A scholarly yet approachable examination of how we connect to and move with the tools that shape our world and what happens when those tools remove us from the world they're supposed to help us navigate.
This queer rom-com nails romance and humor just as well as its predecessor DELILAH GREEN. When designer Astrid and carpenter Jordan butt heads during the renovation of Jordan's family inn, the two find themselves unexpectedly drawn to each other. The characters are well developed in their own lives and struggles, and their romance feels so integral to their growth that you can't help but root for them to be together. It's especially commendable how tenderly Blake handles Astrid's coming out. Although central to the plot, her coming out is not the focus nor a source of angst. Instead, it's handled with care by the characters' friends and with caution and patience from the love interest. Excited to see what Blake has in store in the next installment of this series!
THE ONES WE BURN is gut-wrenching and heart-mending in equal measure. The protagonist, 17 year old Ranka, knows her magic will kill her someday and leans into her own monstrosity, desperate for acceptance and approval from her fellow witches. The details of this grim magic, the sinister rebellions, and a mysterious, gruesome plague carry a resounding dread throughout the book. But the dark elements of THE ONES WE BURN are matched by the joy peppered throughout. As Ranka grows closer to the other three characters of the core cast in quiet, humorous, and tender moments, she sees the cracks in what she wanted. Through friendship and a queer romance, Ranka starts to believe in something more for herself, the people she loves, and even the world. With well-woven emotional and political stakes, THE ONES WE BURN is ultimately a tale of hope and love. When an old world, an old self, and old wounds, are burnt away, and the smoke clears, we have only each other and the possibilities of what we can make together.
FRIZZY is an adorably illustrated, heart-healing graphic novel debut. Marlene is sick of going to the salon to “tame” her curly hair, so she takes matters into her own hands with less than favorable results. Claribel Ortega and Rose Bousamra address bullying, feminine beauty standards, and racism with shattering emotional honesty. As in their other novels, Ortega writes characters that feel real: people who are smart and creative and ambitious and scared all in one breath. Bousamra perfectly renders Marlene’s inner life with expressive character design, smartly connected panels of dialogue, and fun, flowing action sequences where Marlene imagines herself as a hero in her favorite show “Super Amigas.” FRIZZY’s greatest triumph is its depiction of how we heal our emotional wounds: by confiding in family and friends, by giving kids role models in whom they can see themselves, and by having the hard conversations with our loved ones so we can grow together.
EDEN'S EVERDARK is a brilliant exploration of a young girl's grief, wrapped in a chilling tale reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's CORALINE. When Eden travels to her mother's home, an island off the coast of Georgia, she slips through a crack into the haunted world of the Everdark where a witch intends to keep Eden as a daughter. Both Strong's imagination and her research pay off immensely in the richly developed worlds of both Safina Island and the Everdark. Strong treats every character with sympathy; even the antagonists have reasons and tragedies that inform their actions. Eden especially moves through her coming of age with empathy, righteousness, and courage that pulls her through her palpable grief. EDEN'S EVERDARK is Southern Gothic whose rich history, imaginative adventure, and creepy imagery, and big heart, will appeal to a variety of readers. It's a dark and haunting adventure story, infused with a light and hope that shines bright.
An engrossing YA fantasy that weaves elements of mythology and dystopia into an adventure of ten half-gods who must compete for honor and their lives. Thomas lays out his world well and develops relationships and emotions that feel genuine. The scrappy protagonist, his quiet but good-natured love interest, and the banter between the cast of realistic teens bring humor and relief from the book's action sequences. The ending brings surprise and energy, a ray of hope, and anticipation for the sequel.
COVEN is a fun, paranormal mystery with a feel like the villian-of-week supernatural feminist tv shows of the 1990s. When elemental witch Emsy is forced to move to New York so her family can rejoin their coven, she finds herself tangled up in a series of mysterious murders and magic more powerful than she'd ever encountered. A credit to both creators' experience in comics, COVEN boasts a tight plot and strong-willed characters, both fallible and vulnerable. Dugan's dialogue, always a highlight in her prose novels, really shines here with wit and snark that feel authentic to actual teenagers. Seaton's illustrations bring a dynamic energy to both the character relationships and to the magical action sequences. I'd love for these creators to develop the world more in future installments!
THE TRYOUT is a bright and fun romp with lessons and truths that’ll resonate for any reader who’s felt like a bit of a weirdo. Infusing her middle school experiences and family history, Soontornvat brings her fantastic world building to paint a portrait of her mostly white small hometown. Cacao’s illustrations bring emotive depth to the narrative. THE TRYOUT portrays the sometimes cruel desperation to fit in and the bitter taste of failure with painful poignancy, but balances it with hilariously reactive expressions and panel-defying fantasy sequences. It’s the perfect next read for fans of Raina Telgemeier’s memoirs and the Babysitters’ Club graphic novels.
Reading DIRTBAG, MASSACHUSETTS feels like when you meet with an old friend and ask "What the heck have you been up to?" and they reply with stories that are unexpected, funny, and tender. Fitzgerald's reflections on his odd jobs, his childhood, and his personal growth entertain and give sense of particular moment, a place, a type of person. The collection reminds me that we carry the places, people, and moments that have shaped us, but we're not trapped in them, not made to become them. Eventually, our wounds become nothing more than scars and the stories we make from them.
SOFI AND THE BONE SONG is a delicate, folklorish tale with a coming-of-age that echoes far past its fantasy setting. The fantasy elements are subtle, but the world's forbidden magic offers a strong central conflict and layers a gentle mystery throughout. The book's core and greatest strength is its heart. It's a delight to watch the protagonist who starts out self-righteous and self-loathing reckon with her shattered self image to become empathic to her friends, her, forgiving in her study of music, and most importantly, kind to herself. Highly stressed, overachieving teens who put immense pressure on how well they perform will find comfort in Sofi's journey and her lesson that love will always come easier than perfection.
This book is a chess match. Its pieces-- a collapsing century-long reign, magic stolen from nature, the vicious politics of a Mediterranean-like world, and the twins who must weigh their familial obligations against their own desires--captivate the reader until its checkmate of a climax stuns them and leaves them hungry for a sequel.
Vuong weaves reflections on mortality, the nature of language, and human connection with a persistent invocation of absence. Some quiet, others searing, these poems, like disinfecting a cut, heal even as they sting.
When three young witches don't get sorted into a coven, they must prove themselves worthy of their magic by defeating a mysterious and terrifying monster--or else get turned into toads! A perfectly concocted potion of magic, adventure, and humor for a new generation of witches and wizards.
A fun queer rom-com with wit and charm where love is as much about friends and family as it is romance. When photographer Delilah reluctantly returns to her hometown for her stepsister's wedding, she plans to annoy her stepsister by flirting with the maid of honor Claire, an overly responsible single mom. The resulting fling may be exactly what Claire and Delilah both need.
In addition to perfectly hitting the beats of YA fantasy, this fresh fairytale retelling shows how patriarchy and heteronormativity twist stories for dastardly, political ends. In Sophia's country, women are forced into modesty, beauty, and servitude, like the tale of Cinderella from 200 years ago. Sophia, brave and determined, knows that something is amiss with Cinderella's story as the palace presents it and runs away from the ball, not to find a prince, but to stop a king. With plenty of bravery and a tinge of magic, Cinderella is Dead is equal parts critique and love letter to fairytales and fantasy. Best of all, it puts young, queer, Black women at the forefront of revolution.
Rory Power's sophomore novel moves her nature horror from the woods of New England to the plains of the Midwest, proving that she can make anywhere unsettling. Her raw, gut-punching writing brings heartbreak and unease from the very beginning of Margot's desperate search for family. Vivid, gripping, and just totally bonkers, BURN OUR BODIES DOWN is both a cautionary tale about seeing only what you want to see and a story of hope for those from manipulative families. In short, Rory Power does it again.
This pulse-pounding science fiction thriller touches on survival, feminism, friendship, and environmentalism at a girls' boarding school in a dangerous, mutating forest. Rory Power's writing gives a distinct voice to every one of these multi-faceted, engaging characters. Her skillful and shifting prose fills every breath with real emotion.
In VERONA COMICS, Jennifer Dugan takes so many tropes of a teen rom-com and transforms them into something refreshing, original, and at moments, heartbreaking. Hyper-driven classical musician Jubilee and anxiety-ridden Ridley meet at a comic book convention where Ridley's dad is desperate for his corporation to buy out Jubilee's stepmom's indie comic book shop. Using that Romeo and Juliet framework, Dugan brings attention to issues of mental health, not-quite-healthy romantic relationships, and complicated family dynamics. This book is sweet and speaks to teen experiences that often slip by unnoticed. Plus, how could any indie bookseller not appreciate how much love Dugan gives indie comic shops in it?
How can I tell everyone in this dimension (and the next one over) to read Chosen Ones? Sloane the protagonist lovable in her unlikeability, a sharp and twisting plot, and keen worldbuilding are enough reason to read this book. The writing, especially the different articles, textbooks, and other forms of media Roth seamlessly emulates and infuses into the narrative, stitches all those elements together with charm.
Ridiculously funny and rife with the familiar embarrassment of one's teenage years, Lou Parker's quest for the perfect summer (despite having to wear a hot dog costume at her job) is pure delight.
Hawaiin myths and stunning storytelling give shape to this remarkable family saga. The beautiful, gut-wrenching prose draws you in and holds you tight. A captivating debut!
Adorable! Delightful! A hug of a book!
Kiersten White gives a great take on Arthurian legends for lovers of the source material or for any fantasy lover seeking intricate characters, a twisting plot, and a richly layered world and magic system.
From errands to apocalypse, the ever astute and witty Zadie Smith captures a modern experience and creates a bustling city within this short story collection. Her play with language and form induces an ineffable, almost manic frenzy. I understand yet puzzle over every sentence in the most delightful way.
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When a young, desperate artist accidentally captures a boy falling to his death in a photograph, she must decide if the acclaim she knows the picture will bring her justifies the torment its showing will bring the boy's parents. A rich artist's coming-of-age that wrangles with the morality of ambition and the desire to be loved, set in a now gone New York of the 1990s.
Delightfully illustrated and printed on high quality paper, NOODLEPANT combines the silliness of a noodle-loving elephant with the important lesson of standing up for equality. Charming, sweet, and great for kids AND adults!