Sword Princess Amaltea by Natalia Bautista
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
This year Tokyo Pop is shaking up the formerly male-dominated graphic novel genre, and Sword Princess Amaltea is one of its flagship titles. Spoiled Princess Amaltea must go and rescue a prince in order to maintain her royal privileges in her matriarchal society. Unfortunately, rescuing the sleeping prince is not nearly as easy as one would hope.
This first volume in Princess Amaltea’s saga provides an interesting twist on gender roles in which women are the aggressors both physically and sexually. Part Paper Bag Princess (by Robert Munsch) and part Sleeping Ugly (by Jane Yolen), this is a definitely more grown up version of girl power with a protagonist who isn’t always likable. The novelty of the plot coupled with great graphics will appeal to reluctant readers who may find the role reversal a little disconcerting, but definitely worth following.
Fans of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson will find some similarities in the antiheroine, Amaltea.
— Jodi Kruse
The Window by Amelia Brunskill
Random House / Delacorte Press
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
For identical twins, Jess and Anna Cutter could not be more different. Jess is the reserved and intellectual one, while Anna is a social butterfly, but then Anna falls to her death from her bedroom window. It’s not just the grief talking – Jess knows there is more to the story than everyone else thinks, even if she didn’t know everything about her sister’s life. As Jess begins to edge closer to solving the mystery of her sister’s death, she will uncover dangerous secrets that someone would definitely prefer to keep hidden.
Atmospheric, creepy, and dark, The Window is a suspenseful thriller with all the hallmarks of a good mystery. Misdirection, red herrings, and a race toward the bombshell (if not entirely surprising) conclusion will keep readers guessing until the end. Jess engages in some (very) questionable behavior while trying to answer her own questions about her sister’s death, and is quite an odd character who is nevertheless relatable and accessible.
Titles that pair well with The Window include Kami Garcia’s Broken Beautiful Hearts, Stephanie Perkins’ There’s Someone Inside Your House, and One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus.
— Allie Stevens
This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender
HarperCollins / Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: October 30, 2018
There are no such things as happy endings, if you ask Nathan Bird. Since an embarrassing confession of love to his best friend Ollie when they were kids, right before Ollie moved away, Nate has kept everyone at arm’s length. It’s just easier that way, especially since his dad died, although his best friend (and ex-girlfriend) Florence is bound and determined to help Nate find someone to love. When Ollie unexpectedly moves back to town, Nate gets a second chance at expressing his feelings, but he will have to be brave enough to take it and accept whatever consequences he faces.
A sweet, funny story with exceptional LGBTQ+ representation, This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story sets the standard of rom-coms for a new generation. Each of the main characters identifies as something other than straight and/or cisgender, but these identities don’t play a part in the plot of the story – they just are. Nate and Ollie are both adorable characters, and the witty banter, quick pacing, and emotionally charged, awkward situations will appeal to a wide range of reluctant readers.
Teens who are looking for light-hearted, swoon-worthy romances like those by Kasie West and Jenny Han will fly through this one. Other pairing recommendations include Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love, Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat, and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.
— Allie Stevens
Game Changer by Tommy Greenwald
Abrams / Amulet Books
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Teddy Youngblood is one of the most talented incoming freshman football players on the team. That’s why it’s such a shock when he winds up in the hospital with a coma. Was it an accident or was it preventable?
Part mystery, part sports story, Teddy’s story is related in free verse, newspaper reports, hospital reports, text messages, and posts. From Ethan’s interview transcript to Teddy’s own fuzzy train of thought, a picture of tacitly accepted hazing comes into focus. Greenwald treads pretty carefully and manages to challenge traditions without completely slaughtering the sacred cow of football. Though some of the thoughts are repetitive (as they would be in real life), there is a lot of white space and the drama unfolds quickly.
Like Paul Volponi’s Top Prospect, Game Changer provides a fast-paced football drama that will appeal to upper middle and lower high school readers.
— Jodi Kruse
Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Louise, a citizen of Muscogee (Creek) Nation, dumps her ignorant jock boyfriend and begins dating a fellow school newspaper journalist, who happens to be Lebanese-American. Together they cover feature stories and tackle biases. This includes the school play, which includes a diverse cast for the first time in school history.
The cover image is appealing, featuring a Native American teen with the title highlighted on her t-shirt. From the opening pages detailing a dreadful yet comical prom night, readers will be hooked into Louise’s world. The author masterfully weaves in culture of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation via Mvskoke terminology (glossary provided in back of book), and her family’s road trip from Kansas to Oklahoma for the Mvskoke Fest. This celebration includes a parade, softball, rodeo, stomp dance, walk/run, scholarship pageant, games and sports tournaments, pony rides, and of course, music and food. Layers of information are brought to light regarding Wounded Knee and Trail of Tears, as Louise’s little brother participates in the school play, The Wizard of Oz. Many readers may learn for the first time that Oz creator, Frank Baum, is regarded by Native Americans in a negative light, due to some racist commentary in his books. Leitich Smith’s narrative is thought provoking and candid, with touches of humor that make Louise a very likeable character.
Hearts Unbroken has broad appeal for many types of readers. Pair with selections by other Native authors, including Tim Tingle and Eric Gansworth, or books where teens are seeking celebration/validation of their culture, such as Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed. Additionally, this would be an ideal class or book club discussion book, tying it to historical events mentioned in the story.
— Lisa Krok