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.
What’s it about: Brooklyn teen Sierra Santiago’s summer vacation is interrupted by weeping street murals, family secrets, and a kind of magic that links the world of the living with that of the dead.
What made me pick it up: I remember seeing good buzz about this when it came out a couple of years ago, so I checked it out when I saw that the audiobook was available.
My favorite things: Once I started this book I didn’t want to stop. The story is engaging and moves quickly with a sense of urgency that will make it hard to put down after “one more chapter.” Woven throughout the story are critiques of a sort of neocolonialist anthropology, gentrification, and erasure of cultural traditions – all of which come together to create a complex portrait of a changing Brooklyn.
Who it’s great for: Teens interested in urban fantasy.
What it’s about: A teen sees his older brother shot to death on the basketball court and how he deals with his grief.
What made me pick it up: I’ve read two of Reynolds’ other books and this one was getting really good reviews.
My favorite parts: This novel is in verse, which always amazes me that as much story can be told in few words and some authors need many. The best part for me was the beautiful language the author uses — describing the sidewalk as “the pavement galaxy of bubble gum stars” and so many other great turns of phrase. I also liked the dilemma he gave his character. On the one hand he’d like to avenge his brother’s death, but on the other that would dramatically change his life. I can’t say too much about the premise without giving away the wonderful structure Reynolds used to tell his story, but it invokes the best of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol but with a delectably ambiguous ending.
Who it’s great for: Teens, especially urban ones who may have to deal with gangs, violence, and less than stable living conditions in their daily lives. Anyone who has wondered if revenge was worth it.
What it’s about: A fictionalized account of a 1979 murder that took place in the author’s hometown while he was in high school. Told through 6 different narrators – including the killer.
What made me pick it up: I was intrigued by the plot, but when I realized it was based on a real murder from my hometown’s past I knew I had to read it.
My favorite things: Wolf changed the name of the town and the people involved, but he kept the names of streets, events, and local businesses. For a native of the town where the murder occurred, reading this was a bizarre experience but still engaging. I love the variety of voices, used to paint a more complete picture of the events that took place, with each of the narrators trying to discover ways they could have prevented the senseless murder.
Who it’s great for: Older teens and adults who crave mysteries or suspense. The short chapters and rotating narration make this a great choice for reluctant readers.
What it’s about: A teen girl watches her oldest friend as he is murdered by the police. She contemplates Tupac’s concept of THUG LIFE (The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everyone) while struggling to stand up for her community.
What made me pick it up: This has been getting crazy good press so I scooped it up as soon as I could.
My favorite things: Starr’s voice is genuine and her heartbreak palpable. Thomas captures the essence and urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement without exploiting or forgetting the real lives that have been lost. The current movement is tied to the past through more than Tupac’s words; reminiscent of the response by Bloods and Crips to the Rodney King verdict, local opposing gangs band together to protect their communities and join in protest against the violence they face at the hands of the state. The overall effect is both breathtaking and devastating.
Who it’s great for: Teens and adults looking to understand and process the violence faced by communities of color in our society.
What it’s about: A collection of short horror stories told in a graphic novel format.
What made me pick it up: This is one of my favorite graphic novels from the past few years, so I picked up back up to help me out of a reading slump.
My favorite things: The stories are short and simple but absolutely haunting. Each time I read them I end up with goosebumps and a distinct feeling of unease. The art is beautiful and bleak, using color only sparingly and to great effect. Reading this is like experiencing some of your creepiest nightmares on the page.
Who it’s great for: Adults and teens that enjoy graphic novels and want creepy horror stories. Fans of Audrey Niffineggar’s illustrated works.
What it’s about: A young boy trains to become protector of his best friend, the prince, but on the verge of doing so he breaks an oath he did not know about and his world is shattered until he goes on a journey to uncover the truth.
What made me pick it up: I was ordering books for the library years and years ago and saw this and planned to purchase it and read it. Purchase, yes. Read? Not for ages because I changed jobs and my new library did not have a copy. We do now. And the sequel which I am very excited to begin.
My favorite things: This is some top notch YA fantasy. Once you get through the initial world building and character introductions the tale sprints along to the conclusion. Equal parts action and mystery, you will be fully immersed following Raim as he tries to clear his name and discovers the truth about his world and powers in the meantime.
Who it’s great for: Teens and adults looking for some great fantasy writing.
What it’s about: Kat attempts to leave the family business of stealing art but she gets roped back in through an effort to save her father.
What made me pick it up: This was the first pick for a new book club we’re both in. We were looking for a quick, light, and engaging young adult read.
My favorite things: This was a really fun read. There are a few different threads to follow and relationships that become more complicated with each page. I love that the thieves all work off a shared knowledge of cons named for fairytales and bedtime stories. It’s a fast-paced and exciting read that never has a chance to get the slightest bit boring.
Who it’s great for: Good for teens and adults looking for something upbeat and engaging. Fans of Robin Benway’s Also Known As and Ally Carter’s other work. Readers interested in spying, thieving, or just carrying out some good old-fashioned cons.
Originally published in: 2016 (Japanese edition 2009)
What it’s about: A house full of geeky manga-illustrating women is shaken up by the threat to sell and raze their home and by a pair of dreamy brothers infiltrating their women-only world.
What made me pick it up: I’m not a big manga reader, but a colleague recommended it to me promising that it was a good choice for readers not used to manga.
My favorite things: This is a cute story with fun characters and nothing too far off the wall. I love the Higashimura’s ability to poke fun at herself and her world of manga creation through these characters.
Who it’s great for: Good for readers who are interested in manga but don’t know where to start.
What it’s about: Never Caught tells the story of Ona Judge’s time as a woman enslaved by George Washington, her escape from the President’s home, and the rest of her life as a fugitive.
What made me pick it up: I first read about Ona Judge in the YALSA Nonfiction Award FinalistIn the Shadow of Liberty by Kenneth Davis. When I saw an entire book dedicated to her I knew I needed to know more.
My favorite things: This is a compelling read that is never dry. Dunbar seamlessly weaves Judge’s own account with other recorded details from history to create a well contextualized and more comprehensive report. Dunbar repeatedly reminds her readers that no matter how “good” or “kind” slaveholders were or tried to be toward the people they enslaved, those that they considered property would choose freedom of any kind every time they could.
Who it’s great for: Teens and adults interested in learning more about the reality of slavery and the lives of the fugitives who escaped during the early days of the United States. Readers who struggle to engage with nonfiction and history will appreciate Dunbar’s style of narrative nonfiction.