Native YA Protagonists

I have a new book list for you all–this time we’re looking at books starring American Indians! Many thanks to Debbie Reese, whose website and pinterest board are great resources for people looking for non-stereotypical portrayals of American Indians in children’s literature. If you want to recommend any other great books starring American Indians, First Nations, or Aboriginal teens, let us know in the comments!

The Lesser BlessedThe Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp

Larry is a Dogrib Indian growing up in the small northern town of Fort Simmer. His tongue, his hallucinations and his fantasies are hotter than the sun. At sixteen, he loves Iron Maiden, the North and Juliet Hope, the high school “tramp.” When Johnny Beck, a Metis from Hay River, moves to town, Larry is ready for almost anything.

In this powerful and often very funny first novel, Richard Van Camp gives us one of the most original teenage characters in fiction. Skinny as spaghetti, nervy and self-deprecating, Larry is an appealing mixture of bravado and vulnerability. His past holds many terrors: an abusive father, blackouts from sniffing gasoline, an accident that killed several of his cousins. But through his friendship with Johnny, he’s ready now to face his memories—and his future.

Marking the debut of an exciting new writer, The Lesser Blessed is an eye-opening depiction of what it is to be a young Native man in the age of AIDS, disillusionment with Catholicism and a growing world consciousness.

If I ever get out of hereIf I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?

Acclaimed adult author Eric Gansworth makes his YA debut with this wry and powerful novel about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock ‘n’ roll.

My Name Is Not EasyMy Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

Luke knows his I’nupiaq name is full of sounds white people can’t say. He knows he’ll have to leave it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles from their Arctic village. At Sacred Heart School things are different. Instead of family, there are students – Eskimo, Indian, White – who line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there’s some kind of war going on. And instead of comforting words like tutu and maktak, there’s English. Speaking I’nupiaq – or any native language – is forbidden. And Father Mullen, whose fury is like a force of nature, is ready to slap down those who disobey. Luke struggles to survive at Sacred Heart. But he’s not the only one. There’s smart-aleck Amiq, a daring leader – if he doesn’t self destruct; Chickie, blond and freckled, a different kind of outsider; and small quiet Junior, noticing everything and writing it all down. Each has their own story to tell. But once their separate stories come together, things at Sacred Heart School – and in the wider world – will never be the same.

Rain Is Not My Indian NameRain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith and Lori Earley (Illustrations)

The next day was my fourteenth birthday, and I’d never kissed a boy — domestic style or French. Right then, I decided to get myself a teen life.

Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn’t know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his.

It’s been six months since her best friend died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia’s Indian Camp in their mostly white midwestern community, Rain decides to face the outside world again — at least through the lens of her camera.

Hired by her town newspaper to photograph the campers, Rain soon finds that she has to decide how involved She wants to become in Indian Camp. Does she want to keep a professional distance from the intertribal community she belongs to? And just how willing is she to connect with the campers after her great loss?

New Releases

We’ve found four books coming out this week that look like they are full of action and suspense. I am hoping to start Kat Zhang’s series soon. Jessica reviewed the first book in the series earlier this year and they both look intriguing. Are any of these catching your eye?
Frozen

Frozen (Heart of Dread #1)
By Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

Putnam Juvenile

Summary: Set in 111 C.D., one hundred and eleven years after a Catastrophic Disaster has wiped out 99% of humanity and left the earth covered in ice, this new series introduces readers to a ragtag group of friends and the dawning of a new time. The world of reason, of mathematics and science, is ending, and a new civilization is being born from the ice: a world of magic and mayhem, sorcerers and spellcraft. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

 

 

once

Once We Were by Kat Zhang
HarperCollins

Summary: “I’m lucky just to be alive.”

Eva was never supposed to have survived this long. As the recessive soul, she should have faded away years ago. Instead, she lingers in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away.

Now fugitives, Eva and Addie find shelter with a group of hybrids who run an underground resistance. Surrounded by others like them, the girls learn how to temporarily disappear to give each soul some much-needed privacy. Eva is thrilled at the chance to be alone with Ryan, the boy she’s falling for, but troubled by the growing chasm between her and Addie. Despite clashes over their shared body, both girls are eager to join the rebellion.

Yet as they are drawn deeper into the escalating violence, they start to wonder: How far are they willing to go to fight for hybrid freedom? Faced with uncertainty and incredible danger, their answers may tear them apart forever. — image and summary via Goodreads

Dead

Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Walker Children’s

Summary: Rachel died at two a.m . . . Three hours after Skyler kissed me for the first time. Forty-five minutes after she sent me her last text. 

Jaycee and Rachel were best friends. But that was before. . .before that terrible night at the old house. Before Rachel shut Jaycee out. Before Jaycee chose Skyler over Rachel. Then Rachel is found dead. The police blame a growing gang problem in their small town, but Jaycee is sure it has to do with that night at the old house. Rachel’s text is the first clue—starting Jaycee on a search that leads to a shocking secret. Rachel’s death was no random crime, and Jaycee must figure out who to trust before she can expose the truth.

In the follow-up to her powerful debut, Jennifer Shaw Wolf keeps readers on their toes in another dark, romantic story of murder and secrets. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

Kinslayer

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff
Thomas Dunne Books

A SHATTERED EMPIRE

The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Book Review: Inheritance

inheritanceTitle: Inheritance
Author: Malinda Lo
Genres: Speculative Fiction
Pages: 480
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: ARC from NetGalley
Availability: Releases on Sept. 24

Summary: Reese and David are not normal teens—not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens.

Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend Amber, an Imrian. But her choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe. (summary from author’s webpage http://www.malindalo.com)

Review: I thought long and hard what to write for this review because there is so much to Malinda Lo’s awesome-sauce speculative fiction novel that I just don’t know where to begin, or to write without giving away spoilers. Inheritance is the sequel to Lo’s third novel, Adaptation, where high school students Reese Holloway and David Li undergo surgery where their bodies are transformed by the Imria. Adaptation is a fast paced novel that explores the changes Reese and David experience, as well as Reese coming to terms with her sexuality when she falls for a girl named Amber Gray. The novel ends right at an intense point, where I could imagine Lo fans screaming in frustration, desiring to know what happens next. Luckily for me, a mere days after I finished Adaptation, the opportunity to read the ARC of Inheritance was presented to me and I jumped at the chance.

 

 
Fans of Adaptation will not be disappointed with the conclusion of Reese’s and Amber’s and David’s story. In fact, the tension in Inheritance becomes even more intense. The conspiracies spin out of control, the danger becomes real as both Reese and David experience violence from extremists on both sides who react exactly as imagined upon learning that beings from another world exist. And the love triangle between Reese, David and Amber is handled with such delicate care that the reader really can’t choose who to root for. Lo resolves the triangle in an unconventional way that will have fans either loving the resolution or hating it. I, in fact, loved it and thought it to be a brave choice by Lo.

 

 
Inheritance begins where Adaptation left off and doesn’t slow down for a minute. While there is less physical action scenes, the novel explores the consequences of what would happen to our society if the notion of aliens visiting our planet turn out to be true. The novel also explores the idea of “fame” and the role the media plays into the daily lives of those who are thrust into the spotlight as Reese and David are. I find that these types of stories are more compelling than your regular action mystery/SciFi novel because it allows us, both the writer and the reader, to look at our society in a unique way and answer the question of “what if”. By playing with these “what if” scenarios through novels like Inheritance, we can be prepared for when the events actually occur.

 

 
I greatly enjoyed Inheritance and while the ending is left on a positive note, and definitely completes the story, there is much more to explore in Reese’s world. I hope Malinda Lo has more planned for Reese, Amber and David, because I’d really like to spend more time with them.

 

 
Recommendation: Get it now! Inheritance comes out on Sept. 24th. If you haven’t read Adaptation, buy it now and then pre-order Inheritance.

Judging Covers

So I took a YA lit class not so long ago — yes, this is a thing — and we had a book cover artist come in to talk to us about cover design. She went over some cool stuff — elements of cover design, the iconic imagery of the Hunger Games, etc. And then she pulled up a slide with fifteen YA book covers. They were sorted into three categories: Pretty Dead Girls, Sad Girls in Pretty Dresses, and Girls With Flowing Hair. She went on to beg us to never, ever create Pretty Dead Girl covers because those were so overdone.

In my head, I misremembered the whole thing and switched out Pretty Dead Girls with Dead White Girls. When I went home that day, I told my housemates about the funny book cover lady who lamented over the gazillions of Dead White Girl covers being put out every year. I wasn’t really wrong — there are an awful lot of tragic white girl covers gracing YA books. [Images via Goodreads]

adslfjsdfthe unquiet

First of all, what’s with the tragic/languishing/dead look? Kind of feels like passivity and vulnerability are considered the best way to showcase an attractive girl, eh? (Sexism rears its ugly head.) And don’t get me started on how every girl seems to have the same cookie-cutter good looks. Second, why is everyone white? If I judged YA lit by its book covers, I’d think that 90% of its books were identical stories about a sad girl languishing. This is simply unfair to YA lit as a whole. In recent years, attention has been drawn to the prevalence of these kind of covers and the issue of whitewashed covers.

At the same time, it’s not enough to simply point out that wow, there are a lot of tragic white girl covers and then hashtag it. Awareness may be the first step, but it’s not the last. After all, these book covers are nothing new. I like what Justine Larbalestier had to say on the problem of whitewashed book covers:

“I hope it gets every publishing house thinking about how incredibly important representation is and that they are in a position to break down these assumptions… I really hope that the outrage the US cover of Liar has generated will go a long way to bringing an end to white washing covers. Maybe even to publishing and promoting more writers of color. But never forget that publishers are in the business of making money. Consumers need to do what they can.”

Now let me change consumers to readers. (I tire of the implication by authors and publishers that ‘true activism’ is fueled primarily by buying power. Ugh, no.) Readers, a flexible role that bookworms, library patrons, editors and writers all take on, need to do what they can. We can recommend, review, buy, and promote beloved books that feature good cover design and diversity and quality writing — it’s not just about the covers, after all! As Cindy Pon puts it,

Whitewashing book covers is never okay, but it is easier to do when it is only happening to a few books—because the vast majority of other books feature no characters of color. It is something that, despite causing an uproar online in pockets of certain communities, can still be swept under the rug and soon be forgotten.

We see so many of the same YA covers because there is so little diversity within YA lit itself. The covers are only the symptom of a greater problem. Readers need to do what they can. To back up my words, here are some awesome books and their lovely covers:

book covers

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Half World by Hiromi Goto
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Since You Asked by Maurene Goo

Ambelin Kwaymullina, author of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, concludes her article (definitely go read the whole thing!) on the disappearance of race from YA lit by saying,

“So, to all the teenagers out there, whoever you are and from wherever you come, I say this – you deserve all the stories: the ones about people like you, and the ones about people unlike you… You deserve stories that make your existence larger, not smaller; stories that expand rather than limit your reality. And when you walk into a bookstore, you deserve to be surrounded by a crowd of faces, of all colours and cultures and races, and to know that behind every one of those faces is a new world waiting to be discovered…and all it takes to experience it is the turn of a page.”

For more reading: Another great resource discussing YA book cover trends (and problems!), complete with lots of pie charts: Uncovering YA Covers: 2011 by Kate Hart

Group Discussion and Giveaway for The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

When Rich in Color first started, the five of us got together on a video chat and talked about what books we were looking forward to reading and reviewing. It turned out that all of us wanted to read The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, so we decided the only fair thing to do was have a group discussion.

The Summer Prince A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.

The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.

In celebration of this amazing book, we are also having a giveaway! One lucky reader will get to pick between a hardcover or electronic copy of the book. Please note that this giveaway is open to U.S. mailing addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


WARNING: There are spoilers ahead! Terrible, end-of-the-book spoilers!

Crystal: To start off, what do you all think of the cover image? For me, the design on her skin was stunning and the glow grabbed my attention. I was completely intrigued.

Jessica: It’s definitely eye catching. I liked the green-yellow glow on the cover since it connects to the lush green feeling of Palmares Tres.

Audrey: My first thought upon seeing the cover was “hey, there’s a girl on there that looks like she could be related to me!” That doesn’t happen often, and I was thrilled when I found out that the book was dystopian, too. (People of color are distressingly absent from dystopian/post-apocalyptic tales.)

Crystal: I hadn’t noticed the greens that way Jessica, but it does complement the feeling of the place. The verde. I was more entranced with the light so missed that. Lights seem to be pulsing throughout the story: their first art project with the holograms, those in her arm and the lights of the city that “sparkle on the bay”. It seems that everyone is trying to be in the light — to stand out. I kept wondering if June and her friends were all going to burn out they were shining so brightly and living so much on the edge.

Karimah: Like Crystal, I was intrigued by the lighting on her arms. The design is beautiful. Also, if you have the hardcover, put it under a light. It will actually glow. I think the choice of the sparkling light of her arms, mixed with the green really complements the feel of the novel, the other-worldly aspect of the story.

Jon: Unfortunately I read it on eBook so I missed the cover, except what I saw online. The glowing arm tattoos sold me quick, as I’m a sucker for tattoos, especially nature ones!

Continue reading

Four New Books This Week

We have five exciting books hitting shelves this week. Be sure to check them out!

boxerssaints

Boxers: China,1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers – commoners trained in kung fu who fight to free China from “foreign devils.”

Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of “secondary devils” – Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.

Saints: China, 1898. An unwanted fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn’t even given a proper name by her family. She finds friendship—and a name, Vibiana—in the most unlikely of places: Christianity. But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie . . . and whether she is willing to die for her faith.

Boxers & Saints is an innovative new graphic novel in two volumes – the parallel stories of two young people caught up on opposite sides of a violent rift. American Born Chinese author Gene Luen Yang brings his clear-eyed storytelling and trademark magical realism to the complexities of the Boxer Rebellion and lays bare the foundations of extremism, rebellion, and faith. — Cover images and summary from Goodreads

romeo Romeo & Juliet by Gareth Hinds

Summary: She’s a Capulet. He’s a Montague. But when Romeo and Juliet first meet, they don’t know they’re from rival families — and when they find out, they don’t care. Their love is honest and raw and all-consuming. But it’s also dangerous. How much will they have to sacrifice before they can be together? In a masterful adaptation faithful to Shakespeare’s original text, Gareth Hinds transports readers to the sun-washed streets and market squares of Shakespeare’s Verona, vividly bringing the classic play to life on the printed page. — cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

tumblr_mjourzJBS41qecal7o1_500Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices
Edited by Mitali Perkins

Using humor as the common denominator, a multicultural cast of YA authors steps up to the mic to share stories touching on race. Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while — until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute, simply by sitting quietly between two uptight women. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poignant, in prose, poetry, and comic form.

“Becoming Henry Lee” by David Yoo
“Why I Won’t Be Watching the Last Airbender Movie” by Gene Luen Yang
“Talent Show” by Cherry Cheva
“Voilà” by Debbie Rigaud
“Three-Pointer” by Mitali Perkins (our awesome editor and the mastermind behind all this!)
“Like Me” by Varian Johnson
“Confessions of a Black Geek” by Olubemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
“Under Berlin” by G. Neri
“Brotherly Love” by Francisco X. Stork
“Lexicon” by Naomi Shihab Nye

antigoddessAntigoddess by Kendare Blake

Summary: Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin. — Cover image and summary via Indiebound