Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2023) Featured Review of All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Razorbill / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: March 2, 2022
ISBN: 9780593202340

Salahudin (Sal) and Noor are two Pakistani American teens trying to make the best of it before graduating and escaping Juniper, the California desert town where they have few prospects. Noor has had to apply for college in secret, since her abusive uncle expects her to stay and help run the liquor store as payment for him taking her in. Sal has recently lost his loving mother, Misbah, and he’s struggling to keep his family’s motel afloat while his alcoholic father descends into grief. Sal and Noor used to rely on each other, but since The Fight, things are awkward between them. Yet just as they start to reconnect and trust each other again, maybe even fall in love, Sal’s desperate attempts to make money to save his family’s motel endangers them both.

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Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2023) Featured Review of Kiss and Tell by Adib Khorram

Kiss and Tell by Adib Khorram
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication Date: March 22, 2022
ISBN: 9780593325261

Hunter is a member of the internationally beloved boy band Kiss and Tell, on their first North American tour. He’s also the only queer member of the band, and going through his first breakup. A messy, public breakup, after his ex posts their texts online. As if that’s not enough, he’s contending with The Label creating and controlling his image of the perfect queer teen role model, and a budding romance with another musician on the tour. Homophobia is present in the text, though never condoned.

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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2023) Featured Review of The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Imprint: Delacorte Press
Release date: May 3, 2022
ISBN: 9780593431115

Popular, wealthy Alice disappeared last summer for five days after her boyfriend Steve dumped her and started dating her ex-best friend Brooke. Quiet, smart Iris envy’s Alice’s ability to disappear and escape her problems and wishes she could run away from her troubled past too. When Alice returns to school, Iris takes a job tutoring her. Even though the two girls don’t get along, they quickly bond when Brooke is found dead after getting in a fight with Steve at a party. Now Alice and Iris are determined to find out what really happened to Brooke that night. Using Alice’s obsession with Agatha Christie’s as their guide they begin to investigate the town, their classmates and the cops. But soon the girls find themselves in danger when they uncover corruption and dark secrets in every corner of their town.

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Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2023) Featured Review of The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow
Narrated by Mehr Dudeja, Sophie Amoss, Holly Linneman
Listening Library
Publication Date: May 3, 2022
ISBN: 9780593585023

A year ago, Alice’s boyfriend, Steve, left her for her best friend, Brooke. Now, Brooke is missing, and Steve is in jail. Alice teams up with her tutor, Iris, to prove Steve’s innocence, but the closer they get to solving the crime, the closer they get to danger.

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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2023) Featured Review of You’d Be Home Now by Kathleen Glasgow

You’d Be Home Now
by Kathleen Glasgow
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Imprint: Delacorte Press
Release date: September 28, 2021
ISBN: 9780525708049

Emory is lucky. She survived the car crash that killed the super popular Candy MontClair and provided the impetus for Emory’s older brother, Joey, to be shipped off to a rehab program in Colorado. Now left with physical and emotional scars from the trauma, Emory is trying to recover even as her mother places more responsibility on her to regulate the newly returned Joey’s behavior. Feeling unseen leaves Emory vulnerable to manipulation by her crush while weighing her down by the fear that her failures could be the cause of Joey’s relapse.

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Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2020) Nominees Round Up, August 28 Edition

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

How to Make Friends With The Dark by Kathleen Glasgow; Narrated by Jorjeana Marie
Delacorte Press / Listening Library
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
ISBN: 978-0735209169 

It’s always just been Tiger and her single mom. But Tiger wants a bit more freedom and gets into a rare fight with her mother over a dress for a school dance, she speaks to her mother with anger like never before. Then she goes out with a boy she likes without permission. It’s right after kissing that boy for the first time that Tiger learns her mother has died of a brain aneurysm. How do you move on without the only parent you’ve ever known? How do you mourn when the last thing you said to your mother was you wanted her to leave you alone?

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Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2020) Nominees Round Up, May 17 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.

An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley
Page Street Kids / Macmillan
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
ISBN: 978-1624147135 

Mirabelle is a talented pawn in her mother’s quest for power. Josse is the bastard son of King Louis XIV, and is not predisposed to kindness towards the murderer of his father, despite his complicated relationship with both his father and his legitimate siblings. Mirabelle and Josse become unlikely allies as the Shadow Society, lead by Mirabelle’s mother, begins to terrorize the French people.

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Mutism in YA books

I’ve noticed an increase recently in the number of YA books being published featuring characters who are selectively mute (at least four published this year). They can speak, but choose not to – as opposed to characters that are involuntarily mute who cannot speak because of injury, illness or magic. I can’t exactly explain this trend except to say that maybe current events have made authors focus more on mental health issues. Many of the characters in these books who are selectively mute have experienced traumatic events and have reacted by engaging in self-harm or risky behaviors, or been bullied or bullied others. This has contributed to their loss of their voices – they’ve withdrawn into themselves and don’t want to anyone to pay any attention to them. It’s at this most vulnerable time in their lives that teens are finally becoming independent and learning to think for themselves. It’s vital that they be allowed to find their voices and express themselves in healthy ways because it will shape who they become.

Characters that are unable to speak but are able to communicate in other ways, such as through telepathy, are pretty common in science fiction and fantasy books. Most of the recent books I’m mentioning here are realistic fiction. There’s also a trend away from the secondary characters being the mute ones; it’s becoming more common for the main characters to be mute. Even if they have been victimized and become selectively mute, they have found other ways to express themselves – especially through art.

The withdrawn character who rarely speaks isn’t a new phenomenon in YA literature. Speak (1999), by speakLaurie Halse Anderson, (2000 Michael L. Printz Honor Winner; 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Winner) is a classic example, and a book that’s on many high school required reading lists and has inspired other books. In Speak, Melinda enters her freshman year of high school friendless and treated as an outcast because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. She becomes increasingly isolated and selectively mute. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at the party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends the same school as she does and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.

Another book that made a big impact on me when I read it was Hush: an Irish Princess’ Tale by Donna IMG_3089Jo Napoli (2008) (2009 Best Fiction for Young Adults). In Napoli’s story, Melkorka is a princess, the first daughter of a magnificent kingdom in medieval Ireland — but all of this is lost the day she is kidnapped and taken aboard a marauding slave ship. Thrown into a world that she has never known, alongside people that her former country’s laws regarded as less than human, Melkorka is forced to learn quickly how to survive. Taking a vow of silence, however, she finds herself an object of fascination to her captors and masters, and soon realizes that any power, no matter how little, can make a difference.

Some of the recently published books featuring selectively mute characters include:IMG_3081

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout (2016). Mallory is a foster kid who, during her traumatic childhood,  protected herself by remaining mute. She was rescued from abusive foster parents when she was 13 and, since then, has been living with a loving foster family being homeschooled. Now, 17, she’s attending public high school for the first time, and she must gain the strength and courage to learn to speak up for herself.

Tommy Wallach’s Thanks for the Trouble (2016) (current Best Fiction for Young Adults  nominee). IMG_3093Hispanic Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years, after witnessing his father’s tragic death in a car accident. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets silver-haired Zelda Toth, who claims to be 246-years-old, but looks like a teenager, he discovers there just might be a few things left worth living for.

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