The Disasters by M. K. England
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: December 18, 2018
Nax and three other students are returning to Earth after being kicked out of Ellis Station Academy when a terrorist group attacks the school. Framed for the crime, the four must work together to discover who is really behind the attack, uncovering a conspiracy that threatens the lives of all those in the space colonies.
Combining fast-paced action and plenty of humor, this is an enjoyable space heist adventure featuring a group of entertaining and diverse teenage misfits. Through an authentic first-person point of view, Nax is accurately depicted as a sarcastic teenage boy who feels like a bit of a screw-up. Nax matures as a character, learning to overcome his insecurities and become a confident leader, and the other characters, likewise, grow both individually and through their newfound friendships with one another. Main protagonist Nax is bisexual and Muslim, while the other main characters are similarly diverse in race, religion, and sexuality. The book also features a positive representation of disability through Case, who has anxiety and panic attacks but is still a capable and vital member of the team. A bit of romance is added through a love triangle, and, refreshingly, the love triangle involves a bisexual character with one male and one female love interest, further building on the diversity of the world England has created.
Fans of light science-fiction adventures featuring a ragtag team, such as Katie Kennedy’s What Goes Up, Gina Damico’s Waste of Space, the video game franchise Mass Effect, or the Guardians of the Galaxy movie franchise will find plenty of clever banter and action-packed hijinks to enjoy here.
–Laura Giunta and Ness Shortley
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Bri is a sixteen year old who wants to make it as big in the rap game as her father was before he was killed. But the realities of making it in the industry weigh heavily on her especially when her mom is struggling to support the family financially and her brother is postponing his education just to make ends meet. When a violent incident at school leads to a lyrical protest her close friends, classmates, and family question whether her words match her life and whether she’s trying to be something she’s not.
Bri’s character jumps off the page with her love for rap that mirrors Thomas’ personal story. The richness of the secondary characters including Bri’s mother, brother, and aunt along with a love interest intensify Bri’s experiences making it a classic coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of Garden Heights. Bri’s realistic and challenging experiences will build empathy and connection with readers in addition to sparking conversations about pop culture related to celebrities, music, and fashion. Despite its 450 pages, Bri’s story is told at a pace that will keep readers engaged with both her story and her flow.
Many are eagerly anticipating Thomas’ sophomore book, so readers of The Hate U Give will automatically pick this one up in a stack already piled high with Jason Reynolds, Jay Cole’s Tyler Johnson Was Here, Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, and Mark Oshiro’s Anger Is a Gift.
–Alicia Abdul and Jodi Kruse