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Hurt You

Hurt You
by Marie Myung-Ok Lee
Young Adult Fiction


Hurt You is narrated by Korean-American teenager Georgia Kim.  Her older brother Leo is neurodivergent, which sometimes causes seizures, socially inappropriate behavior, and violent meltdowns.  The family has moved from the city to suburban Sunnyvale for a school district that supposedly has a great program for special needs students.  The family now has their own house and lots of room, but Georgia aches for the true sense of community she felt in their urban apartment. Georgia is thr...

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Ab(Solutely) Normal

Ab(Solutely) Normal:  Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes
edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen
Young Adult Fiction

A vampire learns that he alone can save his town from destruction, but is not sure he can do so, because this act would involve being “seen,” and he suffers from social anxiety.  A girl pours her heart out in letters to the ex-boyfriend she still loves, explaining that their breakup stemmed from her struggle with PMDD.  A boy teased for his uncontrollable crying is befriended by a strong girl who is the victim of b...

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The Minus-One Club

The Minus-One Club by Kekla Magoon

At first, I doubted that I would review this book.  There are multiple issues going on (sometimes it seems like too much.)  It’s heavy.  It’s messy.  It’s unresolved.  However, it turns out that The Minus-One Club is not a book I could read and not say something about, because, in the right hands, it has the potential to be a life saver.

It was the recognition of Kekla Magoon as an award-winning YA author, the unique premise, and the retro-looking cover (including an image of the protagonist and random piec...

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The 9:09 Project

The 9:09 Project by Mark H. Parsons

I just finished a profoundly beautiful YA novel, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

17-year-old Jamison has become somewhat unmoored since the death of his mother.  Feeling isolated and lost, he turns to the art she introduced him to – photography – and begins taking photos every day at the same corner at 9:09 p.m., the time of her death.  Although at first the purpose of the project is unclear, it develops a huge following online, inspires others to start similar projects, and becomes the way in which Jamison is able to ...

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I Kissed Shara Wheeler

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

Noticing that it had been on the New York Times Young Adult bestseller list for 15 weeks, I chose this novel to read and review in order to see what exactly gives it its staying power. This is Casey McQuiston’s first foray into Young Adult novels. You may recognize the name due to their smash adult novel Red, White & Royal Blue, which just wrapped up production on a film adaptation.

Chloe Green is openly bisexual and raised by two moms. The family has recently moved back to small town Alabama from California. Chloe is in her ...

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You've Reached Sam

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Having spent 15 weeks on the New York Times young adult bestseller list, You’ve Reached Sam starts out as a feel-good story about two teens, Sam and Julie, who are very much in love and have their future planned out together.  The fact that the story doesn’t end there is what sets this young adult novel apart from the average romance.

One day, on the way to pick up Julie, Sam dies in a tragic car accident.  Julie deals with her overwhelming grief b...

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Medusa by Jessie Burton with illustrations by Olivia Lomenech Gill

“If I told you that I’d killed a man with a glance, would you wait to hear the rest?”  That is the opening line of this amazing young adult novel, and if one does indeed stick around to hear the rest, an amazing journey ensues.  Someone you have thought of as monstrous transforms before your eyes into someone heartbreakingly human, with a past so painful and tragic that you want to weep for her.  That is the magic of this feminist retelling of the...

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Firekeeper's Daughter

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

If you haven’t read one of the best books of 2021 yet, what are you waiting for? Although Firekeeper’s Daughter was published as a young adult novel, it’s a rich story that adults can appreciate, too.

The author, Angeline Boulley, is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Her protagonist, Daunis Fontaine, is a recent high school graduate who has always felt like she’s lived between the worlds of her mother’s rich, white family and her late father’s Ojibwe relatives. Daunis had been looking forward ...

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Furious Thing

Furious Thing by Jenny Downham (Young Adult Novel)

15-year-old Lexi’s anger is out of control. She does not want to break or throw things, but she just cannot seem to get a grip on her emotions. She has no friends, her grades are bad, and she is always making her stepfather angry. If only Lexi could push down her anger, then perhaps her family (and everyone else) would be happy with her. Is she really the monster her younger sister claims she is, or is the monster outside of her? Someone is shattering her sense of self-worth, and just mayb...

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Truly Devious

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is one of the newest students at the remote mountaintop boarding school that was the scene of one of the most famous kidnapping and murder cases of the 20th Century. Ellingham Academy was founded by an eccentric millionaire as a sanctuary for gifted students – but the educational utopia almost didn’t survive its first term. Shortly after opening, two Ellingham family members disappeared and a student was killed. Though the school eventually reopened, the mysteries swirling around campus have kept amateur detectives...

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I Am Still Alive

I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

A great summer read for fans of survival fiction like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchett. 

Following a tragic auto accident in which she was severely injured and her mother was killed, Jess is sent to live with her father in Alaska - but he’s not really in Alaska.  He’s hiding out in a cabin deep in the Canadian forest in an area so remote it is only reachable by air. 

After just a few short weeks, another tragedy occurs and Jess is left alone in this strange wilderness still reeling from loss and injury.  She kn...

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The Center of the Universe

The Center of the Universe by Ria Voros

Grace is in High School and she really loves astrophysics. Her mother, GG, is a well-known local reporter who always looks “put together.” Grace doesn’t think the two of them have much in common. For one thing, her mother spends a lot of time at work. When she is at home, she is often on her cell phone and not really paying attention. Grace resents that complete strangers act as if they know GG, but they only know the side she shows the camera. One afternoon, GG disappears. At first, it seems she is working...

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Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon

First, you take Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Add in the flavor of Victoria and The Rogue by Meg Cabot with a heavy dose of Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. Sprinkle in a little of Will and Elizabeth from The Pirates of the Caribbean and voila! Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon is formed!

To survive her harsh childhood in London's underworld, Olivia is raised as Oliver and finds friendship in a group of street urchins, led by Jack, the Artful Dodger. Tragedy separates the childhood friends, but fate brings them back together as Olivia and Jack reunite in the realm of polite London soc...

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The Other Side of the Sky by Farah Ahmedi and Tamim Ansary

The Other Side of the Sky (originally published as The Story of My Life: An Afghan Girl on the Other Side of the Sky) is the true story of a young girl's life, starting in war torn Kabul and ending up as a refugee in the United States. Farah Ahmedi loses a leg stepping on a land mine and half of her family when a bomb hits her home. Ahmedi travels to Germany for rehabilitation and returns to Afghanistan seeing her childhood home through different eyes. When the opportunity comes to relocate to the United States as a refugee, she is excited to go. With the help of a few who reached...

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African American History Month Teen Reads

Roots by Alex Haley

When I was in 10th grade, we were asked to study the works of a great American author and defend its inclusion in the school’s curriculum. I studied Alex Haley and subsequently read Roots. 10 years later, I still advocate for its inclusion in every teen reader’s library of must-reads. Roots is a book that I have read only once and still remember vividly. To this day, passages of text and detailed descriptions have remained ever present in my mind. This absorbing, intense, emotional, moving, sometimes graphic and always memorable saga of Alex Haley&rsqu...

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