The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Elena lives a fairly normal teen life despite the notoriety and ridicule she endures due to her scientifically proven virgin birth. However, Elena believes the voices she hears from inanimate objects prove her destiny is something extraordinary. When she heals her longtime crush who is dying from a gunshot wound, Elena’s voices send her on a mission to possibly save the world–or end it.
With a wonderfully snarky and often hilarious teen voice, Elena navigates typical teen issues like relationships, self-doubt, and defining oneself while at the same time asking thought-provoking, but not preachy, philosophical questions about morality, personal and social responsibility, and free will. The well-rounded characters are diverse and authentic, even the flawed and unlikable crush, Freddie. With bisexual, asexual, and transgender representation, a very matter-of-fact depiction of sexuality makes it a layer of the plot, but not the driving force. Hutchinson treats some weighty issues in a lighthearted, yet sensitive way.
Hand this to teens who enjoy quirky, offbeat stories like Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith and The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. Teens looking for philosophical depth with a humorous twist should enjoy this.
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
Dutton Books for Young Readers / Penguin Books USA
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Artemisia Gentileschi at 17 is already a brilliant painter. She wants to become better and escape her father’s control. A man who she hopes will save her, instead is her worst nightmare. Artemisia must decide either to remain silent or to speak the truth, just as her heroines did.
This is a character-driven novel-in-verse that makes the reader feel the intense emotions Artemisia has throughout this tumultuous time of her life. The poetry in the book creates a picture in the reader’s mind of what looking at one of Artemisia’s pictures is like, even if one has never viewed one in real life. It confronts gender discrimination and the tribulations victims of sexual assault goes through to this day. The book also shows readers how a person can be strong and brave, even if they are not physically powerful.
This book would be particularly admired by readers of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle, and A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman.