The Past and Other Things that Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Dino’s family runs a funeral home preparing bodies for burial, and up until now, the bodies have stayed dead. July, Dino’s ex-best friend, wakes up while he’s preparing her body for her funeral. In her not-dead state, she and Dino must figure out why this has happened, and how to fix it, all while avoiding detection and grappling with their present and past.
This is a quick-paced story with magical elements right from the very start, and it has a great hook (ex-best friend rising from the dead, anyone?) While a few plot points are shaky, the story shows brief moments of deep understanding of people and the ways they relate to each other. Reluctant readers will be drawn in by the honesty of these relationships as well as by the magical/science fiction elements at play. Dino also is a gay boy whose boyfriend is trans–Hutchinson handles their identities very well, making them part of a larger and diverse cast. These vibrant leading characters will be valued by our LGBTQ readers as they see themselves reflected in the text.
Readers who enjoy a slightly magical and science fiction slant to books such as The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness or Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King and fans of quirky T.V. such as Parks and Recreation or Pushing Daisies will love the humor in this book.
Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Seeking positive change for young women at their high school, Jasmine and Chelsea form the Women’s Rights Club, only to have it shut down by administration when the club’s energy impacts school culture. The best friends won’t be silenced, however, and use their creativity and determination to start a revolution.
A heart-wrenching hook grips readers, while the main characters’ dynamic voices and passionate personalities sustain engagement. The beauty of this book lies in its relevance and timeliness, its rainbow of diversity, and the spirit of the true friendships. Readers will likely want to join forces with Jasmine and Chelsea in their desire to be heard, valued, and respected. The cover art, interior graphics, and poetry add to the book’s power. Organizations, poets, books, and blogs for young activists are offered as well.
Similar titles with strong female leads who stand up for justice include Angie Thomas’ On the Come Up and Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie. Ibi Zoboi’s collection, Black Enough: Stories About Being Young and Black in America, also includes stories with similar themes. The Netflix series Dear White People about race relations among college students might also be of interest, though it is more appropriate for mature audiences.