Category: OZ: Young Adult Fiction (Page 1 of 14)

Cozy Books for a Cold Winter

There are a lot of reasons for which I say that I’m blessed. But the most important reason is that when Jackson’s weather reached literal freezing temperatures a few weeks ago, I was in California visiting my family. Mid -70s, people. I know: you’re jealous. Anyway, even though Jackson weather has warmed up, it’s still pretty cold outside. So I’m sharing a few of my favorite cozy, wintertime, bundle-up-with-hot chocolate-and-a-quilt books!

olaf sun

potato peel societyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I’m not usually a fan of novels told through letters, but this book was surprisingly amazing. It’s the story of Juliet Ashton, a writer in search of her next topic, and her love affair with the island of Guernsey. Set in the years just after World War II, Juliet begins by corresponding with the island’s inhabitants and eventually comes to love them so much that she decides to visit. It’s one of those books that needs to be accompanied by a fireplace and a cup of tea–just make sure you can put the cup down while you laugh!

eleanor oliphantEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman

This is a more recent book, which came out in the middle of last year. Eleanor Oliphant lives a very structured, solitary life until she accidentally becomes friends with a coworker. As the book progresses, you realize Eleanor’s dry wit and attachment to routine stem from an inability to process tragedy. The sweet characters and gentle ways Honeyman deals with brokenness make this novel the perfect balance of cozy and serious.

hazel woodThe Hazel Wood
by Melissa Albert

This YA novel is coming out on January 30, but I got to read an advanced copy and loved it! A girl who cannot remember her past, a collection of twisted fairy tales authored by her grandmother, and an unpredictable adventure, this story goes a step beyond magical realism while staying grounded in a contemporary mindset. The old-world fairy tales and slightly dark storytelling style made me want to curl up in bed and just keep reading.

capture the castleI Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith

Written in the 1940s, this YA classic came recommended by a friend a few years ago, and I was instantly in love. Cassandra is a young girl whose family lives in relative poverty in a renovated castle. There’s her unproductive–novelist father, her flamboyant and nature-loving step-mother, her romantic sister, her logical brother, and the sentimental boy who has always lived with them. Add to the mix two handsome brothers–their new landlords–and you have a novel in which anything can happen. I reread this one over Christmas break and its delightful, old-fashioned nature was perfect for nights spent reading.

Best Books of 2017 for All Kids

At the end of every year, it is always wonderful to look back and see what great books were published and now on the shelves for children to enjoy reading.

Here are the Best Books of 2017 to you can give as a gift this holiday season. To see a more comprehensive list for each age group, click the links on the ages!

Best Books for Kids Ages 0 -3

Life CoverLife by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, $17.99 (signed copies available at Lemuria)

The vibrant, life-filled illustrations are accompanied by one line of text per page. The story begins with an illustration of a small plant growing in the desert, with the line, “Life begins small. Even for the elephants. Then it grows.” The following page shows a baby elephant reaching a trunk up to a larger elephant. “Life grows. Ask any animal on earth, what do you love about life?” A gorgeous book for a newborn or toddler.

Life Interior

 

My Very First Mother GooseMy Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells, $24.99 (copies signed by Rosemary Wells available at Lemuria)

Folklorist Iona Opie passed away this year. Her legacy lives on in the nursery rhymes that she collected and edited in this beautiful edition of Mother Goose that are perfect for baby’s first Christmas.

 

The Little Red Cat Who Ran AwayThe Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (The Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell, $17.99

I’ve been a fan of Patrick McDonnell’s illustrations for a long time, and this little red cat is one of my new favorites. As the little red cat runs away from home, he encounters adventures involving the alphabet, and this is the perfect book for a little one just learning his or her letters. The letter Z is accompanied by a little red cat, safe at home again, fast asleep.

Little Red Cat interior

 

12 Days of XMAS12 Days of Christmas by Greg Pizzoli, $16.99 (signed copies available at Lemuria Books)

We all know how the song goes: “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…A Patridge in a pear tree.” Followed by turtle doves, french hens, and five golden rings. Greg Pizzoli re-imagines this classic Christmas carol in his newest picture book for children, The Twelve Days of Christmas.” With each introduction of a new day of Christams, an elephant family receives the gift that corresponds to the day according to the carol. Have you ever really stopped to think about what would happen if you had a room filled with an assortment of birds? Namely, six geese a-laying and seven swans a-swimming? It would be chaos. Pizzoli takes the this carol and makes it literal, and that parents and young readers alike will giggle over the growing gifts the little elephant family does not know what to do with.

Best Books for Kids Ages 4 – 7

Princess Cora and the CrocodilePrincess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca, $16.99 (signed copies available at Lemuria)

Hands down this is one of my favorite books for kids this year. It’s about a princess who is tired of her routine, so she writes to her fairy godmother, asking for a pet. She imagines getting a golden retriever, but what she gets instead is a crocodile. When the crocodile pretends to be the princess for a day, you can imagine that things do not go smoothly. Hilarious, and told in short chapters, this is a wonderful book for the reader just beginning chapter books or to be read aloud at bed time.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile interior

This House OnceThis House Once by Deborah Freedman, $17.99 (signed copies available at Lemuria)

Curl up by the fire and read this picture book on a cold night. This is one of the most beautifully illustrated picture books of 2017, and a great book to add to any child’s collection.

 

The Wolf, the Duck, and the MouseThe Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, $17.99 (signed copies by both author and illustrator available at Lemuria)

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have a history of creating great books together, and this one might be their funniest yet. What happens when a mouse is swallowed by a big, bad wolf? He finds a duck who has set up camp inside the wolf’s stomach, and both duck and mouse feast and feast until the wolf has a bellyache. Both duck and mouse are living it up—until the wolf’s life is threatened by a hunter, and then they have to create a plan to save the day. Add this book to your shelf immediately.

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse interior

Best Books for Kids Ages 8 – 12

purloiningThe Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain, Philip Stead, and illustrated by Erin Stead, $24.99 (signed copies available at Lemuria)

Why is this my favorite fiction book this year? In publishing, it is not too rare for a well-known author’s work to be found and published posthumously. However, in the case of The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, Phil and Erin Stead managed to take sixteen pages of notes from a bedtime story that Mark Twain told his daughters, and turn it into a true literary masterpiece over a century later. Phil holds a conversation with the ghost of Mark Twain (which is hilarious) and Erin’s illustrations are airy and lovely, as always. They truly breathe life into the story. So what’s the right age for this book? I’d say somewhere from 6 to 96.

There are a handful of times where I walk out of the store, a book under my arm, and race home to read it. Not only did I do that, but I felt somehow as if I was reading a lost masterpiece of children’s literature. There’s only one time I’ve had that experience, and it was with The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine.

Purloining interior

Tumble & BlueTumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley, $17.99 (signed copies available at Lemuria)

Cassie Beasley is one of the best writers I know for children in the age range of 8 to 12. Her characters are funny, full of heart, and she really understands kids. Tumble and Blue is set in the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia, involves a golden alligator named Munch, a cursed boy named Blue born into a family with special gifts, and one spunky girl named Tumble who is out to save the day and reverse Blue’s unluckiness.

 

The VanderbeekersThe Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser, $16.99

If I had a favorite category of children’s books, it would be “big-family-where-the-siblings-must-band-together”. Think The Penderwicks, The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, The Moffats, and so on and so forth. Well, the Vanderbeekers officially get to join that list. It is almost Christmas, and the five Vanderbeeker children find out that their mean landlord is not going to renew their lease on the brownstone where they’ve lived their whole lives. It is up to them to change his mind, and perhaps, create little Christmas magic in the process.

 

The ExplorerThe Explorer by Katherine Rundell, $16.99 (signed copies available at Lemuria)

If you know me at all, you know that Kate Rundell is one of my absolute favorite writers right now for kids. Her new book, The Explorer, is about four children who are stranded in the Amazon after a fiery plane crash. Rundell visited Lemuria in October on a Friday. Her event was Friday evening, during most high-school football games. Two young boys, about age 10, showed up, and as they stood in the signing line, their father told the author, “I don’t know what you said at their school today, but they told me they had to come and get your book and have you sign it. These two football crazy boys are missing the big game right now for your book!” If that’s not a great endorsement for a book for kids in Mississippi, I don’t know what is!

Best Books for Young Adults

Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, $17.99 (signed copies available at Lemuria)

So if you have not heard about this book yet, it is time that you know about it! This book, inspired by the #blacklivesmatter movement, was awarded eight starred reviews (virtually unheard of), was long listed for the National Book Award, and won the Horn-Globe Book Award. It has been on the NYT Bestseller list for 39 weeks and counting. The upcoming movie wrapped filming this fall, and Angie Thomas herself is from Jackson, Mississippi. It has been a pleasure to see the amount of success Angie has experienced in the year 2017, and her star is only growing brighter. I encourage you to pick up this timely book about how one young girl navigates life between her mostly-white prep school and all-black neighborhood, all while dealing with the death of her friend at the hands of the police.

You can now pre-order a signed, first edition copy of her new novel, On the Come Up.

Librarian of AuschwitzThe Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe, translated by Lilit Thwaites, $19.99

Written by Spanish author Antonio Iturbe, this book is based off of his real interviews with Dita Kraus, who survived the Holocaust and who now lives in Israel. It tells her story, how she served as a librarian in a concentration camp, where she protected eight precious books for the children at Auschwitz. Inspiring and heart-breaking, this is one book you should not wait to read, now that it has been translated.

Last NamsaraThe Last Namsara by Kristen Cicarelli, $17.99

If you have a reader who loves fantasy stories, The Last Samsara is the next one to add to your to-read list. Filled with dragons who are slain for telling stories, this book has all the great elements of a high-fantasy, for fans of Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes or Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.

 

Johnny Be Good: 3 ‘John’ Books You Have Probably Heard About

“John” is one of the most common names in the English language.

Go, Johnny, Go

Go, Johnny, Go

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that some of book publishing’s hottest commodities share the same cognomen. Two of the books I’m about to talk about were written by a John and published in October, and the other one a John is responsible for and, while not quite new, would make a great gift this holiday season.

John Green, in addition to appearing to YouTube on the Vlogbrothers and Crash Course channels, is responsible for some of this generations most memorable YA titles, such as Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and the ubiquitous The Fault in Our Stars. The latter two were made into movies, so you’ve probably heard of his works even if his name isn’t familiar. After a five-year publishing hiatus, Green returns with his new novel, Turtles All the Way Down.

turtles all the way downTurtles All the Way Down tells the story of Aza Holmes as she hangs out with her over-the-top friend Daisy, is awkwardly romanced bt her childhood friend Davis Pickett, and searches for clues as to what happened to the missing, tuatara-obssessed, shady local billionaire Russell Pickett (who also happens to be Davis’s father). Meanwhile, Aza struggles to live her daily life while continuously caught in her “thought spirals,” which is her shorthand for explaining the will-destroying nightmare that living with obsessive-compulsive disorder can be.

While Turtles has a touch of romance (and only a fraction of the turtles promised by the titles), it is far less melodramatic than the teenage cancer star-crossed romance that The Fault in Our Stars was perceived by some to be. Aza and her illness are thoughtfully represented by Green, who suffers from OCD himself. Although your mileage may vary, I also highly enjoyed the madcap levity that best friend Daisy provides. It’s an evolution in his writing, but still definitely a John Green work that both long-time fans and hopefully some new readers will really appreciate.

rooster barSpeaking of madcap hi-jinks, John Grisham released his second mystery novel for adults this year (Camino Island, an intensely readable Fitzgerald manuscript heist, came out in June). This book, The Rooster Bar (which has even fewer roosters than the previous book had turtles) tells the story of three low-rent law students moving from scam-to-scam in the wake of a tragic suicide of a friend and in the shadow of impending student loan debt and professional misery. Friends Mark, Todd, and Zola stop studying for the bar exam, attempting to practice law out of an actual bar on the far side of Washington D.C. from the substandard, for-profit law school they just dropped out of so they can attempt to hustle legal fees in traffic court and hospital cafeterias. They also use information left behind from their lost friend to (hopefully) nail the guy at the top of the disgusting-but-not-actionable law school scheme.

The Rooster Bar has one of those grand conspiracies that has become a Grisham hallmark, but those who seek to uncover it are not out for justice; they’re out for themselves. They not only skirt the rule of law; they barely seem to understand its intricacies. But, hey, when you enroll at a law school called Foggy Bottom, you deserve what you get. Plenty of rich atmospherics highlight a book that combines the the scheming of The Brethren with the delicious sleaziness of Rogue Lawyer. Both the plot and the main characters end up in a place you’d least suspect.

As for the final book I’d like to talk about, I can only repeat a familiar refrain: let’s talk Jackson. Ken Murphy’s luscious photography dominates the book, but I can assure you that it would not exist without the will and insistence of Lemuria owner John Evans.

JXNLAMAR-2TI’ve lived in the Jackson area all my life, and I love this city. I’ve spent a lot of time in Belhaven, Fondren, Downtown, the Interstate corridor, and parts all over. I find something new to love all the time, or  I rediscover a spot once visited that tugs me back into the past. Although the Jackson this book captures is frozen in the specific period of 2013-14 (here’s a neat trick: compare the Lemuria cover to the view from a half-flight up Banner Hall’s staircase and see what noticeable feature is flipped), there’s a timeless quality to the sense of place the photographs capture. Murphy’s beautiful, mostly depopulated photos allow us to imagine ourselves among the beautiful scenes of the city we share, in both memory and possibility. If you haven’t already checked out one of Jackson books, a Lemuria exclusive, I highly encourage you to do so.

‘An Enchantment of Ravens’ enchants with its beauty and thrills

“No. You surpass us all.” Beside me she looked colorless and frail. “You are like a living rose among wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”

~Margaret Rogerson

Let me preface this blog by saying that I am a huge fan of fantasy books, but for some reason, I am not always a big fan of books about fair folk. For some reason, they don’t seem to be able to reinvent themselves as easily as other fantasy.enchantment of ravens But An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson took me completely by surprise. I was completely captivated by this book within the first chapter. It was probably one of the few books that I have read this fall that I have binged.

We begin this story with Isobel, an incredible painter who fashions portraits of the fair folks. She exchanges these portraits for magical favors. Fair folk are obsessed with “Craft”, anything that is made, for they can not make anything without it falling to dust. She is highly acclaimed among the fair folk but is still startled and nervous by the idea of receiving Rook, the Autumn Prince, for the first time. She sees sorrow into the eyes of Rook and paints it into his portrait despite the fact that the fair folk do not have human emotions. When Rook presents the portrait for the first time in the Autumn court, the display of a human emotion on his portrait is taken as a display of weakness and he takes it as the greatest betrayal. Rook demands that Isobel come with him and stand trial for her crimes.

This is the beginning of a magical and dangerous adventure through the land of the fair folk. Along this journey, alliances are broken and reformed, emotions flare between hate and love as  Rook and Isobel try to stay alive and find their way to the Green Well. If a human drinks from the Green Well, they will become a fair one and this may be the only way for Isobel to save herself from the others. But the catch is, if she chooses this path, then she will have to give up her Craft forever.

Margaret Rogerson’s writing is absolutely lovely and magical. Just like Isobel beautifully paints portraits, so does Margaret paint this rich world with words. The language paints a perfect picture of Isobel’s world and any reader will feel like they have just stepped up next to Isobel as she picks up her paints.

‘Neighborhood Girls’ both sweet and substantive

neighborhood girlsWhen people ask me about Neighborhood Girls by Jessie Ann Foley, I say that along with being funny and sweet, it had substance. Which, in my opinion, is always a good thing.

I tend to shy away from young adult novels. Although I love them as “literary junk food” (hey, we all gotta have it), books in this genre often seem to either only hint at emotional trauma and brokenness, or completely wallow in it. It is difficult to find a book in any genre that balances the two extremes, and for some reason YA is a particular challenge. But for me, Neighborhood Girls had it all. Lighthearted entertainment and teenage drama with unexpected insights of blatant truth, this novel kept me turning pages, laughing, and nearly crying the entire way through.

The story opens with a high school girl, Wendy, finding out the Catholic school she has attended all her life is about to close. Although this seems like momentum enough for the story-line of a novel, we soon find out that this impending change is only the backdrop to a more profound hurt. A few years earlier, Wendy’s policeman father was accused of torturing prisoners during interrogations. This accusation spiraled into a prison sentence, lawyer fees that forced the family to move, and complete alienation in their hometown of Chicago.  In order to deal with her fear and isolation, Wendy attempts to protect herself by becoming part of the most popular clique at school. But deep down she knows that these girls don’t care about her at all.

Through the book, Wendy tries to prepare herself for leaving Academy of the Sacred Heart. She realizes that life as she has always known it is about to end, and there is nothing she can do about it. In the process, she finds herself dealing with the trauma of all that has happened to her family. Although she cannot change the past, she realizes that she dealt with everything poorly. She hurt her family and the friends who tried to be there for her, and she resolves to attempt to make things better. The story is about much more than the brokenness, moving from one funny situation with charming characters to another. It is lighthearted entertainment in true YA fashion. But every so often, Wendy has a moment of truth that resonates beyond the page. She asks difficult questions. She allows herself to fully experience her emotions. And she makes thoughtful decisions, allowing us to follow her inner monologue.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I expected. But I was completely surprised by the level to which it resonated with me. I truly admire authors who are unafraid to place teenage fears and drama alongside pure human emotion and existential questions. Although this is the only one of her books I have read, Jessie Ann Foley has proven herself to be such an author with Neighborhood Girls. Can we move past family brokenness and find ourselves? Can we cope with trauma in positive ways? Can we find the beauty fractured, un-ordinary lives? This novel assures us that we can.

‘Genuine Fraud’ by E. Lockhart is a genuine gem

genuine fraudI was first turned on to E. Lockhart when my best friend and trusted book consultant recommended Lockhart’s We Were Liars. She couldn’t put it down. She loved it. She hated it. It wrecked her. All she could do after was take a nap. She couldn’t stop talking about it. This got me interested and when I saw she was coming out with a new book called Genuine Fraud and we had an advanced copy I knew I just had to read it.

Knowing what I did about We Were Liars, I was hesitant to believe or trust anything in her new novel Genuine Fraud. I knew nothing and no one  would be as simple as they seemed.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Lockhart introduces a new and captivating suspense and psychological horror novel with Genuine Fraud. The book starts off with chapter 18, in June 2017. Hint: you should pay attention to the dates. The story is mainly told in flashbacks over the course of the past few years. The story is about Imogen and Jule and their friendship and time together. It’s a story of those who lack morals. It is a story about those that lack ambition and others who will do whatever it takes to get what they want. It’s a story about liars and cheaters (in more ways than one). It’s about accidents and premeditation and telling more would give too much away.

If you have read We Were Liars, be warned the only similarity is that they both take you by surprise. Genuine Fraud is very straight forward and, in some ways, this makes the mystery even harder to figure out. It seems like things are one way, and because they are presented as fact, I was always questioning what was real and what wasn’t. It is a very fast and short read, perfect for a weekend binge read. It has just enough ambiguity in the plot to keep you flipping the pages until the very end.

The Adventures of an 18th Century Rogue Lord: ‘The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue’

Let me start out by saying that I love historical fiction set in Europe, like, a lot. I love historical fiction for all ages, as well. It is one of my favorite genres, so when I saw this book in a box full of Young Adult advance reader copies, I HAD to read it. And it did not disappoint. Finally, it is out in hardback and I can tell you all about the story that made me laugh, swoon, and cry, all in one beautifully bound novel.

gentlemans gt vice & virtueIn The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee’s fabulous adventure novel set in the eighteenth century, two best friends set out on their European tour. Monty, son of a lord, and his best friend Percy are accompanied by Monty’s sister Felicity, and, much to Monty’s dismay, a chaperone. Their chaperone is there to make sure Monty and Percy stay out of trouble, which could include drinking too much, gambling, and Monty sticking his foot in his mouth. Despite this, Monty, Percy, and Felicity continue to find themselves in a multitude of tight spots. To top it all off, Monty harbors a massive crush for Percy; feelings which he is unsure would be reciprocated by his (mostly) rule-following best friend.

Their journey begins in France with an ill-fated night at Versailles, where we witness the theft of an object very valuable to the Duke of Bourbon, Monty getting caught in the Duke’s quarters with a girl in a very compromising position, and their embarrassing departure. After that, the inexperienced trio, having lost their chaperone, travel alone through multiple countries on a secret mission (I don’t want to give away the biggest plot twist in the book, so that’s all I’ll say about that). As their Grand Tour derails in the most spectacular fashion, they encounter marauders, pirates, and gypsies, who will either help them or try to kill them. Hilarity ensues.

To tell you all the truth, I was so enraptured with this book, loved it so much, that I reread most of it before I started writing this blog. Mackenzi Lee is a master of historical fiction that includes a hybrid language: a mix of historically-accurate speech and speech that teens can relate to. Monty, Percy, and Felicity are a perfectly orchestrated team. Somehow, they find themselves getting out of every bad situation imaginable to a group of teens, with only a few scrapes and bruises.

If you’re like me and enjoy European tales of adventure, with a few mishaps along the way (and just a touch of romance), then you’re going to love this book.

Do You Promise Not to Tell?: ‘It’s Not Like It’s a Secret’ by Misa Sugiura

It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura is a young adult novel is about the daughter of Japanese immigrants who struggles to find her place in the world of teenagers. The novel begins when Sana, the daughter, learns that her family is moving to California from Wisconsin because her father has gotten his dream job at a start-up company in San Jose. She thinks that being uprooted from her life in Wisconsin is going to be just awful–but she soon finds that her life in Wisconsin is nothing compared to her life in California. She meets new people who she has more in common with, and slowly stops thinking about Wisconsin altogether.

I really like this book because author Misa Sugiura talks openly about race. Sana’s new school in California is entirely unlike her school in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, Sana was the only Asian in the school, and the other girls in her class never let her forget that fact. In California, she is immediately taken in by a group of Asian girls. These girls befriend her, love her, and she accepts their friendship because she relates to them as children of immigrants, even though their parents are all from different countries. As a school, many of the different ethnicities band together in separate groups, and this is something Sana rejects. She breaks away by hanging out with other groups; at different points of the school year, she finds herself having lunch with the “goth” white kids as well as with her girlfriend Jamie and Jamie’s friends, who are Hispanic. I got the feeling that before Sana came to the school, the kids all stuck to their respective ethnic groups; Sana’s appearance at the school seems to have changed that.

Sugiura is also incredibly informative about different cultures throughout this book. Sana’s parents are Japanese. Later in the novel we learn that they come from ancient, noble families in the countryside. Consistently throughout the book, Sana’s mother talks about Gaman. The concept of Gaman is about tradition and honor: getting married and having children; marrying someone in the same class as you; staying with the person you married, even if you’re unhappy. Sana’s parents are not overly affectionate with each other or with Sana, which Sana attributes to their culture. There are no family pictures or baby pictures of Sana around the house, but when Sana visits her girlfriend’s house, Jamie’s family is affectionate to each other, hugging and kissing each other hello and goodbye, and Jamie’s mother keeps photos of Jamie and her siblings on almost every surface. This is very different than what Sana is used to in her family’s culture.

My favorite thing about this novel is that Sugiura incorporates poetry into her novel, a fact that I greatly admire because I think it is important for young people to know about poetry and come to appreciate it. Sana not only enjoys keeping a poetry journal for one of her classes; she adores Emily Dickinson, and she and her girlfriend exchange poems as love notes to each other. Her attempt to win Jamie back after a breakup includes the use of poetry to convey her regret in losing Jamie, as well as her feelings for her. It is all very sweet and made me smile, and it works, of course. After the ending, Sugiura includes a short explanation as to why she used poetry in the book and the main reasons why she loves poetry. She also includes a list of all the poems she references in the novel so that you can read them yourself.

I’ll wrap up this blog by saying that I think this is a fantastic novel about family and about finding your place in the world. As a kid who moved around a lot in high school, I appreciate any novel whose main character is “the new kid,” and Sana navigates that role with grace. Sugiura’s use of poetry really rounded out the novel for me, and the diversity of the students is fantastic in a young adult novel such as this.

Polly’s April Triple YA Book Recommendation

If you’re like me, you’re trying to find the next thing to read a lot. I’m either too busy to read, binge reading while I do have time to read, or I’m in an awkward state of limbo between books. However, lately these three books have helped pull me out of my reading rut and gotten me back on track!

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

why we broke upThere aren’t many YA romance novels that compel me to go through them with a pen and a highlighter. Why We Broke Upis a rare exception. My copy of this book is so inked up and loved that I honestly feel like it’s become a treasure to me. It was written by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snickett!) and has won some very prestigious awards since its release. It’s framed as a letter written by Min to her ex-boyfriend Ed, systematically explaining each item in the box she is dropping off at his house and how it explains why they broke up. It features beautiful, vivid illustrations that tie the whole book together in a truly unique way. The gorgeous poetic style of this book made it feel more like a long song than a novel, and its portrayal of the heartbreak of young love will make you ugly-cry.

ugly cry

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

darkest cornersIt’s such a cliche to say that I couldn’t put this book down, but trust me when I say that I really do mean it when it comes to The Darkest Corners. It’s a dark, compelling mystery that follows the story of Tessa, a girl who, along with her childhood best friend Callie, was a major witness in the trial for the murder of Callie’s cousin. She returns to Fayette, Pennsylvania, for the first time in ten years to say goodbye to her dying father. However, when the Ohio River Monster strikes again, she is forced to face the question: What if her testimony put the wrong man behind bars? This book will seriously keep you guessing until the very end, and you’ll never believe the ending either.

gasp

Sometimes We Tell the Truth by Kim Zarins

sometimes we tell the truthWho knew that a retelling of The Canterbury Tales could feel so modern and authentic? Emulating Chaucer is a tall order by any standard, but Kim Zarins delivers. The story takes place on a bus headed to Washington D.C. filled with rambunctious teens stuck together on a six-hour bus ride. Their civics teacher and supervisor’s solution is to come up with a story-telling competition: best story gets the winner an A in the class. The stories range from hilarious to raunchy to deadly serious, but all of them teach us something valuable about the characters. The cast is diverse and compelling, as one would have to be to make a reader relate to a 24-person cast! The story is tried and true, but Kim Zarins puts an amazing, modern spin on things to make an unforgettable read.

chaucer

Author Q & A with Angie Thomas

Interview with Angie Thomas by Clara Martin. Special to Twenty by Jenny.

Angie ThomasIn August of 2015, I met Angie when she had just signed with her agent. She was excited, hopeful, but also nervous. She didn’t know how a book influenced by Black Lives Matter would work for a YA story. Over a year later, The Hate U Give is going to be a movie (starring Amandla Stenberg as Starr), and Angie (and T.H.U.G.) are getting ready to take the world by storm. Angie was kind enough to answer some questions before embarking on her tour! Here is a review of The Hate U Give.

Where are you from? Tell me about the journey that led you to where you are now.

hate u giveI was born, raised, and still reside in Jackson, Mississippi. I’ve told stories for as long as I can remember—I used to write Mickey Mouse fanfiction when I was six. But I never thought that I could be an author until I was in college, studying creative writing. I actually wrote the short story that became The Hate U Givewhile I was in my senior year. It took me a few years after college, though, to decide to make it a novel. Even after I wrote it, I was afraid that the topic may not be appropriate for YA. So when a literary agency held a question and answer session on Twitter, I asked if the topic was appropriate. An agent not only responded and said yes, he asked to see my manuscript. A few months later, I signed with him, and a few months after that we were in a 13-publishing house auction.

When did you know you needed to write this book?

Oscar Grant

Oscar Grant

Like I said, I first wrote it as a short story during my senior year of college, back in 2010/2011 after the shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California. Like my main character, Starr, I was living in two different worlds—my neighborhood that most people called “the hood” and my upper class, mostly-white college. By being in these two different worlds, I heard two very different takes on the case. At my school, he was seen as a thug who deserved what he got, but in my community he was one our own. My anger, fear, and frustration led me to write the story. I put it aside after graduation, but as more of these cases continued to happen, I found myself angry, afraid, and frustrated again. So I did the only thing I knew how to do–I wrote.

Black Lives Matter is…

An organization and a movement. I don’t think a lot of people realize there’s a difference between the two. (And for the record, I’m not affiliated with the organization). It’s also a statement. It is not saying that only black lives matter or that black lives matter more. All lives should matter, indeed, but we have a systemic problem in this country in which black lives don’t matter enough. Black lives matter, too.

Tell us a little bit about Starr. Why did you use her voice to tell the story? She starts out so unsure of herself, and it was amazing watching her grow and come into her own.

I know plenty of Starrs in my neighborhood; I was a bit of a Starr myself growing up. She’s in two different worlds where she has to be two different people, and she’s still trying to figure out which one is truly her. I think a lot of people can relate to that. Also, there is this stereotype that black women, especially young black women, are loud and harsh, and I wanted to crush that stereotype with this character.

There is a moment where Starr is in the car with Chris, and she says to him, “I don’t need you to agree…Just try to understand how I feel. Please?” And I felt like this was a powerful line that white people need to hear from black people.

That’s one of my favorite lines, actually. I think if more people understood why black people are so upset when another unarmed black person is killed, it would help bring about change. These cases always become political, but for so many of us they are personal. They need to become personal for all of us.

Another moment that I felt was really powerful is between Ms. Ofrah (Starr’s attorney) and Starr.
“Who said talking isn’t doing something? [Ms. Ofrah] says. “It’s more productive than silence. Remember what I told you about your voice?’
‘You said it’s my biggest weapon.’
‘And I mean that.’”

That’s another one of my favorites (Is it ok for an author to like something they wrote? Haha.) I hope that more people realize just how powerful their voices are, especially in our current political climate. Fighting is not always about violence; sometimes it’s about speaking out. Our voices can change things.

This story is fiction, and yet, it is a real look into casual racism, blatant racism, and both sides of the police equation (Starr’s uncle is also a policeman)—and this is just the tip of the iceberg. In many ways, Starr’s story is not fiction. It is the story of every black person who has been a witness to injustice, time and time again.

My ultimate hope is that it will help people realize that empathy is stronger than sympathy.

Angie Thomas will serve as a panelist on the “Rising Stars in Young Adult” discussion at the Mississippi Book Festival on Saturday, August 19 at 12 p.m. in the Galloway Sanctuary.

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