The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Publication Date: March 6th, 2018
Xiomara can’t be the perfect Dominican daughter that her parents expect her to be, so she pours out her frustrations in a secret poetry journal. Her mother expects her to be confirmed and marry a good Dominican boy. Instead, she questions the teachings of her church and falls in love with her chemistry lab partner, Aman, who is definitely not parent-approved. But she can’t hide her secrets from her parents forever.
This character-driven, culturally diverse coming-of-age story explores the Dominican diaspora experience in reflective verse. Xio’s experiences being objectified for her body are extremely relatable to teens. Those who feel othered because they don’t fit in, either because of their background, their beliefs, or their appearance, will relate to Xiomara. Acevedo, a renowned slam poet, imbues the verse with heart, pain, and longing.
Give this to teens who enjoyed Ibi Zoboi’s American Street or Erika Sánchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican American Daughter.
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux / Macmillan
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
It was supposed to be an end-of-summer party to kick off her freshman year, but what happens that night leaves Melinda speechless, an outcast, struggling to confront her torment while navigating the pressures and angst of high school. No one will speak to her, let alone listen. Fortunately, the persistent encouragement from her art teacher and inspiration found within her art project enable Melinda to cope and discover the power of her voice.
Powerful illustrations, a dramatic and haunting foreshadowing, and a relatable and sympathetic protagonist allow this award-winning, modern classic to come alive for a new generation of young readers. Exploration of themes such as sexual assault, harassment, and bullying carry a timely connection to the #metoo movement that may help to continue this wave of awareness and brave confrontations.
Teens who were captivated and moved by the realistic portrayal of social isolation, sexual violence, and depression portrayed in the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, will gravitate toward this haunting and uncompromising graphic novel.
Between the Lines by Nikki Grimes
Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Darrien enrolls in Mr. Ward’s English class at the urging of the school librarian, who insists that the best way to be a newspaper writer is to understand poetry. Over the course of a semester, Darrien and his fellow classmates prepare for a girls versus boys poetry slam, in the process, revealing their deepest secrets, hopes, and dreams. While many of the teens face difficult situations, Grimes ends the story on a hopeful note, emphasizing the importance of trust and the transformative power of poetry.
The narration rotates among members of the class, but Grimes maintains an authentic and distinct voice for each teen. Upbeat romances form between several of the characters. The story is character-driven, analyzing the changes in each teen wrought by their poetry. All of the characters are believable, relatable, and culturally diverse. Short chapters interspersed with free-verse poems are approachable and easy to read.
Fans of Grimes’ earlier book Bronx Masquerade will be happy to return to Mr. Ward’s English room with another group of students, but Between the Lines is an excellent standalone. Hand this to teens who enjoyed Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover and Jason Reynolds’ Track series.