Not signed up yet for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, and the challenge runs until 11:59pm EST on June 23, so sign up now!
I’m feeling a little shocked that it’s May already (I work in a school; crunch-time is descending!), but there are still over seven weeks of reading time left in this year’s Hub Reading Challenge, and I’ve got lots of titles I’m hoping to fit in before June 23rd.
Lately, I’ve read the latest Ms. Marvel installments (Vol. 3: Crushed, from the 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list, and Vol. 4: Last Days as well, which is not for the Hub 2016 Reading Challenge, but I really really love Ms. Marvel, so I’m planning to keep reading the series as long as G. Willow Wilson is writing them). I also finally got my hands on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (this year’s Morris Award Winner), and am half-way through The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds, a 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book.
Ms. Marvel continues to delight me because of its many progressive (and sometimes very meta) components. We’ve got a female superhero whose physical form is not mega-sexualized in the artwork, an origin story that nods cheekily to fandoms and the way they inform and influence what becomes canon, an American protagonist whose Muslim faith is prominently and positively portrayed as the source of her strong moral compass, a teenager whose relationship with her family is both fraught and deeply loving, and genuinely action-packed storylines. Plus, jokes. It’s been fun to see the characters reach new depths as we get to know them better, and watching Kamala try to survive her first real crush and save the day (again) was equal parts hilarious and tender.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda follows Simon through several months of turmoil when a classmate sees – and takes screenshots of – his anonymous emails with another guy, which are decidedly flirtatious in nature. Simon isn’t out. The classmate suggests Simon help set him up with a girl Simon is close friends with; it feels like blackmail. Simon’s voice in this was direct, funny, and endearing, and I hadn’t previously realized it was set in my current city-of-residence (Atlanta), so there were some fun local elements for me. I’m happy to have read this, and be able to book-talk it (I’ll be targeting my theater students, as much of the novel’s drama unfolded parallel to Simon’s musical rehearsals).
I’m currently reading* The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds, and have been struck by the quiet but implacable power of grief propelling the novel along. Our protagonist, Matt, is clearly hurting (he’s just lost his mother), and I’ve been very moved by Reynolds’ depiction of the ways Matt can acknowledge his pain, to himself and others, and the ways he just can’t yet. Equally compelling is the strong sense of place in this work; Matt’s neighbors know him, and he knows them, and the specific intimacy of community – when it holds you up, when maybe it feels too close – is very effectively drawn. I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes.
What have you been reading for the Challenge lately? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and join the conversation on social media; look for the #hubchallenge on Instagram, Twitter, and our Goodreads group. If you’ve finished the Challenge, a) bravo! and b) fill out this form.
-Carly Pansulla, currently reading The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
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