Tradition by Brendan Kiely
Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Jamie, a scholarship sports star with a past he wishes to truly leave behind, and Jules, a smart and fiercely feminist student form an unlikely friendship despite their differences. After an assault at a party, they both are faced with the toxic traditions of Fullbrook Academy and what they are going to do to change it.
Told in dual perspectives, this story in the age of #metoo is a powerful one that examines how toxic masculinity plays into a culture of silence and harm. Jamie not only is dealing with a life-changing event that put him at Fullbrook Academy, but now must grapple with whether he is going to be a bystander or an ally in the face of an assault at a party on his new friend Jules. Jules is funny, fierce. The story not only focuses on the female character dealing with the aftermath of an assault and finding her voice, but also delves into what it means for young men to be allies, speak up, and break the tradition of using the excuse that “boys will be boys.” There are some humorous moments sprinkled throughout the novel, and overall this was a fast-paced read with high teen appeal.
Fans of Honor by Kiersi Burkhart, Looking for Alaska by John Green, and Winger by Andrew Smith will also find the themes of complicated relationships surrounding boarding school life similar in Tradition.
We Regret to Inform You by Ariel Kaplan
Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Top student Mischa Abramavicius is at a loss when she is rejected by every single college she applied to, even her safety school. Reluctant to accept the news or share it with anyone at her elite school, Mischa digs around until she discovers evidence that someone sabotaged her applications. Her best friend Nate introduces her to the Ophelias, a trio of eccentric hacker girls at school who have the tools (not to mention the force of their colorful personalities) to help her figure out what went wrong. The five of them team up on a mission to uncover the means and the culprit behind Mischa’s predicament in a supremely entertaining journey featuring hilarious hijinx, plentiful banter, and ultimately, a nefarious plot that will threaten them all in different ways.
Fast-paced, uproariously funny, and smart, this novel will have high entertainment value for teens who enjoy quirky characters and quick-witted banter. Mischa is that rare overachiever who is both well adjusted and relatable, buffered by a strong supporting cast of distinctive characters who share excellent chemistry and struggle against the pressures of a competitive high school in different ways. Sure to be a hit amongst fans of smart, humorous high school stories in the vein of Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here and Foolish Hearts, as well as Gilmore Girls devotees, both new and old.
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Feiwel and Friends Books / Macmillan Publishing Group
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Sisters Blanca and Roja live in the shadow of the generations-old family curse that will eventually leave one a heartbroken girl and the other transformed into a swan. Roja, dark and tempestuous, believes the swans will spare her fair and gentle sister, Blanca. However, Blanca plans to save them both despite the señoras’ predictions threatening to sever the bond they share.
The day the swans arrive, two local boys walk out of the magical woods near the sisters’ home after months spent missing from home. Barclay seeks an escape from his treacherous family while Page follows him because his friend accepts him without questions. Drawn to the sisters, the boys become entangled in both girls’ plots to outsmart the swans, which may threaten them all.
With beautifully lush and lyrical prose, McLemore weaves fairytale, Latinx folklore, and magical realism into a poignant story of rivalry, sacrifice, and love that is simultaneously classic and original. The multiple first-person points of view draw the reader into each character’s personal struggles as their separate narratives merge into a heartwarming story about love in all its forms. Weighty topics such as gender identity, hurtful stereotypes, and family dysfunction are explored with a nuance and care that should resonate with teens.
Hand this to fans of McLemore’s previous works as well as The Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black and Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.
—Carol Maples and Jenny Zbrizher