Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Nominations Round-Up, Winter

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Each quarter, the Selected Lists teams compile the titles that have been officially nominated to date. These books have been suggested by the team or through the title suggestion form, read by multiple members of the team, and received approval to be designated an official nomination. At the end of the year, the final list of nominations and each Selected List’s Top Ten will be chosen from these titles.

Ace of Spades. By Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends, $18.99 (9781250800817). 

Ambitious queen bee Chiamaka and loner scholarship kid Devon are the only Black students at school. That’s all they have in common until an online bully going by the name “Aces” starts spilling all their secrets. Chiamaka and Devon will have to join forces to bring Aces down—or lose everything.

Bad Witch Burning. By Jessica Lewis. Penguin Random House/Delacorte Press, $17.99 (9780593177389). 

Katrell’s ability to converse with the dead has been earning her enough money to help her mom pay bills and buy food. When she makes a startling discovery about her abilities around the same time she receives a dire warning to stop using her magic, Katrell is faced with an impossible decision.

Barry Squires, Full Tilt. By Heather Smith. 2020. Penguin Random House Canada/Penguin Teen, $17.99 (9780735267466). 

After watching a performance of Irish step dancers, Barry Squires decides he was meant for tap shoes. The trick will be convincing everyone around him to give him a chance.

Continue reading Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Nominations Round-Up, Winter

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of On the Hook by Francisco X. Stork

On the Hook by Francisco X. Stork
Scholastic Press
Publication Date: May 18, 2021
ISBN: 978-1338692150

The last few years haven’t been easy for Hector and his family. His father’s untimely death resulted in the loss of their home and subsequent move to the projects, and sent his brother Fili into a battle with depression and alcohol abuse. But things seem to be looking up–Hector’s become a star player on the school’s chess team and just recently won a prestigious essay contest. Even Fili seems to be doing better. Then, Joey, the younger brother of a local gang member, targets Hector, intimidating him and threatening to kill him. Terrified, but too afraid to tell anyone, Hector’s life begins spiraling downhill again, culminating in a tragic encounter that lands Hector in a reformatory school along with his nemesis, Joey. 

Continue reading Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of On the Hook by Francisco X. Stork

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2022) Featured Review of The Everything I Have Lost by Sylvia Zéleny

Book cover for The Everything I Have Lost by Sylvia Zeleny

The Everything I Have Lost by Sylvia Zéleny; narrated by Lori Felipe-Barkin
OrangeSky Audio
Release date: 05-11-21
ISBN: 9781667003146

Told through journal entries, Julia shares her life coming of age in Juarez, Mexico. Although a US citizen herself, her father is not, and so they live in the “murder capital of the world.” People die, women disappear, and drug runners rule the streets. Just on the other side of the river is El Paso, Texas, where her aunt and cousins live.  When her father becomes one of the casualties of this domestic war, will they escape to the US?

Continue reading Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2022) Featured Review of The Everything I Have Lost by Sylvia Zéleny

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, December 9 Edition

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

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The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson; Narrated by  Fajer Al-Kaisi, Feodor Chin, Gisela Chípe, Michael Crouch, Janina Edwards, James Fouhey, Renata Friedman, Catherine Ho, Nicole Lewis, Omar Leyva, Guy Lockard, Jesus E. Martinez, and Lisa Renee Pitts
Listening Library
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
ISBN: 978-0593121610

Through poetry, essays, lists, and letters, The Talk  gives 17 different conversations that delve into race, racism, identity, and self-esteem. Coming from a variety of experiences, which are often intergenerational and intersectional, this is a conversation starter for dissecting structural racism, moves to be more antiracist, and ways to be more inclusive with a focus on being affirming to listeners. 

Continue reading Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, December 9 Edition

#QP2018 Nominees Final Round Up

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
ISBN: 9780316384933

“The dead have stories to tell. They just need the living to listen.”

Rowan Chase and William Tillman have stories to tell. Rowan lives in present day Oklahoma. William Tillman was a seventeen year old living in 1920s. Their stories intertwine when skeleton bones are discovered in Rowan’s backyard. Rowan, along with her best friend James, investigates. Together they solve a mystery, a murder and learn more about the Tulsa race riots of 1921.

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One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Francisco X. Stork

I tried for a long time to juggle these two lives until the day when one of my project friends got killed in a stupid accident playing chicken with a train. I decided then I would try to live only one life – one that had some kind of purpose.

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

Researching and formulating questions for this series (especially well ahead of deadline) is one of my favorite parts of interviewing; it’s a process that invariably leaves me with a whole new appreciation for the author in question.  I love how one interview gives a glimpse, and a couple blog posts present an idea, but immersing yourself in as many of an authors’ words as you can find offers–well, it’s not a whole living person, obviously, but the shape of their collected words is, I think, maybe a shadow of the whole?  

I usually come away from the experience with a desire to be president of the fan club, or the conviction we could be best friends, or possibly wishing they would adopt me (sometimes all three.)  I always come away from the experience beyond thankful they agreed to participate in this series, and never has this been more true (including the fan club/best friends/adoption part) than the weeks I spent getting to know the word-shape of Francisco X. Stork.  I read the interviews and the reviews and the articles and learned a lot.  But I was sick earlier this year, really sick, and ended up indulging myself by reading his complete online journal, something I don’t normally have time to do.  It was kind of an extraordinary experience.  I was left not only wanting to immediately re-read all his books, but also wanting to read everything, to talk and listen and explore and to ask questions every day forever.  I wanted to be kinder and more creative and honest and to think carefully about all kinds of topics.  I was inspired.  What an extraordinary man.  And then I got to interview him and that felt pretty extraordinary too.  

Thank you, Mr. Stork.  (And if you would like to start a fan club or are looking for a new best friend or possibly want to adopt me, I’m totally in.) 

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

I was a mixture of outgoing and shy. I did things like act in plays and compete in speech tournaments but I also spent a lot of time alone reading and writing very corny poems and stories. I was a little insecure about my looks. I thought maybe my nose was too big.

Francisco Stork_credit Anna StorkWhat did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I always wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. But there was a period during my high school years when I really, really wanted to be a light house keeper. Doesn’t everyone at one point or another?

What were your high school years like?

I went to Jesuit High School in El Paso, Texas. The school had a very rigorous academic program and I struggled at first. But after a few months I discovered that I could actually get good grades if I studied and from then on high school was more enjoyable than not. I actually liked going home and spending my evenings doing homework, Jesuit High School was an all-boys school so the other thing that was fun was going to speech tournaments at high schools where there were actual girls! During those four years I met many teachers that were inspiring but I will always be grateful to Father John Hatcher (now the director of St. Francis Mission in the Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota) who saw that I was smarter than I let on and challenged me to just be myself. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Francisco X. Stork

Genre Guide: Westerns for Teens

By Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Collection, bought by the National Park Service in 1972 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Collection, bought by the National Park Service in 1972 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Traditional western novels denote a sense of the “Old West” as defined as a time period of American history from about the 17th century to the early 20th century where new settlers dealt with the harsh landscape, lawlessness, and/or the loner who exacts vengeance in the name of doing what is right. For westerns that are written for teens, however, they don’t always follow all the typical western tropes, but most commonly some of these themes are paired with the main character or characters coming of age through the story.

Authors to Know

There aren’t many authors who are well-known for writing westerns for teens, however here are some of the more well-known western authors:

  • Loius L’Amour
  • Zane Grey
  • Larry McMurtry
  • Cormac McCarthy


The setting of western novels usually deem that they be set in western America.  However, westerns can take place in other geographical settings where the landscape may mimic that of the “Old West.”  So, it can be a landscape where there is a search for a valuable mineral or material, or there are desolate conditions that are hard to survive, or it is a new land that settlers must figure out how to tame.  Whatever the case, a richly detailed landscape is one of the main characteristics of a western novel.  Also, a civilized society does not exist in most western novels, usually because the land has been uninhabited and it has yet to be developed. Traditionally, western novels are set in the time period of the “Old West,” but when it comes to western novels written for teens, they do not need to be set in a historically accurate time.  They can be set in the past, alternate past, present, and even future. Continue reading Genre Guide: Westerns for Teens