#AA2019 Nominees Roundup, March 21 edition

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga, narrated by Soneela Nankani
Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
ISBN: 978-0062689221

For the past three years, sixteen-year-old Jordanian-American Tal has been writing to indie rock star Julian Oliver, convinced that he is her father.  Tal’s evidence: a take-me-back letter from Julian to Tal’s mom, Lena; the fact that Lena attended college in Julian’s small hometown and facial similarities between Julian and Tal.  

Suddenly, after no response to Tal’s notes, Julian is on her doorstep, inviting her on a road trip to meet her dying grandfather. Feeling a mixture of excitement and anger about Julian’s arrival, Tal nevertheless decides to join him, especially as her best friend agrees to come and Tal’s mom is at that moment in France and unable to stop her.  During this trip, Tal learns about her mom as a young immigrant, Julian, and also herself, beginning to confront her difficulty with personal intimacy.

Narrator Soneela Nankani creates a distinct voice for each of the main characters of this novel, skillfully demonstrating both personality and emotional state.  Her ability to speak convincingly in both Middle Eastern and middle American accents makes a real atmospheric contribution to this story. Thematically, this novel is important for teens whose parents are not together, as well as for those facing changes in close friendships and struggling to open themselves up to additional personal connections.

Fans of Warga’s Here We Are Now may also enjoy Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally, in which seventeen-year-old Phoebe tries to reconnect with her musician father.  Solo by Kwame Alexander is another good literary match, with its focus on seventeen-year-old Blade’s challenging relationship with his rock star dad.

–Anna Dalin

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein
Listening Library
Publication Date: December 15, 2017
ISBN: 978-0525529101

The First Order has destroyed Rose Tico’s home world, causing her and her sister Paige to join the Rebellion. Now, the First Order is planning to destroy another planetary system, unless the Rebellion can interfere and break up a First Order blockade. First Order destruction is personal to Rose, who does not want anyone else to lose their home world forever.

Rose Tico entered the Star Wars galaxy in the latest movie, The Last Jedi. Rose and Paige serve the Rebellion in the Cobalt Bomber Squadron prior to the start of The Last Jedi. Cobalt Squadron is Rose’s backstory, how she joined the Rebellion, what motivates her, and more. There are many links between Cobalt Squadron and The Last Jedi creating a deeper knowledge and experience of both.

Kelly Marie Tran both narrates Cobalt Squadron and plays Rose Tico in The Last Jedi. Her narration is engaging, and adds an extra tie to the movie. The audio on the whole is very well done creating an immersive Star Wars experience through a fast-paced, action plot, appropriate sound effects, and strong character building.  

Fans of the Star Wars franchise young and old will be sure to find this entry engaging. Cobalt Squadron fits nicely with the many recent teen-focused Star Wars novels such as Leia by Claudia Grey and Rebel Rising by Beth Revis. Fans of Starflight by Melissa Landers and other adventure-loving science fiction fans should be sure to enjoy this entry.

–Cyndi Hamann