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Nimona

After my 11-year-old niece raved about Nimona (2015), I had to read the teen graphic novel so we could discuss it. What a story!

Are the villains really bad and are the heroes really good? That's what author Noelle Stevenson asks in this morality tale. On the surface, villain Lord Blackheart is fighting the kingdom's Institute. His nemesis and former best friend Sir Goldenloin defends the kingdom.

Nimona, a gutsy young girl and shapeshifter, offers her skills to Blackheart as his apprentice.Chaos and hilarity ensue. Quirky and engaging, with dark comedy and endearing relationships, Nimona will grab the attention of even the most reluctant reader. It's a story enhanced by the artwork.

Nimona is available to read immediately on Hoopla. You can even listen to a full cast recording.



Chlorine Sky

This #OwnVoices story follows teenager Sky through her journey to self-acceptance. Told in verse, this touching story perfectly displays the often overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and angst that will resonate with teens and adults alike. Poet Mahogany L. Browne's lyrical writing is inspiring without being cliché and will stick with you long after you've finished reading.

Check out Chlorine Sky (2021) and other works by Mahogany L. Browne today.


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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Suzanne Collins' latest novel is a prequel to her well-known trilogy, The Hunger Games, which were also made into feature films. Not having read the books in some time, I started Hunger Games #0 without any expectations, simply following along with the story and characters and trying to piece everything together with the original trilogy.

While I feel that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2020) is not necessary in the grand scheme of things, Part 3 and the epilogue do provide a few big revelations to explain what transpires over the 60-year period before Katniss Everdeen finds herself wrapped up in the 74th Annual Hunger Games in Book #1: The Hunger Games (2008).

Read the ebook or listen to the audiobook on Overdrive. The audiobook is also available to check out today on Hoopla.


Fangirl

Cath and Wren have been inseparable, but when they get to college Wren decides it's time to venture out on her own. Cath struggles to adjust to college life on her own and attempts to avoid any situations that are out of her comfort zone. One of Cath's passions is writing fanfiction for her favorite book series Simon Snow, which has manifested into her writing one of the most popular Simon Snow fanfictions online.

Something that I enjoyed while reading the novel was how it includes some of Cath's writing from her fanfiction. Fangirl (2013) brings a mix of family and internal struggles about coming of age with a sprinkle of romance and fanfiction.

Read or listen to this Rainbow Rowell novel instantly on Overdrive.



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Dragon Hoops

Gene Luen Yang is a comic author and writer who has written award-winning graphic novels as well as for the most iconic comic book character Superman. In Dragon Hoops (2020), Yang follows his local high school basketball team, telling their stories and comparing their athletic feats to those of the comic heroes who inspired him when he was young. Yang proves that it is the story of the hero that matters most, not the fancy cape or superpowers.

This is a great read for readers who enjoyed Ghost by Jason Reynolds, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, or Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.

You can also read Dragon Hoops on Overdrive today. 


Hey Kiddo

This memoir is a moving, sad, but also hopeful story of a family affected by loss and addiction. Hey Kiddo: How I Lost my Mother, Found my Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction (2018) tells a story of how families can come in all shapes and sizes, messy and ugly, but also loving and forgiving. Throughout, Jarrett J. Krosoczka found hope and a sense of love and support. Others will feel less alone in their own struggles.
The audiobook is amazing! Using music and sound effects, this very personal audiobook is narrated by the author with family members and friends voicing the rest of the characters. In the author's notes, he gives us more insight into his family and childhood. Listen to the audiobook on Hoopla today.

The author uses mixed media art with actual letters included in with his drawings. The burnt orange undertones and pineapple wallpaper are a beautiful part of the story as the author explains in notes on his art.This powerful and unforgettable graphic novel is heartbreaking yet uplifting.

Hey Kiddo is a memoir not to be missed. Read the ebook on Overdrive.

Hey Kiddo is a National Book Award Finalist, a 2021 Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (Abe), and a Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults.

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

Here is a ghost story unlike any you've read before... in 1941, Frankie and her siblings have been left by their widowed father to live in a Chicago orphanage. They are left trying to make a way for themselves amidst poverty and injustice in a world left crumbled by the Great Depression and now on fire with war.

We follow Frankie's coming-of-age story through the eyes of a girl who died in 1918, whose spirit is left lingering the streets of Chicago, unsure how to move on. Glimpses of her past are pieced together as she remembers what happened to her and realizes that coming to terms with the truth is the only way to be set free.

Laura Ruby has weaved together a haunting and heartwarming blend of historical fantasy and mystery, full of rich characters whose stories reveal profound truths about the vast possibilities of human nature. Check out Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (2019) today.

Read the ebook on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla.



Sadie

If you're as obsessed with true crime as I am, you'll love Sadie. It's the perfect marriage of gritty, true crime and a coming of age story with a first person narrative. Told in separate timelines, we follow our titular Sadie as she sets out for revenge following the murder of her younger sister, and West McCray, the radio personality, who picks up her story. Sadie's story will keep you on the edge of your seat. We see her story unfold through her own narration, while West struggles to put together her mysterious journey through interviews and podcasts. This Courtney Summers book (2018) is an Illinois Teen Readers' Choice Lincoln Award (Abe) nominee for 2020.

Check out this title on Overdrive -- find both the eBook and eAudio

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (2017)

Lazlo Strange is earnest in his quest for knowledge. He's someone who could be your best friend. Even his enemies can't completely hate him; they just don't understand him.

The story begins when he's young, when suddenly the name of a city he's read about disappears forever. Books, spoken tales, even memories weren't safe. It no longer has a name. It's just...gone. Lazlo is convinced something happened and is determined to learn everything about this city, and somehow, travel to it. Cooped up in the library, assisting researchers going to-and-fro, it seems that day may never come—but he believes. He never stops dreaming, until a day he may finally have a chance to see this nameless city for himself.

And what he finds there is unbelievable.

Filled with adventure, exciting new locations and love, Strange the Dreamer will entrance you with its beauty and otherworldly feel. In Laini Taylor's epic fantasy, Lazlo's strange journey will not disappoint.


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) PG

Miles Morales, a New York teen just starting out at a new school finds himself bitten by (yes) a radioactive spider...but this isn't your typical Spider-Man origin story.  From there the Spider-verses collide and an eclectic cast of characters comes together from multiple realities.  Readers of the comics will definitely appreciate this merge, but all can enjoy the superhero action and sparks of humor we are used to throughout most of the Marvel Universe.  So join Miles as he learns to have confidence in himself and figures out his Spidey senses to save not only his dimension but also everyone else's!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.  Did you miss Jez's review of this Oscar winner? Check it out!

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills (2016)

all_weThe September 11 terrorist attacks are one of those significant moments in history where you remember where you were and what you were doing when it happened. This novel is told from two teen girls' perspectives, fifteen years apart: Alia in 2001 and Jesse in 2016. Alia, a Muslim, going to the North Tower to see her father when the plane hit, and Jesse, whose older brother somehow ended up at the Twin Towers that day and lost his life, significantly altering her family in the process.

The two stories eventually intertwine, and if you are like me, All We Have Left will have you on the edge of your seat as piece by piece you learn how Alia's and Jesse's experiences are connected. All We Have Left by Wendy Mills is a nominee for the 2019 Lincoln Award (PDF), the Illinois teen readers' choice award.
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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (2018)

bellesCamellia is a Belle. Belles are the most important people in the kingdom, other than the royal family, because they control beauty. In the world of Orléans, everyone is born a "gris": gray skin, red eyes, straw colored hair. Only the Belles can grant a person a new look, using their magic to change appearance, manner, and control age.

Camellia wants to become the Favorite Belle—to work in the palace and work for the royal family. But is that life really what it seems? When dark mysteries arise, like crying girls in the middle of the night and former Belles being veiled, Camellia must decide to find her own truth in beauty.

I've listened to The Belles on audio twice. Rosie Jones, the narrator, does a wonderful job with voices and accents. She makes the city of Orléans come to life, and her take on Princess Sophia's voice still sends shivers up my spine.

I love Dhonielle Clayton's descriptions of the world of Orléans – the post balloons and petit cakes and teletropes – the world building is fantastic.

The last few pages of this book will keep readers on the edge of their seat. And when they read the last line, they'll be clamoring for the sequel The Everlasting Rose, out March 5, 2019. [Beware! There are spoilers on the linked page for The Belles.]

In the meantime, you can join me as I start my third re-listen.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds (2016)

ghostGhost is the first book in the Track series by Jason Reynolds. It's currently on the Rebecca Caudill 2019 nominees list.

I absolutely adored this book (and its sequels: Patina, Sunny, and Lu).

Ghost may appear to be a simply sports-themed book, but it's not. It has a deep backstory, and I loved watching Ghost – the main character – develop and grow as his story unfurled.

While the series is definitely linked by the track team, each character really shines in their own book. I think Patina is my favorite of all four.

Definitely add this to your reading list and don't forget to vote for the Rebecca Caudills (PDF) starting in February!

Author's Website: https://www.jasonwritesbooks.com/

American Street by Ibi Zoboi (2017)

amerstreetFabiola and her mother are leaving Haiti and coming to live in Detroit. But when Fabiola's mother is detained in New Jersey, Fabiola is left to travel onward to her aunt and cousins's home.

I fell into the world that Ibi Zoboi created; blending an American city with Haitian Vodou. Where the average person might see a homeless man on the corner, Fabiola sees Papa Legba.

Fabiola's struggles immediately draw you into the story and when she is presented with an opportunity to help her mother by spying on her cousin's boyfriend, readers will feel for Fabiola.

It's been several months since I've listened to American Street, and I can hear Robin Miles's beautiful narration when I think of the story and the characters.

This Abe Lincoln nominee (PDF) will possibly break your heart (it did for me), and everyone should read it.

 
 
 
 

Love, Simon (2018) PG-13

91uzbb9mbbl-_sy445_One of my favorite things in the entire world is seeing a book turned into a movie and comparing the two.  I am the girl in the theater who turns to her friend afterward and says, "But they didn't say who the Marauders are!" (Sorry, that's a Harry Potter reference.)  I almost always find the movie to be less than the book.  Love, Simon is the best movie adaptation of a book I've ever seen.  It gives such life to Becky Albertalli's novel, Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (review here!).  Nick Robinson is perfectly cast as Simon. And any nitpicky things that I thought as I watched the rest of the cast announced (Leah's not how I pictured!) disappeared with Katherine Langford's performance.

Seeing the movie in theaters was like attending a giant slumber party where the whole audience was rooting for Simon and cheering.  At home, it feels comforting and like a true teen rom-com, you're just hoping it will end with a "happily ever after".

Make sure to check out Love, Simon from the library today.