Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes Little, Brown Book for Young Readers Publication Date: April 17, 2018 ISBN: 978-0316262286
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot and killed by a white police officer who says he felt threatened by a big, scary black man (Jerome is 12, 5′ tall, 90 lbs) with a gun (plastic). As a ghost, Jerome learns from the ghost of Emmett Till about the history of racism in America that led to his death, and tries to help his family heal.
While many people might wish to continue celebrating Valentine’s Day with romantic reads, there are plenty of readers who prefer their fiction fairly romance-free. If librarian listservs and Twitter conversations are anything to go by, “books with little to no romance” are a common but surprisingly challenging readers’ advisory request in libraries across the country and all year round. Again, the Hub bloggers are here to help!
This week we gathered together showcase some of our favorite young adult fiction where romance is either absent or plays a minor role in the story. Through the combined efforts of the Hub blogging team, we’ve collected a varied list of primarily recent titles that should provide books with appeal for a wide range of readers. Hopefully, you will spot something to please your readers on a quest for literature with a more platonic focus.
Owen is training to be a dragon slayer, a crucial job in a world where dragons bring death and destruction. With help from their friends and family, Owen and his female bard Siobhan seek the source of a growing dragon threat. Siobhan and Owen’s strong bond is based on their friendship and common goal, but there’s no romance involved. – Sharon R.
Kaz, a member of the Dregs gang, has scored a big heist but he needs help. He enlists five others to help him break into the unbreakable Ice Court to steal some precious cargo. – Dawn A.
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Ever since she fell into a nearby pond, Triss has been horribly aware that something is wrong. She’s suddenly developed an insatiable appetite, her little sister seems afraid of her and inanimate objects like dolls not only speak–they scream. To discover what’s happened to her and her family, Triss must journey into strange and bizarre worlds within, beyond, and beneath her world. – Kelly D.
Gen is the best thief in the world and can do whatever he wants to do. At least that is what he claims before he is caught and imprisoned by the King of Sounis. The king’s main advisor soon hatches a plan to harness Gen’s skills in order to steal a holy relic and conquer Sounis’ enemies. An adventure full of unusual characters, storytelling, and mythology. – Miriam W.
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
In a different world, the library of Alexandria survived. The library governs the people, selecting knowledge to filter to the people. Jess’s father works as a book smuggler. He decides that Jess’s value lies in his future – at the library as a spy. He forces Jess to take the entrance exam. Jess passes the exam and heads off for basic training. – Jennifer R.
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac
Lozen grew up in a divided world—there were the Ones, whose genetic and technological augmentation set them apart, and the mere humans who served them. Then the Cloud came. Digital technology stopped working and much of the world is a wasteland, peppered with monsters—the Ones’ genetically engineered pets gone wild. Now, Lozen hunts down these creatures, serving the remaining Ones in exchange for her family’s safety. But Lozen is more than a monster exterminator—she’s destined to be a hero. – Kelly D.
Happy end of April, Hubbers! I can’t believe it’s already almost summer; time moves very quickly when you’re not noticing, I guess. And, with that little rumination on the passage of time, I give to you the third and final installment in our The Hub Loves the ’90s series – great posts from Jessica and Katie have been featured in previous weeks, so be sure to check those out if you missed them the first time around.
The thing is, the 1990s were and continue to be the best decade that’s ever existed, and I’m not just saying that because that was when I was a teenager! Like Katie said, I developed interests and favorites in the world of pop culture that still stay with me today. I was just mentoring a teen the other day that was looking at the latest Rolling Stone that features Kurt Cobain on the cover. She made a really quick comment to me about how great he is. And, readers, let me tell you – that just sparked such a wonderful feeling in my heart because I could see that things I cared about (Nirvana being the #1 thing I loved as a teen) are still resonating with teens today. As an adult, you want to think the art that shaped you will matter in the future, and a lot of 90s pop culture is still attracting teens, which is pretty great.
Well, enough with my sappy introspection! With the influx of 90s culture into the current day, and like Katie mentioned, the influx of 30-somethings into the field of YA literature, we’ve got a bit of a ’90s revival happening in recent teen fiction. Now, there’s no way I want to call fiction set in the ’90s historical fiction (how old does that make me?!), so how about recent past fiction, instead? Good. It’s settled. So, here’s a list of some recent past fiction set in the 1990s that I thought I’d feature for all you Hubbers – first up, Facebook in the 90s?!
One of my favorite types of books in the contemporary genre is the dual or multi-narrative. I’m sure I will revisit this topic again in future posts about contemporary YA fiction, but these were the first five titles that popped into my head when I started to make my list. I know I am missing a lot, so maybe this will just be part one?
Told from the point of view of two Will Graysons whose lives change drastically when they meet. Both Wills are trying to find their way, and share how their lives are affected by knowing one Tiny Cooper, who is not tiny in any sense of the word.
My sister and I were trying to plan our weekend. After a texting spree that reminded us why we had an unlimited messaging plan, we still had some details to figure out. I suppose we could have just called each other, but personally I love to text and chat, or both simultaneously. I started thinking why text, tweets and IMs aren’t a more common form of communication in books when they are main way I converse in real life. People do so much online these days that we have whole websites like Autocowrecks that revel in the hilarity of auto-correct trying to tell us what we mean. With whole Twitter and tumblr hashtags devoted to texting mistakes, it seems that online conversations are the preferred way to talk. I was inspired by two previous Hub posts about novels that use letters and emails to tell a story. Check out Epistolary Novels, Old and New by Hannah Gomez and Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: A Love Letter to the Un-Epistolary Novel by Wendy Daughdrill– and here’s my list of YA books that tell a story with the help of texts, IMs, and other forms of digital communication.
April is National Humor Month, and as The Hub’s resident amateur stand-up comedian, I’ve been asked — okay, fine, I’ve taken it upon myself — to cover humorous YA novels. The category itself is fairly broad. After all, don’t most books have a little humor to lighten the mood? When can a book be classified under the “Humor” genre and when is it just a novel that happens to be funny, among other things? Are there differences in how authors approach “boy” humor versus “girl” humor? (If you thought I wouldn’t sneak gender politics into this post you were sadly mistaken.) Are there “classics” in YA humor? How far is too far when it comes to comic novels dealing with the tricky stuff? I can’t answer all these questions, but I can think about my own favorite YA novels that are pretty seriously funny, and tell you why I think so.
Everybody has different notions of what makes a book funny. You might be someone who says, “I’m just more interested in science fiction than in comic novels,” or “You know, I really prefer romance to humor.” That’s why I’ve got ten really great, really diverse books that defy genre to happily recommend to any reader, no matter what your comedy interests are.
First of all, I’d be remiss not to mention Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green. At this point, everyone on Planet Earth has read, or at least heard of, this book. I’m not even going to summarize it for you because you’ve probably read several summaries already. But Tiny Cooper happens to be one of my favorite characters in YA fiction, and easily one of the funniest, and his musical about his own life is enough to give this book a go for National Humor Month.
One of my unspoken rules of YA is that if an author I love loves another author, I have to read that second author’s work too. It’s the transitive property of YA lit, or something. That’s why I’m happy to report that Meg Cabot’s review of Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway did not let me down. Audrey, Wait! tells the story of a girlfriend who dumps her lead-singer boyfriend, Evan, only to become famous by association after Evan writes a song about it. Audrey, Wait! has a subtle feminist message about how being someone’s “muse” isn’t always a good thing, but more than that, it’s seriously funny and features a likable protagonist.
The first day of spring isn’t too long ago and with the arrival of spring comes love. Ah, love, ain’t it grand? There’s nothing better than a satisfying romance where the couple gets together and your heart grows three sizes in one day. But sometimes, don’t you want a little bit more with your love? Something a little bit … weirder than your run-of-the-mill Nicholas Sparks sob-fest? I do. I like my genres to be mixed and mashed together like a perfect equation: sure solving for x is the goal, but you can still appreciate the distinct parts along the way. So if you’re looking for some great YA romances that mix up their genres, here are some picks for you. Check out my equations:
Love + a go-getter reporter in the Nancy Drew vein + demons + a witchy best friend = Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore
I am of the opinion that Clement-Moore is one of the best writers of the paranormal genre out there today. All of her books are smart, funny, and have just the right amount of spooky. In this first book of her Maggie Quinn: Girl v. Evil series, our sarcastic heroine Maggie begins to suspect that something is not all together normal. The popular clique starts getting picked off one by one, and the evil, sulfurous smell pervading the school confirms Maggie’s fears: a demonic presence. With the help of a kind and believably interested college student, Justin, Maggie uses her paranormal girl sleuth skills on the case. Two equally hilarious and gently romantic sequels follow.
Love + shadow people + star-crossed lovers + Chicago + alternative histories = The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkowski
I love alternate history stories, but it’s not often that the alternate universe is placed parallel to our known, “normal” one. This is the case in The Shadow Society when Darcy Jones, an orphan bounced around to various foster families, finds out she’s really a Shade. Shades are citizens of an alternate universe that was shattered into being during the events of the Great Chicago Fire. Conn, a mysterious and handsome stranger, saves her when she is most vulnerable, but can Darcy trust him? He knows the truth about her and promptly arrests her for being a terrorist. Here is a story of star-crossed lovers that is a lot more winning and believable than others.
Ever feel like you don’t have enough time in the day? Or maybe like time is just slipping away from you? Well, maybe it is! After all, less than two weeks ago we had Leap Day–that magical “extra” day that comes but once every four years. And today people are going on and on about lost hours of sleep due to “springing ahead” for Daylight Saving Time. It’s kind of crazy when you think about how daylight really only has to due with the Earth’s rotation, but man and civilization can mess with time as much as they want. Of course, we can never really mess with it in the most fantastically imaginative way so many authors have dreamed of: time travel. I love the concept of time travel and have pretty much never met a time travel book I haven’t liked. So, in the spirit of this Leap Year and Daylight Savings, I present to you a few titles that explore time.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: This winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal is a wonderfully constructed novel. Sal and Miranda were friends; now they’re not. Then Miranda finds little notes that seem to come out of nowhere, but whoever is writing them knows and awful lot about her and things that haven’t yet happened. It all comes together in a beautiful story that relies on time to bring together all the pieces.
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler: Two teens turn on a computer and find their Facebook profiles. The thing is, it’s 1996, Facebook hasn’t been invented yet, and they are seeing their future selves. They also discover that little changes in their actions today affect the status updates and profiles of their adult selves. Asher (2008 Best Books for Young Adults honoree) and Mackler (a 2004 Printz honoree) tell the story in alternating chapters.
If you are my age, you remember being a teen long before Facebook and cell phones, and a computer was a thing you used at school. The Future of Us takes us back in time to when dial-up Internet was the new hot thing and you paged someone on a beeper to get their attention.
The book is written by two YALSA-recognized authors, 2004 Printz Honoree Carolyn Mackler and 2008 Best Books for Young Adults-honored Jay Asher. They alternate writing in the voices of Emma and Josh. The two teens are best friends and next door neighbors, but their relationship has cooled off after Josh makes an unwelcome move. They are now awkward at best, but Josh decides to share his AOL startup disk with Emma anyway. After the painfully long dial-up connection finally kicks in, Emma finds a curious thing in her favorites called Facebook. She discovers herself 20 years later and she is freaked out by what she sees. Her future self is sharing way too much personal information about her bad marriage and miserable life. Why would a person do that? Emma is shocked! Josh is also on Facebook. However, his life turns out very differently than he could have imagined: he is married to the hottest, most popular girl in school, who is way out of his league.