Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Aspiring paleontologist and plus-size fashion blogger Natalie Page lands an exclusive summer internship at an Ice Age dig site in Texas. Her confidence is shaken when her idol takes credit for her groundbreaking discovery, and she catches her crush kissing another girl. Natalie must dig deep to overcome her insecurities and protect both her friends and her fossils.
Mammoth is a well-paced, character-driven story that includes plenty of drama, action, and light romance. Natalie is unapologetically excited about science and vintage fashion, passions she explores through her blog, Fossilista. While her public persona is poised and confident, Natalie struggles with unhealthy thoughts and behaviors related to her weight. She also makes a few bad (even reckless) decisions in order to please her friends and prove her mettle as a future paleontologist. Her fellow interns and site workers are a relatable group of teens and young adults, each with something to prove.
Recommended for readers interested in the world of Jurassic Park, women in STEM, and nonfiction selections such as Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World (2018). Fans of Moxie (2018) and Watch Us Rise (2019) will appreciate Natalie’s feminist spirit.
–Kathleen J. Barker
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Rukhsana is seventeen, making excellent grades at her Seattle area high school, and on track to attend Caltech University on a full scholarship. She sees this as her ticket out of a life lived behind lies: she hasn’t come out to her conservative Muslim parents and is hiding her relationship with Ariana from them. She tries to balance living the life she desires with pleasing her parents. One day, her mother catches her kissing her girlfriend, which sets off her parents’ extreme conservatism: they trick her into traveling with them to their native Bangladesh where they attempt to set her up in an arranged marriage that they believe will “cure” their daughter of being a lesbian.
Rukhsana is relatable to teens as she tries hard to please her parents while at the same time knowing they won’t understand her sexual orientation. She toes the line between two worlds in a way that many adolescents feel forced to in order to maintain parental love and approval. The plot moves quickly, creating well-rounded characters and colorful settings, and the drama amps up in a believable way when Rukhsana’s secret is revealed. The writing paints a picture of both American and Bangladeshi culture that young readers will be drawn to, while they root for the main character to find a sane way out of her complicated situation.
Those drawn to dramatic tales of protagonists caught between two worlds such as The Hate U Give (2017) and The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2013 + 2018 movie) will find here another striking tale of a teen wrapped up in personal conflict. Also recommended for fans of Darius the Great is Not Okay (2018) who enjoyed being transported across the globe with well-rounded characters in search of themselves.