What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper
Knopf Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
Saved by music, Gerta Rausch survived the horrors of Auschwitz as a member of the Women’s Orchestra, but liberation comes with difficulty as she tries to rebuild the life that was taken from her. Trying to protect his family from detainment, Gerta’s beloved father kept their family’s Jewish heritage a secret from her, leaving her to also grapple with her new Jewish identity as well as recovering from losing her beautiful singing voice after years of starvation and abuse. With the help of a fellow survivor who she considers a dear friend, but he feels much more, Gerta is also faced with two loves and the decision about who she will spend her new life with.
Taking a different approach to writing about the Holocaust, Stamper uses muted, beautiful illustrations and haunting, but hopeful passages and descriptions to focus mainly on Gerta post-camp life. Readers will relate to Gerta figuring out who she is as well as how she finds love and a future for herself all on her own. What the Night Sings is a beautiful story about triumph in the face of tragedy and unsurmountable loss.
Fans of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen will equally be enthralled and moved by What the Night Sings.
When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Seventeen-year-old Alvie lives by herself, works a full-time job at the zoo, and is waiting to turn eighteen so she can be emancipated from the legal system. She has no family or friends, and all she wants to do is spend time with Chance, an injured hawk. Alvie fears being placed back in a group home, so she vows to prove to her social worker that she is capable of taking caring of herself, despite living with Asperger’s. She is content being alone until she meets Stanley, a boy who also is alone and dealing with his own medical issues. Alvie finds herself falling for Stanley despite remembering what happened with the last person she loved.
This is a heartbreaking contemporary romance that offers insight to the struggles of being an adult and learning to accept yourself despite society views. Right from the beginning, this book tackles so many issues, including mental health, abuse, and disabilities, with a very realistic and honest approach. The main character’s voice is authentic, as she is very blunt and not afraid to speak her mind. The story focuses on Alvie’s journey to become legally emancipated with regular visits from her social worker while struggling to maintain employment and adjust to her feelings for Stanley. The writing and pacing of this book allows readers to feel emotions as they learn more about Alvie and Stanley’s lives. Flashbacks help the readers understand and sympathize with the characters. This book is best suited for older, mature teens in part because of explicit sex scenes that are handled in a positive manner.
Give this to fans of contemporary romances including Everything, Everything and Once and For All.
You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Solomon
Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Brilliant in vastly different ways, twins Adina, a prodigy at Viola, and Tovah, who’s on a clear path to medical school, have always been opposites. Over the years they have been torn apart by jealousy and their mom’s destructive Huntington’s disease. Knowing that the disease is genetic, they get tested on their eighteenth birthday, and the results yield detrimental news for one of the sisters.
Is it better to know or to not know your fate? When Adina and Tovah go to get tested for Huntington’s disease, what they find out changes everything about their daily lives and their already crumbling relationship with each other. The disease leaves them both wondering if it would have been better not to know.
Readers are given valuable insight into Judaism and teens will identify with seeing how Tovah and Adina respond in vastly different ways to their faith. Teens will also relate with the uncertainty and the raw emotion that the twins experience throughout this gritty and heart wrenching story. Mature themes are captured in seamlessly well written moments, including sex positive scenes. Poignant themes of mental health and cultural awareness force readers to challenge what they know about societal norms and the collective experience. Trigger Warnings: Suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
Fans of I’ll Give You the Sun will enjoy the same raw emotion of siblings losing touch with each other and readers who enjoyed All the Bright Places will be drawn to the commentary on mental illness.