Book Review: All American Boys

all am boysTitle: All American Boys
Author: Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 300
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Diouhy Publishers
Review Copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: Available Sept. 29th

Summary: In an unforgettable new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galuzzi, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

But there were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

Review: First off, let me share this tweet I wrote when I first began reading All American Boys.

No lie, I was sitting on a crowded train, heading into Downtown Los Angeles and I totally wanted to cry. Chills ran up and down my spine as I read the first chapter and when I got to the last 3 words on the page, I was a mess. I wanted to grab Rashad, my nephew, my godson, all of my former male students and hold onto them for dear life, then put them in a room where they would be safe and away from potentially dangerous interactions with the police. Mama Bear came out and she was ready to fight for her youngins’, but alas, I was on a train, so I took a deep breath in, fought those tears, placed the book on my lap, and stared out the window to compose myself. The opening was just that intense and then didn’t let up for the rest of the novel.

I had intended to read the novel slowly, to really digest Jason’s & Brendon’s words, but I got too caught up in the story, in Rashad’s and Quinn’s words, their thoughts, their feelings, that I ended up forgoing sleep to finish the book. And when I reached the end, this time I let the tears fall. I allowed myself to stay in the power of the moment, of the emotion of the two boys, of Quinn’s journey and Rashad’s first steps towards healing. I allowed myself to linger in the knowledge that I had read one of the most powerful books of our time and one that I believe will be considered a classic. A book that will be taught in classrooms (including mine) and talked about in all types of literary circles, and is the perfect example of how reading forces us to become more empathetic. All American Boys is timely and important, and needed in our country’s attempts to talk about racial inequality.

The dual narratives of Rashad (written by Jason) and Quinn (written by Brendan) is what makes this novel compelling. Each narrative could be read as a novel on it’s own, but seeing the event from two points of view just adds to the power of the narrative. The novel spans over a week timeline and we spend a section of each day with both young men. Rashad and Quinn attend the same high school, live in the same neighborhood, but do not know each other. For most of the book, Rashad is in the hospital healing from the attack, so we are mostly in his head as he starts to make sense of what happened to him. Quinn, on the other hand, gives the reader an insight into how a police officer’s family could potentially handle such a case, as well as provide the reader’s link to how the community reacts to the beating. I think the decision to not have the boys interact at all, until the final moments of the book, added to the power of both perspectives, giving the reader insight into a complex situation.

I loved Jason Reynolds first two books, and feel that both he gets the teenage voice perfectly. I loved Rashad’s sense of humor and how perceptive he is to the world around him. And that is why in the moments where he tries to make sense of the beating, that my heart broke for him the most. Rashad’s father had given him “The Talk” and Rashad prided himself on being able to read situations, but yet, he is severely by a cop who couldn’t accurately read his surroundings. Rashad believed, like so many, that if he did what was right all the time, nothing bad could happen. Because of the beating, his world is thrown out of whack and he has to work within himself to try to make it right again. He is able to lean on his mother, his older brother and his friends, but I feel that his relationship with his nurse is the one that helps him the most. Everyone that loves him comes from a place of defending Rashad, but his nurse Clarissa, sees him for what he is – a confused young victim of a crime – and is the only one who treats him normally. Through the quiet of his hospital room Rashad asks himself questions and draws (he is an artist) to find his own answers to explain what happened to him, and many others. The questions Rashad asks himself are the same ones we all have, and while we cannot know all the answers, we find a way to make sense of our world, just like Rashad.

I haven’t read anything by Brendan Kiely, but if All American Boys is any indication of his skills, I need to. Just like Jason, Brendan wrote a beautiful portrayal of conflicted young man in Quinn. Quinn is the oldest in his family and has taken on a more fatherly role for his little brother, but still tries to maintain some sort of teenage social life. He is placed in the tough position of being expected to side with Paul (the cop who beat Rashad), since Paul helped raise him after Quinn’s father died. However, Quinn witnessed the beating and was greatly disturbed by it. Through that experience, he begins to question all that he knows and slowly comes to an awakening of racial inequality in his neighborhood. Quinn initially believes, like well meaning folk, that he shouldn’t speak out because he feels he doesn’t have the right, but eventually realizes that by not speaking out, he only continues an unequal system. He has to make the decision to speak out against his family and friends, which is tough to do at any age, let alone when one is a teenager and your peers are your world. Quinn has to face hard truths in the novel, and like all of us do at some point, must decide how to take action. It’s an awakening to the large ugly of the world, and Quinn’s journey is a beautiful one to experience.

As you can tell, I loved this novel. I think everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, should read it. I also think everyone should talk about it and then really think about the meaning behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement, think about systematic racism & police brutality, and how we can all work together to change our world. All American Boys is not only a novel that gets at the heart of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but gets at the heart at how we can be compassionate human beings. It is a protest novel of its time, and will survive as a timely reminder for future generations of where our society once was, if we can heal the wounds that racism has brought and move forward, together, as one.

Recommendation: All American Boys is available for order now, so go buy it now and have it delivered to your residence on Sept. 29th. Or, better yet, be there when your local bookstore opens on Sept. 29th. Don’t just buy one copy; buy one for yourself and for someone else who needs to read this book. Let’s make this book debut on the New York Times Bestseller list and get people talking about it ASAP. Go!

Mini-review: Evolution

20734195Title:  Evolution (Extraction #3)
Author: Stephanie Diaz
Genres: science fiction, dystopian
Pages: 320
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin
Availability: September 8th 2015

Summary: Clementine’s world is on the brink of destruction. An army of aliens from the distant planet Marden has arrived with a massive fleet of battleships, intent on finally putting an end to the war Kiel’s old rulers initiated. With the Alliance headquarters reduced to rubble and one of the rebel leaders close to death, Clementine and her friends have no choice but to retreat to the Core to escape the alien ships attacking the Surface.

But safety in the Core means forming a temporary alliance with their sworn enemy, Commander Charlie. He’s a ruthless man and a liar, but striking a bargain with him—his pardon in exchange for their help defeating the Mardenites—is the only way the rebels might survive the war. And Charlie needs their help too, for Marden’s force is more powerful than anyone anticipated, with weapons and technologies never before seen on Kiel. Unless old feuds can be set aside long enough for a diplomatic solution to be found, all of Kiel’s people will be destroyed, and everything Clementine and her friends have sacrificed in their fight for peace will have been for nothing. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: Evolution is a great conclusion to the Extraction series that neatly ties up the story. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, Extraction and Rebellion, then you really should. Evolution definitely doesn’t function as a standalone book.

Its strengths are what made the first book in the series great — the science fiction twist to a dystopian story. The final book in the series follows through on this, giving Clementine the chance to unravel the mysteries behind the dystopian state of her world, and find out the history behind the Mardenite aliens. While Evolution sometimes loses focus with a huge cast of characters, the detailed futuristic world alone makes the book worth a read. Definitely check out the series if you love science fiction!

Recommendation: Borrow it someday, particularly if you’re a fan of the Extraction series! This is a satisfying conclusion to the series.

New Releases

There are quite a few diverse new releases this week spanning multiple genres. In case you missed it, Audrey reviewed Everything, Everything last week.

EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Delacorte

This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world.I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black–black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

sorcerer_front mech.inddSorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal #1) by Zen Cho
Ace

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

failDon’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche
Razorbill

Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them.

Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.

Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little.

After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.

Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first–herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before….

Una LaMarche triumphs once again with this rare and compassionate look at how racial and social privilege affects one family in crisis in both subtle and astonishing ways.

dreamDream Things True by Marie Marquardt
St. Martin’s Griffin

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There’s too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.


darknessOut of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
Carolrhoda LAB

“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?”

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Smith and Wash Fullerton know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But there are some forces even the most determined color lines cannot resist. And sometimes all it takes is an explosion.

Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

foxgloveThe Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly
Entangled Teen

Gramps always said that when the crickets were quiet, something bad was coming. And the crickets have been as silent as the dead. It started with the murdered deer in the playground with the unmistakable purple of a foxglove in its mouth. But in the dying boondock town of Emerald Cove, life goes on.

I work at Gramps’s diner, and the cakes―the entitled rich kids who vacation here―make our lives hell. My best friend, Alex Pace, is the one person who gets me. Only Alex has changed. He’s almost like a stranger now. I can’t figure it out…or why I’m having distinctly more-than-friend feelings for him. Ones I shouldn’t be having.

Then one of the cakes disappears.

When she turns up murdered, a foxglove in her mouth, a rumor goes around that Alex was the last person seen with her—and everyone but me believes it. Well, everyone except my worst enemy, Jenika Shaw. When Alex goes missing, it’s up to us to prove his innocence and uncover the true killer. But the truth will shatter everything I’ve ever known about myself — and Alex. — All cover images and summaries via Goodreads

 

Review: Everything, Everything

EverythingTitle: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: ARC received via NetGalley
Availability: Available September 1, 2015

Summary: This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Review: I was surprised by how quickly I was charmed by Madeline Whittier (AKA Maddie), the biracial heroine of Everything, Everything. The first person point-of-view, which was threaded through with wit, loneliness, and later a fierce longing for the outside world—and Olly—combined with the sometimes cute, sometimes painful, but often hilarious illustrations/book reviews/etc. made for a heroine with a compelling personality and unique voice. Due to Maddie’s Severe Combined Immunodeficiency diagnosis, the bulk of the book’s action took place within her childhood home, online, or via the view from the windows, which furthered the intimacy of Maddie and her story. I looked forward to every commute so I could read more, which is definitely a win in my book.

Carla and Olly were the two other standout characters in this book, though I was particularly fond of Carla. Her mixture of roles as nurse and companion provided Maddie with face-to-face friendship, a sounding board, and a co-conspirator. I loved the affection Maddie and Carla had for one another, especially when Carla repeatedly proved she wanted Maddie to be happy. As for Olly, once I got over how quickly he and Maddie fell for each other, I grew to like him a great deal. He isn’t as interesting as Maddie, troubled family situation notwithstanding, but he fulfilled his role in the story and had several wonderful moments—both friendship-wise and romantic—with our heroine.

However, I do have one major concern with the story, which is practically impossible to discuss without ruining the book. (I did a brief search for other reviews, and the event in question appears as divisive as I anticipated it would be.) Suffice it to say, I came down slightly more on the side of thinking this event was a “cheat” as opposed to a paradigm shift that I enjoyed. It left a somewhat bitter aftertaste, but many other people seemed to love it, so your mileage will vary. I would love to see a contributor at Disability in Kidlit tackle this book, actually, for a more informed opinion.

Recommendation: Get it soon if quick, sweet romances are your thing. Nicola Yoon’s prose and David Yoon’s illustrations have created a lovely portrait of a young woman who deals with both isolation and love so deep it can be painful. Maddie is a wonderful character, and her involvement with Olly hits many of the best romance notes. Unfortunately, the ending of this book kept me from completely loving the story, but I am still looking forward to Yoon’s next book.

Extras
“YA author Nicola Yoon on diversity and her new novel, Everything, Everything by MJ Franklin

“Ask the Author: Nicola Yoon” by Alice Reeds

Common Core in Action

photo-1

With many schools already returning for the fall, and even my return tomorrow, I thought I’d do a different, more teacherly post today. There has been a lot of talk about Common Core the past few years and how it is going to “ruin” our students. Now, while that is a matter of debate, the theory behind Common Core is actually a good idea. The theory is to have all the states curriculum united so that when, say a student from North Carolina attends college in California, they should have the same exact skill set. We can’t disagree with that. However, the way Common Core has been rolled out, starting with testing and then the creation of a curriculum, is what has many folks up in arms (at least for English/Language Arts).

A few years ago I attended a conference designed for teachers to learn about the Common Core standards and how it would change our teaching. A teacher asked about curriculum plans, and when the responder stated that the plans would not be available until 2018, yet testing would begin in 2014, the room was filled with a thousand gasps. My co-worker and I glanced at each other and chuckled. See, I haven’t used a purchased curriculum plan in…oh never. I’ve been given textbooks, but I’ve always used them a supplemental to the curriculum I create. In fact, I stopped using my literature textbooks a few years ago and now they’re just decorating my shelf. I’ve completely switched to novels and supplemental non-fiction articles that I find in the news and on sites like the New York Times Learning Network Blog. By creating my own curriculum I can tailor my units and lessons to content that will be of high interest to my students. All of the writing that they do is relevant, in some way as best I can, to their lives allowing them to take ownership of their work. Of course, not all assignments are popular and sometimes just don’t work, but I do have students asking me “When are we going to do _______ project?” They are excited about learning, sometimes excited about the novels (can’t win them all) but most of all, they learn about their world and even discover what types of literature they like and don’t like. Most importantly, I choose novels that have diverse leads and all of my students are able to see themselves as the hero.

So today, I thought I’d give a little bit of insight into my thought process and how I chose the books for the first semester. I will also be including the Common Core standards to underscore how the novels and the assessments meet the standards.

First unit is titled “The Elements of Fiction” and has students looking deeper into what constitutes a fictional story and evaluating a novel for its elements. The students get to choose a book from a list I will give them; and based on my experience from last year, none of the books will be current movies. Students will either write a 500 word book review or create a new book jacket that evaluates the character arc, plot construction, the writer’s style & theme, and finishes with their own brief review of the book. The Common Core standards this meets are: Reading Standards for Literature 2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text; and Writing Standards 2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. Of course, throughout the unit I will be addressing other standards that will help the students meet the two main standards I have chosen to assess.

The second unit is titled “The Hero’s Journey” and builds off the previous unit. This time, students will use the knowledge they have gained about the elements of fiction and will use those skills to write their own fiction. In the past, I’ve told students “just write a story” and many floundered, so a few years ago I changed tactics and now give them more specific parameters. The parameters change depending on the unit. Last year, the focus was on the theme of Coming of Age, this year is the Hero’s Journey. The novel they will read is Ellen Oh’s Prophecy. I chose this novel because I want the students to see a girl as the hero, as the special one, and to experience a culture outside of their own. Prophecy fit the bill perfectly. In addition to reading the novel and studying Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey,” students will actually write their own “hero’s journey” story. Students will chose out of a hat, the age and gender of the character, an external conflict (all are required to have internal conflict) and to throw in some research, their story must be from a geographical region they studied in 7th grade. This bit of research also meets one of the Common Core writing standards. Students will, again, choose to present their story as a graphic novel or as prose. The Common Core standards this unit meets are: RSL 3: Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of character or provoke a decision; and WS 3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experience or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences. Just as in the unit before, there are other standards in addition to these two main ones that I will use to asses students.

all am boys

The third unit, and last unit of the semester, is currently titled “Fight for Freedom” and is reboot of a unit I did a few years ago. In all the excitement over the Hunger Games, I decided to do an experiment and teach the entire series. The third book, Mockingjay, and its theme of revolution fit perfectly with the U.S. History curriculum my students were learning at the time, which was the start of the Revolutionary War. In addition, the Arab Spring was still in the news and I thought that tying the three revolutions together would be a good idea. In theory, it would have worked, but I was tired of Hunger Games and so were the students. The unit kind of ended up a dud, but what ended up happening was an issue with the city and my school, so the students were actually able to take the lessons learned about standing up for their beliefs and putting them into action. They were able to truly be a part of a real revolution. Anyways, I’d been toying with bringing back that unit in light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and how my students who feel they don’t have a voice (many of them are immigrants, or are the children of immigrants) can somehow find a way to share their voice. I hadn’t decided on a novel until I read Jason Reynolds & Brandon Kiely’s All American Boys. If there ever was a novel that was timely and full of protest, this is the novel. I know my students are asking questions about the topics they see in the media, and even hear from family members, and I want them to be able to learn to express their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs about issues that directly effect them. So while I haven’t exactly decided how I’m going to asses them, I do know what standards we will be addressing. The Common Core standards this unit will meet are: Reading Standards for Informational Text 2: Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of a text, including its relationship to supporting ideas, provide an objective summary of the text; and Writing Standard 1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. Last year, I had my Honor class choose a Social Justice issue that had meaning to them (a few even did police brutality) and had them create a Prezi presentation that persuaded us to their side. They had to provide research and facts to support their opinion. Those went over very well with my students, with many of them referencing what they learned from their classmates later in the year. At this point in time, that is the assessment that I’m leaning towards because the project allows them to choose a topic, research, present an argument AND use technology (which is another Common Core standard).

And that, my dear readers, is how my first semester is structured. If you have read all the way to the end, I thank you for your time. As you can see, teaching and creating relevant and interesting content for our students can be time consuming and require a significant amount of thought. It requires a teacher to truly know and be aware of their student population, and also be current on what is being published in YA literature. We don’t have to stick to the classics to find quality literature to teach. In fact, second semester my students will be reading two award winning books (Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson) and William Shakespeare. It’s all about how you present the material. I routinely change up my units (I even changed twice mid-year last year) to keep my teaching fresh and to meet the student’s needs. For example, with William Shakespeare, I always paired it with Sharon Draper’s Romiette and Julio, and as much as I love the book, I was getting a bit bored with it, so to keep it fresh, I changed up the novel. This year my students will be comparing Romeo and Juliet to Una LaMarche’s Like No Other (and it meets RSL 9). I read the novel over the summer and found it to be a sweet quiet story that retold Shakespeare’s R&J in a unique way. We shall see how it goes.

Fellow teachers (and librarians who help teachers), I implore to think outside of the box and try to create your own curriculum. It takes a bit of work, but it is worth it. Teachers are some of the most creative people around, but are often forced to used purchased curriculum plans that don’t have a lick of relevance to our students. These cookie-cutter plans continually exclude children of color and they rarely get to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories. It is up to us to help change that, and until your district requires you to use the plan of the month, create your own. You will be liberated with what you can create, what you can do in your classroom, and what your students can achieve. Because at the end of the day, we want our students to be betters readers and writers when they leave our classroom than when they enter it.

New Releases

Three books are being released this Tuesday (8/25)!

22891429Game On by Calvin Slater

Xavier Hunter hoped his senior year would be bad news-free. His old enemy is finally in lockdown and Xavier is out from under one mad-crazy relationship disaster. And he’s cool with his dream girl, Samantha Fox, dating other guys because fair is fair–he hasn’t been a saint. But he’s not hearing anything good about her new man, Sean. And showing Samantha the truth could be the one game Xavier can’t win. . .

With graduation and college coming up fast, Samantha has been thinking hard about her future. Maybe she and Xavier have too much baggage to get back together. And Sean is a chance to see things fresh and figure out what she really wants. So she doesn’t need Xavier telling jealous lies–especially when the drama he’s lighting up could crash and burn their futures for good. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

22608738Code of Honor by Alan Gratz

When seventeen-year-old Iranian American Kamran Smith learns that his brother has been labeled a terrorist, he knows something isn’t right. In a race against time, it is up to Kamran to prove his brother’s innocence, even as the country has turned against him and his family. With the help of a ragtag team of underground intelligence professionals, Kamran must piece together the clues and the codes that will save his brother’s life–and save his country from possibly the largest terrorist attack since 9/11.

Acclaimed author Alan Gratz takes readers on a nonstop action-adventure journey through the emotional, political, and cultural landscape of the War on Terror, while weaving a poignant tale of two brothers. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

soniaBecoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano

Set in the 1970s in the Bronx, this is the story of a girl with a dream. Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is loving–and troubled. This is Sonia’s own story rendered with an unforgettable narrative power. When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead. But–click!–when the TV goes off, Sonia is taken back to real life–the cramped, colorful world of her neighborhood and an alcoholic father. But it is Sonia’s dream of becoming an actress that keeps her afloat among the turbulence of her life and times.

Spiced with culture, heartache, and humor, this memoir paints a lasting portrait of a girl’s resilience as she grows up to become an inspiration to millions. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads