The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Wallace “Lolly” Rachpaul and his family are attempting to go through the motions, preparing for their first Christmas without his older brother, Jermaine… a “street pharmacist” gunned down in the neighborhood. The crew is now trying to recruit 12-year-old Lolly and others close to him to join them. Lol wants no part of that life and finds a reprieve engineering intricately detailed Lego creations that result in over 250,000 followers online.
Lolly’s physical journey down gang infested streets is depicted on the vibrant cover, with Legos guiding his way, metaphorically. The painful, heartfelt Christmas season introduction grabs attention as readers empathize with Lol’s family. His Trinidadian lineage and divorced mom who has a girlfriend bring diversity to the story, with likable characters who do the best they can with what they have. When Lol begins working with “Big Rose”, another misfit of sorts, they bond over their mutual love of Legos, and pursue architectural visits together. Lolly has to decide between being his authentic self, or succumbing to the pressure to join the crew, like Jermaine had wanted him to do. “The folks you hang out with can raise you up or bring you down low. Over time, they can make you think a certain way- change who you really are.”
This thought provoking book skews a bit younger…more of a middle school pick than for older teens. This would be a perfect fit for kids who may not be quite ready yet for books like Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds or The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Mr. 60% by Clete Barrett Smith
Crown Books for Young Readers / Random House Children’s
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Matt is a notorious drug dealer who maintains precisely a 60% average in all of his classes, although his counselor knows he could do better. What no one knows, though, is that Matt spends all of his time not dealing or being stuck at school taking care of his uncle Jack, who has cancer. When Matt is forced to do an extracurricular activity that lands him working with overly cheerful, overly motivated Amanda, what seems like an absolute nightmare may turn out to be not so bad after all.
Smith’s book is sparse but very sharp, and there is much more to both of the main characters than meets the eye. While there is hard-won friendship, there’s no romantic interaction between Matt and Amanda. At just 182 pages, Mr. 60% is a short read that packs a big punch.
When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Ben Gibson is not sorry and he’s not a liar. It started on a school camping trip in the mountains. It becomes a story of survival: who lives, who dies, and who is killed. There are many secrets and complications. Can there be perfect cruelty and perfect love?Ben says, “This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering.” Ben will take his time telling about what happened. After what happened on the mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.
Teen readers will wonder what it really means to do the right thing in this intense thriller!
He Who Dreams by Melanie Florence
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
The sound of the drumbeats changes everything.
He Who Dreams is a contemporary story about John and his biracial family. John is trying to figure out everyday teen concerns as well as what he wants for his future.
Readers will enjoy the fast past story of John and his family. Current issues of Indigenous culture in Canada will interest readers, too.
This story will be fascinating for anyone who is interested in Indigenous dance, drumming and powwows.
No More No Name by Tim Tingle
Publication Date: July 15, 2017
Bobby Byington is on a winning basketball team, his dad has stopped drinking and his mom is back home. But there are real problems with bullying. Lloyd’s dad swings a chair and breaks the window in the coach’s office. The coach listens but does not react until Lloyd is threatened. Then Bobby’s girlfriend is being bullied at school.
As he deals with these issues and reconnects with his father, Bobby gains confidence from a Choctaw legend.
Teen readers will enjoy the basketball action and the leadership of Coach Robinson.