Cover Reveal: Killer of Enemies

Killer of EnemiesTake a first look at the cover of Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac, one of Tu Book’s upcoming fall titles!

This is not a once upon a time story.

Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones—people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human—and there was everyone else who served them.

Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets—genetically engineered monsters—turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Fate has given seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities that she uses to take down monsters for the remaining Ones, who have kidnapped her family.

But with every monster she kills, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is meant to be a more than a hired-gun hunter.

Lozen is meant to be a hero.


Doesn’t this sound like a blast? I’m excited to get my hands on this book!

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Publishing Diverse Books Isn’t About Meeting Quotas

Please welcome Stacy L. Whitman to Rich in Color! Stacy is the publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books that publishes fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for children and young adults. She has agreed to stop by the blog today to talk about why she publishes diverse books and what she’s looking for.


In the years since I started Tu Books in 2009, I’ve had many conversations about why diversity is so important in genre fiction and in fiction for young people. Many times, especially when talking to people who are steeped in fantasy/SF fandom who haven’t had much opportunity to really think about why diversity is important to young readers, I’ve heard comments such as “But speculative fiction is diverse. It’s all about diversity and understanding the Other.” I’ve also been told that we shouldn’t be looking to meet quotas.

Wolf MarkBut publishing diverse books isn’t about meeting quotas, much as we use the stark numbers to show how little things have changed over the years. It’s not about hitting a certain number so much as acknowledging how badly we’re doing at reflecting the real diversity out there in the world, right now. And while speculative fiction really has always been about meeting the Other, it hasn’t always been about understanding the Other (we are getting better at this part, I think). My frustration as a lifelong fan, however, is that although we have plenty of orcs and elves and aliens in spec fic filling symbolic diverse roles, we don’t always do that well on human diversity. Instead, white humans stand for the default “human” role in far too many of our stories.

I publish diverse books because I feel like we’re missing out on (literally) a whole world of awesome stories that have been ignored for far too long: stories in which people of color star as heroes of their own tales, stories in which the worldbuilding and the cultures and the characterization are at once both completely new compared to what’s already out there in the mainstream, and familiar because of our common humanity. I’m looking for stories inspired by folklore that hasn’t been seen enough in the U.S. mainstream and stories that extrapolate another culture’s worldview into the future. I’m looking for fantasy creatures that are not another reincarnation of the British tradition that Tolkien made famous.

This is not to say that I am not looking for stories starring non-humans, though as of now I haven’t quite found a story starring elves or aliens that has quite been the right fit for me. Some have come close; some haven’t. But when it comes to submissions, I look first and foremost for story. Is it a story I love, that I’ll be excited to work on for the next two to three years? Because that’s how long it takes to put a book out, and if I am bored from the first read, I’ll be even more bored in the second, third, and fourth reads.

TankbornPart of the excitement comes from meeting a world that, as a white American of mostly Swedish/German/British/Irish descent, I haven’t seen before. When I first read Tankborn as a submission in 2010, its universe was completely new in the dystopian genre. It’s both hard science fiction and a dystopian tale at once, and it deals deftly yet head-on with the kinds of class and race issues that dystopian stories hint at but don’t always take on boldly, and at the same time it feels like the real future in its technology and language evolution and biology of a new planet.

Not that a world needs to be completely new to me to catch my attention. Sometimes all it takes is one small twist, such as the Chicago I know twisted to become a world in which people have Talents, such as blending into one’s surroundings, moving things with one’s mind, or talking to cats. What matters in each story is that it move me—because it’s so dramatic, or so funny, or so full of action, or perhaps all of the above wrapped in complicated worldbuilding that the author ties together with a neat bow.

But because I’m looking for such a large number of factors to come together in one book, sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what I’m looking for. For example, I’d love to see more submissions in which the main character is African American or of some other African descent, in which the character’s slice of contemporary culture is a strong part of the worldbuilding. Tankborn stars a girl who is of African descent genetically, but it’s set so far in the future and on a world in which the culture is derived from the Indian caste system, so we still don’t have a book from Tu that reflects contemporary African American readers in a way I’d like.

Galaxy GamesI’d also like to see more optimistic forward-looking science fiction. Dystopias are on the wane, and I’d like to see more science fiction in the vein of our launch title Galaxy Games, in which a boy is recruited to play in a galactic competition much like the Olympics. I’m not looking for more sports-related titles per se, just more books with that kind of forward-looking excitement, the idea that the future for people of color will look just as bright as Gene Rodenberry once envisioned it.

I’ve also been on the hunt for years for an Asian-set steampunk. The Victorian era happened all over the world. I’d love to see a take on the vision of steampunk from the point of view of a citizen of the British colonies all over the world, particularly somewhere like India or Hong Kong (or even in the minority communities of the UK, the way Y.S. Lee did so well in the mystery series The Agency). Let’s look at the past with a new lens, as well, especially in this genre that captures the imagination so enticingly.

I’m looking in particular for more authors of color, as well, because part of our mission as a company is to nurture new authors of color. We were very excited to acquire our first New Visions Award winner earlier this year, and we’ll be announcing the opening of our 2nd annual New Visions contest in the coming months. (I say 2nd annual, but this contest will not be exactly annual due to the amount of reading required of our committee. It will probably be held roughly every year and a half for the first few years at least.)

Until we stop thinking that diversity is an agenda, rather than just a reflection of our readership, we’ll continue to have readers say things like the following: “I prefer ‘diversity neutral’ characters in my reading unless there is a reason to make it part of the story. Religious people might like being preached to in their readings, but most people don’t. If these things are jammed into books because ‘it is the right thing’, people will know, and they won’t likely be pleased. Not many of us care for books with agenda.” (Quote from an anonymous commenter on Nathan Bransford’s blog)

The Monster in the MudballI like to believe that the reason people say things like this is because they still think we’re stuck in an After-School Special world, a world that preaches instead of telling a good story, and they don’t realize that we’re way past that in YA lit today. A few I’m looking forward to, books that star diverse main characters just going about their business being awesome: my fall titles Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac, for which we’ll be doing a cover reveal later this week and you’ll be able to hear all about it then, and The Monster in the Mudball by S.P. Gates, a middle grade adventure about a boy who, with the artifact inspector he meets along the way, must track a monster that’s hatched from a ball of mud in his neighbor’s flat.

Coming next spring, we finally get to see how the Tankborn trilogy ends (it’s GOOD, y’all—you’re going to love it!) and we meet a new world in M.K. Hutchins’s Drift, about a brother and sister who live in a world where everyone lives on islands set on the backs of turtles that drift on the surface of Hell. And further out, we have our first mystery title by New Visions Award winner Valynne E. Maetani, about a girl who accidentally brings the Japanese mafia, the yakuza, down on her family when she discovers her deceased father was once a member of it.

Not one of these books has an agenda, unless that agenda is entertaining young readers with awesome stories, just as books do that star white characters. And I think there’s plenty of room out there for more books like these, so that the nearly half of the kids in our country that are people of color can see themselves reflected in the stories they read, and so that the other half might be able to be entertained putting themselves in the shoes of people like the friends they go to school with. Because even if our books are about fantastical events and people, the effect on the kids that read these books is very real.


Stacy L. WhitmanStacy Whitman is the publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books that publishes fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for children and young adults. In 2009, she founded a small press named Tu Publishing, dedicated to publishing multicultural fantasy and science fiction for children and young adults, which was acquired by Lee & Low Books and became Tu Books. Prior to starting Tu, she was an editor for Mirrorstone, the children’s and young adult imprint of Wizards of the Coast in Seattle. She holds a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College. She has edited elementary school textbooks at Houghton Mifflin, interned at the Horn Book Magazine and Guide, and spent a brief stint working as a bookseller.

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Review: Team Human

Team HumanTitle: Team Human
Author: Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Contemporary, Comedy
Pages: 344
Publisher: Harper Teen
Review Copy: Borrowed from roommate
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Readers who love vampire romances will be thrilled to devour Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan. Team Human celebrates and parodies the Twilight books, as well as other classics in the paranormal romance genre.

Mel is horrified when Francis Duvarney, arrogant, gorgeous, and undead, starts at her high school. Mel’s best friend, Cathy, immediately falls for the vampire. Cathy is determined to be with him forever, even if having him turn her could inadvertently make her a zombie.

And Mel is equally determined to prove to her BFF that Francis is no good, braving the city’s vampire district and kissing a cute boy raised by vampires as she searches evidence in this touching and comic novel. —(Summary and image via Goodreads)

Review: Team Human works best if you are familiar with and have a fondness for vampires. Even though I’m only middling on both of those criteria, Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan did a great job of keeping my interest with Mel, their American Born Chinese protagonist.

What I find most fascinating about Mel is how, in a book from Cathy’s point of view, she would fit neatly into the Meddling Second Lead™ role. Most books and Korean television shows have trained me to despise such characters and their repeated attempts to break up True Love™, but I adored seeing the vampire romance play out from Mel’s point of view. The fact that Mel is motivated by genuine concern and fear for her friend (as opposed to romantic jealousy) helps a great deal in this regard. While I was occasionally annoyed by Mel’s insistence that she knew what was better for Cathy than Cathy did, I was still extremely sympathetic to her. In her place, I probably would have acted much the same after my best friend fell in love with and decided to become a vampire (which carried a 10% chance of death and a 10% chance of zombification) in a matter of weeks.

The other character standout was Kit, the vampire-raised human that Mel falls for. Kit’s backstory (and how some of his vampire family treated him) made me rather upset on his behalf and wishing for all sorts of bad fortune upon minor characters. Despite this, Kit was consistently a source of humor and awkward misunderstandings thanks to his lack of knowledge about human society. Some of these misunderstandings were brilliant and hilarious (kissing) and others were disappointingly easy to predict (promising to call).

The world building for this book was unexpectedly delightful, from therapists who deal with vampires who are having trouble transitioning to laws requiring smoked glass in all public buildings to block vampire-killing UV rays. I love that turning people into vampires is a regulated process requiring counseling and you-could-turn-into-a-zombie scare tactics. Mundane details like that really make this world feel like it could exist if vampires were real.

Unfortunately, the mystery surrounding Anna, her mother, and her missing father wasn’t something that held my attention very well. If Anna had been the narrator, I would have been more invested in it, but Mel was constantly distracted by getting in the way of True Love™ or establishing a loveline of her own. While I’m normally not much of a comedy person, I really wish that Team Human had focused more on the comedy/satire of the vampire genre and less on a mystery that I did not find compelling.

Recommendation: Borrow it someday. Ultimately, Team Human is a quick read, but it doesn’t have much staying power for me. It would be a great beach book for the last part of summer, especially if you are in the mood for some gentle mocking of vampire tropes.

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Four YA Books with Indian or Indian-American Protagonists

I haven’t read many YA books with Indian or Indian-American protagonists, so I thought it would be fun to see what books I could find. Here are four books that caught my eye, thanks to CBC Diversity’s Goodreads page:

Shine Coconut MoonShine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Seventeen-year-old Samar — a.k.a. Sam — has never known much about her Indian heritage. Her mom has deliberately kept Sam away from her old-fashioned family. It’s never bothered Sam, who is busy with school, friends, and a really cute but demanding boyfriend.But things change after 9/11. A guy in a turban shows up at Sam’s house, and he turns out to be her uncle. He wants to reconcile the family and teach Sam about her Sikh heritage. Sam isn’t sure what to do, until a girl at school calls her a coconut — brown on the outside, white on the inside. That decides it: Why shouldn’t Sam get to know her family? What is her mom so afraid of? Then some boys attack her uncle, shouting, “Go back home, Osama ” and Sam realizes she could be in danger — and also discovers how dangerous ignorance can be. Sam will need all her smarts and savvy to try to bridge two worlds and make them both her own.

A Beautiful LieA Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master

An extraordinarily rich debut novel, set in India in 1947 at the time of Partition. Although the backdrop is this key event in Indian history, the novel is even more far-reaching, touching on the importance of tolerance, love and family. The main character is Bilal, a boy determined to protect his dying father from the news of Partition – news that he knows will break his father’s heart. With great spirit and determination, and with the help of his good friends, Bilal persuades others to collude with him in this deception, even printing false pages of the local newspaper to hide the ravages of unrest from his father. All that Bilal wants is for his father to die in peace. But that means Bilal has a very complicated relationship with the truth…

LovetornLovetorn by Kavita Daswani

When Shalini’s father gets a new job in L.A., she is torn away from her life in India and the boy to whom she’s been betrothed since she was three. L.A. is so different, and Shalini dresses and talks all wrong. She isn’t sure she’ll survive high school in America without her fiancé, Vikram, and now she has to cope with her mom’s homesickness and depression. A new friend, chill and confident Renuka, helps Shalini find her way and get up the courage to join the Food4Life club at school. But she gets more than just a friend when she meets Toby—she gets a major crush. Shalini thinks she loves Vikram, but he never made her feel like this.

In Lovetorn, Shalini discovers that your heart ultimately makes its own choices, even when it seems as if your destiny has already been chosen.

Author Kavita Daswani has always been fascinated by child marriages and betrothals, and this story of a traditional girl from India, who is exposed to so many more freedoms and experiences after being dropped in a completely alien culture, is a fresh and contemporary look at the subject.

E940_SCH_BornConfused_0.tifBorn Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

Dimple Lala doesn’t know what to think. Her parents are from India, and she’s spent her whole life resisting their traditions. Then suddenly she gets to high school and everything Indian is trendy. To make matters worse, her parents arrange for her to meet a “suitable boy.” Of course it doesn’t go well — until Dimple goes to a club and finds him spinning a magical web. Suddenly the suitable boy is suitable because of his sheer unsuitability. Complications ensue. This is a funny, thoughtful story about finding your heart, finding your culture, and finding your place in America.

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Six YA Books with Middle Eastern or Muslim Protagonists

We don’t have any new releases on our calendar this week, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few YA books with Middle Eastern or Muslim characters that I found via CBC Diversity’s Goodreads page.

Does My Head Look Big in ThisDoes My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time, her entire world changes, all because of a piece of cloth…

Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full- time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.

Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs.

The Girl With Borrowed WingsThe Girl With Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti

A stunningly written tale of an isolated girl and the shape-shifting boy who shows her what freedom could be–if only she has the courage to take it

Controlled by her father and bound by desert, Frenenqer Paje’s life is tediously the same, until a small act of rebellion explodes her world and she meets a boy, but not just a boy–a Free person, a winged person, a shape-shifter. He has everything Frenenqer doesn’t. No family, no attachments, no rules. At night, he flies them to the far-flung places of their childhoods to retrace their pasts. But when the delicate balance of their friendship threatens to rupture into something more, Frenenqer must confront her isolation, her father, and her very sense of identity, breaking all the rules of her life to become free.

0-545-05056-1Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

“At school I’m Aussie-blonde Jamie — one of the crowd. At home I’m Muslim Jamilah — driven mad by my Stone Age dad. I should win an Oscar for my acting skills. But I can’t keep it up for much longer…”

Jamie just wants to fit in. She doesn’t want to be seen as a stereotypical Muslim girl, so she does everything possible to hide that part of herself. Even if it means pushing her friends away because she’s afraid to let them know her dad forbids her from hanging out with boys or that she secretly loves to play the darabuka (Arabic drums).

Under the Persimmon TreeUnder the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Najmah, a young Afghan girl whose name means “star,” suddenly finds herself alone when her father and older brother are conscripted by the Taliban and her mother and newborn brother are killed in an air raid. An American woman, Elaine, whose Islamic name is Nusrat, is also on her own. She waits out the war in Peshawar, Pakistan, teaching refugee children under the persimmon tree in her garden while her Afghan doctor husband runs a clinic in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. Najmah’s father had always assured her that the stars would take care of her, just as Nusrat’s husband had promised that they would tell Nusrat where he was and that he was safe. As the two look to the skies for answers, their fates entwine. Najmah, seeking refuge and hoping to find her father and brother, begins the perilous journey through the mountains to cross the border into Pakistan. And Nusrat’s persimmon-tree school awaits Najmah’s arrival. Together, they both seek their way home.

Known for her award-winning fiction set in South Asia, Suzanne Fisher Staples revisits that part of the world in this beautifully written, heartrending novel.

0-545-17292-6Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Thirteen year old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab’s life. The only problem is that Hayaat and her family live behind the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they’re on the wrong side of check points, curfews, and the travel permit system. Plus, Hayaat’s best friend Samy always manages to attract trouble. But luck is on the pair’s side as they undertake the journey to Jerusalem from the Palestinian Territories when Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel.

But while their journey may only be a few kilometers long, it could take a lifetime to complete. . . .

Humorous and heartfelt, WHERE THE STREETS HAD A NAME deals with the Israel-Palestinian conflict with sensitivity and grace and will open a window on this timely subject.

Zahra's ParadiseZahra’s Paradise by Amir and Ismail Khalil

Set in the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent elections of 2009, Zahra’s Paradise is the fictional story of the search for Mehdi, a young protestor who has vanished into an extrajudicial twilight zone. What’s keeping his memory from being obliterated is not the law. It is the grit and guts of his mother, who refuses to surrender her son to fate, and the tenacity of his brother, a blogger, who fuses tradition and technology to explore and explode the void in which Mehdi has vanished.

Zahra’s Paradise weaves together fiction and real people and events. As the world witnessed the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent elections, through YouTube videos, on Twitter, and in blogs, this story came into being. The global response to this gripping tale has been passionate—an echo of the global outcry during the political upheaval of the summer of 2009.

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Review: Charm & Strange

charm and strangeTitle: Charm & Strange
Author: Stephanie Kuehn
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 216
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying. (Summary and image via Goodreads)

Review: Charm & Strange is a difficult, disturbing read. I can’t say much about it without spoiling the story, but I’ll do my best.

The bio on the dust jacket says that the author is working on a doctorate in clinical psychology, and it’s clear that Kuehn has used her education to her advantage in this book. Charm & Strange combines two narratives in alternating chapters: Drew’s traumatic childhood and Win’s reluctant party attendance, which eventually turns into a mental health crisis. Both narratives leave you with a mounting sense of dread the closer you get to unraveling the mystery of what happened to Drew/Win. There are enough clues that a discerning reader can figure out the key points of the trauma before the official reveal, but that won’t lessen the emotional impact of the events. I spent the time before the reveal desperately hoping that I was wrong and the time afterwards being extremely upset that I was right.

While the book remains tightly focused on Drew/Win, Lex (a former roommate) and Jordan (the new girl) are scene-stealers at school. The failure of Win and Lex’s pseudo friendship is a painful but necessary way of highlighting just how messed up Win is. Jordan’s attempts to befriend Win are equally hard to read, especially since I wanted Win to reach out to someone for help. Lex and Jordan are two decent people caught up in the life of a very broken person, and I admire them for how they deal with Win. They also keep the present narrative from being completely soul-crushing.

Unfortunately, the past narrative is completely soul-crushing. It’s clear from the start that some pretty terrible things had to have happened to Drew in order for him to grow up to be Win, and I had to mentally prep myself for every new chapter. These chapters are the most powerful, especially when the reader starts picking up clues about what is going on with Drew and his family. His brother, Keith, features prominently in this part of the story. The relationship between Keith and Drew (and to a lesser extent, their younger sister, Siobhan) is a heartbreaking one. Keith often acts as a parent for Drew, despite only being a few years older, and watching him struggle to be an adult when he shouldn’t have to be is emotionally draining.

Recommendation: Get it soon, but only if you think you can handle disturbing subject matter. Kuehn wrote an excellent book, but I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to reread it. The book is short and powerful, and it leaves you reeling.

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