Five Debut Latin@ Authors

Today I thought it would be fun to highlight five debut Latin@ authors whose books came out or are coming out in the first half of 2015. I’ve read two of them already, and I can’t wait to read the rest! If you know of any YA books by or about PoC that we’re missing on our release calendar, let us know!

ShutterShutter by Courtney Alameda
Feiwel & Friends || Published February 3, 2015

Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

22032788When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez
Bloomsbury USA Children’s || Published February 10, 2015|| Review

13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.

Girl at MidnightThe Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Delacorte Press || Available April 28, 2015

For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

happyMore Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Soho Teen || Available June 16, 2015

Happiness shouldn’t be this hard…

The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto — miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor or how his friends aren’t always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he’s can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

Hollywood Witch HunterHollywood Witch Hunter by Valerie Tejeda
Bloomsbury Spark || Available July 2015

From the moment she first learned the truth about witches…she knew she was born to fight them.

Now, at sixteen, Iris is the lone girl on the Witch Hunters Special Ops Team.

But when Iris meets a boy named Arlo, he might just be the key to preventing an evil uprising in Southern California.

Together they’re ready to protect the human race at all costs. Because that’s what witch hunters do.

Welcome to Hollywood.

New Releases

Looks like the first week in March is going to be a busy week in terms of book birthdays. Five books this week, and some we have been really excited about. Which one of these have you been waiting for?

Sunday March 1

doing rightDoing Right by Patrick Jones
Lerner Publishing Group

Prisoners pay for their crimes by being locked up. But what about their kids, who are locked out?

Every adult wants to give DeQuin advice. His father, who’s serving a life sentence, thinks DeQuin needs to toughen up. His uncle wants DeQuin to work hard and keep his head down. Then there’s his grandfather, lecturing DeQuin at every turn—when he’s not rambling about his glory days in the 1960s civil rights movement.

DeQuin is doing fine without their help—until a fun night with friends gets out of control. Now he has to deal with the fallout. Should he fight, as his dad suggests? Should he run and hide, as his uncle would do? Or should he follow his grandfather’s example of peaceful resistance? Whatever he chooses, he’s still just one confrontation away from losing everything. – Summary and image via NetGalley

 

Tuesday, March 3

memoryThe Memory Key by Liana Liu
Harper Teen

In a five-minutes-into-the-future world, a bereaved daughter must choose between losing memories of her mother to the haze of time and the reality-distorting, visceral pain of complete, perfect recall.
Lora Mint is determined not to forget.

Though her mother’s been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most importantly, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return.

But in a world ravaged by Vergets disease, a viral form of Alzheimer’s, that isn’t easy. Usually Lora is aided by her memory key, a standard-issue chip embedded in her brain that preserves memories just the way a human brain would. Then a minor accident damages Lora’s key, and her memories go haywire. Suddenly Lora remembers a moment from the night of her mother’s disappearance that indicates her death was no accident. Can she trust these formerly forgotten memories? Or is her ability to remember every painful part of her past driving her slowly mad—burying the truth forever?

Lora’s longing for her lost mother and journey to patch up her broken memories is filled with authentic and poignant emotion. Her race to uncover the truth is a twisty ride. In the end, Liana Liu’s story will spark topical conversations about memory and privacy in a world that is reliant on increasingly invasive forms of technology.

 

not otherwiseNot Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Simon Pulse

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity. –Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

My Best EverythingMy Best Everything by Sarah Tomp
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

You say it was all meant to be. You and me. The way we met. Our secrets in the woods. Even the way it all exploded. It was simply a matter of fate.

Maybe if you were here to tell me again, to explain it one more time, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so uncertain. But I’m going back to the beginning on my own. To see what happened and why.

Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.

Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything – including her heart?

The summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating. My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason – though is it an apology, a good-bye, or a love letter?

 

Sunday, March 8

dragonsOut of the Dragon’s Mouth by Joyce Burns Zeiss
Flux

After the fall of South Vietnam, fourteen-year-old Mai, a young Vietnamese girl of Chinese descent, is torn from a life of privilege and protection and forced to flee in the hold of a fishing trawler across the South China Sea. Mai finds tenuous safety in a refugee camp on an island off the coast of Malaysia, where she is taken in by Small Auntie, a greedy relative who demands payment for her hospitality. With her father’s words, “You must survive,” echoing in her ears, Mai endures the hardships of the camp, tempered only by dreams of being sponsored by her uncle in Philadelphia for entry into America.

When an accident forces Mai to flee from the safety of her temporary family, she meets a half-American boy named Kien who might be the only person who can keep her alive until she’s sent to the US.

 

Review: Not Otherwise Specified

not otherwiseTitle: Not Otherwise Specified
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Genres: contemporary, realistic
Pages: 304
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Availability: March 3rd, 2015

Summary: Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself? [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: Not gonna lie, I loved reading this book. I’m all about books with strong narrative voices, and Not Otherwise Specified definitely delivered. Etta, the main character and narrator, doesn’t fit into her small hometown in Nebraska. She’s black, bisexual, and recovering from an eating disorder. Still, she’s got confidence and strength to spare, and that carries through her engaging narration of her journey to get into Brentwood, a fancy theater school in New York, and her growing friendship with Bianca, another girl in her therapy group.

For the most part, the book manages to portray quite a few facets of Etta’s life with nuance. Etta’s former friends, known as the Disco Dykes, shun her for being too bisexual for them. Meanwhile, her mother is hesitant to embrace Etta’s identity. And, Etta is aware of how she stands out from her white townspeople, as well as the attitudes of people who don’t understand her struggles with her eating disorder.

I say “for the most part” for a reason — Etta occasionally goes off-voice and says something unexpected, such as “you’re being such a heterophobe”, or defending electroshock therapy. Considering Etta’s sharp narrative voice and confident embracing of her sexual orientation, it’s bizarre to read something like an accusation of heterophobia (surely she meant biphobia?). The fact that Etta is such a fleshed-out character makes these kinds of off-voice moments all the more jarring…

Aside from all that, Not Otherwise Specified was an enjoyable read. I would have liked several plot threads to have been expanded on, and I hope there’s a sequel to follow up on these things. Plus, I can’t get enough of Etta herself. Etta’s passion for dance, and the musical theater references sprinkled throughout, really make the book. These details, as well as Etta’s character, make the book one worth reading.

This is definitely a book that hits the top of my list of distinct teenage narrative voices. I will definitely be looking up Moskowitz’s other books to read when I have the chance. Read Not Otherwise Specified if contemporary, realistic YA fiction is your thing!

Recommendation: Get it soon! This book comes out March 3rd, 2015.

Mini-Review: Hold Me Down

holdTitle: Hold Me Down
Author: Calvin Slater
Publisher: K-Teen
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 240 – according to pub info, but ARC had 294
Review copy: ARC via Publisher
Availability: On shelves now

Review: Hold Me Down is the second book in the Coleman High Series. In the first, Lovers & Haters, Xavier Hunter got mixed up with a rough crowd and his romance had a bumpy road. I didn’t read the first book, but the summary was embedded within the first few pages of this book. This required some information dumps that might not have been fabulous for readers familiar with Lovers & Haters, but would be helpful to readers unfamiliar with the first book.

Xavier Hunter has been through a lot in a brief amount of time. His father was incarcerated when he was six and recently his mother also began serving a prison sentence. Xavier has a younger brother to care for and is also trying to keep up his grades so he can go to college. This is already a lot to deal with, but then his father comes home and has become somewhat consumed with his Christian faith and is extremely concerned about the salvation of his children. This leads to a lot of clashes between father and son.

Added to this is an accusation of being a baby-daddy and a new girlfriend oozing drama. To top it all off, Xavier had snitched on the people he’d been running with the year before once they started bringing drugs into the school. Because of that, he has a price on his head.

Xavier still loves his ex-girlfriend, has family issues, people are trying to kill him and he still wants to stay focused on graduating and getting to college. The stress adds up and it starts to seem like just staying alive might be his biggest task.

This is what some might refer to as street or urban lit because it happens in Detroit and has African American characters. There is violence, but it isn’t graphic. Though there is sex, it isn’t described. The word ‘damn’ shows up a few times, but otherwise, there isn’t any other cursing. I saw a review of Lovers & Haters that described Slater’s writing as gritty, but I’m not sure that I would describe this book that way. Xavier deals with some very difficult and dangerous situations, but Slater keeps things relatively tame and hopeful.

Recommendtion: Borrow it someday. Hold Me Down would be a good fit for those who enjoy contemporary books with a little romance, high school drama, action, and a splash of dangerThe storyline is interesting as are the characters even if they aren’t always likeable.

Four Releases in the Final Week of February

We have four books on our radar in the final week of February, and they sound like a lot of fun! Which ones are you going to check out?

doveDove Arising (Dove Chronicles, #1) by Karen Bao
Viking Juvenile

Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.

Then her mother is arrested.

The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth-dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.

Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom: that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble…

Suspenseful, intelligent, and hauntingly prescient, Dove Arising stands on the shoulders of our greatest tales of the future to tell a story that is all too relevant today. Cover image and summary via Goodreads

holdHold Me Down by Calvin Slater
K-Teen

Xavier Hunter’s dreams of graduation and college are even more crazy-impossible this sophomore year. Flipping on his former BFF has put more than one target on his back. And thanks to vicious baby-daddy lies, his dream girl Samantha Fox has quit him for good. The only person who seems to understand what he’s going through is Nancy Simpson. She’s a gorgeous chance to make things right–but she’s more dangerous drama than Xavier has ever seen. Samantha isn’t going to let heartbreak break her. Maybe Xavier wasn’t the down-deep-decent guy she thought. And maybe what they had wasn’t as true as she hoped. But there’s something about his new boo, Nancy, that’s screaming bad news. And exposing what’s real means she and Xavier must face some hard truths–and survive. – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Echo Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Scholastic Press

Music, magic, and a real-life miracle meld in this genre-defying masterpiece from storytelling maestro Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, ECHO pushes the boundaries of genre and form, and shows us what is possible in how we tell stories. The result is an impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.

Feral Pride Feral Pride (Feral #3) by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Candlewick Press

The explosive finale to the Feral series by New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Anti-shifter sentiment is at an all-time high when Kayla’s transformation to werecat is captured on video and uploaded for the world to see. Suddenly she becomes a symbol of the werebeast threat and—along with fellow cat Yoshi, lion-possum Clyde, and human Aimee—a hunted fugitive. Meanwhile, a self-proclaimed weresnake has kidnapped the governor of Texas and hit the airwaves with a message of war. In retaliation, werepeople are targeted by law enforcement, threatened with a shift-suppressing vaccine, terrorized by corporate conspiracy, and enslaved by a top-secret, intelligent Cryptid species. Can Clyde rally his inner lion king to lead his friends—new and old—into battle against ruthless, media-savvy foes? A rousing blend of suspense, paranormal romance, humor, and high action.

Book Review: My Heart & Other Black Holes

22328549Title: My Heart & Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Genres:  Contemporary, Realistic
Pages: 302
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review Copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: In Bookstores now

Summary: Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution–Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: It is interesting that two of last week’s new releases dealt with the subject of suicide, as it is a subject that is sensitive to many and one that a lot of people don’t want to talk about, which is a shame because many folks experience depression and/or have thoughts of suicide. Teens especially need to be able to have someone to reach out for help, and sometimes, handing a young adult book that speaks to the heart of what they are going through can save a life. I honestly feel that My Heart & Other Black Holes could be a potential life saver for many young adults.

While Aysel’s depression is triggered over her father’s crime, Warga makes note to show how Aysel showed signs when she was growing up, so the novel doesn’t feel like one of those, “she’s depressed over something and now she’s all better, happy every after” novels. No, when we meet Aysel she is in the thick of her depression, has made the decision to commit suicide and is actively seeking help by having a suicide partner. And this is where I think Warga’s novel really shines. Reading the thought process of someone committed to taking their own life is very tough, but it is a thought process that is very real, hence making Aysel a fully-fleshed out character. It makes the reader empathize with Aysel, as we understand that when someone is at the point Aysel is, when they are in their darkest moments, it can be extremely hard to change their thinking. A person who is depressed to the point of committing suicide will not “just get over it”.  Aysel is actively looking forward to her death. As a teacher of teenagers, this was hard to read because I kept thinking about a student who came close to this point a few years ago, but reached out and got the help she needed. As the novel is told in first person, Aysel, unfortunately does not believe that she can find help or even capable of help. It was also those moments that the heart of Warga’s story really impacted me.

It was also Aysel’s thoughts, her self-awareness about her depression that really made her a character to root for. She even personifies her depression, calling it a black slug, and it became a “villain” in a way. She has to actively fight against the black slug and sometimes she wins, sometimes she looses. I feel that having Aysel name her depression was a stroke of genius by Warga. It turned an illness that can be very abstract into something concrete. It allowed for readers who might not fully grasp how depression works into seeing the disease as a real obstacle in a person’s path. If people get anything out of this book, it will be that depression it is not just an imaginary illness in a person’s head, but a real tangible presence that they fight daily against.

And, I think, that is the beauty of Warga’s novel. The reader really connects with Aysel, with her wry humor, her love for her little brother, and how much she struggles with the slug that she fights daily. The reader knows that Aysel is a beautiful soul and really wants her to recognize her worth so she won’t continue to think about suicide, but is still willing to go on the journey that Warga lays out as Aysel begins to question her decision with Roman. The novel takes place over a span of 26 days, with each chapter counting down, and we are not privy to Aysel’s decision to live or die until almost the very end. And when she does, well…you just have to read the novel to find out.

Jasmine Warga’s debut novel is a beautiful and touching story about depression, family, friendship and love. It’s about answering the tough questions we have about ourselves, our place in our family and our world, but mostly it is about discovering and owning our own self worth. The messages and themes that My Heart & Other Black Holes explores is one that people of all ages can learn from and relate to.

Recommendation: If you are in the mood for a story with heart, run to the store and buy My Heart & Other Black Holes now!