New YA Fiction: Thick as Thieves – Megan Whalen Turner

Add Turner to the list of major children’s book authors that booksellers have clued me in to. Excitement and anticipation for this new installment in Turner’s Queen’s Thief series was so high that a half-dozen booksellers asked me for reading copies before I’d ever heard of the book.

Written over the course of twenty years and starting with the Newbery Honor winning book, The Thief, the four books in this series can be read as standalone novels and are all the richer read as a series.

The stories are rife with political machination and intrigue, war, far-flung journeys and divine intervention. The whole series has been released with spectacular new covers which, if they remind you of the opening to HBO’s Game of Thrones, well that can’t be an accident. Bookseller Kim Fox right pointed out to me that “I’ve heard it thrown out as a suggestion of what to read when you’re done with Game of Thrones, and I don’t disagree with that.”

Three starred reviews underscore the fact that this is an event in the YA world.

“What is so welcomingly familiar and so wholly real here is the depth of the characters and the tenuous, frightening instability of the world around them. …The world, its people, and its god remain as fiercely alive as they were when The Thief first stole hearts…like coming home.”
Booklist (starred review)

“As with the previous books, Turner writes with complete authority about her richly imagined landscape. Although this immersive treat is billed as a standalone, those who have read the previous books in the series will get the most from it, as Turner fills out and enriches the expansive canvas on which she stitches her epic tale.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Immensely satisfying…. This clever book is both a stand-alone introduction for those just discovering Turner’s characters and a way to move the series forward to what promises to be a stirring conclusion for longtime fans. A must for fantasy readers.”
School Library Journal (starred review)

“As with Turner’s other Attolia books, this invites an older audience, but the perilous journey, character growth, and understated affection of shield brothers offer more teen appeal…A series stand-alone that won’t disappoint Turner aficionados.”
Kirkus Reviews

Marvelous. Although this is a mew main character for the series, this has all the adventure, politics, and character development that I expect from Megan Whalen Turner. It was exactly what I wanted…until I got to the end and realized that I desperately wanted more!”
— Kim Fox, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

“I love the Queen’s Thief books and I am thrilled to go back to that world and explore the politics, intrigue and stories in this wonderful series. This new book follows a Mede slave as he negotiates the politics of that vast empire as well as the role slaves play in running an empire. There are subtle touches of Rome and Greece, but the world is entirely unique.  With Megan Whalen Turner’s deft touch of developing both character and the world in which they move, Thick as Thieves is thrilling both as a political and as an adventure novel. Expect to be swept up as a reader into the world she has created.  Of course, I’ve had to go back and re-read the rest of the series!”
— Liesl Freudenstein, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

Thick as Thieves (9780062568243) by Megan Whalen Turner. $17.99 hardcover. 5/16/17 on sale.

New YA Fiction: Ramona Blue – Julie Murphy

Murphy’s debut Dumplin’ was one of last year’s break out books, debuting at #1 on the NYT bestseller list. After a success like that I always fret a bit about the possible “sophomore slump” No worries here. Advance reviews include two starred reviews and all the reviews praise Murphy’s thoughtful and empathetic characterizations.

The protagonist this time out is Ramona Blue, a teen steering herself and her pregnant sister through life in a coastal Mississippi town after their mother leaves them. At the opening of the book Ramona’s girlfriend leaves just as an old childhood friend returns. Freddie’s a middle-class kid and when his family signs them both up at the Y for the summer, Ramona discovers a talent for swimming—and an unexpected attraction to her old friend.

In another writer’s hands, the issues here might overwhelm the story—class, race, poverty, sexuality—but in Murphy’s hands it’s these finely drawn characters who keep the limelight, with Ramona emerging like Dumplin’, as an underdog you cheer for.

There are two things Ramona knows: she likes girls, and she’s the responsible one in her family, especially now that her sister, Hattie, is pregnant. The girls’ mother left,…they live in a trailer, and Ramona is juggling multiple jobs…. In Eulogy, Miss., Murphy creates a place that feels deeply real, a Gulf Coast vacation town that’s racially and economically diverse: Ramona is white and poor, Freddie is black and middle class, and the biggest divide might be between the year-round residents and the summer visitors. It’s a great setting for a coming-of-age story, as Ramona realizes that she’s capable of more than she imagined and that some categories are more fluid than she’d thought.”
Publishers Weekly

“An exquisite, thoughtful exploration of the ties that bind and the fluidity of relationships, sexuality, and life.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Julie Murphy knows a thing or two about navigating the worlds of girls on the brink of self-discovery.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A must-have work that will resonate with teens”
School Library Journal

Ramona Blue (9780062418357) by Julie Murphy. $17.99 hardcover. 5/9/17 on sale.

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.”
Booklist

“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.