Dress Coded

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Realistic Fiction, Gender Issues, Social Justice 303 p.

Eighth grader Molly is outraged when she sees a friend crying while being yelled at by two administrators at school for violating the dress code, even though she had a good reason for doing so. Molly decides to take action and starts a podcast where she interviews girls who have been victimized and shamed because of the unfair policy. The podcast becomes very popular and Molly and others begin writing petitions and letters and eventually have a “camp-in” on school grounds.

Outside of school Molly’s family is under a lot of stress because her older brother is vaping and even selling it to other students. I enjoyed the short chapters that alternated between podcasts, letters, and Molly’s day-to-day life. There’s a variety of diverse characters, even a couple with disabilities. I think most teens would enjoy this book.

You Should See Me in a Crown

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Romance 324 p. Stonewall Award Winner

Liz Lighty, the main character in You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, doesn’t particularly care about prom and who is prom king and queen. She is more focused on getting into college and becoming a doctor and playing in the orchestra. But then, the financial aid she was counting on for school falls through and she remembers that there is a $10,000 scholarship given to the prom king and queen. So despite the fact that she hates all of the hoops she will have to go through to become prom queen, she is determined to do whatever it takes to win. Then, a newcomer to school, Mack, arrives and a budding romance develops between the two. I think most readers will fall in love with all the hoopla and drama that is involved with Liz’s efforts to become queen.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sports & Realistic Fiction 357 p. Pura Belpre Award

Furia is an own-voices book–the story takes place in Argentina and the author is also from there. Camila, aged 17, must tell lies and conceal her passion to play futbol and to have a relationship with her childhood friend, Diego. Her parents are very strict and her father is abusive. Camila’s dreams is to earn a scholarship to play futbol and attend college in the U.S. but are there too many obstacles blocking her path? And what will happen to her relationship with Diego? He wants her to come to Europe to watch him play there. The story is told so well, I thought I was on the field cheering for La Furia and so wanted her to succeed!

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Biography 372 p. (includes bibliography and notes) YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction

A very readable biography about Charles Lindbergh. It grabs you in the beginning when it talks about his grandfather’s arrival in the U.S. and how he accidentally cuts off his arm. The story is important because Charles believes that he has inherited his grandfather’s bravery and confidence. I’ve always liked to read about Lindbergh, maybe because he is from Minnesota, or maybe because there seems to be something heroic about him. He became an instant celebrity after his non-stop flight from New York to Paris, but he didn’t always enjoy the attention. After his son was kidnapped and the trial was over, the attention had become overwhelming and he moved his family to England.

The most interesting parts for me were the new information concerning the controversy involving his following of Hitler and pushing the “America First” talking point. Many people who had before loved him now hated him–cities even changed the names of streets and schools that had been named after him. And he completely believed in eugenics and white supremacy, so when reading this it was easy to go from being in awe to being disgusted by him. There are even secrets I knew nothing about that were revealed in the end. All in all, a very well written and enjoyable read.

When Stars are Scattered

Graphic Novel 264 p. Awards: YALSA, National Book Award Finalist

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What a wonderful book!! Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. They have seen their father shot and killed, and been separated from their mother when their home was attacked. They do not know if she is even alive. Omar feels responsible for his brother who suffers from frequent seizures and is non-verbal. They are also helped by a woman named Fatima who has lost her children. When an opportunity to attend school occurs, Omar begins attending and loves it.

The novel describes the harsh realities of life in a refugee camp: no jobs, the surrounding desert and dust, the constant waiting in lines, and boredom. Even though the book has much despair in it it also contains hope. Omar and Hassan are eventually chosen for resettlement to America and they eventually do find their mother again.

Efren Divided

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Realistic Novel 263 p. Pura Belpré Award

This book broke my heart a little. It’s hard not to cheer for this hard-working courageous boy whose life has been turned upside down when his worst nightmare becomes true: his mother is not at home when he returns from school. He later is told that his undocumented mother has been deported. Now Efren must take care of his younger brother and sister, twins, while his father works two jobs to support them and save money to send to his mother. Because Efren is an American citizen, he crosses over to Tijuana to meet his mother and give her the money they have saved. Along the way he meets desperate people even worse off than his family and gives some of the money to one, saying it is what his mother would have done.

This book has stayed with me and I highly recommend for everyone. Even though the novel shows the injustice in the world, there is hope as well.

Show Me a Sign

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Show me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

I love to read Historical Fiction and I especially love it when I learn about something I didn’t know about previously. This story takes place after the Revolutionary War in the early 19th Century on Martha’s Vineyard in a town called Chilmark. During this time period there were many deaf people on the island. In one section of town as many as one in four people were deaf. There were so many they created their own sign language. Mary Lambert, a descendent of one of the first settlers and first deaf person on the island, feels safe and protected on her island and is just fine and even proud with being deaf.

But recent events have brought change in her life. First, she and her family are dealing with grief after her brother George died in a carriage accident that Mary feels she is responsible for. There are also disputes between the Wampanoag tribe and the settlers over land. Then there is a new arrival on the island, a young scientist by the name of Andrew. He is hoping to find the cause of the deafness on the island. Mary, along with her friend Nancy begin spying on Andrew and begins to doubt his intentions. She soon finds out that Andrew wants a live “specimen” to study and experiment on. She is kidnapped and taken to Boston. Much of the novel is her struggle to save herself and escape.

Historical Fiction 269 p. 5 Stars

Things I liked: A real page turner after she is kidnapped, own voices story (Ann Clare LeZotte is herself deaf), includes Wampanoag characters, issues of justice, well researched

Fighting Words

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Realistic novel 259 p. Newbery Honor Book 5 stars

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. Her previous books The War that Saved My Life and The War I finally Won are very popular in my library and I think students would like this book as well. It isn’t always easy reading this novel as the topics of abuse can be raw and heart-breaking. But there is a lot of hope in the book as well. Della and her older sister Sookie find themselves in foster care with Francine. This is after their mother abandons them and they are left to live with her ex-boyfriend, who is an evil and sick man. They run away from him after Sookie comes home early to find him trying to assault Della. Francine, their new foster-mother is a no-nonsense person but shows the girls a lot more understanding than the other adults in their lives.

Della’s tells the story in a funny and straight forward manner. She uses the word snow as a substitute for curse words and confronts things head-on. She also becomes fascinated with wolves and wants to travel to Montana to see them. She compares her sister Sookie and herself to wolves as well. Sookie is dealing with depression and PTSD as she struggles to come to terms with her own abuse and taking care of Della. She has never been able to be a child–she has always had to take care of someone. I highly recommend this book and I hope teachers share this with their students.

New Kid

Rating: 5 out of 5.

New Kid by Jerry Craft Graphic Novel 250 p. 5 stars

I finally had a chance to read this popular graphic novel that won the Newbery Award in 2020. Jerry Craft did a wonderful job with the illustrations and the story is realistic. The main character, Jordan Banks is being forced to attend a prestigious private school by his parents. Jordan, who loves to draw comics, wants to attend art school instead. His new school is mainly white and wealthy kids and the novel follows Jordan’s struggle to fit in at school and to still remain friends with the kids in his own neighborhood. Jordan and the other kids of color also have to deal with some of the micro-aggressions from classmates and even some of the teachers. Mr. Craft deals with this topic very deftly and with a sense of humor. I enjoyed this read very much and I’m sure the sequel is also very good!

Read the sequel too: Class Act

King and the Dragon Flies

Rating: 5 out of 5.

King and the Dragon Flies by Kacen Callender 5 stars 259 pages Realistic

This book is the 3rd or 4th book recently that has made me cry. I believe Kacen Callender might be a new favorite author. I think this is the first book I have read by them, but now I want to read other ones written by them, such as Hurricane Child and Felix Ever After. There is a lot of intersectionality resonating in this book: race, sexuality, abuse, coming-of-age, and grief are a few of the themes. The story takes place in a small town in Louisiana. Kingston, who is 12-years-old, has just lost his older brother, Khalid; he tries to keep him close by dreaming about him and believes that Khalid has turned into a dragon fly and so visits the near-by swamp to see if he can see him. King’s former best friend Sandy is gay and Kingston has rejected him but regrets it. When he realizes that Sandy is being physically abused by his father he tries to hide and protect him. I loved this very believable and well-written story.