Natasha and Daniel meet, get existential, and fall in love during 12 intense hours in New York City.
Natasha believes in science and facts, things she can quantify. Fact: undocumented immigrants in the U.S., her family is being deported to Jamaica in a matter of hours. Daniel’s a poet who believes in love, something that can’t be explained. Fact: his parents, Korean immigrants, expect him to attend an Ivy League school and become an M.D. When Natasha and Daniel meet, Natasha’s understandably distracted—and doesn’t want to be distracted by Daniel. Daniel feels what in Japanese is called koi no yokan, “the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them.” The narrative alternates between the pair, their first-person accounts punctuated by musings that include compelling character histories. Daniel—sure they’re meant to be—is determined to get Natasha to fall in love with him (using a scientific list). Meanwhile, Natasha desperately attempts to forestall her family’s deportation and, despite herself, begins to fall for sweet, disarmingly earnest Daniel. This could be a sappy, saccharine story of love conquering all, but Yoon’s lush prose chronicles an authentic romance that’s also a meditation on family, immigration, and fate.
With appeal to cynics and romantics alike, this profound exploration of life and love tempers harsh realities with the beauty of hope in a way that is both deeply moving and satisfying.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
When the truth is a secret, even friends believe the fiction.
Vermont 17-year-old James Liddell is a cute, popular (enough) athlete, and so are his friends. He likes how people behave toward him when he is with his sort-of girlfriend, Theresa—but when he’s honest with himself, he has a crush on his friend Tim Hawken. James is only 100-percent honest in the letters he writes to friends and family but never sends. He locks them in a desk drawer and has written so many he’s lost count. Then he meets Topher and begins cautiously to come out. When he’s just started to crack the closet door, someone steals some of the secret letters and sends them to their intended recipients—and everything threatens to come crashing down, just as James has always feared it would. Can he juggle coming out, a new boyfriend, old friends, and the mystery of who stole his letters? Logan’s debut is a funny and realistic coming-out tale set firmly in the present in a small, upper-middle-class, mostly white Vermont town, where black friend Derek stands out. The rounded characters deal with betrayal and honesty and love and near tragedy in ways teen readers, gay or straight, will recognize. If there are an awful lot of “dudes” in the dialogue, that just adds to the verisimilitude.
Just the right touch of humor, mystery, drama, and romance should earn this a place on every teen bookshelf.
Eighteen-year-old Cliff Sparks promises “one sweet-ass mother lode of a gripping tale” of his times at his New Jersey high school.
“I’m going to spin a tale,” Cliff tells readers. Though his is a character-driven tale, he doesn’t feel up to hooking readers with his charisma and charm. Yet without a plot to pull the story along, he is all readers have, and he proves to be a character readers will want to spend time with—a funny, smart, nice boy telling his story with spirit and panache, sometimes lying, sometimes even bursting out of his story to “raise your disbelief from the dead.” He is an ordinary teenage boy, though on the bookish and artistic side, with a single-minded infatuation with Jillian and her breasts, and “coming of age” in his take on the classic theme means losing his virginity—preferably with her, but he’s flexible about that. Not much really happens—there are few Cliff-hangers, so to speak—but readers will relish clever wordplay, fantasies, and a major secret. In a genre full of barely likable teenage protagonists, Cliff is a charmer, and readers will be cheering him on to finally come of age.
Cliff is a character driven to fulfill his quest, and readers will be with him every step of the way.
In the early 1900s in Texas, the Mexican Revolution crosses the border, dividing the brown-skinned gente (people) from the white authority of the Texas Rangers.
Eighteen-year-olds Joaquín del Toro and Dulceña Villa love each other; however, after their families fall out, they must resort to keeping their relationship a secret. The del Toros own a large estate with cattle and farmland and are friendly with Capt. Munro, the local leader of the Texas Rangers. The Villas own the print shop and are publishers of El Sureño, the local periodical considered seditious by the town’s authorities. Told from Joaquín’s point of view, the novel spans three and a half years of corrupt agendas, power struggles, violence, racism, and loss. Scattered throughout are well-placed, nonitalicized Spanish words and phrases, both archival and fictional newspaper clippings, letters exchanged between hotheaded Joaquín and no-nonsense Dulceña, and Joaquín’s poetry-filled journal entries, personalizing and adding context to the overall political conflict. Far beyond a love story, the novel successfully tackles all kinds of hardship, including sexual violence and lynching; the historical conflict between the Rangers and the Tejanos feels uncannily contemporary. Women are the hidden heroes, because they must be, the hearts of both the revolution and the novel.
Pura Belpré winner McCall delivers an ambitious, sardonically relevant historical novel—a must-read, complex twist on a political Shakespearean tragedy.
(cast of characters, author’s note, further reading, sources, glossary)
(Historical fiction. 12 & up)
Ellia Renée Dawson cannot believe she is a junior in high school. Yesterday she was a freshman, because that's all she can remember.
Ellia and her athletic, brooding boyfriend, Liam McPherson, were the star odd couple at Léon High School until a traumatic fall snatched away any memory of the past two years of her life. In alternating first-person chapters, the black girl struggles to regain her sense of self while the white boy impatiently waits for his girlfriend to reappear. Ellia's childhood best friend, Stacey Levine, and Liam's scandalously young uncle, Wade McPherson, help them confront old ghosts and their strange new reality. Reed delivers solid high school romance with a twist. It is refreshing to see two characters that are both realistic and stray from the starry-eyed, misunderstood-WASP-youth trope. Apart from diverse backgrounds, this interracial relationship is devoid of the usual pitfalls. Ellia and Liam acknowledge each other's differences, including skin tone, and deal with them; their relationship is not a colorblind fantasy. Reed injects immediacy and high-stakes emotions while sidestepping the usual angst-y histrionics teenage characters are subject to. The maturation of each character marches in time with the plot as each unexpected discovery challenges their convictions.
Examining the power of memory and shifting the perceptions of teenage love, this novel delivers a powerful journey of self-discovery and rebirth.
Dylan is a white 15-year-old who’s 6-foot-4 and covered in hair. His nickname is Beast, and the only reason he’s not completely overwhelmed by rejection in high school is because of JP, his popular, rich, attractive childhood best friend.
It’s Dylan’s dream to be a Rhodes scholar, and he’s got the grades for it, but the world assumes he’s a big, dumb football player. After a rough day at school, he falls off of a roof and breaks his leg. He’s assigned to therapy for self-harmers, where he meets Jamie, taking note of her long legs, curly brown hair, creamy skin, and tendency to call him out. Through texts and sneaky outings, they gradually fall for each other. JP gets weird on meeting Jamie, which makes her think he’s not OK with her being transgender. Dylan ices over, shocked—she’d revealed that fact on the first day of group therapy, but he hadn’t been paying attention. Humiliated and angry, she runs. After some bad starts and interventions, they try to be friends again, honestly and openly. Writing smartly in Dylan’s voice, Spangler artfully represents both main characters: the boy who feels like a freak and the witty, imperfect, wise trans girl he loves. Very lightly borrowing on the classic fairy tale, she allows them to fail and succeed without resorting to paper villains or violent plot points to manipulate compassion.
A believable and beautiful human story.
(Fiction. 12 & up)
An evangelical lesbian in a small Southern town stumbles on the road to true love—but not for the expected reasons.
Rome, Georgia, may be “where queer girls go to die,” but out-and-proud Joanna Gordon is spending her senior year there to make her radio preacher father (and his new wife) happy. Although she won’t go into the closet, Jo promises to “lie low” in exchange for her own on-air ministry. But how can she keep her word when her classmate Mary Carlson makes Jo’s heart ache...and the feeling just might be mutual? Funny, thoughtful, compassionate Jo is a delightful narrator; as she struggles to live her faith, she never considers her sexuality to be sinful. Despite their disagreements, Jo’s father and stepmother are loving and supportive; even her wild-child best friend can suffer the consequences of bad choices without being vilified. The frank portrayals of swearing, sexual activity, underage drinking, etc., neither titillate nor condemn; they just depict teens being authentic teens. While Jo and Mary Carlson are white, the rest of their friends display considerable diversity—in not just race and sexual orientation, but also religion, social class, developmental ability, family structure, and personal attitudes—portrayed with nuance through each character’s words and actions.
A sweet, sexy, honest teen romance that just happens to involve two girls—all the more charming for being so very ordinary.