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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The Reader by Traci Chee (2016)

Beautiful language and a complex story woven of many threads mark this book designed for book lovers.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages:   442 (for ISBN 9780399176777)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, diverse

Tone/Style: lyrical

Pace: leisurely

Topics: books, pirates, past trauma, fugitives, magic

Themes: reading, friendship

Summary: A stunning debut set in a world where reading is unheard-of, perfect for fans of Inkheart and Shadow and Bone.

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

 

With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent. (Source)

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Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee (2017)

every falling starThis tense, heartbreaking true story about a boy’s struggle to survive on the streets of North Korea offers a rare glimpse into a country shrouded in mystery.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   336 (for ISBN 9781419721328)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, memoir, survival, diverse, dystopian, current events, Kylie’s favorites

Tone/Style: grim, determined

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: North Korea, gangs, orphans, poverty

Themes: loyalty, trust, injustice, family, friendship

Summary: Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.  (Source)

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