Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Hachette
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
Marvin’s twin brother, Tyler, goes missing after a party and is later found shot and killed. A video surfaces that shows Tyler being shot three times as a victim of police brutality…prompting Marvin to find ways to speak up and resist.
The cover depicts a black male teen in a white hoodie, embellished by flowers over the entire image. Some booktalking may be helpful to explain the funeral-esque illustration to teens, who may otherwise miss the meaning of the cover, based upon just a peek of it on the shelf. Between the quick hook, cultural and LGBTQ diversity, and timely topics of gun violence, activism, and the Black Lives Matter movement, this selection holds strong appeal for reluctant readers and teens in general.
Share Tyler Johnson Was Here as a classroom or book club discussion pick, or hand to those interested in Black Lives Matter inspired selections, such as All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, or Dear Martin by Nic Stone.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Romy is the first person to be born in space, and now she is completely alone. After tragedy strikes Earth’s first mission to colonize another planet, Romy is the only one who can ensure the ship makes it to its final destination. One day, NASA informs her they’ve sent another ship to catch up with her, and finally, she won’t be alone. But is that ship really coming to help her? Communication with Earth abruptly cuts off, leaving Romy to rely on transmissions from the other ship’s captain. Inconsistencies build up and so does the tension as Romy races to discover the truth about what is really happening.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is an intensifying chase through space with some truly menacing moments. Romy is a believably awkward, unsocialized teen whose first romance will make many readers cringe in sympathy. This title will appeal to fans of psychological thrillers as well as broader science-fiction adventure. Those who enjoyed Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, the Syfy series The Expanse, or the film Gravity will be drawn to this book.
Sunny (Track #3) by Jason Reynolds
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Atheneum / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
“Do you know what it feels like to be a murderer”? Sunny considers himself a murderer, because his mother died while giving birth to him. He has been running track to please his dad, but with the perpetual beat tick-tick-boom in his head, what he really wants is to dance. Coach has the perfect solution.
Although third in the Track series behind Ghost and Patina, Sunny is easy to pick up and follow along without having read the others, or, alternatively, enjoy the tie-ins from previous books. The cover is a clear partner to its predecessors, while maintaining it’s individual status via color choices and character images featured. Reynolds captures the voice in absolute perfection, as readers will feel like they are right inside the head of a thirteen-year-old boy. This conversational writing style has broad appeal across age, race and gender. Humor is spot on and frequent, with relatable, culturally diverse characters that are easy to like and keep readers interested. Reynolds has a unique ability to maintain both heartwrenching and heartwarming, hopeful narratives within the same story. Themes of family, self-esteem, and being yourself will resonate with reluctant readers.
Although targeted for middle grades, high schoolers and even adults will cherish Sunny’s journey. Ideal for fans of Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover and Booked, or David Barclay Moore’s The Stars Beneath Our Feet.