Rummanah Aasi

Description: It is the summer of 2011, and Nour has just lost her father to cancer. Her mother, a cartographer who creates unusual, hand-painted maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. But the country Nour’s mother once knew is changing, and it isn’t long before protests and shelling threaten their quiet Homs neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s house and almost takes her life, she and her family are forced to choose: stay and risk more violence or flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety. As their journey becomes more and more challenging, Nour’s idea of home becomes a dream she struggles to remember and a hope she cannot live without.
  More than eight hundred years earlier, Rawiya, sixteen and a widow’s daughter, knows she must do something to help her impoverished mother. Restless and longing to see the world, she leaves home to seek her fortune. Disguising herself as a boy named Rami, she becomes an apprentice to al-Idrisi, who has been commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily to create a map of the world. In his employ, Rawiya embarks on an epic journey across the Middle East and the north of Africa where she encounters ferocious mythical beasts, epic battles, and real historical figures.

Review: I really wanted to love The Map of Salt and Stars, but unfortunately I had a few issues with the book. There are two parallel stories running throughout the book. The contemporary story line is told by Nour, a twelve year old girl who has synthesia, and recalls her family's flight into exile from the Syrian civil war. The historical story line is narrated by Rawiya a girl of a similiar age in the twelfth century who is hoping to help her mother by disguising herself as a boy and working as an apprentice to al-Idrisi, a famous mapmaker, as he traveled around trade routes.
  Nour was born and raised in Manhattan by immigrant parents, her mother a cartographer and her father a bridge designer. Shortly after her father’s death from cancer in 2011, her mother moves Nour and her two older sisters, Huda and Zahra, to Homs, Syria, where they have relatives to help out. Soon civil war is underway and the family is not safe.  As the family takes flight, Nour comforts herself with a fairy tale–like story her father used to tell about Rawiya.
 While I enjoyed both stories and can definitely make the connections of symbolism and metaphors that run throughout the book, I did not get a firm grasp on the characters. Though I can empathize with the struggles and pain Nour's family goes through, I could not tell the characters apart and the plot dragged for me. The transition from Nour's and Rawiya's story was not smooth either and would abruptly weave in and out. Personally, I think the book would have been stronger if it just focused on story and fleshed out the characters instead of two. At times I would find Nour's story compelling at other times I found Rawiya's. It is fascinating to see both girls travel though Nour's purpose is to find refuge and Rawiya's a romantic adventure full of wonder and magic. The themes of finding a home both in the physical and spiritual sense will make this book a good candidate for book clubs.  I appreciated the lush imagery, but wanted something more concrete to grasp in this story.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and a scene of attempted sexual assault. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Dark at the Crossing by Elliott Ackerman, In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.
  Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past.

Review: Greetings from Witness Protection! is a delightful balance of mystery, humor, and heart. Nicki Demere has been living in foster care ever since her father was arrested, biding her time until her father comes to bring her home. She has been trained by her Grammy to an expert pick pocketer with a keen eye on people watching. She records her stories in hopes of relaying them and connecting to her father, but he never comes. The FBI agents arrive first and they want Nicki to be part of an inaugural program that trains and places selected foster children with families under witness protection, thereby changing the nature of the families' makeup so they are harder to track down. When she learns that her father was recently released from jail and has no desire to contact her, Nicki reluctantly agrees. Besides she gets a do-over with a new family. Maybe for once she can be normal.
  I loved Nicki. She is snarky and hilarious. Despite her tough exterior, she finds herself building bonds and connecting with the new people in her life: shy gamer Britt who is bullied by her classmates, perky yet lovable student council member Holly, and, most of all, her new family, even her sullen "brother" Jackson. I loved how she helped those around her and used her skills for pick pocketing for good. Interspersed with Nicki's ordinary life as a middle schooler, we get a mystery woven throughout as the infamous mafia is out looking for the Trevor family. The book handles tough topics such as foster care, bullying, anxiety, and what makes a real family quite nicely and balances it with humor to keep the story afloat.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing, violent images. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
Rummanah Aasi
 Description: Fall in love, break the curse.
It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
  Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she's instead somehow sucked into Rhen's cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a refreshing retelling of Beauty and the Beast. In my opinion a successful retelling uses the main plot points of the classic fairy tale or novel while also constructing a new story to stand on its own. Kemmerer's latest succeeds.
  Prince Rhen, the sole heir to Emberfall, is cursed to repeat the autumn of his 18th birthday until he can find a woman to fall in love with him despite his seasonal transformation to a monstrous beast. The season resets after every failure-all 327 of them. When Harper intervenes in what looks like an abduction on the streets of Washington, DC, she is transported into Emberfall. She is desperately looking for a way back to D.C. so she can tend to her dying mom and help be the lookout for her brother as he tries to pay off their absent father's debts to a loan shark. The last thing Harper needed is to be at the center of the curse. Harper is shocked to learn that she is Rhen's last chance to break the curse, but Harper isn't sure if she can fall in love with Rhen.
   The story is told from dual points of view. Harper is written in modern voice and is absolutely the true hero of our story. She has cerebral palsy, but does not let her disability define her. Kemmerer does a fabulous job in dodging the disability inspiration tropes we often see in fiction stories where characters have a disability. Harper is also fallible. She is impulsive to the point of recklessness, but also incredibly generous, strong, and persistent. She stands toe to toe with Prince Rhen and challenges him to think of helping his kingdom who has suffered greatly while he has been sequestered and aloof.
  Rhen's chapters are written with a historical, refined voice. He is also a complex character. Interestingly, Kemmerer does not make him a full time Beast. The threat of monstrosity is always in the back of Rhen's mind. He bears the burden of the fate of his family as well as the dire circumstances of his kingdom. His interactions with Harper has given him inspiration to fight for something even if his curse can not be broken. I would have loved to get a clearer understanding of the curse and why it happened. We do get some backstory, but I wished it was fleshed out a bit. 
  The romance between Harper and Rhen is delightfully of the slow burn kind. Harper demands trust and friendship first from Rhen, before romance is suggested. Even though the story is problematic when it comes to consent given Harper's abduction which is talked about, consent is taken seriously. Rhen and Harper do not touch unless Harper gives her explicit consent. 
   There are other secondary characters that are equally captivating as our main characters. I loved Grey and want to know more of his story. His interactions and friendship with Rhen is compelling. Freya and Zo are both examples of strong female friendships that Harper has in the story. Though we find out what happens to Rhen, there is a still a lot unknown as we discover more secrets in Grey's past. I'm really looking forward to reading more about him in the future.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence which takes place mostly off the page, threats of sexual assault, and minor language. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Hunted by Megan Spooner, A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
Rummanah Aasi

Description: The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship--like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor--April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world--everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires--and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight...Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Review: Hank Green is the brother of John Green, one of the well known young adult authors. Hank's debut novel is a great entryway into speculative/science fiction for those who are unfamiliar with the genre. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a social commentary on social media and fame as well as a science fiction mystery. April May is a twenty year old graphic artist who works in a creative-sucking job at a Manhattan setup. She longs to use her art degree and do a passion job. Ironically, her creativity sparks an overnight sensation when she vlogs a funny introduction to a an armored humanoid figure, which turns out to be alien in nature, who she calls Carl. The video goes viral and suddenly Carls have been appearing all over the world. While the Carls remain motionless, they spark curiosity, paranoia, and fear. After they discover a complex riddle involving the Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now,” the mystery becomes a quest for April and her friends.
  An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is highly readable. I found myself more drawn to the human aspect of the story, especially where April has to deal with her instant celebrity status. We live in a time of social media where we present a version of ourselves online, perhaps a fabricated one without flaws. April juggles with her fame and the pressures of constantly churning out material to feel the high of attention. Her celebrity status changes her relationships with those around her, making her wonder if people want to be around her so they can be famous by proxy or if they really like her. The mystery of the Carls isn't boring, but it took some time for me to get interested in it. The clues are sprinkled throughout the story and the dream sequences are quite bizarre. There is a cliffhanger in the end of the book, which makes me very hopeful that we will see more of the Carls and April.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, some disturbing images, and a small fade to black sex scene. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Themis Files series by Sylvian Neuvel, Touch by Courtney Maum

Rummanah Aasi

Description: Be careful. Your next step may be your last.

Fifth grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh grader Marshall Walsh have been walking to and from Woodridge Academy together since elementary school. But their routine is disrupted when bully Chad Hilligas challenges Marshall to a fight. To avoid the conflict, Marshall takes a shortcut home through the off-limits woods. Tamaya, unaware of the reason for the detour,reluctantly follows. They soon get lost. And then they find trouble. Bigger trouble than anyone could ever have imagined. In the days and weeks that follow, the authorities and the U.S. Senate become involved, and what they uncover might affect the future of the world.

Review:  Fuzzy Mud is a nice blend of mystery, science, and suspense that will keep young readers turning the pages. In the woods behind Woodridge Academy, in Heath Cliff, Pennsylvania, a an unknown substance called "fuzzy mud" because of its seemingly innocuous appearance grows exponentially more threatening by the hour. While taking a shortcut home from school in order to avoid the school bully, fifth-grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and her neighbor Marshall Walsh unknowingly causes a horrible chain of reactions. In order to protect themselves from Chad, the bully, Tamaya flings fuzzy mud at the him when he won't leave them alone. When she comes in contact with the mud, she breaks out into a terrible, blistery rash. When Chad is reported missing the next day, she knows the mud is to blame and returns to find him.
  Sachar provides a fun and terrifying look at science by interspersing court transcripts regarding Biolene, a high-energy biofuel being developed secretly in Heath Cliff with Tamaya’s story of danger and suspense. With increased tension and pacing, he slowly reveals the connection to Biolene and fuzzy mud along. There is a nice balance between realistic problems such as bullying, divorce, and serious science topics like overpopulation, the energery crisis, and the risks of bio-engineering advancements. The story is very easy to follow and the characters are well rounded and easy to root for. There is surprisingly a lot of depth in this science fiction thriller. 

Curriculum Connection: Science

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and scenes of bullying. Recommended for strong Grade 3 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Zap! by Martha Freeman, The Big Dark by W.R. Philibrick
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it's pretty overwhelming--especially when he's also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom's family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what's going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, best friends don't have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he's spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush--the original Persian version of his name--and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he's Darioush to Sohrab. When it's time to go home to America, he'll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

Review: When Darius’ grandfather becomes terminally ill, Darius, along with his parents and younger sister, travels to Iran for the first time in his life. Iranian on his mother’s side and white American on his father’s side, Darius never quite fits in. Darius Kellner does not belong anywhere. He always seems to disappoint his father, the “Übermensch” who is perfect. He is overweight, has clinical depression, and is bullied by jocks at his school. He doesn’t speak enough Farsi to communicate with his Iranian relatives either. Feeling overwhelmed by his new culture and relatives who are practically strangers, Darius is completely lost and is in search of himself, but all that changes when Darius befriends Sohrab, a Baha’i boy, in Yazd who becomes his first real friend who   teaches Darius what friendship is really about.
  There is much to enjoy in Khorram's debut, character driven novel. I found myself easily to relate to Darius on a personal level, especially as he is trying to navigate two worlds and still feeling he is not enough for both. There is a nice infusion of Persian culture which I found to be fascinating. I would have loved to learn more especially with the different religions such as Baha'i and Zoroastrian. The topic of mental health is also handled really well. Darius's interior monologue of never living up to his father's expectations is very strong and potent, especially when the reader realizes its completely internal and not external. I wanted a bit more of fleshed out tension between father and son, and though they have a nice moment where they both come together it didn't hit the emotional mark like it wanted. I would have also loved Sohrab's character to be fleshed out. We don't know a whole lot about him or his family situation. Overall, this is an uplifting story where Darius learns to love himself and gain self confidence despite the obstacles he faces on a daily basis.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is brief nudity scene, mentions of police brutality, and racist and Islamophobic slurs.

If you like this book try: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel​ by Sara Farizan
Rummanah Aasi
Image from: Evanston Public Library

  Every February you will see a collection of books written by black authors in your local bookstores and libraries. Unfortunately, it is very likely the only time you will see them. I continue to strive to include diversity in my book lists, book recommendations, and on the shelves of my own school library. Here is a list of newly released books written by #ownvoices black authors as well as from the African diaspora. As you will notice I purposefully avoided books that talked about the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and sports because these books are the first books that are pulled for this month. I wanted to promote titles from a variety of genres and that will hopefully provide a large mirror for some and a large window for others. Click on the book title to add it to your Goodreads shelves.

Children's Picture Books

Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins by Michelle Meadows: Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. 

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison: Featuring forty trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history.

The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just by

I Am Enough by Grace Byers: This is a gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another—from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo.

 Mommy's Khimar by

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer: Before the universe was formed, before time and space existed, there was . . . nothing. But then . . . BANG! Stars caught fire and burned so long that they exploded, flinging stardust everywhere. And the ash of those stars turned into planets. Into our Earth. And into us. In a poetic text, Marion Dane Bauer takes readers from the trillionth of a second when our universe was born to the singularities that became each one of us, while vivid illustrations by Ekua Holmes capture the void before the Big Bang and the ensuing life that burst across galaxies. A seamless blend of science and art, this picture book reveals the composition of our world and beyond -- and how we are all the stuff of stars.

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora: When the aroma of Omu's homemade stew fills the air, her neighbors arrive, one by one, for a taste until all is gone except for her generous spirit.

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke: When you live in a village at the edge of the No-Go Desert, you need to make your own fun. That's when you and your brothers get inventive and build a bike from scratch, using everyday items like an old milk pot (maybe mum is still using it, maybe not) and a used flour sack. You can even make a numberplate from bark, if you want. The end result is a spectacular bike, perfect for going bumpity-bump over sandhills, past your fed-up mum and right through your mud-for-walls home. 


Blended by Sharon Draper: Eleven-year-old Isabella is used to these kinds of comments - her father is black, her mother is white - but that doesn't mean she likes them. And now that her parents are divorced (and getting along WORSE than ever), Isabella feels more like a push-me-pull-me toy.

One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.

Being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. If you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson: When Candice finds the letter, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, after all, who left Lambert in a cloud of shame. But the letter describes a young woman named Siobhan Washington. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. Grandma tried and failed. But now Candice has another chance.

Finding Langston by Lesla Cline-Ransome: When 11-year-old Langston's mother dies in 1946, he and his father leave rural Alabama for Chicago's brown belt as a part of what came to be known as the Great Migration. It's lonely in the small apartment with just the two of them, and at school Langston is bullied. But his new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the local public library welcomes everyone. There, hiding out after school, Langston discovers another Langston, a poet whom he learns inspired his mother enough to name her only son after him.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson: It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat—by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for "A Room to Talk"), they discover it's safe to talk about what's bothering them—everything from Esteban's father's deportation and Haley's father's incarceration to Amari's fears of racial profiling and Ashton's adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon: Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene have the whole summer for adventures in the woods behind their house in Sutton, Indiana. Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town, but his dad likes the family to stay close to home.
  Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. He's been lots of different places. Styx promises Caleb and Bobby Gene that together, they can pull off the Great Escalator Trade--exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. It becomes clear that Styx has secrets--secrets so big they could ruin everything--and Caleb fears their whole plan might fall apart.

Love Like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood: G-baby and her younger sister, Peaches, are still getting used to their "blended-up" family. They live with Mama and Frank out in the suburbs, and they haven't seen their real daddy much since he married Millicent. G-baby misses her best friend back in Atlanta, and is crushed that her glamorous new stepsister, Tangie, wants nothing to do with her.
  G-baby is so preoccupied with earning Tangie's approval that she isn't there for her own little sister when she needs her most. Peaches gets sick-really sick. Suddenly, Mama and Daddy are arguing like they did before the divorce, and even the doctors at the hospital don't know how to help Peaches get better. It's up to G-baby to put things right. She knows Peaches can be strong again if she can only see that their family's love for her really is like sky.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes: Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.

Black Panther: Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith: Life is comfortable for twelve-year-old T'Challa in his home of Wakanda, an isolated, technologically advanced African nation. When he's not learning how to rule a kingdom from his father-the reigning Black Panther-or testing out the latest tech, he's off breaking rules with his best friend, M'Baku. But as conflict brews near Wakanda, T'Challa's father makes a startling announcement: he's sending T'Challa and M'Baku to school in America.
  This is no prestigious private academy-they've been enrolled at South Side Middle School in the heart of Chicago. Despite being given a high-tech suit and a Vibranium ring to use only in case of an emergency, T'Challa realizes he might not be as equipped to handle life in America as he thought. Especially when it comes to navigating new friendships while hiding his true identity as the prince of a powerful nation, and avoiding Gemini Jones, a menacing classmate who is rumored to be involved in dark magic. When strange things begin happening around school, T'Challa sets out to uncover the source. But what he discovers in the process is far more sinister than he could ever have imagined. In order to protect his friends and stop an ancient evil, T'Challa must take on the mantle of a hero, setting him on the path to becoming the Black Panther

New Kid by Jerry Craft: Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.
 As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce: In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann--clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students---found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen?



 Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi: Black Enough is a star-studded anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi that will delve into the closeted thoughts, hidden experiences, and daily struggles of black teens across the country. From a spectrum of backgrounds—urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—Black Enough showcases diversity within diversity.

Swing by Kwame Alexander: Things usually do not go as planned for seventeen-year-old Noah. He and his best friend Walt (aka Swing) have been cut from the high school baseball team for the third year in a row, and it looks like Noah’s love interest since third grade, Sam, will never take it past the “best friend” zone. Noah would love to retire his bat and accept the status quo, but Walt has big plans for them both, which include making the best baseball comeback ever, getting the girl, and finally finding cool.

Spin by Lamar Giles: Sixteen-year-old Paris Secord's (aka DJ ParSec) career--and life--has come to an untimely end, and the local music scene is reeling. No one is feeling the pain more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and Paris's chief groupie, Fuse. But suspicion trumps grief, and since each suspects the other of Paris's murder, they're locked in a high-stakes game of public accusations and sabotage.

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson: Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help. As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani: A new pair of shoes, a university degree, a husband—these are the things that a girl dreams of in a Nigerian village. A girl who works hard in school and to help her family. A girl with a future as bright as live coals in the dark. And with a government scholarship right around the corner, everyone—her mother, her five brothers, her best friend, her teachers—can see that these dreams aren’t too far out of reach. Even if the voices on Papa’s radio tell more fearful news than tales to tell by moonlight.
 But the girl’s dreams turn to nightmares when her village is attacked by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, in the middle of the night. Kidnapped, she is taken with other girls and women into the forest where she is forced to follow her captors’ radical beliefs and watch as her best friend slowly accepts everything she’s been told. Still, the girl defends her existence. As impossible as escape may seem, her life—her future—is hers to fight for.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi: In a timely update of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney: The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she's trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.
  Life in real-world Atlanta isn't always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice's handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she'll need to use everything she's learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland: Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
  But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe: Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs. Yet, against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris.


Friday Black: Stories by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Adjei-Brenyah's writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage, and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world.

Becoming by Michelle Obama: An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeymi: Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children's stories--equal parts wholesome and uncanny, from the tantalizing witch's house in "Hansel and Gretel" to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can--beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves by Glory Edim: Remember that moment when you first encountered a character who seemed to be written just for you? That feeling of belonging can stick with readers the rest of their lives--but it doesn't come around as frequently for all of us. In this timely anthology, "well-read black girl" Glory Edim brings together original essays by some of our best black female writers and creative voices to shine a light on how we search for ourselves in literature, and how important it is that everyone--no matter their gender, race, religion, or abilities--can find themselves there.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi: An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born "with one foot on the other side."

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James: Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: "He has a nose," people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.
  As Tracker follows the boy's scent—from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers—he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

How Long 'Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin: In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Speak No Evil  by Uzodinma Iweala: On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.
  When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.

Heavy: American Memoir by Kiese Laymon: In this powerful and provocative memoir, genre-bending essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse.

An Unkindess of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon: Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She's used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
  Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.
  When the autopsy of Matilda's sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother's suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother's footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she's willing to fight for it.
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.Nancy tumbled once, but now she's back. The things she's experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West's care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.But Nancy's arrival marks a change at the Home. There's a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.No matter the cost.

Review: Every Heart a Doorway is a whimsical and imaginative entry into the Wayward Children series that asks if fantasy realms are real, then what happens once you leave them and re-enter the real world. Nancy is one of those children who found a magic door, but to prove that she’s worthy of staying forever in the Underworld, she is sent back—where her parents desperately enroll her in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. The Home is an unusual cross between a boarding school and an asylum. Nancy finds that she is not alone in being labeled a "freak" and scared by her parents. She meets a prince with a mistaken identity, twins who’ve hung out with mad scientists and vampires, and many others girls like her who have wandered through other worlds only to find themselves inevitably stranded. All of the students are trying to find the portal back to their realms despite being repeatedly told that most doors open only once.
  In addition to adjusting to her new surroundings, Nancy discovers her roommate is brutally murdered and others have been attacked too. With the help of friends she begins an investigation. Though the book is very short, less than 200 pages, it manages to completely capture your attention and imagination right from the first sentence and does not let go. It is best to read the book with an open mind and allow yourself to go down the rabbit holes with the characters. Though the book does answer the murder mystery and wraps up Nancy's journey, it leaves many more questions. I'm definitely ready to go on this crazy journey and discover the different fantasy realms.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images

If you like this book try: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stuck in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Syria, only to lose his father on the perilous journey to the shores of Europe. Now Ahmed's struggling to get by on his own, but with no one left to trust and nowhere to go, he's starting to lose hope.
   Then he meets Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy. Lonely and homesick, Max is being bothered by a bully at school, he doesn't speak a word of French, and just can't seem to do anything right. But with one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed's lives collide, banding the boys together to help Ahmed survive. As their friendship grows, Ahmed and Max defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave, and how hope can change your destiny.

Review: Ahmed and Max have been uprooted from their homes for very different reasons and form an unusual friendship built upon empathy and understanding in present-day Brussels. Ahmed flees war-torn Syria with his father after a bomb kills the rest of their family. His father jumps from the leaky raft he and other escaping refugees are on to prevent it from sinking in the middle of the Mediterranean. A rogue wave sweeps him away and he is presumed dead, adding to Ahmed's insurmountable grief and loss. A fellow refugee takes him in and they eventually join a refugee tent camp in Brussels, but anti-Muslim sentiment is running high in Belgium. When the tent city is shut down, Ahmed is terrified of being deported and takes shelter in the wine cellar of a home.
   The home is newly occupied by Max's family who has been transplanted from America to Brussels due to his father's job as a NATO contractor. Max is bullied in school for being an outsider and his poor French language skills. He becomes intrigued with the history of the house when he learns that a Jewish child was hidden in the basement during World War II. When Max discovers Ahmed and learns his story, the two form a tentative friendship at first. Max is not sure if Ahmed is a terrorist once he finds out that he is Muslim and from Syria like he has heard from his French tutor, but through common hobbies and interest, Max corrects his assumption and the two boys slowly open up to one another. Determined to keep Ahmed hidden, Max is determined help him in anyway that he can.
   Nowhere Boy is a timely novel that is at times heartbreaking and inspiring account of humanity. There is a small mistake in the mistranslated of the popular Muslim phrase in the book. Marsh utilizes both art and history to draw parallels in her story. The World War II story reminds us that hysteria and hate came at a grave consequence and asks us if we have learned from our mistakes of the past. The book skillfully discusses the perils of immigrants, openly addresses Islamaphobia, xenophobia, terrorism, and the Syrian Civil War with sensitivity and honesty. Max is a role model of standing up for what is right for young readers and all of us.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of bombings, war, and drownings of refugees on boats. There are also mentions of terror attacks in Paris, France and in Brussels, Belgium which unfortunately really occurred. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Refugee by Alan Gratz, Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
Rummanah Aasi

Description: When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that's what Annabelle does--she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She's not ready to think about the why yet, just the how--muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can't outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person--The Taker--that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn't her fault, but she can't feel the truth of that. Through welcome and unwelcome distractions, she just keeps running, to the destination that awaits her. There, she'll finally face what lies behind her--the miles and love and loss...and what is to come.

Review: A Heart in a Boy in the World is a timely contemporary novel that covers a lot of the relevant issues of the #MeToo movement, mental health, and grief. Annabelle is an every girl whose life is rocked nine months ago in an event involving "The Taker". When a man's leering triggers Annabelle's PTSD, she runs for eleven miles and until she stops and has an epiphany that running is the action she must take and embarks on a run from Seattle to Washington, DC, as a way to try to manage the immense anxiety, guilt, and sorrow that have haunted ever since. As she runs her daily sixteen miles, accompanied by her lovable, curmudgeon Grandpa Ed in his RV to ensure her safety and keep her in good health, she battles blisters, cramps, and dehydration. Throughout her journey we get pieces of the event, which in my opinion were just too slow and sparse. For the longest time I was confused as to what the event actually is and when it was unfolded I thought it was kind of anticlimatic because I did not feel connected to the characters that were involved. Annabelle's relationship with "The Taker" asks us of how women and girls are trained by society to act politely and how to deal with unwelcome attention as well as a rapidly abusive relationship. The book handles mental health issues quite well and realistically. We really see Annabelle agonize over what she could have done differently, and blames herself for making excuses for his behavior.
   I was not completely on board with a hike that long because I didn't think it was realistic, but running does make a good metaphor in this book and I completely understand the feeling of wanting to take action and do something. I also thought a budding romance between Annabelle and a kind young boy defeats the purpose of the story yet it lightens up the book's somber mood. The impromptu speech at the auditorium felt like an after school special but it had a strong message. The book's strength lies in taking the reader along the incredibly grueling physical and mental journey with Annabelle as she relinquishes her feelings of self-blame and inspires others to act.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, underage drinking, an abusive relationship, mentions of self harm (pushing against boundaries that are injurious to one's health), some strong violence, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby, Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Keneally
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Thrown from Mount Olympus as a newborn and caught by Thetis and Eurynome, who raised him on the island of Lemnos, Hephaistos had an aptitude for creating beautiful objects from a very young age. Despite his rejection from Olympus, he swallowed his anger and spent his days perfecting his craft. His exquisitely forged gifts and weapons earned him back his seat in the heavens, but he was not treated as an equal—his brothers and sisters looked down at him for his lame leg, and even his own wife, Aphrodite, was disloyal. In this installment of George O'Connor's bestselling Olympians graphic novel series, witness Hephaistos’ wrath in God of Fire as he creates a plan that’ll win him the respect he deserves.

Review: I have been a fan of the Olympians graphic novel series and have enjoyed watching the Greek gods and goddesses and their myths come alive. Unfortunately, Hephaistos is my least favorite volume so far. The dialogue which started as polished orators who recounted the rise of the Olympians and followed the stories of Prometheus soon derailed into modern colloquialism, which was really jarring and took me out of the story. While Hephaistos is the headliner of this graphic novel, the focus was much more on Prometheus' betrayal and the gift of fire to humanity. Unlike the narration, the illustrations of the panels remain consistently vibrant and full of action, humor, and subtlety especially where innuendos are involved with Aphrodite's affairs. Overall a disappointing volume in an otherwise great series.   

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are several allusions to Aphrodite's infidelity with Ares including a scene where both gods are chained to the bed. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus
Rummanah Aasi

Description: In this retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, Alys Binat has sworn never to marry--until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider. A scandal and vicious rumor in the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won't make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and start having children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire them to dream of more. When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for eligible--and rich--bachelors, certain that their luck is about to change. On the first night of the festivities, Alys's lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of one of the most eligible bachelors. But his friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her, and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. But as the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal--and Alys begins to realize that Darsee's brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.

Review: I had a very hard time reading Unmmariageable. I so very much wanted to read a fun, insightful retelling of Pride and Prejudice from my culture. My expectations were too high and instead I read what seemed like a very poor fan fiction of Pride and Prejudice without the charm, wit, and keen cultural criticism which made the original a classic.
  The author's writing was solid when it came to the description of events and showing how the world of Austen is not far from Pakistan's culture where woman are still defined by the clothes she wears and who she marries though she does not provide social context to readers who are unfamiliar with Pakistani culture. There are attempts at calling attention to fat shaming and the absurd ideal of beauty but it falls flat. The plot closely follows the original, but the characters are ridiculously named and much like a poke instead of a nudge of addressing the characters, completely flat and unlikable. Even our famous pairing is lopsided in which Alysbeth is completely annoying and insufferable that I had no idea why Darsee would be interested in her at all. There is no character development of Darsee and the romance between any of the characters is virtually nonexistent. Definitely skip this one and watch Bride and Prejudice for a South Asian spin on the classic. 

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, mention of drug and alcohol abuse, mentions of sexual situations and abortions, and crude sexual humor. Recommended to adults and older teens.

If you like this book try: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Rummanah Aasi

Description: It's 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it's too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can't imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

Review: The 1947 Partition of India, which resulted in the independence of India and Pakistan as two independent nations, is one of the bloodiest moments and biggest human migration in world history though there are hardly any written evidence of the event. Hindus and Sikhs were forced to go to newly created India and Muslims to Pakistan. Most stories that I have read about the Partition lean one way or the other depending on which side is telling the story, however, The Night Diary manages to write a non-bias story of the horrors and tragedies of the time.
  Nisha is half Muslim and half Hindu. She writes to her Muslim mother, who died giving birth to her and her twin brother, Amil, in a diary she receives on their 12th birthday. Through her diary entries, Nisha documents the changes brought about by India's independence from the British colonizers. Nisha and Amil live with their Hindu father, paternal grandmother, and the family's Muslim chef, Kazi, and they must flee their city after independence. The Night Diary is a quiet book where we see how each religious factions are impacted by the Parition such as the danger that hovers Kazi as he stays with a Hindu family, Muslim Rashid Uncle who is unable to speak and hides Nisha's family when they cross the border to Pakistan. Nisha's diary entries are introspective as ponders her own place she is a "half", grapples with the themes of family, faith, humanity, and loss. Nisha also touches upon the different warring political ideas of Gandhi, Nehru, and Jinnah too. The author also does not shy away from the violence experienced from this event whether it is alluded to in a riot exacerbated by rumors and hate or being hold at knifepoint during their dangerous plight as refugees. The book also includes back matter with an author note in which Hiranandani includes information about how her Indian father's experiences influenced this story and provides a glossary of Indian terms.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Violent riots are mentioned in the book and take place off the page. Recommended for Grades

If you like this book try: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai and The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Review: Poet X is a coming-of-age story from the streets of Harlem. Xiomara Barista is a Afro-Dominican, teenage poet seeking to express herself. X has loved writing down her thoughts, but  unfortunately she doesn’t get to share them with her family, due to her mother’s strict Catholic religious upbringing. When X starts questioning her faith and realizes her brother is hiding his own secrets from their mother, she starts figuring out how she can stand up for herself and her beliefs. The novel in verse is mostly introspective as X explores other poignant themes facing girls today, such as body politics, slut shaming, unwanted attention from men, how women treat one another and subtly discusses the toxic strong black women trope.
  I liked X as a character and there are verses that stood out to me that made me pause and reflect. I did, however, felt wanting more from the book as I finished it. I wanted more of a discussion and appearance of her X's family. X's mother has a big influence on her though she is not given much page time and her father is noticeably absent. X's brother who is the opposite of her fierce and aggressive attitude and after we learn of his big secret the plot thread goes nowhere. Poet X does affirm Acevedo as a writer to watch out and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, mention of drug usage and sex. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos
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