers Willow a job which allows her to use her smarts and pays well, she takes it, even though the job may technically be illegal. However, she begins to realize that the job is connected to a larger plan to take over her neighborhood, and while investigating, she is attacked. Things turn even stranger when she discovers she can communicate with the dog who saved her life. To stop things from getting worse, she decides to be the hero her neighborhood needs.
Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan; narrated by Nora Hunter & Bailey Carr Penguin Random House Published: May 18, 2021 ISBN: 9780593397862
After track star Morgan is kicked out of her religious school for being queer, she wants a fresh, proud, start. However she finds that being openly queer and an elite athlete can be a complicated mix. All Ruby wants is to fix cars, but her overbearing mother has pageant dreams for her. When the two find their feelings growing they must contend with the dynamics of a relationship where only one person is out.