59 Hours by Johnny Kovatch
Simon & Schuster / Simon Pulse
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
On August 9, 2000, fifteen-year-old Nick Markowitz was shot nine times and buried in a shallow grave. Jesse James Hollywood, a notorious drug dealer and the prime suspect, had vanished. The apparent motive — his brother, Ben, owed Hollywood money and Nick was collateral. Over the course of 59 hours, or a quick 200 pages, a dozen or more people saw Nick but said nothing nor reported their suspicions to police. Why? Would it have saved his life?
59 Hours makes nonfiction accessible by unpacking a well-researched crime investigation into crisp language, fluid and simple sentence structure, and end-of-chapter hooks that sustain the reader’s attention. Short chapters, a complementary list of resources, and a “Who’s Who” in the beginning help to engage and guide readers through this story and subject matter. Kovatch has extensive experience teaching creative writing to incarcerated youth, and it shows in his thoughtfully delivered depiction of real teens facing real consequences.
Part of the Simon True series, 59 Hours is written with purpose for a teen audience curious about what motivates teens and young adults who make wrong decisions or get swept up in crimes that will change their lives. A good pairing with other YA true crime like Dashka Slater’s The 57 Bus or fans of the 2006 movie adaptation, Alpha Dog.
What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee
Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Sixteen-year-old Will believes that what troubles you must leave you through the soles of your feet, so he walks. He walks the streets of his Los Angeles neighborhood past little dude’s house, a kid entrenched in a never-ending game of finding butterflies. He walks to deliver another failed attempt of replicating his father’s cornbread to Superman, the ever-present homeless man on First Street. And, eventually, he walks to Playa’s house, his best friend whose rape has shattered her life and consumed Will with guilt.
Will’s journey through grief, guilt and resolution are laid out bare on 100 pages, each filled with 100 words, packing a big punch and leaving readers emotionally invested in the story and its characters. Short, poetic bursts of content hook the reader from the start, complemented by diverse characters representative of their neighborhood. A sentimental read that addresses deeper and darker themes—rape and suicide—while highlighting the genuine kindness and strength of its main protagonist.
Similar to books by Kwame Alexander, the accessible and earnest delivery of content will entice both avid and new readers to pick up this book and not put it down. Will is a classic teenager, coping with life’s harsh realities, making him a relatable figure to this book’s target audience.