All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Through the Ages.

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Originally published in: 2018

What’s it about: A collection of short stories featuring queer and trans teens by queer and trans writers. The stories span the gamut from fantasy to historical fiction, folklore to realistic stories.

What made me pick it up: I put this on hold as soon as I saw that Malinda Lo contributed a story to this collection.

My favorite things: I love that this collection celebrates a variety of LGBTQ experiences and that in these stories a queer identity doesn’t necessarily mean pain or struggle in the way that common in many books. The stories are short but the emotions are intense! There is enough wildly varying content that there is something for everyone in this collection.

Who it’s great for:  Teens and adults looking for engaging stories with well-developed characters.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Dear World by Bana Alabad

dear world

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A child’s account of surviving and escaping the ongoing war in Syria.

What made me pick it up: Bana Alabed’s pleas for peace and assistance reached the world through Twitter, but I knew her book would tell a more complete story.

My favorite things: Bana’s clear voice is heartwrenching, a reminder to care for refugees. Her mother, Fatemah, includes essays written for Bana, explaining her point of view and her experiences. Their words in concert with each other serve to humanize the numbers and news reports and give a personal story to the images of Syrian children that have circulated widely.

Who it’s great for:  Adults and teens trying to understand the war in Syria. Readers who to understand what the day to day struggle is like in the Syrian Civil War, and those wanting to build empathy for refugees.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Speak: the graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll

speak

Originally published in: 2018

What’s it about: A graphic novel adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson’s 1999 young adult novel of surviving and struggling with the trauma of sexual assault.

What made me pick it up: I almost didn’t pick this up because the original novel was so devastating, but when I realized Emily Carroll (creator of Through the Woods) was the illustrator it I knew I couldn’t pass on it.

My favorite things: I appreciate that the story has been updated to be current and relatable to today’s readers. The graphic novel format centers and celebrates the importance of art in Melinda’s survival and recovery. For me, it was a relief that even though it is difficult to get through this was less devastating than the original novel.

Who it’s great for:  Adults and teens grappling with understanding the continuing emotional and psychological toll sexual assault can take on survivors.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina

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Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A graphic novel about a black teenage boy who is shot and killed by a police officer who mistook the hanger in his hand for a gun. The story follows his friends and family in the aftermath of his death and his own journey as those who have previously lost their lives to police violence lead him through the process of understanding and accepting his death.

What made me pick it up: A colleague put this on hold for me because she thought I was probably going to read it anyway.

My favorite things: Alfonso Jones is shot on the first page, but his story doesn’t end there. I love that we still get insight into his life and that the authors take the time to remember the details of the lives lost to police violence like Amadou Diallo and Anthony Baez. There’s an interesting juxtaposition I haven’t seen in fiction before between police treatment of black and brown men who haven’t committed violent crimes and that of typically white school shooters.

Who it’s great for:  A good read for teens and adults looking to understand the motive for the Movement for Black Lives. Good for fans of The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, and March.

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison

little leaders

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A collection of 40 brief biographies of Black women who have made significant contributions throughout US history, geared toward children and complete with charming illustrations of each woman.

What made me pick it up: I couldn’t not pick it up.

My favorite things: I love the variety of women profiled! There are women from early US history, those alive and achieving today, and those from all the time in-between. Harrison includes women who were pioneers in science, education, law, activism, athletics, and the arts among others. Each biography is long enough to learn about each woman’s life and work, but still short enough to fit on one page so you can easily read a few at a time. I learned a lot!

Who it’s great for:  Readers looking for inspiring stories of Black women’s achievements. Young readers of all identities and backgrounds looking for strong role models. Fans of Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

convenient marriage

Originally published in: 1934

What’s it about: Horatia offers to take the place of her reluctant sister as a wife to the Earl of Rule, who accepts with little convincing. Each agreeing not to interfere with the other, theirs truly is a marriage of convenience – he marries into the family he desired while she marries into wealth and access to all the best parties.

What made me pick it up: I set a few reading resolutions this year. One was to read in a few genres I don’t tend to prefer, including romance. A colleague suggested Georgette Heyer because she thought I’d like her spunky heroines.

My favorite things: Spunky indeed! I loved Horatia’s character. She is fearless, outgoing, and very clever – though not quite as clever as she thinks. Her charming stubbornness is softened by her willingness to admit and learn from her mistakes. She is well aware of and completely unbothered by the fact that she doesn’t meet anybody’s beauty standards – cursed by straight eyebrows.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of historical romances with more focus on a strong female lead than on the romance itself.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

dont call us dead

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A collection of poetry that mourns the black men and boys whose lives are cut short by gun and police violence, while simultaneously exploring his identity as a black, gay, HIV + man.

What made me pick it up: My first reaction to poetry is “ugh, I hate poetry!” So now I’m trying to find poets that I actually want to read.

My favorite things: Some of these poems are really breathtaking. At one point he equates his lifelong fear of death by gun violence to his more recent fear of death by an internal violence – his HIV.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of autobiographical or political poetry. Roxane Gay gave this collection 5 stars on Goodreads, so read this if you trust her opinion.

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

future home

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: In the near future when climate change has made winter a memory and evolution seems to be reversing, pregnant Cedar Songmaker connects with her biological family seeking answers about her origin. Her life and autonomy are put at risk in a society increasingly obsessed with protecting the human race by controlling reproduction.

What made me pick it up: I’ve never read Louise Erdrich before even though she’s been on my TBR list for years, so I decided to start with her newest release.

My favorite things: I didn’t really know anything about this book going in, knowing only that Erdrich is known to write mostly literary fiction featuring native characters. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I’d picked up her foray into dystopian and somewhat speculative fiction – one of my favorite areas to read. She does an incredible job of exploring themes of spirituality, identity, family, and resilience in the context of societal collapse.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of speculative and dystopian fiction. A particularly good fit for those who love Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Maddaddam trilogy and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust

today is the last day

Originally published in: 2013- English translation, the original German version was published in 2009.

What’s it about: A graphic memoir tracing one woman’s adventures traveling Italy illegally in the summer of 1984 with a friend as a 17-year-old Austrian punk with no money, no papers, and no plan.

What made me pick it up: This was new to our library and, as always, I couldn’t turn down a graphic memoir.

My favorite things: The author mixes in a few excerpts from her journals and letters that she wrote during the summer she was traveling, which makes her story feel more authentic. I appreciated how frank and honest she was about all of her experiences – no matter how painful or how many laws she happened to be breaking at the time.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of gritty travel memoirs; graphic memoirs.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green

lighter than my shadow

Originally published in: 2013

What’s it about: A personal memoir of surviving and recovering from an eating disorder and abuse.

What made me pick it up: I love graphic memoirs and find they are a great medium for exploring personal traumas

My favorite things: Green is achingly honest and relatable. Her art is both lovely and despondent. She sheds light on the reality that eating disorders are about more than food and that not all are textbook cases.

Who it’s great for:  Readers struggling to understand mental illness in someone they love.

Abby’s rating: five-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).