Romy Grey doesn’t come from the right kind of family. When she tries to speak up about what the sheriff’s son Kellan did to her, no one wants to listen. Ostracized from family and friends and bullied by her peers, Romy has very little good in her life. When another girl connected to Kellan goes missing, Romy has to confront her demons and find her voice. Courtney Summers’s powerhouse of a novel confronts the ugly realities of rape culture, the aftermath of trauma, and what happens when girls’ voices are silenced. Raw, emotionally resonant, timely, and important, this is one teens will devour. A gut-punch of a novel with a searingly real protagonist, this is one that demands to be read and talked about.
Willowdean Dickson knows all about beauty; it’s hard not to when your mama is a former beauty queen. A self-proclaimed fat girl, Willowdean is comfortable with who she is, and she faces the world with confidence and the support of her best friend, Ellen. However, when former jock Bo shows an interest in Willowdean, she’s surprised to find that her body-positive self-assurance isn’t as strong as she thought. Throw in a love of Dolly Parton and drag queens, some rebellious pageant contestants and the confusion of first love, and Willowdean’s life may never been the same. Funny, poignant and empowering, Dumplin’ is a portrait of a young woman who isn’t perfect but loves herself for who she is, even when it’s difficult to do so. It’s a perfect read for anyone who has ever felt self-conscious or uncomfortable with their appearance.
Sam worries that her popular friends will discover her OCD. But her worst fear is: “What if I’m crazy?” In this beautifully crafted book, Sam transforms from a girl who is afraid of who she is, into a girl who owns who she is–flaws included. Covering tough topics like depression, anxiety, peer pressure, and suicide, this compelling book inspires and captivates. Brimming with poetry and honest emotion and insight into the mind of a teen who suffers from anxiety, Every Last Word proves the hurting and healing power of every last word.
Deciding to allow yourself to be open to love is always risky, but it’s even more risky for Madeline, the girl in the bubble. Madeline is allergic to everything so she lives isolated and alone, until Ollie moves in next door. The two of them connect, at first online, and a slowly simmering romance blossoms between the two of them. As she risks everything to try and have a normal life, she learns things about herself that change, well, everything. Romance, heartbreak, desperation, and more permeate the pages of this unique story told with the help of emails, texts and chat messages.The book’s authenticity as it deals with finding yourself and discovering your first love will make it Everything a reader needs for a compelling read.
When a sixteen-year-old black boy is shot and killed in broad daylight by a white man in front of multiple witnesses, it’s hard to understand how there could be any questions about what happened. Through a chorus of diverse, distinct voices that range in age, perspective, and experience, Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down shows exactly how confusing the truth can be—that perception is entirely affected by our understanding of the world around us, and that oftentimes, we only see what we expect to see. Teenagers see racialized violence in real life and on the news every single day, and this book works towards trying to understand it with honesty and elegance, in a way that doesn’t point fingers, provide platitudes or offer up easy answers.
Sephora Golding understands the power of a woman’s image better than anyone. Living in the shadow of her beautiful mother, Sephora struggles to live her own life just as they struggle to get by in Venice Beach. She creates her own images through her art and imagines herself as a character in a fairy tale. But at sixteen it’s more Grimm than Disney. Fairy tales and mythology are artfully and masterfully interwoven with reality as Sephora navigates life as a child that grew up too fast and showing the reader how our choices define the boundaries between childhood and being an adult. Infandous presents the reader with multiple questions and insights: beauty as power and a commodity, wanting a parent’s protection while striding to make it on their own, and the right to create something beautiful out of pain.
11th grader Normandy Pale lives both in and out of the spotlight. At home, her world-famous comic creator sister is the center of attention, and the family bends over backwards to accommodate her every need and desire. Out in the larger world, Normandy is an unwilling public figure, due to the twisted portrait of her that appears in her sister’s magnum opus. The Truth Commission pulled our panel in with its entirely appealing format—it’s written as a piece of creative nonfiction, complete with footnotes—and it held us with its witty dialogue, three-dimensional characterization, complex relationships, and thoughtful commentary about art, celebrity, family, privacy, performance, and entitlement. On the surface, The Truth Commission is like one of Normandy’s pieces of embroidery: when you look from a distance, it’s easy to see the big picture, but the closer you look, the more intricate and detailed and layered it becomes.