Though I am grateful for many things this Thanksgiving weekend, one item that tops my list is Sharon G. Flake’s new collection of short stories and poems featuring teenage boys and their angst. She is one of the hippest authors for teens around, and a new title from her is ALWAYS cause for celebration. This book is a companion piece to one of her earlier works, Who Am I Without Him? Short stories about girls and the boys in their lives (a title I have successfully shopped to so many teens I’ve lost count), and provides the adolescent 411 from the dudes’ POV. Navigating issues from teen marriage and suicide, to neighborhood politics and hot moms who attract unwanted attention, these guys struggle to make sense of the world around them while trying to solve that most maddening of mysteries—what makes girls tick? Flake also dishes up some hot poetry in this collection, including this excerpt from the title poem, “You Don’t Even Know Me”: You tell me to quit fronting,/ You ask who I think I am,/Pretending/That I’m better than you know I really am./…You know/I’ve been wondering lately,/Trying to figure out just how it could be/That we call each other brother,/And you still don’t know a thing about me/ There’s some surprises here, too. I like all the stories, but my favorite just might be “Fakin’ It,” about a last-chance boy who’s been kicked out of every one of his relatives’ homes and is now about to be kicked out of his aunt’s house, a six million dollar lottery winner. Despite her new money and resources, she still has old-school rules and he still can’t seem to follow them no matter how many chances she gives him. Unusual and unsettling because we like to think money solves everything, I just can’t get that story out of my head. So if you want to be moved to tears, laugh out loud, or be lit up with surprise, then this is YOUR book.
On a spring day in 1955, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was dragged from the bus by two adult police officers, called “Thing” and “Whore,” and put in a jail cell. She was scared out of her mind, but she was tired of being told she was less than just because of the color of her skin and the texture of her hair. From her activist-minded teachers, she knew it was her constitutional right to sit where she wanted on the bus, and the entire Montgomery police force couldn’t change that. So she dared to challenge the city’s segregated bus laws that demanded an entire row of African Americans must get up if even just one White person wanted to sit down. This happened nine months before Rosa Parks made her famous protest, and I KNOW you’ve heard of her. So why hasn’t history also made much of Claudette? The answer may surprise you…Author Philip Hoose takes you right to the tumultuous center of the Civil Rights Movement with this true story of a girl who fought back even when no one would fight for her. The most powerful words in the book come from Colvin herself, who shares the pain and fear of her frightening experience and its aftermath firsthand. “The lock fell into place with a heavy sound. It was the worst sound I ever heard. It sounded final. It said I was trapped…I didn’t know if anyone knew where I was or what had happened to me. I had no idea how long I would be there…” This is one of the best bios for YA’s around, and don’t just take my word for it—the National Book Award Foundation just named it the 2009 winner in the Young People’s Literature category.
Remember your first kiss? While I’m sure it was exhilarating, it was most likely a great deal tamer than the supernatural busses that take center stage in Laini Taylor’s delicious collection of fantasy romances. In “Goblin Fruit,” a lonely girl wishes for love, but finds something else entirely behind a new boy’s perfect lips: “The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood.” Beautiful boy or secret beast? Only a kiss will tell…In “Spicy Little Curses Such as These,” a young WWI solider travels to India to forget the horrors of war and finds his true love. Except, she is under a curse that claims if she speaks, all who hear her will die. Will their first kiss unleash passion or destruction? Finally, a young girl finds her fate tied to that of benevolent demon when she discovers she has unknowingly incubated the love of his immortal life deep within her soul in “Hatchling.” Each story hinges on one fated kiss that holds the power of life and death, love and loss, happiness and despair. All it takes is lips touching three times to produce one dreamy, steamy reading experience. Laini Taylor’s luxuriant writing will transport you to faraway lands where demons frolic, Hell is a place of cleansing and rebirth, and destinies are determined by the whim of cold sorceress queens. Her husband Jim Di Bartolo’s opulent illustrations rendered in black, red and cream are the perfect compliment to Taylor’s plush prose, and are so lovingly detailed you will want to go back and linger over them again and again. Still thinking about your first kiss? Relive the magic, danger and decadence of it all again through the richly realized characters in Taylor’s tantalizing tome.
Tola (short for Chenerentola, Italian for “Cinderella”) Riley’s life is like a fairy tale. But not one of those pretty pink-tinted ones—more like the one where small children get lost in a dark forest, or the one where the girl finds pieces of her husband’s past wives hacked up behind a secret door. Tola’s as small as Thumbelina, with a nasty stepmother who never lets her see her father, a deeply depressed older sister who would like to fall asleep forever, and a wicked witch (swap that “w” for a “b”) named Chelsea spreading malicious rumors that Tola is sleeping with her dorky art teacher Mr. Mymer who wears t-shirts with sayings like, “Full Frontal Nerdity.” Even though the gossip is completely untrue, Mr. Mymer has been suspended and Tola’s been locked up like a princess in a tower by her angry and terrified mom. Alone in her room and surfing the Internet, Tola can’t believe what people are saying about her on their blogs: “How can all those people at TheTruthAboutTolaRiley keep telling stories using my name, if they’re not really about me? Am I so small, so insignificant that my own story doesn’t need me anymore?” Fortunately for her, lucky number Seven Chillman, resident hottie and all around cu-tee, has offered to be her toffee-candy secret prince. He believes in her. How come no one else does? Laura Ruby’s latest is an awesome mash-up of mean girl-meets-folklore-and-so-much-more. Cleverly told in a full-on snarky tone that hides a smile behind its’ snarl, BAD APPLE is a thoroughly modern and highly entertaining anti-fairy tale that is as sweet and sour as the Granny Smith on the cover!