A hyper-nerd is trapped in a small Texas town with his mildly popular web comic as his only escape. Adrian Piper is a talented artist, sci-fi geek, and gay teen, who wants nothing more than to coast under the proverbial high school radar until he can finally leave his conventional hometown for more liberal locals. After a violent hate crime rocks his school, Adrian must decide if he is a bystander, content with blending into the background or a hero who knows where to draw the line. A powerful debut novel, Draw the Line by Laurent Linn is a solid YA contemporary novel. Illustrated by the author, the images propel text making it a fun, quick read. Recommended for those longing for a fun yet compelling story with just a hint of romance. Grades 9-12.
Wren Clemmens has found herself on a path of self-destruction without quite understanding why – she only knows there’s a deep underlying unhappiness that colors her days and actions. All of a sudden, she’s dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and shipped off to a desert survival camp for troubled teens. Angry and bitter, Wren resists help for as long as she can go without fire for cooking and warmth. Van Draanen builds a tale of self-discovery that is as dry and gritty as the desert itself. Wren sobers up both physically and emotionally and learns that she can shape herself into a person she can live with. This is part family drama, part survival tale, and part celebration of the desert and its denizens. It’s sad and uplifting, and impossible to put down.
Two teens, one scholarship – it happens all the time. There is only one space open at Green Pastures Academy of Art Fashion Design Department, and Charlie Dean was born for it. She has dedicated her life to fashion. She designs it and wears it and blogs it. She thinks about it all the time. John Thomas-Smith, on the other hand, is a talented metal sculptor, but the only scholarship available is for Fashion Design. He throws his hat in anyway. In alternating chapters, Charlie and John prepare their portfolios for the fashion show that will determine who gets the coveted award. With a lot of humor and surprising twists, Juby’s characters discover that passion isn’t measurable and we all have more in common than we would expect. A compulsive, entertaining and thought-provoking tale for teen readers everywhere.
Emmett is a protagonist that readers will root for as he’s shoved into an interstellar conflict that could turn him into a monster, but he instead constantly chooses to find the good in himself. NYXIA is a fresh sci-fi where every time you think the stakes can’t get higher–they do. The book’s cast of characters is large but delightfully diverse, and each character is well-defined and stands on their own.
Want by Cindy Pon (New YA)
Want is a face paced, near-future thriller with an engaging cast and high stakes. Pon’s look at a future where the air over Taipei is toxic, and the economic divide between those who can afford the technology to live in bubbles of clean air and those who cannot, is a disconcertingly viable look at a potential future. As protagonist Jason and his crew plan a heist to destroy one of the clean bubble factories, the story moves so quickly and dramatically that reaching the end seems as if you’ve only just begun reading. An excellent cyberpunk book with just enough trappings of science fiction to get hardcore sci fi fans interested.
Saints and Misfits is a wonderfully crafted novel with a lot of heart. Fifteen-year-old Janna is a relatable protagonist who navigates the world while dealing with religion, romance and the struggles of a teen girl. Her story will resonate with readers across a scope of experiences. Ali’s prose is vibrant and Saints and Misfits deserves to become a staple of YA contemporary literature. Content warning: sexual assault.
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson (New YA)
An Enchantment of Ravens is a fantasy book to remind fantasy readers why they love the genre. Beautiful prose, charming characters, and absolutely impeccable worldbuilding makes this a book that is impossible to put down.
Fairies are unable to partake in the act of creation, and Isobel is a portrait artist, painting pictures for her fairy clients. When the Autumn Prince, Rook, arrives one day for a portrait, Isobel finds herself charmed by the fey boy, until she paints a mortal emotion into his portrait. Upset with the flaw in the painting, Rook spirits her away into the forest to face trial for the misstep. During their trek through the forest they encounter the Wild Hunt and a creeping poison that’s slowly killing the forest. As they start to fall for each other, they risk breaking the fey’s single most deadly law: no fairy may fall in love with a human.
This haunting debut novel by Tiffany D. Jackson tells the story of an alleged murderer, Mary B. Addison. Convicted of killing a white baby at just nine-years-old, Mary served six years in “baby” jail. Now a teen, she finds herself pregnant and living in a group home. Determined to protect her unborn baby, Mary is finally ready to tell the truth: she did not commit murder. The novel’s complex characters, disturbingly realistic portrayal of the juvenile justice system and exposition of race in America will leave a lasting impression.