Jessica’s Favorites for 2016

I gotta admit. I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked in 2016. Nevertheless, I still managed to pick up a few YA books that I truly loved. None of them quite fit the mold of your average YA novel, and they were all the more amazing for it. Here are my top favorites from 2016:

Fierce and Subtle PoisonA Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry
[Review here]
Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the señoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

25331997Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
[Review here]
Mariko Tamaki has created a thoughtful, funny, and painfully honest story about family, religion, ignorance, and other unsolved high school mysteries. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

 

 

abyssThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
[Review here]
For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea. But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she’s not about to stop. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Not Your SidekickNot Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
[Review here]
Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

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New Releases

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them, a handful of new releases! Here are the YA novels coming out in December and early January. What’s on your to-read list?

secretThe Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee
Release date: 12/27/2016
An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

 

huntedEver the Hunted (Clash of the Kingdoms #1) by Erin Summerhill
Release date: 12/27/2016

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer. However, it’s not so simple... [Image and summary via Goodreads]

wayfarerWayfarer (Passenger #2) by Alexandra Bracken
Release date: 1/3/2017
All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

becauseBecause of the Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Release date: 1/3/2017
From the backyards of suburban Florida to the parched desert of New Mexico, Because of the Sun explores the complexity of family, the saving grace of friendship, and the healing that can begin when the truth is brought to light. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

flyingFlying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
Release date: 1/3/2017
Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

 

wingWing Jones by Katherine Webber
Release date: 1/5/2017
Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

poisonPoison’s Kiss (Poison’s Kiss #1) by Breeana Shields
Release date: 1/10/2017
A teenage assassin kills with a single kiss until she is ordered to kill the one boy she loves. This commercial YA fantasy is romantic and addictive like– a poison kiss– and will thrill fans of Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

 

factoryFactory Girl by Josanne La Valley
Release date: 1/10/2017
In order to save her family’s farm, Roshen, sixteen, must leave her rural home to work in a factory in the south of China. There she finds arduous and degrading conditions and contempt for her minority (Uyghur) background. Sustained by her bond with other Uyghur girls, Roshen is resolved to endure all to help her family and ultimately her people. A workplace survival story, this gritty, poignant account focuses on a courageous teen and illuminates the value—and cost—of freedom. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

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Review: Three Dark Crowns

crownsTitle: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Publisher: HarperTeen
Availability: September 20th, 2016

Summary: Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown. If only it was that simple… [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: Three Dark Crowns is a mirror into the lives of three future queens fated to kill each other for the crown. The triplet sisters belong to three groups, each with their own powers, motivations, and schemes to maneuver their queen to a bloody victory. But of course, nothing goes according to plan.

The world of Three Dark Crowns and the inner lives of sisters Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe are rich and complex. Of course, as a result, there’s a bit of a learning curve in the first few chapters. It takes a little time to figure out what’s happening, who’s who, and everything else, but once you do, it’s easy to sink into the fascinating and, at times, heartbreaking twists and turns of the story.

Three Dark Crowns is told from the perspective of the three sisters, and it’s incredibly well done. In contrast, I was a bit thrown by a side character’s motivations and actions (Joseph, what?!). Similarly, the romance at times veers toward the classic YA insta-love. But, considering the pace and epic fantasy style of the book, it almost felt fitting.

I pretty much read this through in one go — and usually, I steer clear of dark fantasy, but after the first few chapters, I was ready for the long, 400-paged haul. I’m definitely grabbing the sequel when it comes out!

Recommendation: Buy it now!

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2017 To-Read List

As the weather grows colder, I’m digging out my fuzziest sweaters, stocking up on hot milk tea, and… looking ahead to my 2017 reads! There’s so many great books coming up the pipeline next year, and I fully plan to be on top of my to-read list.

Here are my top four anticipated reads coming out in 2017. What books are you excited for?

wintersongWintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Release date: February 7, 2017
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price… [Image and summary via Goodreads]

margot-sanchezThe Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
Release date: February 21st 2017
Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

 

29073707It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura
Release date: May 9th 2017
Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend… [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

dimpleWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Release date: May 30th 2017
A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

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After the Election: How to Help

With the election over, there’s a lot to be done. First and foremost, be sure to take care of yourself and give yourself time to recover. Beyond that, there are plenty of organizations on the local and national level that can use your time and/or money.

We at Rich in Color have put together a list of organizations which will be crucial to protecting vulnerable people in the next four years.

NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS:
Civil rights:
Lambda Legal
American Civil Liberties Union
Southern Poverty Law Center
Anti-Defamation League

Racial justice:
NAACP
Campaign Zero
Black Lives Matter
Showing Up for Racial Justice
Hispanic Federation
National Council of La Raza
Central American Resource Center
Muslims for Progressive Values
Council on American-Islamic Relations
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

LGBTQIA, anti-violence, and reproductive justice:
Trans Lifeline
Planned Parenthood
Anti-Violence Programs
RAINN: Anti sexual assault
SAGE: Advocacy for LGBTQ older adults

Disability advocacy
Disability Visibility Project
National Council on Independent Living
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Environmental Justice
Sierra Club
EarthJustice: Environmental Law

More national organizations can be found here.

LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS
Local organizations do a lot of good work in the community. Ask at your local library or community center, or search online to find out what organizations are doing in your area.
#NoDAPL
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund

St. Louis:
Hands Up United
Organization for Black Struggle
Places for People: Mental health services
St. Patrick Center: Housing and employment
ArchCity Defenders: Civil rights and legal access

Los Angeles/Southern California
Border Angels: Immigration advocacy
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Equality California
Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project
Los Angeles LGBT Center

YOUTH PROGRAMS
As shown through students walking out of classes to protest, marginalized youth will need support as well. Here are some organizations where you can donate and/or volunteer:
The Dream.Us
Boys & Girls Club of America
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Running Start: Bringing young girls and women into politics

OTHER WAYS TO HELP
-Get politically involved. Know your city leaders and school board members. Volunteer with the political party you support. Contact your representatives (see: the most effective methods). Turn out for local elections and the big ones. 2018 will be here sooner than you think.
Stay informed and subscribe to a local or national newspaper that you trust. Good journalism and investigative reporting will be crucial in the coming years.
-Volunteer with local schools, GED programs, English language programs, and immigration resources.
-Speak up when you encounter bigotry or prejudice! This may seem like a small thing, but it never hurts to start with the people around you.

Have any other suggestions? What are the organizations in your community that you plan on supporting? Let us know!

Edited to add further suggestions (thank you!):
Color of Change: online organization mobilizing racial justice
For supporting freedom of expression:
PEN
Amnesty International
National Coalition Against Censorship

Further edited to add more sections to the national organization list. Thank you for the suggestions!

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New Releases

Happy book birthday to two books releasing tomorrow (11/8)!

avengedAvenged (Vanished #2) by E.E. Cooper
Avenged is the conclusion to the Vanished duology, an absorbing, psychological suspense story about friendship, deception, jealousy, and love.

Everyone believes Beth’s death was an accident, except for Kalah. The girl she loved was stolen from her, and now Kalah’s broken heart wants revenge. In order to crack Brit’s perfect alibi, Kalah pretends to be Brit’s best friend—with the sole mission to destroy her.

Kalah knows that playing Brit’s game is deadly. One wrong move could cost someone their life, including her own…but the more lies Kalah tells, the closer she is to the twisted truth. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

fourFour-Four-Two by Dean Hughes

From the author of Soldier Boys and Search and Destroy comes a thought-provoking, action-packed page-turner based on the little-known history of the Japanese Americans who fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.

Yuki Nakahara is an American. But it’s the start of World War II, and America doesn t see it that way. Like many other Japanese Americans, Yuki and his family have been forced into an internment camp in the Utah desert. But Yuki isn’t willing to sit back and accept this injustice. It’s his country too, and he’s going to prove it by enlisting in the army to fight for the Allies.

When Yuki and his friend Shig ship out, they aren’t prepared for the experiences they ll encounter as members of the Four-Four-Two, a segregated regiment made up entirely of Japanese-American soldiers. Before Yuki returns home if he returns home he’ll come face to face with persistent prejudices, grueling combat he never imagined, and friendships deeper than he knew possible. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

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