Five Wrong-Headed Reasons for Not Writing Diverse Characters in Science Fiction

Awakening Final cover-sSay hello to Karen Sandler, author of the Tankborn trilogy from Tu Books! The second installment, AWAKENING, hit shelves this spring. Karen has graciously agreed to write a guest post for us today–we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!


I want to preface this post by acknowledging that writers have a right to write anything they want to write. It’s not as if there are any quota systems in place in fiction, where 6.2% of the characters have to be of this ethnicity, or 8.9% of that gender identity. You’re free to create any kind of character, culture, and world that you like.

That said, I’d like to consider some conscious and not-so-conscious reasons why science fiction might be less diverse than it could be. Why if there are diverse characters, they are nearly always the secondary characters and not the main characters.

So what do I mean by diverse main characters in science fiction? I mean characters that are:

  • From non-white European ethnicities
  • From a non-European culture
  • Strong women in non-traditional roles
  • GLBTQ
  • Disabled

You wouldn’t need all these qualities in a single character (although it could be done), but by my definition, your character would need at least one to be considered diverse. And this is my definition, yours might vary. Feel free to quibble with me in the comments about these categories, or to add other areas of diversity, but these give us a starting point.

In my points below, I’m using the word “white” as a shorthand for Caucasian of European extraction, a WASP, if you will. I chose white as a shorthand because in the vast majority of science fiction, that’s the ethnicity of the main characters (and more often than not, male). But I hope you’ll extrapolate this shorthand into other areas of diversity, that is, if you’re straight, writing a GLBTQ character might be a stretch for you.

On to the Wrong-Headed Reasons:

1) I’m white, and it might be offensive it I write about other cultures/ethnicities.

Confession up front here. This is exactly the reason I avoided writing diverse main characters for so long. I had plenty of diverse secondary and minor characters featured in nearly every book I wrote. I thought it would be Someone Else’s Story to write a book with a diverse main character.

If you follow this logic down the rabbit hole, you might come to the conclusion that only white people can write white people, only woman can write women characters, only children can write about children, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Which of course is nuts. We have to imagine characters that are outside ourselves all the time. Do you think Jeff Lindsay (DEXTER), is a serial killer? Or that Carrie Ryan (FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH) is secretly a zombie? Or that either one of them worries about offending serial killers or zombies by writing about them in their books? Not likely.

However, it is possible to write a diverse character in such a way that is offensive. That can happen when we rely only on the stereotypes about others that float around in our brains, rather than gaining an understanding of that different ethnicity/culture and making the character a real person.

The key is respect—having respect for the culture, the ethnicity, the gender, gender identification, physical abilities. If you start with respect, you should do fine representing diverse characters.

2) Everyone says you’re supposed to write what you know, and I don’t really know anything about other cultures/ethnicities.

Um, see #1, particularly the part about serial killers and zombies.

We have two ways of solving the I Don’t Know problem. First, just as we would if we wanted to include a scene featuring a hot air balloon in our novel, we do some research. Read books, find reliable sites on the Internet, talk to people who have done ballooning. We don’t throw up our hands and say, “Can’t write about hot air ballooning, because you have to write what you know.”

If you want to follow that edict (write what you know), then you’d better know more. Learn more. Read about the Roma, the Indian caste system, the Hindu religion (as I did for TANKBORN). If you were writing an SF book that involved cloning, you’d go learn as much as you could about cloning.

The second way of solving the I Don’t Know problem, once you’ve educated yourself, is to put yourself in your characters’ shoes. Imagine what it would be like as them. This is what fiction is all about.

3) The world I’ve built only includes white people. Everyone else was killed in a plague.

Oh, puleeze! This is just a lazy excuse. It reminds me of my biggest complaint about Larry Niven’s THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE. In his future world, something catastrophic has happened with the human birthrate. So women are coddled and cosseted (because they’re the baby-makers), and as a consequence have almost zero influence on the story’s action. To me, that seemed like a clever way to keep women out of the story. Maybe this wasn’t Niven’s intent, but it kind of soured me on the series.

In any case, creating an imaginary plague that only spares white people is pretty preposterous. There’s no biological difference between races. There might be higher incidences of genetic weaknesses based on ethnicity (the Tay-Sachs genetic disorder that disproportionately impacts Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews comes to mind), but to create a future in which, say, everyone with dark skin is wiped out, is bad world-building.

4) I just don’t see how non-white characters would fit into my book. All the characters in my head are white.

I see this excuse as a crisis of imagination. Particularly if you’re writing SF, often set in a future when anything can change. When everything can be different than it is now. We’ve already seen our first black president. We’ve seen women in ever more powerful roles. Gays and lesbians are coming out in nearly every corner of society, and universal marriage equality is becoming more and more imaginable.

You can’t imagine a black genetic engineer as your main character? An Hispanic lesbian piloting a starship? Then your imagination needs some revamping. You need to start thinking outside the box. Open up your corner of the world to more possibilities.

5) If my main characters are non-white, a publisher (or reader) won’t buy my book.

They bought Justine Larbalestier’s LIAR (although there was the whole #racefail issue with the original cover). Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN. Malinda Lo’s HUNTRESS. It’s true that there are few enough diverse main characters that we’re still writing blog posts like this one or the one here. But if it’s a wonderful book, publishers will buy it.

And as for readers, this is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don’t want to write diverse characters because we’re afraid readers won’t buy them. But readers can’t buy what hasn’t been written. If your story with diverse main characters is wonderful, readers will seek it out.


Karen SandlerGenre-conflicted author of science fiction (the young adult trilogy, TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REVOLUTION from Tu Books), mystery (CLEAN BURN, a Janelle Watkins mystery from Exhibit A) and romance (fun, sexy romances, indie published). Visit my website, www.karensandler.net.

New Releases

We have quite a range of choices this week with a flirtaionship, suicide with a bit of poetry, and the Trail of Tears. We also have one that we missed last week. I know Tim Tingle is a fantastic storyteller, so I am definitely looking forward to reading How I Became a Ghost. Have a great week!

nikkiGet Over It by Nikki Carter
K-Teen/Dafina

Summary: The bigger the dreams, the bigger the drama With major industry success and a year of college under her belt, Sunday Tolliver is ready to take her singer-songwriter talents to the next level. But new opportunities also mean totally unexpected drama. Her flirtationship with hot video star DeShawn is turning into much more but the unfinished business between her and ex-boyfriend Sam won’t go away. An explosive campus hazing scandal puts her friends up against a powerful sorority and Sunday’s skills on the line. And reluctantly helping her jealous cousin Dreya save her record deal is a major diva face-off that could end both their careers. Now Sunday will have to take mad risks and trust everything she’s learned to stay true to her fab life and herself. — image and summary from Goodreads.

death
Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Running Press Kids

Summary: Frenchie Garcia can’t come to grips with the death of Andy Cooper. Her friends didn’t know she had a crush him. And they don’t know she was the last person with him before he committed suicide. But Frenchie’s biggest concern is how she blindly helped him die that night.

Frenchie’s already insane obsession with death and Emily Dickinson won’t help her understand the role she played during Andy’s “one night of adventure.” But when she meets Colin, she may have found the perfect opportunity to recreate that night. While exploring the emotional depth of loss and transition to adulthood, Sanchez’s sharp humor and clever observations bring forth a richly developed voice. — image and summary fromGoodreads

tim tingleHow I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle
The Road Runner Press

Summary: Told in the words of Isaac, a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears, HOW I BECAME A GHOST is a tale of innocence and resilience in the face of tragedy. From the book’s opening line, “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before,” the reader is put on notice that this is no normal book. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac s talking dog, Jumper. The first in a trilogy, HOW I BECAME A GHOST thinly disguises an important and oft-overlooked piece of history. — image and summary via Amazon

We missed this one last week:
15790891

How to Be a Star (Surviving School #2) by M. Doty

Poppy

Summary: High school is the time to shine.

Tired of playing sidekick to her superstar-athlete best friend, Kimi Chen has decided it’s time to step into the spotlight and snag her own place at the coveted center table of the cafeteria. When her low-budget music video hits the Web and goes viral, forget about being just popular — Kimi is famous! Boys want to date her, girls want to be her, and she is even asked to perform on her favorite TV show. After years of feeling stranded on the bottom rung of the social ladder, Kimi finds that things are finally looking up.

But when fame gets in the way of her friendships, Kimi’s celebrity begins to lose some of its sparkle. Being a star, it turns out, may be more than she bargained for.

Discover the high price of fame and stardom in this second novel in the Surviving High School series, based on the hit mobile game from Electronic Arts. — image and summary via Goodreads

 

Review: Spirit’s Chosen

Note: Today’s review was written by K. Imani. Technical difficulties prevented her from uploading it today, so I took care of it for her.

SpiritsTitle: Spirit’s Chosen
Author: Esther Friesner
Genres: Historical/Fantasy
Pages: 475
Publisher: Random House
Review Copy: Purchased from Amazon
Availability: Hardcover on shelves now

Summary: Himiko’s world is falling apart. An attack by the Ookami clan has left many from her tribe dead or enslaved. And those who remain in the ransacked Matsu village are certain they’ve angered the gods. Amid the chaos and fear, Himiko hatches a plan to save her beloved tribe. Traveling through the treacherous wilderness with her best friend Kaya, their only goal is to free her clan folk from the Ookami. At every turn she encounters other tribes and unforeseen challenges. But just when it seems that she will outwit Ryu, the cruel Ookami leader, she is captured. Held against her will, Himiko starts to realize that not all of the Ookami are her enemies and every step of her unconventional journey has prepared her for something greater than life as a princess. Though she may not see her path as clearly as the spirits seem to, there’s more adventure (and even unexpected love) for this young shamaness and warrior. (Via Goodreads)

Review: After finishing the book a few nights ago, I’m still unsure as to what to think of it. There were parts of Friesner’s novel that I enjoyed and then there were parts where I just kept reading because I knew I had to write this review. One of the reasons why I think I’m blasé about the novel is because the novel I read before this one left a mark on my heart, had me mourning that the story was over. With Spirit’s Chosen, I put the book down and finished cooking dinner. No sadness, no missing of characters or Friesner’s world, just done with the book, ready for the next.

As I thought about my ambivalence, I asked myself what caused this feeling? Was it the characters? Was it the world? Was it the style of prose Friesner use? What it the story? What?

And then I realized, there were two main aspects of this novel that rubbed me the wrong way and the main one is the main character, Himiko. Now, I’m pleased that Friesner chose to write a character of color, specifically of Japanese descent, and set the novel in a historical time period. On the other hand, Himiko annoyed me a bit because she is a bit of a Mary-Sue. She is a like-able character and the reader wants to root for her to succeed, but she doesn’t have any faults. None what so ever. She always is able to maintain a positive attitude despite what is thrown at her and is always able to come up with the proper solution that succeeds every time. In fact, at one point when she experiences an obstacle and starts to finally have a breakdown, after she tells Daimu (her love interest) why she is upset, she ends up comforting him! I was completely taken out of the story at that point because it was so unrealistic. I realize that Friesner is trying to promote a strong female character, a warrior, but for a reader to connect, to really believe in the character, she must exhibit some faults or else the reader doesn’t truly trust the main character. I feel like Friesner got so caught up in her sweeping historical fiction with a strong female character that she forgot to give her character, and others, more depth.

Spirit’s Chosen is a sequel to Friesner’s Spirit’s Princess but the way she structures the novel allows one to read this novel without having read the first. Friesner gives tidbits here and there of relevant information, as needed, from the first novel and it doesn’t overwhelm Spirit’s Chosen. Friesner definitely did her history, and visited Japan which she writes about in her afterward, and this level of attention and detail comes across beautifully. The world that Friesner creates is very real and believable, and is what makes the novel somewhat interesting.

Recommendation: If you like epic historical fiction with balanced characters, I’d say skip this one, but if not and you just love historical fiction for the romance of another era, then this one is for you.

It’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

sgljsdglkjdwatsonLast Thursday was the season finale of Elementary, which is an American tv crime show take on the Sherlock Holmes story. What makes the show great is Sherlock Holmes’ partner in crime solving: Joan Watson, played by Lucy Liu. [Image via Racebending]

The portrayal of Joan Watson as an Asian American lady is spot on. She isn’t reduced to a stereotype because of her gender or her ethnicity. Instead, she’s no-nonsense, brilliant and all-around awesome. (If you can’t tell, I love Elementary and especially Watson.) Elementary’s Joan Watson is exactly the sort of complex POC character that I like to see in my YA lit as well, which brings me to…

…book recs! In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (ah, the glorious month of May!), here are some of my favorite books:

team humanTeam Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Residing in New Whitby, Maine, a town founded by vampires trying to escape persecution, Mel finds her negative attitudes challenged when her best friend falls in love with one, another friend’s father runs off with one, and she herself is attracted to someone who tries to pass himself off as one. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

 

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. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

nothing but the truthNothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen
Getting her fortune told by a Taiwanese ‘belly-button grandmother’ (who feels up her navel) instead of attending the spring dance is just one of the joys of being Patty Ho, a covertly snarky ‘hapa’ (half Asian, half white) struggling with her dual heritage. Patty’s domineering mother is determined to make her a good Taiwanese girl. Gangly Patty, no ‘China doll,’ longs to be white like her long-gone father…readers will find a compelling narrative, and a spunky, sympathetic heroine. This book should enjoy wide appeal. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

When you get the chance, definitely check out these books!

Interview and Giveaway with Sarah Ockler

brokenEveryone, please welcome Sarah Ockler to Rich in Color! We’re thrilled to have her answer some questions about diversity in young adult literature and The Book of Broken Hearts, which is out today. Sarah has also volunteered to give away a signed hardcover copy of her new book! The giveaway ends at midnight (Eastern) on Sunday. (U.S. mailing addresses only.)


Why is diversity in young adult fiction important to you?

This is such a huge, multi-layered question, but on the most basic level, diversity in YA fiction is important because diversity in *life* is important. Our stories both reflect and influence our lives, and life is anything but homogenous (just walk in the woods if you doubt that!). I want all kids and teens to know that they’re important and that their stories — whatever those stories might be — belong on the page. They belong on the shelves. They belong in our discussions and our imaginations. And as authors who write books for kids and teens, we have both a responsibility and a privilege to tell diverse stories, to give those characters voices. Yes, it’s challenging, and when we write about something outside of our own experience, we might get it wrong. But that’s no excuse not to try!

What were some of the challenges you faced while writing The Book of Broken Hearts? What did you enjoy most?

Speaking of challenges…. yes! This was the most challenging book I’ve written — which also made it the most enjoyable. All of my books so far have been contemporary realistic YA novels, but within that category, I love trying new things, which might mean exploring new family relationships, different cultures, totally new plot situations, new places. For this one, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in two different Latino cultures — Argentine and Puerto Rican — and to write about family, history, language, cultural traditions, and even foods so different from what I grew up with was a wonderful challenge that required a good mix of research and imagination.

The other challenge was more of an emotional one — researching the effects of early onset Alzheimer’s on a young family. It’s such a devastating illness, and there were times during the writing that I had to walk away, to take a break and work on something completely different. Throughout the process of writing a book, I often come to know my characters as real people, and I hated putting them through such tragic and painful situations in The Book of Broken Hearts. But I really wanted to tell this story, and it was important for me to portray it authentically — that’s where the challenge came in.

What appealed to you about having a set of sisters whose hearts get broken by a set of brothers?

Sibling relationships are perfect for YA novels because they’re naturally full of conflict and extreme emotion. I love writing about family loyalty, expectations, and the ways in which tragedy can both unite and divide families. So when I was first daydreaming about The Book of Broken Hearts and wondering how the conflicts would play out, I thought… hey. How about *more* siblings! With *more* drama! With *more* broken hearts and questions of loyalty and family history and what happens when one sibling breaks the accepted family “rules”! I wanted to write about a character who was stuck in the past, almost as if she was living the lives of her previous sisters, but who’d have to start breaking away and making her own choices and forming her own ideas about the world and her place in it. Emilio also has his own challenges and secrets, but… no spoilers. 😉

Which aspects of Jude and Emilio’s relationship do you hope readers will swoon over? What sets them apart from characters in your other books?

I hope readers swoon over the parts that I swooned over while writing — their flirty jokes and banter, the underlying insecurities that surface in sweet little ways as they get to know one another, and of course — the kissing! I think what sets them apart is the fact that despite the “forbidden” relationship (Jude’s sisters made her take an oath when she was twelve to never get involved with Emilio’s family, so… *insert ominous music here*), there isn’t a lot of angst between them. When they argue, they come back together to talk it out. They get to know each other under less than ideal circumstances, slowly peeling back the layers, both of them confronting the legacies of their older siblings. I had so much fun writing their relationship, and I still think about them even now and wonder where they ended up after the summer in the book. Sequel, maybe? 😉

Crystal’s father restored one of his motorcycles in the dining room one winter much to her mother’s consternation. Have you been privy to many motorcycle restorations or did this require additional research for The Book of Broken Hearts?

Wow, the dining room?! So fun! Well, not counting my obsession with the movie Grease 2 (yes, you should watch it! Cool Rider!)… My dad used to rebuild motorcycles when he was young, way before kids and mortgages and all that stuff, so he was totally my consultant on this project! He also used to drive me to school functions on the back of his Harley — something I didn’t appreciate until many years later. You know, the helmet always messed up my hair! But now I love that he did that. I also love that even though I asked him for help and advice on the motorcycle aspects of the story, he totally gave his two cents on the romance elements, too. It was very sweet. 🙂

Why did you set The Book of Broken Hearts during the summer before college instead of during high school?

I wanted Jude to be at a major crossroads in her life, kind of stuck in that floaty space between her past and her future. In many ways she’s still a child — she’s so wrapped up in her sisters’ “rules” and not wanting to disappoint them. But the summer after high school, she’s taking on so many adult responsibilities — caring for her father, helping him restore his motorcycle, trying to cook and help her mother. I wanted to take the naturally confusing transitionary time that so many teens experience, and then really intensify it with her father’s decline, the conflicts with her sisters, and of course… falling in love!

Do you have any high school experiences that would make a great springboard for a YA novel?

Oh, gosh. Don’t they all? 😉 Honestly, I never use my actual high school experiences in my fiction, but I do take the emotional footprint of them to inspire different characters, situations, and relationships. In that way, yes, I have a whole memory bank full of those kind of experiences! Scary thought!

What advice do you have for writers who want to include diverse characters in their books?

Take the leap! Use your imagination. Don’t make assumptions. And most importantly… ask questions! I’ve found that people are often more than willing to answer thoughtful questions, share their experiences, point out potential trouble spots, and help you craft authentic characters and situations. Get out there and talk to people, online and offline. Eat foods from the cultures you’re interested in, listen to the languages if they’re different from yours, learn about the history, check out family traditions, read other stories with similarly diverse characters. Embrace your own sense of adventure and wonderment, and explore! Then, write. 🙂

Which authors have been your biggest influences? Which authors do you look to for great stories about diverse characters?

When I first started writing YA, my big influences were the established contemporary realistic authors like Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Deb Caletti, and I still adore their books. The more I learned about YA and the more I read, the more I discovered other writers and diverse stories too — authors like Coe Booth, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Cassie Clare, Matt de la Pena, Justina Chen, Sherman Alexie, Laura Resau, Dia Reeves, Sarah Rees Brennan, Dream Jordan, and Neesha Meminger come to mind.

Who are your five favorite YA characters?

This answer changes for me all the time! At the moment, here are a few of my top faves: Kami Glass in Sarah Rees Brennan’s UNSPOKEN, Kit Cordelle in Dia Reeves’s SLICE OF CHERRY, Blue in Maggie Steifvater’s THE RAVEN BOYS, Annana in Cassandra Rose Clark’s THE ASSASSIN’S CURSE, Jael Thompson in Jon Skovron’s MISFIT. I’d love to hang out with any of them! Well, maybe not Kit — she might be best observed from a distance, since she’s got the whole serial killer thing going on. But yeah, great characters!

Which diverse YA books are you most looking forward to getting your hands on this year?

I’m really looking forward to reading Malinda Lo’s ADAPTATION series — I haven’t read the first one yet, but I’m going to double up when the sequel comes out so I can catch up! I’m scoping out Sarah Beth Durst’s VESSEL and Miriam Forster’s CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS to get my epic fantasy fix. HAMMER OF WITCHES by Shana Mlawski also looks awesome. And I recently made a Goodreads list of the 2013 ALA Rainbow List at http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/740903?shelf=2013-rainbow-list featuring LGBTQ books and I hope to check those out this year too. So many awesome diverse books!

Thanks for having me on Rich in Color, and thanks for continuing to host these important conversations about diversity in YA!

ockler_twitter2011Sarah Ockler is the bestselling author of critically acclaimed young adult novels Twenty Boy Summer, Fixing Delilah, and Bittersweet. Her books have been translated into several languages and have received numerous accolades, including ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, Girls’ Life Top 100 Must Reads, IndieNext list picks, and more. Her short fiction and essays will be featured in two upcoming young adult anthologies: Defy the Dark and Dear Teen Me.

Sarah teaches advanced young adult fiction writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. She’s a champion cupcake eater, coffee drinker, night person, and bookworm. When she’s not writing or reading, Sarah enjoys taking pictures, hugging trees, and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex.


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This Week’s New Books

This week we have five books for you! The Book of Broken Hearts and Crumble are both contemporary romance (featuring different sorts of forbidden love), Praefatio is an urban fantasy with angels, Sunny is the first volume of a series by a famous mangaka, and Moses, Me, and Murder is a historical fiction mystery set during the Cariboo Gold Rush.

brokenThe Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking. –Picture and summary via Amazon.com

PraefatioPraefatio by Georgia McBride

Seventeen-year-old Grace Ann Miller is no ordinary runaway. After having been missing for weeks, Grace is found on the estate of international rock star Gavin Vault, half-dressed and yelling for help. Over the course of twenty-four hours Grace holds an entire police force captive with incredulous tales of angels, demons, and war; intent on saving Gavin from lockup and her family from worry over her safety. Authorities believe that Grace is ill, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the victim of assault and a severely fractured mind. Undeterred, Grace reveals the secret existence of dark angels on earth, an ancient prophecy and a wretched curse steeped in Biblical myth. Grace’s claims set into motion an ages-old war, resulting in blood, death and the loss of everything that matters. But are these the delusions of an immensely sick girl, or could Grace’s story actually be true? Praefatio is Grace’s account of weeks on the run, falling in love and losing everything but her faith. When it’s sister against brother, light versus darkness, corrupt police officers, eager doctors and accusing journalists, against one girl with nothing but her word as proof: who do you believe? –Image and summary via Goodreads

CrumbleCrumble By Fleur Philips

A modern tale of forbidden love…

Eighteen-year-old Sarah McKnight has a secret. She’s in love with David Brooks. Sarah is white. David is black.

But Sarah’s not the only one keeping secrets in the close-knit community of Kalispell, Montana. Her father George, who owns a local gun shop and proudly drives a truck with a Confederate flag bumper sticker, hides his own complicated past. When he discovers Sarah’s relationship, George decides to share his feelings with Alex Mackey—a lonely classmate of Sarah’s whom George has taken under his wing. As Alex embraces the power of George’s dark hatred, the hopes and dreams of young lives hang in the balance.

In just a few short months, Sarah and David will graduate from high school and leave Kalispell for a new life together in Los Angeles. Maybe in California, they can stop hiding their love—and the other secret they share…something George McKnight—and Alex Mackey—will never accept. –Image and summary via Netgalley

sunny1Sunny, Vol. 1 by Taiyo Matsumoto

The latest manga masterpiece from the Eisner Award-winning creator of Tekkonkinkreet.

What is Sunny? Sunny is a car. Sunny is a car you take on a drive with your mind. It takes you to the place of your dreams.

Sunny is the story of beating the odds, in the ways that count. It’s the brand-new masterwork from Eisner Award-winner Taiyo Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most innovative and acclaimed manga artists. –Image and summary via Netgalley

MosesMoses, Me, and Murder by Ann Walsh

It’s summer in 1866 in the Cariboo gold fields, and a man has disappeared. Young Ted learns from the local barber, Moses, that his friend Charles, who was travelling to the gold fields, has failed to arrive. And a forbidding stranger named James Barry has arrived in town wearing a gold nugget pin that belonged to the missing man. What could have happened to him? Was James Barry responsible for his disappearance? Moses and Ted are suspicious — but they’re also afraid for their own safety. Slowly, with several adventures and close calls, they unravel the story of a cruel murder. But have they identified the right criminal?

Shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction, based on true events, and set against the exciting backdrop of the Gold Rush era, Moses, Me, and Murder offers a captivating tale of betrayal, thievery, and redemption. –Image and summary via NetGalley