Celebrate and Understand with YA: Juneteenth

As summer begins for libraries everywhere, it marks a time to celebrate and understand Juneteenth. Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were first informed of their freedom as a result of Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Now a national day of observance , it is a perfect time to celebrate and understand Juneteenth with YA titles featuring black voices. Check out some of the Hub’s title selections that spotlight family, identity, and history which are cornerstones of Juneteenth celebrations as noted in this New York Times article.

Title Spotlight: Family

Brittney Morris’ The Cost of Knowing is a powerful story of two brothers, Alex and Isaiah, and their experiences as young Black men in America. The story highlights the power of the past, the ability of the future to overwhelm, the strength of familial bonds across generations, and the joy that is possible.

The saga of the Logan family is one that spans across generations of readers. The family’s story by Mildred D. Taylor began with Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry in 1976 and concluded with All the Days Past, All the Days to Come in 2021. Following Cassie Logan and her family, the saga is compelling and showcases how time, history, and the promise of the future can shape a family’s story that leaves an impact on the world.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite follows the story of sisters Happi and Genny as they grapple with the death of their sister Kezi under suspicious circumstances after attending a social justice rally. As Happi and Genny go on a road trip using the original Green Book as their guide they rediscover the importance of family and sisterhood with a story interwoven with flashbacks and alternating perspectives.

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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Featured Review of Love is a Revolution

Love is a Revolution Cover Art

Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson
Bloomsbury YA/Bloomsbury
Publication Date: February 2, 2021
ISBN: 9781547600601 

Nala has always avoided spending time with members of Inspire Harlem, a community service organization that her cousin-sister-friend Imani is involved in, finding them judgmental and not very fun. But when Imani asks Nala to go to one of their events on her birthday, Nala reluctantly agrees. There, she meets Tye, an incredibly cute and passionate activist. Nala finds herself telling a few little white lies to try and impress him, and it works. But as their relationship gains steam, Nala starts to wish that Tye knew and liked the real her. 

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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, September 8 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
ISBN: 978-1368053297

Marva rescues Duke and his little sister when his car won’t start. After this “meet cute” introduction, Marva and Duke spend an eventful day racing around Los Angeles to get Duke to the right polling place before it’s too late. Told in chapters alternating between the two main characters, the day begins with a debate of their different perspectives on citizenship and activism. As they get to know each other, they open up about more personal topics, like their plans and ambitions, families, friendships, and romantic relationships – both past and maybe-soon-to-be-past.

The action kicks off right away and keeps going as the clock ticks down to eight p.m., when the polls close. Current political issues are naturally part of a novel set on Election Day; rather than distracting from the story, these issues touch the characters’ lives in a way that raises the stakes and moves the plot forward.

This is a good choice for teens who like “rom coms” and stories like The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon and Just One Day by Gayle Forman.

–Barb Dinan

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Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2021) Nominees Round Up, July 10 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

The Voting Booth
by Brandy Colbert

Publication Date: July 7, 2020
ISBN: 978-1368053297

As eighteen-year-old Marva exits the polling place where she just cast her first-ever ballot, she notices another Black teen having some kind of problem at the entrance. Because she is passionate about voting and civic involvement, she goes over to see what the issue is. Apparently, Duke–who is also trying to vote for the first time–isn’t listed on the registration roll, possibly because he lived at a different address when he first registered. Rationalizing that getting the vote out is more important than her first-period class, Marva volunteers to drive Duke to the correct location. Neither realizes that helping Duke get his vote in will turn into a day-long process that will include surprising insights, subtle (and not so subtle) racism, an adorable Internet cat, and even a little romance.

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Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2020) Nominees Round Up, September 20 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
Sourcebooks Fire / Sourcebooks
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
ISBN: 978-1492658276

Ariel’s whole life has revolved around creating the perfect high school resume, but when he fails a calculus quiz, everything seems to unravel at once. Reluctantly, he asks handsome Amir to tutor him. As a romance begins, everything Ariel has built starts to crumble, and he isn’t sure if what makes him happy is worth holding onto.

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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, September 3 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Hachette Book Group
Publication Date: August 20, 2019
ISBN: 978-0316448567

Chicago teenager Birdie Randolph studies hard and follows her parents’ rules, at least until she meets Booker. Knowing her parents would not approve of his previous run-in with law enforcement, Birdie is soon sneaking out of the house and lying to her parents in order to see him. With a secret boyfriend, and the arrival of a mysterious aunt bearing devastating family secrets, Birdie’s summer promises to be revolutionary.


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Foodie Companions for With the Fire On High


2019 Printz Winner for The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo’s much anticipated sophomore novel With the Fire On High, is a book about embracing your passions, and charting your future. Emoni Santiago, an Afro-Boricua high school senior has had a gift for cooking since she was young. She and her toddler daughter live with her supportive grandmother, but Emoni needs to decide where she wants to go to school and what she wants to do after graduation. When her school offers a new class, “Culinary Arts: Spain Immersion,” Emoni has a chance to immerse herself in cooking in a way that she can start to see what is possible with her gift.

Foodie readers will swoon over Acevedo’s writing on food and cooking, and it will leave them hungering for more.  Here are a few delicious titles about food and cooking to pair With the Fire On High:

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Riverdale Reads

Oh Riverdale – I have a special place in my heart for you, but I think your teenaged residents could use some time away from town quarantines and drug induced hallucinations and really horrible parenting. Luckily, YALSA’s 2019 award winners and nominees have books to help your beleaguered high school students cope with all the drama. (Warning: Season 3 Spoilers)

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#BFYA2019 Nominees Round Up, September 28 Edition

Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner
Macmillan / Feiwel Friends
Publication Date: June 25, 2018
ISBN: 978-1250146021 

After starting out as a class assignment, but turning into an unsent e-mail journal, Brynn Harper begins emailing Rachel Maddow as she works through her feelings while dealing with the death of her brother and a heated school election.

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No Cheap Thrills Here: Complex, Character-Driven Thrillers

image from AshtonPal’s flickr

As many of my posts here at The Hub illustrate, I am a longtime fan of genre fiction.  My teenage reading habits primarily focused on several kinds of genre fiction including historical fiction, fantasy, and mysteries & thrillers.  I have a particular fondness for that final category as it is also one of my father’s favorite genres and we continue to trade off book recommendations to this day.  Accordingly, I’m always on the look out for new titles to read and to recommend to my equally suspense-addicted students.

As I expressed in my post about the particular appeal of Veronica Mars last spring, I especially enjoy genre fiction that takes advantage of its particular structure and characteristics to tackle larger topics and issues and tell complex stories in a fresh way. So I’ve been thrilled to see an especially rich crop of recent young adult novels that capitalize on specific qualities of the thriller subgenre to tell stories about the complicated intersections between gender, class, race, sexual orientation, mental health,  sexuality, violence, innocence, guilt, and justice.  These novels take advantage of careful pacing to build suspense and hook readers from their opening lines.  Each features narrators hiding secrets from other characters, from the reader, and from themselves.  These novels will not only keep you on the edge of your seat; they will also leave your mind spinning and buzzing for days afterwards.

FarFromYouFar From You – Tess Sharpe

Sophie is a survivor.  She survived a nasty car accident when she was fourteen and the brutal prescription drug addiction that followed.  Then when Sophie and her best friend Mina were attacked by a masked man in the woods, Sophie survived–and Mina didn’t.  To make everything worse, everyone believes that it’s Sophie’s fault that Mina is dead; the police decided that the attack was a drug deal gone wrong and accordingly all fingers pointed towards Sophie.  So even though she’d been clean for months before the murder, Sophie was shipped off to rehab and told be glad it wasn’t juvie.  But now Sophie’s back and she determined to find out the truth behind Mina’s murder.

complicitComplicit – Stephanie Kuehn

It’s been two years since Jamie saw his magnetic and frightening sister Cate and that’s precisely the way he’d like the situation to remain.  But then his parents tell him that Cate has been released from jail where she’s been serving time for her role in a local barn fire that killed several horses and left another girl severely burned.  Now it seems that Cate wants to see him and Jamie is beyond freaked out.  Even after years of therapy, Jamie hasn’t been able to shake his strange bouts of amnesia and the occasional & unpredictable loss of sensation in his hands and the specter of Cate’s return only exacerbates his symptoms.  Determined to gain some control, Jamie begins to dig deep into his past and his memories with possibly devastating consequences.

PointePointe – Brandy Colbert

Theo is finally starting to get her life in order again.  Her ballet instructor has singled her out as one of her top students and told her to seriously consider auditioning for specialized summer programs. It’s looking like her dreams of becoming one of the few African American professional ballet dancers might be in reach.    She’s eating again, she’s got some great friends, and she might be on the verge of something special with an almost appropriate guy.  Then Donovan Pratt returns.  Before he disappeared a few years ago, Donovan was Theo’s best friend.  And now Theo has all sorts of long buried memories bubbling up–including memories of her first boyfriend, a much older guy who disappeared around the same time as Donovan.

walls around usThe Walls Around Us – Nova Ren Suma

Amber and Violet live in separate universes. As a longtime inmate at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center, Amber understands its rules and the subtle social dynamics.  She treasures the brief moments of freedom in their strictly controlled lives–like the night when all the doors opened.  Meanwhile, Violet thrives on the very different but equally rigid routine of intense ballet training.  She’s counting the days until she can be free of the ugly events of a few years ago and make her escape to Juilliard.  But while their lives seem worlds apart, Amber and Violet’s stories are inexorably intertwined by twisty web of secrets, broken friendships, murder, guilt, and innocence–all centered on Ori, Violet’s best friend and Amber’s cellmate at Aurora Hills.  As she has with her earlier novels, Nova Ren Suma infuses this fascinating narrative with carefully orchestrated elements of magical realism.

Happily, this trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.  Lauren Oliver’s newest novel, Vanishing Girlsexplores a complicated relationship between estranged sisters through the lens of a page-turning mystery.  Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton (May 2015) uses the high stakes competition and personal drama of an intense New York City ballet school as the setting for an adrenaline-fueled exploration of three different girls’ quests for dancing stardom. In June, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller and Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn both burst onto the scene and promise to bring mind-bending thrills and thought-provoking chills along with them.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella and The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson