Rummanah Aasi
Description: Shannon knows sixth grade is going to be a perfect year. She's got a spot in the in-crowd called The Group, and her best friend is their leader Jen, the most popular girl in school.But the rules are always changing, and Shannon has to scramble to keep up. She never knows which TV shows are cool, what songs to listen to, and, most importantly, which boys you're allowed to talk to. Who makes these rules anyway? And does Shannon have to follow them to stay friends with The Group?

Review: Best Friends is a great follow-up to Hale's candid graphic memoir Real Friends in which she struggles to find friends in elementary school. Now in sixth grade Shannon is part of the popular group, has friends to hang out with, she shares her locker with the Queen Bee, and the girl who bullied her last year is leaving her alone. Despite all of this social growth, Shannon still feels herself riding the wild roller coaster (both literally and metaphorically) of friendship and social cues of middle school. She did not realize that she had to "homework" in listening to the "right" music and watching the "right" television shows in order to stay a member of her in-crowd. Her hobbies of role playing and writing are no longer cool when her group of friends are starting to talk about boys and wanting to hang out with boys. Incidents of bullying, particularly playing the part of a bystander, and moments of isolation makes Shannon's anxiety grow and become more prominent. She has even developed obsessive compulsive tendencies. These moments cause her to reflect and do a gut check about her friendships.
  Hale's graphic memoir authentically portrays the complexity and untold social rules of friendship that will ring true to many readers despite their age. She is very candid about her shortcomings and her vulnerabilities. I loved the inclusion of her creative writing story in which she tries to work out her problems. The artwork beautifully captures the nuances of a typical middle school life and adding nice 1980s nostalgia while also balancing Shannon’s public woes with her inner conflicts. I particularly liked the dark clouds with jittery, scratchy writing that indicate her anxiety on high alert. Though the artwork is simple, the detailed facial expressions add emotional depth and accessibility particularly in the wordless panels. An author's note talks earnestly and age-appropriately about anxiety.This would be a great addition to any graphic novel collection.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Guts by Raina Telegmeier
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad's towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.


Review: Chakraborty’s debut novel The City of Brass was one of my favorite books from 2018 and its stunning sequel, The Kingdom of Copper, does not disappoint. While you can read Kingdom of Copper independently of the first book, I would not recommend doing so because you would lose out on the various alliances and the character growth of our main characters. The setting of this amazing Middle Eastern inspired fantasy is Daevabad, a legendary Eastern city protected by impervious magical brass walls and ruled by King Ghassan, whose Geziri ancestors overthrew the Daevas and captured Suleiman’s seal, which tempers magic. To this bubbling pot of tensions, the powerful djinn warrior Dara conveyed young Daeva healer Nahri; in the process they developed feelings for one another.
  Kingdom of Copper takes place five years later. King Ghassan’s younger son, Prince Ali is exiled, Dara is gone, and King Ghassan has forced Nahri to marry Muntadhir or witness the slaughter of the city’s Daevas unless she cooperates. Chakraborty deftly works three subplots concerning our three main characters masterfully until the crescendo of the climax. For most of the book, I had no idea how all of these subplots would add up until the puzzle pieces came together slowly as the book unfolds. There are many twists and turns that I did not expect to happen. Alliances shifts constantly throughout the novel and characters are hardly what they appear to be. The contentious clashes between racial, familial, magical, and religious alliances and divides is what keeps me glued to the pages. This book ends in a cliffhanger and I have absolutely no theories of what will happen in the conclusion, which is very rare for me. I will counting down the months until the conclusion is released. If you are looking for a non Eurocentric or American centric fantasy read, I highly recommend this series. It has plenty of action, adventure, slow burning romance, and political intrigue.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence, language, and sexual innuendo in the book. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty (April 2020),
Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan, The Dark Carvan Cycle series by Heather Demetrios, Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor, Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Jamie Bunn made a mistake at the end of the school year. A big one. And every kid in her middle school knows all about it. Now she has to spend her summer vacation volunteering at the local library—as punishment. It may be boring, but at least she’ll be able to hide from mean girl Trina, who’s always had it out for her, and beautiful Trey, the boy at the root of her big mistake. Or so she thinks.
  Not only does her job bring her face-to-face with both her mortal enemy and her ultimate crush, Jamie also encounters a territorial patron, an elderly movie fanatic, a super-tall painter who loves to bake, and a homeless dog. Over the course of the summer, as Jamie gets to know the library and the people in it, she finds—and gives—help where she least expects it. And she just might find herself along the way.


Review: A Kind of Paradise is a warm homage and a sweet love letter to libraries, the people who work in them, and their power to affect people’s lives. Jamie violated her middle school’s honor code and has now been assigned to community service at her local library over the summer. Over the course of the book we get snippets of what caused her to spend the summer at the Foxfield Public Library and be the laughing stock of her school as her crush is broadcasted to everyone. Jaime is not the center of the book, but her life revolves around the memorable characters that either work at the library or are library patrons. Beverly is the dedicated and committed director who has the uncanny talent to detect any library patron's needs. Sonia and Lenny, the two other staff members, who are patient and understanding of all their patrons. Wally, the older patron who comes to the library every Tuesday to borrow movies and bring a fresh flower; and Black Hat Guy, a homeless young man who shows up every day around 4:00 in the afternoon. As the summer progresses, Jamie’s connection to the library goes from enforced to enthusiastic. Jaime gains self confidence and learns to help turn the page of her big mistake and move on. She spurs into action when the library is threatened to close down due to financial strains. Despite some down moments, A Kind of Paradise is an uplifting read with a happy ending. There are no big epiphany moments, but a light, sweet, cozy read.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Close to Famous by Joan Bauer, Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson
Rummanah Aasi

Description: When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime. You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything? Actually, a lot.

Thanks to "the incident" (don't ask), I'm spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a "spring volunteer immersion project." It's definitely no vacation. I'm toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own...and to hide a rather devastating secret.

All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks...like flirting with Tati's distractedly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I'm even exploring my family's history--which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse. You know, typical drama. But it's nothing I can't handle.

Review: Alaine Beauparlant is an ambitious, driven Haitian American senior living in Miami with her divorced psychiatrist father. Alaine has her sights set on following the footsteps of her renowned journalist mother by majoring in journalism at Columbia. With mere months to go before graduation, Alaine’s world starts unraveling as mother has a meltdown live on-air and becomes the talk of the town. To make things even worse, Alaine royally messes up a school presentation that leave her on the verge of expulsion. Alaine 's punishment is to go to Haiti for two months, volunteer to work for her aunt's charity that provides financial help to Haitian children in need, and write a report about what she has learned. Alaine wants to go to Haiti to learn more about her own roots, but would rather it be on her own terms. During her time in Haiti, Alaine’s life is transformed as she unearths family histories and secrets that allow her to get to know the ailing mother, who has been absent from a large part of her life.  In the process, she discovers an even deeper love for the ancestral homeland that she had only known from afar.
   I really liked Alaine as a character. She is incredibly sharp and witty, but under her tough exterior she really wants a normal, healthy relationship with her mother. Alaine admires her mother's tenacity and hard work that led her to be a leading news anchor for a popular politics show, but at the same time Alaine feels as if she is always on the low priority list for her mother. When she receives heartbreaking news about her mother's health, Alaine hopes to use her time to not resent her mother but to get to know her as a person.
  Before Dear Haiti, Love Alaine I did not know much about the Haitian culture, but I learned a lot from reading this book. The book addresses the fact that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, but also demystifies some of the common untruths about the country. I appreciated Alaine becoming aware of her own privileges as she meets other people in Haiti. I also found Alaine's dark family history to be a fascinating part of this book and I really liked how the authors used the concept of a family curse as a way to infuse a light thread of magical realism into this otherwise realistic fiction book.
  The book has a nice balance between humor and seriousness. The varied formats, such as emails, texts, and letters, add interest and serve to make the story feel modern and make Alaine's voice seem more intimate. The various formats did not disrupt the follow of the book, but rather kept the plot moving at a brisk pace. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a delightful story of family and finding one's roots.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, allusions to rape and sex, and underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali, American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Rummanah Aasi

Description: When Moon’s family moves in next door to Christine’s, Moon goes from unlikely friend to best friend―maybe even the perfect friend. The girls share their favorite music videos, paint their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around, and make plans to enter the school talent show together. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she sometimes has visions of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs. But when they’re least expecting it, catastrophe strikes. After relying on Moon for everything, can Christine find it in herself to be the friend Moon needs?

Review: Stargazing is a sweet and insightful graphic novel about friendship and identity. Christine is a traditional Chinese American girl. She lives in a suburb with her conservative parents and her focus is solely on her music and grade school work. Christine sees a different way of life when her parents offer the extra unit of of Christine's family house to a struggling Chinese American single mother and her daughter, Moon, from church. Moon is the complete opposite of Christine. Moon is loud, artistic, a vegetarian, a Buddhist, and even rumored to beat kids up. Moon's mother does not have a strict curfew nor requires Moon to attend Chinese school. Moon is certainly “not Asian” according to Christine’s standards. Despite their differences, however, the two become fast friends, stretching each other’s interests with K-pop and art. Moon later shares a deep secret with Christine: She receives visions from celestial beings that tell her she belongs with them. The girls' friendship is tested by jealousy, resentment of following social expectations, and devastating medical news for Moon.
  The illustrations are wonderful and show cases body diversity, nostalgia, and diversity without being overt about it. There is a balance of quiet moments and active moments that sharpen emotional impact and highlights the inner turmoil Christine feels as her friendship with Moon shifts. The dialogue rings true and the characters feel authentic.


Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Real Friends by Shannon Hale
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