A Very, Very Bad Thing by Jeffery Self
PUSH / Scholastic
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
One (BIG) mistake doesn’t mean Marley is a completely awful person, right? Marley is afraid he will never find something to be passionate about, until he falls fast and hard for the new kid in town. Unfortunately for them, Christopher also happens to be the son of a very famous televangelist who is determined to prevent Christopher from having a boyfriend. Christopher’s parents’ decision to send him to a “pray away the gay” camp leads to a tragic experience that may not be what it seems at first glance. Then Marley tells a lie, and he finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of attention that he isn’t sure how to handle.
A Very, Very Bad Thing is a sweet, sparse story with a heartbreaking twist. The story is told from a single point-of-view, with main characters who are relatable and distinctive and secondary characters who are well-defined but not over-explained. The cover image is fresh and striking, and the book is woven through with bits of absolute hilarity despite some very sad moments. A brief but touching and deeply emotional story about first love, first heartbreak, and how to tell the whole truth.
Read-alikes for this title include Simon and the Homosapiens Agenda (along with the newly released movie Love, Simon), The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and selections by Adam Silvera.
The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi
Viking / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 1, 2017
Welles Crowther always dreamed of being a fireman–it was his vocation. On the last day of his life, September 11, 2001, Welles saved dozens of people in his workplace: the South Tower of the World Trade Center. They didn’t know his name until much later, but they did remember that he carried a red bandanna. This touching biography of a real-life hero chronicles his formative years, his love of helping people, and how millions of people have been inspired by his courage and selflessness.
The Red Bandanna is a heart-wrenching biography that gives a face to the events of September 11. Black and white photographs throughout the book conveys the intimate feel of a family album. The writing is clear and accessible. Teens for whom these events are history, not a memory, will be sobered by the forthright, honest story of one man whose focus and passion was helping other people. By including the story of Welles’ high school and college years, the author makes him relatable and accessible to a teen audience who have experienced similar situations.
Readers interested in recent American history, those who enjoyed books like Wendy Mills’ All We Have Left, or films inspired by real-life events such as Sully will enjoy this book.
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
HarperTeen / Harper Collins Publishers
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Grace, Maya, and Joaquin have one thing in common: their birth mother. Their life experiences have been very different. Grace and Maya were adopted at birth. Joaquin, their older brother, has been a product of a foster system that has alternately wanted him and spit him out. When Grace gets pregnant and gives her own baby up for adoption, she is motivated to meet her biological siblings and find her birth mother.
The alternating perspectives of Grace, Maya, and Joaquin are unified in the telling by a outside narrator. Benway starts with the hook of Grace giving birth on the night of homecoming, and what follows is a believable cast of diverse characters who rapidly become the safety net for one another. This is a heartwarming story that will make readers laugh and cry by turns. Reluctant readers will be intrigued by the individual stories of each of the protagonists and their search for their birth mother.
Fans of Jennifer Niven’s Holding Up the Universe and Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything will warm to this story.