Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young Adult Literature, is challenging readers of all ages to expand our horizons by “Reading Without Walls” during April and beyond. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you; a book on a topic you don’t know much about; or a book in a format you don’t normally choose to read for fun. Here are some suggestions from PWPL’s “New Teen” book shelves to help you begin Reading Without Walls.
Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give has made a big splash in the literary world as the first Black Lives Matter book, a powerful story told in the voice of teenager Starr Carter. Starr is a smart, athletic girl straddling two worlds: the poor, mostly black neighborhood in which she lives and the high school she attends in a wealthy, mostly white neighborhood. Starr balances her worlds admirably until the night she watches in horror as a police officer brutally murders her childhood friend during a traffic stop. Don’t miss The Hate U Give and its raw, unflinching look at what it means to live as a black person in the United States. Starr’s narrative voice is authentic and entertaining, her story compelling.
Why not check out Adam Rapp’s and Mike Cavallaro’s romantic dystopia, Decelerate Blue, and give graphic novels a look? In Decelerate’s futuristic world, speed and efficiency are everything, and people rush along under a nonstop barrage of sensory stimulation. Angela thinks she might be the only person alive who sees anything wrong with this picture, but in fact she's not alone. She finds herself recruited into a resistance movement where the key to rebellion is slowing things down. In their secret underground hideout, they create a life unplugged from the breakneck pace of the consumer culture outside. Can they free the rest of the world before the powers that be shut down their utopian experiment?
For another new format, discover the beauty of a novel written in verse! Ronit & Jamil, by Pamela L. Laskin, offers a captivating retelling of Romeo & Juliet, set amid the modern day conflict between Israel and Palestine. Ronit, an Israeli girl, lives on one side of the fence. Jamil, a Palestinian boy, lives on the other side. The miles between them are nothing compared to the generations of strife that separate their families. Sparks fly when Ronit and Jamil are brought together through a mistrustful business arrangement between their fathers, igniting a teenage romance that is both timeless and timely.
You don’t have to know anything about computer coding to enjoy Andrea Gonzales’ and Sophie Houser’s account of their success in the world of computer gaming, Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done. As teenagers, Andrea and Sophie decided to fight the taboo surrounding women’s periods by creating a video game called Tampon Run. The game went viral overnight, thrusting the girls into the spotlight and giving them exclusive access to the tech industry. Now Andrea and Sophie have decided to share their empowering, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, experiences as successful female coders in a male-dominated industry.
In her debut novel, American Street, Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this exploration of America with magical realism and voodou culture. Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find a good life on the corner of American Street and Joy Road. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola on her own to navigate her new school and new life on the gritty west side of Detroit. Fabiola’s poignant story offers a window to the dreams and dangers of the modern day immigrant experience.Susan Cain’s Quiet Power: the Secret Strengths of Introverts is eye-opening for both introverts and extroverts alike. Drawing on her own experience as an empowered introvert, Cain offers insights and advice for teens on school, friendship, family life, and extracurricular activities. Her opening manifesto declares that “a quiet temperament is a hidden superpower” and “most great ideas spring from solitude.” Then to reassure extroverts, Cain tells us “Introverts and extroverts are yin and yang – we love and need each other.” Vive la difference!
--Mary Schneeberger, Teen Services Coordinator