The violence and romance of Arthurian legend practically pop off of the pages of Anderson (Symphony for the City of the Dead, 2015, etc.) and Offermann’s (Well of Witches, 2016, etc.) striking graphic-novel adaptation of Chretien de Troyes’ epic poem.
After hearing tales of a magical spring in a far-off kingdom, Yvain—a young knight of the Round Table—leaves Camelot to defeat the spring’s guardian and thereby claim glory. After killing the kingdom’s lord in combat, Yvain later falls in love with his widow, the beautiful Lady Laudine, whom he marries. Yvain’s subsequent, selfish decision to abandon his new wife and adult responsibilities for the glory of questing drives this story of hubris and redemption. The author and illustrator weave the richness of human complexity into their interpretation of the medieval poem, crafting three-dimensional knights and ladies who feel heartbreakingly real. Offermann’s illustrations are glorious medieval tapestries come to life, and her finely etched pencil lines highlight the white characters’ angular features and draw attention to their eyes, which are mirrors for their turbulent emotions. Anderson uses the format’s sparseness of text to maximum effect, fashioning a thought-provoking narrative that reflects the grandiosity of Arthurian England while never relinquishing the human element at the core of this story. His perceptive rendering of gender politics within the court is one of the tale’s most intriguing features.
A compulsively readable and eminently enjoyable retelling that breathes new life into an old classic.
(author’s, illustrator’s notes)
(Graphic fantasy. 12-adult)
A newly emancipated young woman finds love and tragedy as she marches to freedom during the Civil War
When Union soldiers suddenly arrive declaring emancipation, Mariah quickly gathers a few belongings and sets off with her younger brother Zeke and members of their chosen family, a “family forced and forged under slavery’s brutal reign,” as blood relatives were sold, hired out, or killed. On the day Mariah and her loved ones are freed, they join Sherman’s march through Georgia, and she meets Caleb, a young man on the march. Mariah and Caleb are drawn to each other, but both are weighed down by the painful secrets from their pasts. As the freed men, women, and children travel closer to the promise of a new life, they face the harsh realities of the march—and the uncertainty. Mariah and Caleb’s unforgettable story is everything historical fiction should be: informative, engrossing, and unflinching. In recounting the vicious treatment Mariah and others endured while enslaved, Bolden exposes the savagery of slavery. The resiliency and ingenuity of enslaved people in the face of such cruelty are also conveyed in heart-rending detail. Some readers may be shocked by the violence and exploitation formerly enslaved people also experienced at the hands of the Union soldiers charged with freeing them.
A poetic, raw, and extraordinary imagining of a little-known, shameful chapter in American history.
(Historical fiction. 13-adult)
A disturbing painting plunges a modern girl into a decades-old mystery.
After sacrificing her college savings to help save her family’s home, Julie is stuck working at Bed Bath & Beyond while her best friend Lauren has the fortunate circumstance to attend Parsons in the fall, a dream both once shared. The white teens’ final summer together begins with a painting Julie purchases at a thrift store. After hanging the painting and then turning off the light to sleep, Julie discovers that the darkness reveals an entire new painting underneath the surface that’s visible in the light. The only clue to the artist’s identity is the signature, the initials L.G. An artist herself, Julie goes on the hunt, dragging Lauren along, to discover more. They find other paintings that share this uncanny technique of masking two paintings in one. With each painting they find, the darkness reveals chilling images connected to a true story of young women who worked at a watch-painting facility during World War I. Alternating chapters follow Julie’s quest and present decades-old love letters written by Lydia, a white radium factory worker, both slowly revealing the horrific story of young women who were exposed to radioactive paints. With this interleaved technique, Bryant brilliantly lures readers into an engaging mystery, a page-turner that begins beneath layers revealed in both paintings and chapters.
A riveting story of ambitious and self-sufficient women, both in the present and past.
(Mystery/historical fiction. 14-18)
Francisco, a middle-class Bolivian high school senior, and his younger sister must move into a dangerous prison after their indigenous father is wrongfully arrested.
Inspired by real events, according to an author’s note, Francisco’s tale is set in 1999 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The 17-year-old son of a light-skinned, college-educated mestiza and an indigenous taxi-driver father, Francisco is smart but hot-tempered. He knows he’s privileged enough to go to high school and play pick-up soccer with friends instead of having to work, but he’s also painfully aware that’s he’s too short and dark (unlike his fair Mamá and 12-year-old sister, Pilar) to be taken seriously by Bolivia’s white elites, who don’t see beyond his dark skin and Aymara face. Francisco’s life takes an irreversible turn when Papá is falsely arrested under “the 1008,” a draconian drug law. An unimaginable betrayal leaves Francisco and Pilar no choice but to live in San Sebastián prison, which permits inmates’ spouses and underage children to reside inside. Readers will feel utterly invested in Francisco’s various challenges: protecting his sister from prying eyes; worrying about his gentle, poetic father in a tough, soul-sucking place; finishing high school; and figuring out whether to take Pilar to their peasant grandparents’ Andean village on the Altiplano (high plains). There’s also a sweet, slow-burning romance between Francisco and a quiet young woman with a hidden ferocity that terrifies, enthralls, and inspires him to write Neruda-esque poetry.
A riveting, Dickensian tale set in 1990s Bolivia.
(glossary, selected sources)
(Historical fiction. 12-17)
A saucy, brash retelling of the Greek myth of the Minotaur.
In a series of dramatic monologues with no settings, Elliott updates the voices of Poseidon, Minos, Daedalus, Pasiphae, Asterion, and Ariadne, each in its own poetic form. Poseidon dominates in word count and attitude: if “[y]ou think a god should be more refined? / … / Never / Bawdy / Raunchy / Racy / Rude? / News Flash: / You don’t want a god. / You want a prude.” Angry at king Minos, he considers direct revenge (“Boils! / Scabs! / Gills! / A snout! / [Turn] his / Ding-dong / Inside / Out!”) but instead gives Queen Pasiphae “a thing / For the white bull’s thang.” Asterion the Minotaur is born. He grows to age 17, bleakly miserable, tortured by Minos, finally imprisoned in the iconic maze; even his sister Ariadne can’t break him out, and eventually he falls to Theseus. Poseidon considers Minos “a dick! / But also so much fun to hate”; some readers will think exactly that about Poseidon too, while others will resent just howmuch fun Poseidon is to hate, given his misogynistic women-are-crazy/women-are-whores snark about Pasiphae, whose woes he literally created himself. Elliott’s absolutely magnetic rhythms will wake up any high school class, and the book could also work as a play.
Irresistible, slick, and sharp (no bull!)—with plenty of bull to dissect.
(cast of characters, author’s notes)
(Verse fiction. 14-adult)
In 17th-century England, a girl faces civil unrest, conflicting Christianities, and a family inheritance more horrific than she could have dreamed.
Makepeace has nightmares, so Mother banishes her to an abandoned chapel to practice fighting off the dead people who are trying to enter her mind. Upon Mother’s death, Makepeace is sent to the Fellmottes, family of the father she never knew. Grizehayes is a “graceless and vast” house, the wealthy family’s “arrogance made stone.…proof of their centuries.” The Fellmottes treat her as a servant and prevent her escape: they need her as a spare receptacle for generations of family ghosts. But if Makepeace’s body inherits the ghosts, her own consciousness may not survive. Doggedly ingenious and stolid, Makepeace grabs every scrap of agency she can find—even when ghosts do share her mind, invited or not, human or beast. She escapes Grizehayes, but the Fellmottes hunt her through city and countryside, through both sides of the unfolding English civil war, through the disguises she keeps changing. Powerlessness, poverty, and integrity are major themes, built on a subtle yet stubborn underlying warmth. Hardinge’s plot is both unpredictable and rock-solid, her settings full of smells, her imagery vivid: “A shocked silence pooled like blood.” All characters are white and English.
Deliberate, impeccable, and extraordinary.
(Historical fantasy. 12-15)
Merideth “Meri” Miller’s future is a black hole, but the summer before senior year stretches before her, and her life is changing faster than she can keep up.
Meri’s white best friend, Charlie, spends all of her time with her new boyfriend; her grandmother is dying; her brother is in a serious accident; and she struggles with decisions: where to go to college and when to have sex for the first time. Her two-faced boyfriend, older white guy Brett, is all hands and runs hot and cold, but she ignores the red flags; at least he’s interested in her. The boy she wishes she were with, her longtime crush, the elusive Joaquin, who is Mexican, seems mildly interested, although he doesn’t act on his feelings. Meri is complex: her desire to leave her small hometown of Soldotna, Alaska, after graduation battles the 17-year-old white girl’s fear of leaving for the unknown. She questions everything and asks all the right questions; themes of life and death, ecstasy and grief, and loss and gain permeate the story. Her story eventually subverts the familiar heteronormative plotline, in which the girl gives up everything for the boy and allows herself to be defined by his feelings for her. Her candid first-person narrative is punctuated by journal entries, notes exchanged with her best friend, and letters between Meri and her grandmother. The 1990s setting is marked by tsunami-height hair, acid-wash denim, and multiple trips to see Pretty Woman.
An unforgettable journey to adulthood
. (Historical fiction. 15-adult)
In her debut novel, Raina applies the now-familiar "teenage girl takes on the government" trope to the Soweto uprising of June 1976.
Zanele, a black grade-12 student, is not a reluctant hero. She starts her portion of the narration by describing her role in the attempted bombing of a power plant and goes on to be one of the primary organizers of the student protest against unjust language laws. She is a leader by conviction. The author uses three other narrators to highlight this. Jack is Zanele's most obvious foil. A white boy from a middle-class family, his understanding of racial inequality extends only to his attempts to get close to Zanele, who occasionally assists her mother in serving his family. A black gang member and an Indian shopkeeper’s daughter respectively, Thabo and Meena are united by their friendship with Zanele but diverge in the ways in which they engage with the community and the police. The presentation of characters with different racial identities beautifully highlights how those identities shape the characters’ understandings and experiences of apartheid and their subsequent reactions to the uprising. Small details, such as Jack and his friends listening to Miles Davis as they put on blackface, stoke the tension in the prose. The violence that erupts is gut-wrenching but unsurprising. Readers who love the fast pace and high stakes of dystopian teen literature should snag this book.
This timely reminder of the power and passion of young people contextualizes current student protests by honoring those of the past.
(historical note, glossary, glossary sources)
(Historical fiction. 13-adult)
In 1986, a Newfoundland teen learns that family isn’t always the one you’re born into—sometimes it’s the one that takes you in.
Bun O’Keefe has grown up isolated in a run-down house with her mother, a 300-pound hoarder, who has deprived Bun of love, care, conversation, and education. When Bun’s mother tells her to get out, the literal-minded 14-year-old white girl goes to St. John’s, where she meets a close-knit group of disillusioned young adults. There’s Busker Boy, a Sheshatshiu Innu street performer; Big Eyes, a lapsed Catholic, white good girl who can’t bring herself to swear; Chef, a talented, white culinary student; and Cher/Chris, a white drag queen. The found family of four takes Bun in, feeds and clothes her, and teaches her what it means to be loved and supported. Although Bun is 14, she possesses the endearing naiveté and honesty of a child, but her first-person narration isn’t sappy or immature. She’s self-taught, courtesy of the many books and video tapes her mother has brought home, and her point of reference for the world is the 1978 documentary The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan, about an alcoholic on the streets of Montreal. Smith’s talent lies in deftly handling numerous heavy topics: suicide, sexual abuse, neglect, AIDS, homophobia, transphobia, and racism, without making them feel forced or gratuitous—they’re facts of life.
Bun O’Keefe will settle comfortably at home in readers’ hearts.
(Historical fiction. 13-17)