Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Great TBR Read-Down: The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza

The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza, (Nov. 2021, Harry N. Abrams), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419752599

Ages 12+

Do not let the cover fool you: The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass is a fantasy mystery that will keep you guessing. Vera Glass is a high school student living in a world where everyone has a magic gift; Vera’s is the ability to open locks, while her mother’s intuition magic makes her a wonderfully empathetic and comforting parent. She lives with her scientist parents and siblings, has a strong faith community, and a solid group of friends, but something just isn’t right. No one can quite voice it, but there’s something missing; something leaving a hole in more and more people’s lives, and Vera is determined to find out what it is. There are a few suspects, including a group of “witches” from the Goth kid group and the organization that Vera’s parents work for. The strength here is in the jarring disappearances that pop up throughout the book: a character is part of the scene, and then they’re just… not. And Vera pauses, trying to remember something just outside of her memory, not able to quite grasp what’s changed; just that there’s an ache she can’t quite shake. Heartbreaking and very readable, Vera is the first-person narrator, written with deep feeling by Anna Priemaza. Vera’s faith doesn’t come across as preachy; it’s a facet of her life, and she has an inclusive group of friends that also includes some atheist representation. The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass examines the feelings we have for those in our lives that go deeper than the surface; deeper than memory.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Political Memoir: Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator

Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator, by Sofia Warren, (June 2022, Top Shelf Productions), $24.99, ISBN: 9781603095129

Ages 14+

New York State senator Julia Salazar first found herself on Brooklyn cartoonist Sofia Warren’s radar in 2018 when the then 27-year-old was a Democratic Socialist running for state senate. Her grassroots campaign inspired and motivated followers, including Sofia Warren. When Salazar won the election, Sofia Warren asked the newly minted state senator if she could chronicle the first year of her tenure; Salazar accepted, and Radical was born. Radical chronicles what happens after the balloons and confetti have been cleaned up and it’s time to get to work. Salazar, whose main focus was affordable housing, had a team of community organizers going up against wealthy landlords and entrenched ways of doing things: the twenty-something Socialist and her followers had their work cut out for them. Sofia Warren spent a year traveling with and speaking to Salazar and her team in order to create an honest portrait of a state senator’s first year in office: traveling to and from Albany; meetings, meetings, meetings; angry public meetings, staff disagreements, gaining and losing ground, all on the way to create legislation. The beginning of the story reads similar to an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez memoir; something the author is aware of, and Radical will appeal to AOC followers and anyone interested in the inner workings of grassroots politics. Excellent for high school and college courses.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Greatest Thing takes a real look at adolescence, art, and anxiety

The Greatest Thing, by Sarah Winifred Searle, (Feb. 2022, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250297235

Ages 13+

A fictionalized memoir, The Greatest Thing follows Winifred as she starts the school year after her two closest friends go to a different school. Winifred is talented, creative, and plagued by anxiety. Uncomfortable with her body, she engages in habits like “tricking” her body into “forgetting it was hungry by making it sick”. When she meets new friends April and Oscar, her world opens up: the three friends love art and also deal with self-esteem and anxiety; together, the three find their voices by creating a zine, Gutterglimmers. Eventually, Winifred – with the help of her supportive mom – seeks help, and starts finding comfort in real life as well as the pages of her zine. Filled with helpful instructions on making a zine, and positive portrayals of nonbinary and pansexual characters, The Greatest Thing provides an honest and raw look into adolescent anxiety and depression, and the role art can play in working through emotions and feelings. If you haven’t purchased this book for your YA graphic novels collections yet, you really should.

Visit Sarah Winifred Searle’s website and seem more of her artwork and learn about more of her books.

Posted in Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Reputation is a Regency-era Mean Girls

Reputation, by Lex Croucher, (Apr. 2022, St. Martin’s Griffin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250832832

Ages 16+

Georgiana Ellers is a 19-year-old young woman living with her aunt and uncle in Regency-era England. Her parents have rather unceremoniously left her in their care, selling their home and moving to the shore under the guise of her mother needing to look after her health. Resigning herself to the boredom and stress of society parties at the elbow of her ton-conscious aunt, Georgiana is delighted when she meets Frances Campbell – a somewhat scandalous member of society’s in-crowd, who immediately takes Georgiana under her wing. Frances and her crowd are given to wild partying, spending copious amounts of money, and spending an improper amount of time in the company of the opposite sex. Georgiana loses herself in the abandon of it all, but she feels like she’s falling just short of fitting in most of the time. She also falls hard for one of the young men on the fringes of the group, Thomas Hawksley, but he tends to pull back from the wilder group antics.

This book is riding high on the Bridgerton wave, and with good reason: it packs all the glamour of Regency-era Britain, with Shonda Rimes’s diverse additions making for a more exciting, interesting experience. Reputation certainly doesn’t overlook the issues rampant in Britain at the time; a biracial central character certainly experiences her share of side glances and comments. An LGBTQ+ subplot running through the main story, and there are themes of consent, agency, and social class.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

The Epic Mentor Guide: Smart advice for young women, from women who’ve been there

The Epic Mentor Guide: Insider Advice for Girls Eyeing the Workforce from 180 Boss Women Who Know, by Illana Raia, (March 2022, Forefront Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781637630495

10-18

Imagine being a high school or college student and having access to a think tank of successful women. What would you want them to tell you? Illana Raia, founder of the mentorship platform Être, has taken note of questions that young women have asked and gotten answers, all collected here. Whether it’s asking about successful traits or resilience when someone refuses to get your name right; how engineering can get you a job at LEGO, or being the first attorney at Etsy, tweens and teens will find answers here. The women are a diverse group, chosen from all areas: sports, technology, medicine, finance, entertainment, and more. Celebrities like Tyra Banks and Hoda Kotb are in here, as are brand executives from Nike, Spotify, and Disney. The questions run from getting noticed by college admissions and what makes a standout LinkedIn profile to diversity and inclusion, how to break into an industry, and when to be patient versus when to push forward.  The design is eye-catching, with bright orange pages breaking up the white spaces; answers are thoughtful and run from sound-bite briefs to longer, thought-out responses. Most respondents include social media information, for readers to follow. A good choice for career collections and guidance collections.

 

Check out this interview with author Illana Raia, courtesy of BooksForward!

  • Who were your mentors? 

I’ve been so fortunate to have tremendous mentors throughout my career! My grandmother graduated from law school in 1936, and watching her in court when I was young made me sure I wanted law school. Professors I had at Smith College and The University of Chicago Law School lit the way forward, and my first mentor when I practiced mergers & acquisitions was the youngest partner my law firm had ever made. But the women I have met since founding Être, leaders in their fields and founders in every sense of the word, have mentored me in ways I can never repay.

  • What inspired you to start Être, and how did this book come about?

When I was practicing law and my daughter was in middle school, I realized she did not know what I did every day. More than that, she did not know what my group of ridiculously accomplished friends did every day! I started Être (which, in French, means to be), to bring young girls face to face with inspiring role models. This book came about after we started being invited into companies to meet female leaders. I was blown away by the questions the girls were asking! Moreover, the women we met answered every question with such candor, wit and wisdom that all I could think was Every girl should be doing this. So I kept a list of questions asked at company visits, and then added a survey and an email Q&A, asking girls across the globe what they wanted to know about the work world. What happened next was astounding. As fast as the questions came in I started reaching out to women in the relevant companies or industries – and their answers did not disappoint! Over the course of the next year, a virtual conversation ensued between girls eyeing the workforce and the women already there.

  • What types of questions did you get from today’s girls?

The questions we received were substantive and specific in nature: How can I become an animator at Pixar? Can TikTok be used for networking? How did you land an interview with SpaceX? Do cover letters even matter? Am I allowed to ask about inclusion in an interview? What’s one thing no one knows about working at Google?  I think the authenticity of the questions was a huge reason these women answered; they remembered what it felt like on their first day at work, and told us repeatedly I wish I’d had this when I was starting out!

  • What are some of your favorite pieces of advice in the book?

I love how TheSkimm founders, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg talked about avoiding the trap of expectations, and hearing about what astronauts like Anna Fisher (the first mom in space), Cady Coleman and Jennifer Scott Williams want today’s girls in STEM to remember. I loved reading that celebrity make-up artist Steph Aiello was encouraged by Tyra Banks to pursue her dream despite a physical disability, in part because Tyra Banks is also in the book (talking about why we should over-prepare for meetings)! The idea that even the mentors have mentors thrilled me. I was moved by what icons like Lilly Ledbetter said about salary negotiations, what Sudi Green said about getting a sketch on SNL and what Dawn Porter said about leaving the law to make movies with Oprah. Every time I flip the book open, I find a new favorite!

  • How does “The Epic Mentor Guide” build a pipeline for girls into the workforce?

The book is building a pipeline by following the same model I used to build Être – we go where the girls ask to go, so they can find answers to their questions. The companies in this book represent brands the girls already love, platforms they use constantly, and organizations where they see themselves working someday. Add to that the fact that every woman in the book offered her preferred social media handle so girls can follow her in real time and in real life. When an exec at LinkedIn said connect with me, or a pop musician wrote DM me or a federal judge gave girls her email, I knew that we were creating more than a static collection of mentor advice. This is a pipeline that will grow with today’s girls.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Okoye gets her day! Ibi Zoboi gives Okoye to the People

Okoye to the People, by Ibi Zoboi, (March 2022, Marvel Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781368046978

Ages 12+

I am SO excited for this novel to hit shelves. Okoye has been one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe; played by actress Danai Gurira, who also plays Michonne, one of my favorite characters from The Walking Dead. Now that I’ve got my fangirling out of the way, let’s get to it.

Many readers and MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe!) fans have come to know Okoye over the last several years, thanks to her role in the Black Panther and Avengers movies. She’s a Wakandan general and member of the Dora Milaje, the elite, all-female, group of warriors that protect the King of Wakanda and serve as the country’s special forces. Okoye to the People begins when Okoye is a new member of the Dora Milaje, chosen for her first assignment: join Captain Aneke and King T’Chaka (father of T’Challa, the Black Panther from the MCU and comics) on a trip to New York to meet with the head of a nonprofit organization, No Neighborhood Left Behind. Arriving in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Okoye realizes that Wakanda means nothing to New Yorkers, but she also sees gentrification all around her and a group of people struggling to keep their way of life. Drawn to a group of teens in Brownsville, she learns that No Neighborhood Left Behind isn’t everything the head of the organization claims it is, and that her secret plans for Brownville could extend to Wakanda, if left unchecked.

Ibi Zoboi brilliantly writes about problems faced in communities of color within the scope of a Marvel Black Panther novel: gentrification and the history of colonization; race; economics, and the African Diaspora. Her characters are real; they reach out from the page and demand to be seen and heard, and the action is incredible, entwined with sinister intrigue thanks to an all-too familiar storyline about an organization whose good intentions are skin-deep. Ibi Zoboi’s existing body of work, the popularity of Black Panther and the MCU, and the novel’s empowered teens and strong female characters make this a do not miss.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

We Can Be Heroes embraces young women’s power in the aftermath of a school shooting

We Can Be Heroes, by Kyrie McCauley, (Sept. 2021, Katherine Tegen Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780062885050

Ages 12+

When Nico Bell pulled the trigger of that gun, so many lives were changed: but the problems were there long before that day. Told in third- and first-person narration, in prose and verse, We Can Be Heroes is the story of Cassie, killed in a school shooting by her ex-boyfriend; her two best friends, Beck and Vivian, and a town split down the middle. Bell is a town named for and financed by Bell Firearms; the Bell family has a sociopolitical grip on the town because they write the checks that keep it going. Nico Bell, heir to the Bell company and poster boy for toxic masculinity, kills his girlfriend, Cassie, in a murder-suicide when she tries to escape their abusive relationship. Beck and Vivian, Cassie’s best friends, never much liked one another, but bond over the chance to give Cassie the voice she didn’t have in life by painting murals featuring women from Greek myths: women whose voices were lost, taken by monsters and men. A podcaster focuses on the case as the murals achieve viral status on social media, and Cassie’s story unfolds, shedding light on ugly shadows in the town and the Bell family. Cassie appears as a ghost, bringing Beck and Vivian together and to guide them in their mission; her story is told in first person verse.

Changing narratives and playing with narrative structure – prose, transcript, and verse – keep this already arresting story moving. I loved the use of Greek myth to tell Cassie’s story; women’s stories through history. We Can Be Heroes explores grief and loss, trauma, and unchecked privilege. Small moments, like Cassie’s excitement over music released after her death are poignant, even when played for a chuckle. A subplot involving Beck and her grandfather adds further depth. A thoughtful look at real issues facing teens today that highlights the importance of listening to women’s stories.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Pixels of You considers friendships between AI and human

Pixels of You, by Ananth Hirsh & Yuko Ota/Illustrated by J.R. Doyle, (Feb. 2022, Amulet Paperbacks), $16.99, ISBN: 9781419749575

Ages 14+

The team behind 2016’s graphic novel, Lucky Penny, are back with a story about AI, humans, and the relationship that forms between one pair. Indira is a human artist, a photographer, who’s been cybernetically augmented after a car accident took one of her eyes at the age of 10. Fawn is the first human-presenting AI, also a photographic artist, who interns at the same gallery as Indira. The gallery owner puts them together on a project after the two have a very public disagreement over their work, the gallery owner – their mentor – puts them to the ultimate test: work on a project together, or leave the gallery. Period. At first, the collaboration is forced, grudging, but slowly, as the two artists get to know one another, a friendship forms, allowing each to see the world through the other’s eyes. Largely illustrated in shades of rose and violet, black pages with white text that record key moments in AI/Human history capture the reader’s attention and act as chapter heads, giving readers an idea of what may lie ahead. The characters are hard to get to know in the first pass – the story is interesting, but hard to connect to at first; I felt like I “got” them better as I went on in the story. I re-read the book, and the knowledge I’d gained from the first pass definitely helped me feel more for the characters from the outset, so you may want to give a solid booktalk on what’s going on in human history – touch on the paranoia that exists between humans and AI, for starters – at the time the story is set, to give tweens and teens more context to build on. There’s a slow-burn sapphic romance subplot that’s so subtle, some readers may not pick up on it for a while, but it is a satisfying close. Fawn’s robot parents are a surprise hit in the story. Give this one a shot. Talk about perspective, and how photography factors into the story of “seeing” others. I think it’ll find a dedicated audience.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Kicking off 2022 YA with a bang: The Bone Spindle

The Bone Spindle, by Leslie Vedder, (Jan. 2022, Razorbill), $18.99, ISBN: 9780593325827

Ages 12+

This fantasy YA is heavily inspired by Sleeping Beauty, with a touch of Red Riding Hood, and a lot of adventure. Fi – short for Filore – is a treasure hunter with a curse on her head. Actually, it’s on her hand, but it’s a terrible one. Shane is an exiled female warrior who loves fighting and pretty girls. The two unlikely partners end up working together to free a kingdom when Fi pricks her finger on a bone spindle and discovers Briar Rose, the prince whose kingdom is under a sleeping curse until Love’s first kiss awakens him. Briar’s body is asleep, but his magic allows him to appear to Fi, leading her to his kingdom: if she can make it through the perilous thorns and other dangers that await.

The first in a new YA fantasy duology (or trilogy!), The Bone Spindle is a fantasy adventure that flips traditional fairy tales and gender roles, giving readers strong and smart female protagonists and a gentle hero with a mysterious dark side. Fi is afraid to fall in love after a terrible ex left her in a bad spot, but Briar is so awkward and sweet that she wonders what will happen when she finally gets to his kingdom to deliver his kiss. Shane comes from a warrior kingdom, but she’s chosen exile. She loves the heft of her axe and the smile on a pretty girl, but her partnership with Fi means she’ll put herself at risk for a friend. Fantasy readers, LGBTQ+ readers, romance readers, all will find something to love in The Bone Spindle – enjoy spotting the influences as you read.

Posted in gaming, Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Jon Chad’s graphic novel history of Pinball is great for gamer historians

Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball, by Jon Chad, (Feb. 2022, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250249210

Ages 10+

Before there was Atari, there was pinball. The first pinball machine made its debut around 1930 and captivated players from the beginning: so much that banned for being a “racket that fleeces children” and drive them to petty thievery”. In 1976, champion player Roger Sharpe played the game in a Manhattan courtroom to prove that pinball was a game of skill, not chance. Graphic novelist Jon Chad ‘s (Science Comics) graphic novel Pinball is the graphic history of the game, tracing its roots back to the Court of King Louis XIV, through its scandalous era in the 1930s, and renaissance in the 1970s, all the way up to the present day. It’s like Science Comics and History Comics, all put together in great volume. Jon Chad examines not only the artwork and cultural significance of the game – gaming fans, and pinball fans in particular, know all about the collectible, incredible artwork that went into the back glass and the game floor itself – but the physics of the game, and what makes it a game of skill.

Jon Chad’s artwork is colorful, filled with movement and amazing detail. He writes with expert knowledge and a true love of the game. This is an essential purchase for nonfiction graphic collections and anyone with a gaming collection.

Read an interview with Jon Chad at ComicsBeat, visit his author webpage for more comics and teaching resources, and have your own pinball/STEM program with these PBS Kids instructions or this pizza box pinball PDF from the UK’s Science Museum Group.