Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017)

long wayAn unforgettable novel in verse about one boy’s role in a cycle of violence.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages:   320 (for ISBN 9781481438254)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, verse, diverse, own voices, African-American, reluctant readers, award winners

Tone/Style: spare, hard-hitting

Pace: fast

Topics: inner city life, gangs, ghosts

Themes: revenge, grief, cycle of violence, decisions, family

Summary: An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.
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Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (2018)

aru shahA heartwarming fantasy steeped in Hindu mythology.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:  355 (for ISBN 9781368012355)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, diverse, own voices, Indian-American

Tone/Style: epic, humorous, sincere

Pace: moderate

Topics: Hindu gods, quests, religion, mythology

Themes: responsiblity, destiny, heroism, friendship

Summary: Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur? Continue reading

The Art of Secrets by James Klise (2014)

art-ofIslamophobia leads to victim-blaming in a mystery set in a Chicago high school.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   272 (for ISBN 9781616201951)

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, diverse

Tone/Style: gritty

Pace: moderate

Topics: fires, art, fundraisers, crimes, Islam, islamophobia

Themes: trust, prejudice, greed

Summary: A fire destroys…A community unites…A treasure appears…A crime unfolds…

When Saba Khan’s family home burns in a mysterious fire (possibly a hate crime), her Chicago high school rallies around her. But then a piece of quirky art donated to a school fund-raising effort for the Khans is revealed to be worth a fortune, and Saba’s life turns upside down again. Continue reading

Miles Morales: Spider-man by Jason Reynolds (2017)

milesUltimate Author Jason Reynolds brings Ultimate Spider-man Miles Morales to novel form in a surprisingly complex superhero story.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   272 (for ISBN 9781484787489)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, superheroes, diverse (Black, Latinx)

Tone/Style: urban, cool (There’s got to be a better word than “cool” but I don’t know what it is. This book just has a lot of swagger)

Pace: moderate

Topics: superheroesboarding school, crime, urban life, mixed-race families

Themes: (with great power comes great) responsibility, protecting others, familydefying a destructive family legacy

Summary: Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man. Continue reading

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker (2017)

felix yzThis unusual story with an LGBTQA+ diverse cast is both humorous and thought-provoking.

Recommended grade level: 6-8

Pages: 283 (for ISBN 9780425288504)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, humor, LGBTQA+, diverse

Tone/Style: epistolary, conversational

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: aliens, accidents, impending surgery, crushes

Themes: death, family, being different 

Summary: Felix is thirteen. When he was three, because of a science experiment gone wrong, he was fused with a fourth-dimensional being named Zyx, who communicates by using Felix’s fingers to type. Counting down to a risky procedure to separate them again, Felix blogs about a boy at school he likes, a bully, his mom’s annoying boyfriend, the threeness of things, and more, and we meet an Estonian chess grandmaster, Felix’s piano genius sister, his gender-switching grandparent, the denizens of the House on Harmony Street, and many other quirky and fascinating folks. (Source) Continue reading

Well That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail (2017)

awkwardIt’s Cyrano de Bergerac with smartphones. Diverse and thoroughly modern.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:  320 (for ISBN 9780670013081)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, romance, diverse

Tone/Style: modern, youthful, sarcastic

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: cons, technology, crushes

Themes: friendship, dating relationships, growing up, change

Summary: Gracie has never felt like this before.  One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything—and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J. Continue reading

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002)

13376This chilling recent classic gives the contemplative reader a lot to think about.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:  380 (for ISBN 9780689852237)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, dystopian, award winner, diverse

Tone/Style: bleak, atmospheric

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: clones, drugs, undocumented immigrants

Themes: purpose in life, family, science, power, ethics

Summary: Between the U.S.A. and Aztlán (once called Mexico) lies a strip of land, known as Opium, the name of its chief product.  It is ruled by a 146-year-old drug lord known as El Patrón.  His fields are tilled by illegal immigrants, called “eejits,” who have computer chips implanted in their brains so that they can be kept in slavery.  Matt, a boy who is confined in a cottage on El Patrón estate, manages to break out, only to find himself treated like an animal.  Eventually he learns why.  The tattoo on his foot, “Property of Alacrán Estates,” means that he is a clone of El Patrón–and that he is being raised to provide spare body parts for his original.  With the aid of Tam Lin, his bodyguard, Matt escapes from Opium but that is not the end of his troubles.  He is imprisoned in a brutal labor camp for orphaned boys in Aztlán and leads a rebellion to rescue not only himself, but the other “Lost Boys.”(Source)

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