New YA Fiction: The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertali

Few books I’ve worked on in the last few years were met with more grassroots, floor bookseller support than Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. That charming romantic comedy about a gay teen was an Indie Next pick, a Carnegie Medal nominee, and on many “best of the year” lists.

So, anticipation has been high for Albertalli’s next book. Paste, Bustle and Entertainment Weekly all put The Upside of Unrequited on their lists of most anticipated YA novels in 2017. Fans will not be disappointed. Albertalli gives us another funny, realistic story about a loving family and teens negotiating the tricky path to embracing their true selves.

While Simon plays a cameo in this book, the star is 17-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso, the straight daughter of lesbian mothers. Jill Zimmerman, the children’s book buyer at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor get the plot summary just right:

Molly Peskin-Suso has two moms and a twin sister/best friend Cassie who are all out and proud. Molly is straight, a chubby homebody with anxiety who has never had a boyfriend, but instead 26 unrequited crushes. She would rather stay at home crafting or making cookie dough, or hang out with her nerdy co-worker Reid, than go to parties. But when Cassie gets a serious girlfriend, Molly finally agrees to be matched up with a cute boy named Will who seems to like her. Problem is: does Molly like him? A really funny book about finding the confidence to ‘come out’ and be yourself, whatever that might mean to you.”

Indie fans have again put this in their Top Ten on the Spring Indie Next list and the advance reviews are great.

“Albertalli’s follow-up to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda features a diverse family (Molly’s mothers are different races and religions) living in Beltway Washington the year gay marriage is legalized. It’s as full of heart as Simon (Simon himself makes a cameo appearance) and is replete with humor and honestly drawn characters like Grandma Betty, who comments inappropriately about Molly’s weight and thinks all lesbians have short hair. The cheerful resolution has Molly finding her own path, concluding that, no matter how well-intentioned one’s wingman might be, you have to be your heart’s own goalie.”
— Publishers Weekly

Readers will fall in love with this fresh, honest, inclusive look at dating, families, and friendship. A top purchase for all YA collections.”
— School Library Journal (starred review)

“In her second, relationship-rich novel, Albertalli’s take on the agonies and ecstasies of adolescent love are spot-on.”
— ALA Booklist

“I loved Albertalli’s first book, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and The Upside of Unrequited is even better! She’s great at introducing thought-provoking social issues – sexuality, racism, size-ism and bullying – not in a heavy-handed or preachy way, but as an organic part of her story, and her characters make you want to cheer for them. 17-year-old twins Molly and Cassie are best friends in spite of their differences, but when Cassie gets a serious girlfriend, Molly – who has never dated, unwilling to face possible rejection because of her weight – can’t help feeling left out. If you love Rainbow Rowell, check out Becky Albertalli!”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

The Upside of Unrequited is the book I’ve always wanted but never thought I could have. Endlessly smart, earnest, and embarrassing, Molly’s story is one we can all relate to, one we definitely need more of. Hands down the most meaningful, witty, and satisfying book I’ve read in the last year—a true new favorite. Do yourself a favor: buy it, clear your schedule, read, and rejoice, for Becky Albertalli’s new book is even better than the last!”
— Gaby Salpeter, Books of Wonder, New York, NY

The Upside of Unrequited (9780062348708) by Becky Albertalli. $17.99 hardcover. 4/11/17 on sale.

Book of the Week: The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

It’s the second time in a month that a YA author comes up with the most compelling writing of the week!

If you follow what’s going on in YA fiction, you probably already know about this one. The Hate U Give is one of the most eagerly anticipated novels of the new year and has already been previewed in Elle, NYT and several times in Entertainment Weekly.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement this is the story of how a girl and her community come to terms with the police killing of a young Black man. You might feel you “know” this storyline because, sadly, we see the barebones of it over and over in news headlines. The miracle of this book is the way Thomas brings readers into real human lives as they are lived—how we come to understand the richness, the depth, the complexity, the hope and heartache behind the headlines.

For me, it was an experience in the kind of radical empathy and understanding I need so much right now. I can’t recommend it enough. If you have a moment, you can get a sneak peek at the first three chapters on Epic Reads.

It arrives with a sweep of five starred reviews from all the advance review publications, as well as raves from authors and booksellers. And I expect it to find a prominent place on the Spring Kids Indie Next list.


“[Starr Carter attends private school and is] already wrestling with what Du Bois called ‘double consciousness’ when she accepts a ride home from Khalil, a childhood friend, who is then pulled over and shot dead by a white cop. Starr’s voice commands attention from page one, a conflicted but clear-eyed lens through which debut author Thomas examines Khalil’s killing, casual racism at Williamson, and Starr’s strained relationship with her white boyfriend. Though Thomas’s story is heartbreakingly topical, its greatest strength is in its authentic depiction of a teenage girl, her loving family, and her attempts to reconcile what she knows to be true about their lives with the way those lives are depicted—and completely undervalued—by society at large.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family. This story is necessary. This story is important.”
Kirkus (starred review)

“Beautifully written in Starr’s authentic first-person voice, this is a marvel of verisimilitude as it insightfully examines two worlds in collision. An inarguably important book that demands the widest possible readership.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Pair this powerful debut with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s ALL AMERICAN BOYS to start a conversation on racism, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement.”
School Library Journal (starred review)

The Hate U Give is an important and timely novel that reflects the world today’s teens inhabit. Starr’s struggles create a complex character, and Thomas boldly tackles topics like racism, gangs, police violence, and interracial dating. This topical, necessary story is highly recommended for all libraries.”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)

“As we continue to fight the battle against police brutality and systemic racism in America, The Hate U Give serves as a much needed literary ramrod. Absolutely riveting!”
—Jason Reynolds

Angie Thomas has written a stunning, brilliant, gut-wrenching novel that will be remembered as a classic of our time.”
—John Green

“Angie Thomas’ novel gives readers a complex narrative of life in a Black community dealing with the intersectional traumas of mass incarceration, the war on drugs, police violence and death. We follow Starr a sixteen year old trying to navigate Black existence in the white world, through the lens of a predominantly white affluent high school where she spends most of her time, and her community of Garden Heights. It is a powerfully written tale of coming to terms with the things outside of our control and all that which we can change.”
— Sarah Zarantonello, Carmichaels Bookstore, Louisville, KY

“Yes, like Tupac’s Thug Life, understand the impact of the seeds you sow.  Starr has neighborhood ties, and school friends; her slang and their pop culture words–and then one of the most current debates on American minds bubbles up around her.  She witnesses the murder of one of her friends when a young, black boy is killed at a routine traffic stop by a white cop. Suddenly Starr’s status is tabloid and taboo.  A real and critical voice gets to shine in the bildungsroman of our time.”
— Charity McMaster, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

The Hate U Give (9780062498533) by Angie Thomas. $17.99 hardcover. 2/28/17 on sale.

Book of the Week: American Street – Ibi Zoboi

Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own history as a young Haitian immigrant to explore contemporary immigrant experience in this new teen novel. Set in Detroit, it is the story of a girl separated from her mother at the border and thrown into urban life with her American cousins.

Ultimately a family and coming of age story, American Street is also richly infused with Haitian culture and dollop of magical realism. It is a beautiful story about one patch in the crazy quilt of American stories—stories of people from all over the world and from many backgrounds.

It’s already been covered in the NYT and arrives with three starred reviews as well as raves from booksellers and authors alike.

“Filling her pages with magic, humanity, tragedy, and hope, Zoboi builds up, takes apart, and then rebuilds an unforgettable story. This book will take root in readers’ hearts.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Zoboi’s powerful debut, set in current-day Detroit (but based on the author’s experience as a Haitian immigrant in 1980s Bushwick, Brooklyn), unflinchingly tackles contemporary issues of immigration, assimilation, violence, and drug dealing…. Mixing gritty street life with the tenderness of first love, Haitian Vodou, and family bonds, the book is at once chilling, evocative, and reaffirming.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Zoboi’s stunning debut intertwines mysticism and love with grit and violence….Zoboi, who emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti, brings a nuanced portrayal of that culture to the narrative. Evocative prose, where Fabiola calls on voodoo spirits, informs and enriches her character, while standing in counterpoint to her hard-as-nails cousins….Fierce and beautiful.”
Booklist (starred review)

American Street left me absolutely breathless. Ibi Zoboi has written a story about family, about first love, about the crossroads of faith and hope. Through the lens of Zoboi’s gorgeous prose, Fabiola’s voice soars as she struggles to make sense of her new life, longs to be reunited with her mother, and finds herself faced with an impossible choice. This is YA at its very best: Aching, revealing, and so true it hurts, and hurts good.”
— Stephanie Appell, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN

Brimming with culture, magic, warmth, and unabashed rawness, American Street is ultimately a blistering tale of humanity. This is Manchild in the Promised Land for a new generation, and a remarkable debut from Zoboi, who without question is an inevitable force in storytelling.”
—Jason Reynolds

“Ibi Zoboi brings us a Detroit rarely seen: full of wandering spirits, suffused with magic and mystery. At once the story of one determined girl and a family at the crossroads as well as a powerful page-turner, American Street will leave the scent of Papa Legba’s cigar in the air and its mark on your heart.”
—Laura Ruby

“Zoboi’s nascent storytelling gifts ensnare from page one. To this spellbinding voice of the next generation, I bow.”
—Rita Williams-Garcia

American Street (9780062473042) by Ibi Zoboi. $17.99 hardcover. 2/14/17 on sale.

Video: King’s Cage – Victoria Aveyard

It’s here! Book three in the Red Queen series lands on Tuesday. The first two books have netted over 600,000 copies and I’ve haven’t heard this kind of anticipation and enthusiasm from booksellers since Divergent. This story of class, magic, politics and power seems poised to once again hit the top of the bestseller lists.

“A sizzling, imaginative thriller, where romance and revolution collide, where power and justice duel. It’s exhilarating. Compelling. Action-packed. Unputdownable.”
USA Today

“Fascinating world building… Readers will be intrigued by a world that reflects today’s troubling issues concerning ethnic inequality, unfair distribution of wealth, pollution, warfare, political corruption, and the frightening power of the media.”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

King’s Cage (9780062310699) Victoria Aveyard. $19.99 hardcover. 2/7/17 one day laydown.

Publicity: Carve the Mark – Veronica Roth

Woot! It’s finally here. In her first new storyline since the Divergent series, Veronica Roth’s eagerly awaited new book seems poised to be a #1 bestseller.

The marketing campaign is huge and the traditional media coverage includes NPR’s Weekend Edition on January 14th. ET, Seventeen, Parade, Cosmo and interviews on CBS’s This Morning and USA Today’s Facebook Live.

If you want to start reading early, download the first chapter of Carve the Mark here.

The preorder campaign includes a free mini-book epilogue to Divergent titled We Can Be Mended. Anyone who orders a copy of Carve the Mark before 1/17/17 and registers by uploading the receipt will be mailed a copy of We Can Be Mended. Details here.

“Roth’s world building is commendable; each nation is distinct, interacting with the current in ways that give insight into her characters’ motivations. Amid political machinations and forays into space, Roth thoughtfully addresses substantial issues, such as the power of self-determination in the face of fate. Readers will eagerly await a second installment.”
—Publishers Weekly

“The fascinating, fantasy-sf-hybrid world building is deftly deployed and adds considerable depth. Inevitably, it ends on a tantalizing cliff-hanger, but Roth’s fans will be happily on board for the forthcoming sequel.”

“There’s no escaping comparisons to Veronica Roth’s dominating Divergent series, but Carve the Mark will hold up very well to the high expectations. We find ourselves in a fascinating and colorful universe with differing planets all connected by the current, a sort of life-force/religious entity that both unites and divides people….Nobody expects Cyra and Akos to be anything more than master and servant – but as they begin to rely on each other their relationship becomes something that will change the course of fate. Fantastical, magical, and romantic, fans of Leigh Bardugo and S.J. Kincaid will gobble this up like candy.”
— Kelly Morton, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

Carve the Mark (9780062348630) by Veronica Roth. $22.99 hardcover. 1/17/17 one day laydown.

New Young Adult Fiction: Of Fire and Stars – Audrey Coulthurst

I love it when booksellers alert me to the strong reads. Early in the season Steph Appell, the children’s book buyer at Parnassus, called to rave about this novel and asked to include it in the store’s YA signed first editions subscription series, Parnassus Next. She compares it to the epic fantasy of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore. And no less that Mercedes Lackey praises it, saying “I devoured Of Fire and Stars in two sittings; it’s a delightful debut, full of all the things I like best in a fantasy story, including not one but two wonderful heroines.”

It’s a Winter Indie Next pick and arrives with strong advance reviews.

At the start of Coulthurst’s spectacular debut, seven-year-old Princess Dennaleia of Havemont discovers that she has a magical ‘Affinity’ for fire. Unfortunately, she is already betrothed to Prince Thandilimon of Mynaria, a kingdom where the practice of magic is considered heresy. ….But Dennaleia is faced with difficult choices about her future after something other than friendship unexpectedly develops between the two princesses. Dennaleia and Amaranthine’s narratives combine to create a powerful and exquisite love story that also provides incisive political commentary and cautions against zealotry, vengeance, and intolerance. The central mystery is intriguing, Coulthurst’s worldbuilding is excellent, and the book’s explosive conclusion both thrills and satisfies.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Lovely…a worthy debut that succeeds as both an adventure and a romance.”

“Murder, mayhem, magic, romance-and horses…a romantic fantasy that will appeal to those who appreciate character-driven novels.”
Kirkus Reviews

 Of Fire and Stars is the most self-assured fantasy debut I’ve read since Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. It simply hits all the right notes with perfect pitch. Fans of Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, and Rae Carson will not want to miss it.”
— Stephanie Appell, Parnassus Books. Nashville, TN

Of Fire and Stars (9780062433251) by Audrey Coulthurst. $17.99 hardcover. 11/22/16 on sale.

Book of the Week: The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis

It’s not that often that I find a kid’s book the most interesting read of the week. But McGinnis is evolving into a real writer to watch. Her last book, A Madness So Discreet, was historical suspense and won a 2016 Edgar Award. The two before that were dystopias less concerned with the details of the stories’ weather-challenged future than with how we can work to retain our compassion and humanity in the face of fear and privation.

This new book picks up that theme in a singularly startling story.  It also explores another of McGinnis’s on going themes — how young women learn to deal with the outsized emotions and the challenge of violence.

 I read this in a single sitting and realized I needed to take a few deep breaths at the end. The book has received four starred advance reviews and hit a lot of the “must read” columns for books coming out this fall.

The Female of the Species works for both adults for teens because it works the way the all the best fiction works: A strong plot marked by a sharp, original vision draws readers into a story of moral complexity. Keep an eye on this writer.

“Whether a catcall, an unwelcome touch, or more, sexual aggression towards females happens daily; McGinnis explores how one teen uses violence for justice in this gripping story that should be read and discussed by teens, as well as those who work with them.”
Booklist (starred review)

McGinnis gracefully avoids the pitfalls of creating a teenage vigilante, instead maintaining a sense of piercing realism. Alex is a pained girl in dangerous free fall, whose fierce independence is challenged by newfound friendships, even love, though neither may be enough to stave off the inevitable.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“All three teens are haunted by the memory of Anna’s murder, and Alex’s inclination to both considering and exacting revenge with cruel efficiency leads them all inexorably to an explosive, terrible finale. An unflinching look at rape culture and its repercussions.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“This is an astoundingly dark but beautifully written tragedy, brimming with sexual assault, violent murders, and accounts of animal abuse that will be difficult for most individuals, but also tempered with glimpses of genuine human emotion and extremely touching displays of kindness that cross social barriers and species. Sexual abuse and assault are treated with sensitivity here but also portrayed with the necessary weight and power, and the dangerous repercussions of poor self-esteem, limiting social expectations, and secret-keeping are discussed openly and frankly. Highly recommended for collections serving teenagers, this book will likely be especially well received by those who enjoyed any of Gillian Flynn’s novels.”
School Library Journal (starred review)

 Claire, or Peekay as everyone calls her, will remain the Preacher’s Kid for the rest of her life if she cannot break out of the stereotype. Jack Fisher is the guy that everyone wants to be, smart, athletic, and gorgeous, but wishes people would remember him for more than his sports statistics. And Alex Craft? Well, Alex Craft is vengeance in its purest form, a fearless wolf simply waiting to unleash her wrath on those who deserve it most. Mindy McGinnis really outdoes herself with The Female of the Species…..and that’s a gross understatement. This young adult novel is positively riveting and full of stunningly elegant prose and captivating characters that,set against a classic small town background, make this tale of sex, deceit, and murder truly unforgettable. Readers will love McGinnis’ new novel, both adults and teens alike.”
— Sarah Kellam, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Crestview Hills, KY

“Delicious and dark and frightening, Mindy McGinnis finds the black underbelly of teenage sexuality and exposes it in this novel that is at times too real, especially considering it follows the story of a girl who murdered her sister’s rapist and killer. There were so many moments where I thought “This – this has happened. I’ve seen this in real life” but just glossed it over, whereas in this book nothing is glossed over, and for that I am thankful. I loved Alex, I loved all the characters, I loved the writing, and I will be delighted to warn everyone about this book.”
— Kelly Morton, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

 Take a violent, vindictive valedictorian, a violated preacher’s kid and an entitled athlete, add some teenage angst and aggression and you have the latest YA novel by Mindy McGinnis, “The Female of the Species”. McGinnis creates a deeply disturbing journey through high school days with devastating consequences, especially for Alex, Claire and Jack. Well-written and wrought with relevant topics faced by females, this dark tale delivers a punch to the gut with deadly accuracy and aim while leaving a lasting impression on the reader.”
— Kristin Bates, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

“Wow. This is a very, very dark book. Every single character is deeply flawed. Some of them are about what you would expect from a rural, depressed town. But others are far more disturbed. What I love about this author though, is that inside all of that darkness, her writing is absolutely beautiful. The book is shocking, emotional, and brutally honest about some very serious issues that teenagers deal with. For the older YA crowd, it is fantastic.”
— Kate Schreffler, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY

The Female of the Species (9780062320896) by Mindy McGinnis. $17.99 hardcover. 9/20/16 on sale.