Kids of Appetite by David ArnoldFiction. While trying to decipher the coded letter telling him how to scatter his dead father’s ashes, outsider Vic Benucci collides with the Kids of Appetite. The KOA is an unlikely crew: a pair of Congolese refugee brothers, a faux-foulmouthed kid, and their ringleader, Madeline “Mad” Falco. Damaged and quietly fierce, Mad fascinates Vic, and their relationship deepens even as they’re drawn into the police investigation of Mad’s uncle’s murder. “Darkness and complexity swirl beneath the surface” (Kirkus Reviews) of this dual perspective story that will captivate readers who, like Vic, consider themselves “heart-thinkers.”
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeFantasy. On the island of Fennbirn, each generation of triplet queens is born with magical powers, but not the right to rule. Instead, one girl must claim the crown by murdering her sisters in a brutal rite of passage. This time around, elemental Mirabella seems to have the advantage, but poisoner Katherine and naturalist Arsinoe can’t be counted out. Which sister is ruthless enough to become the “red-handed Queen”? You’ll want to race through the gut-punching twists of this series opener to find out. While you wait for book two, you can turn to the equally bloody and female-focused Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.
Something in Between by Melissa de la CruzFiction. After being being awarded a hard-won college scholarship, Filipino-American high school student Jasmine barely has time for excitement before her parents reveal that she can’t accept the award: their family is undocumented. Crushed, Jasmine is forced to re-evaluate not only her plans for the future, but also her growing feelings for Royce, the son of a congressman whose anti-immigrant policies might lead to her family’s deportation. Popular author Melissa de la Cruz brings authenticity and depth to this realistic story about love and belonging; fans of its star-crossed romance should be sure to check out the similarly conflicted couple in Marie Marquardt’s Dream Things True.
Still Life with Tornado by A.S. KingFiction. While skipping school in favor of wandering around Philadelphia, 16-year-old artist Sarah runs into her 10-year-old self. Ever since the incident at the recent art show, teen Sarah has been avoiding both school and her troubled parents. Now, she's worried that what seemed like a small personal crisis might be turning into a full-on breakdown. As older versions of herself appear as well, Sarah begins to realize that there may be something buried in her poisonous family history that her past and future selves need her face. Using surreal events to highlight painfully real issues, Still Life with Tornado is strange, powerful, and "unforgettable" (School Library Journal).
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer NivenFiction. Jack and Libby's romance begins with a punch in the face. It's hardly an auspicious start, but Libby -- who used to be known as "America's Fattest Teen" -- refuses to be a target for swaggering, popular guys like Jack. (She has no way of knowing that Jack's attitude hides the loneliness he feels due to a carefully concealed disability.) While stuck together in detention and group counseling, however, Jack and Libby slowly begin to form a bond that's as intense as it is unlikely. Alternating narration offers insights into both vividly drawn characters as they try to puzzle out who they are, both separately and together.
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra BrackenDystopian SF. In this bleak, action-packed book, 98 percent of the children in America have been killed by a virus -- and the other two percent have developed frightening powers that they can't control, prompting the government to lock them up in "rehabilitation camps." Sixteen-year-old Ruby has escaped from one of these camps, along with a small group of others who, like her, are looking for the one secure haven they've heard about...but they'll have to make it there without being captured or killed first. This often violent novel's twists and turns will keep you guessing, and there's also plenty to pull fans of well-developed characters into its harsh, dark world.
Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen EmondFiction. Walter has always been the kind of guy who doesn't attract much attention. When he meets Naomi, who shares his awkwardness as well as his sense of humor and love of music, he's surprised to find that she likes him just as much as he likes her. However, after Walter's cop father is accused of racial profiling, Walter (who's white) and Naomi (who's black) are thrown into the media spotlight. Can their fledgling relationship stand up to the opinions and prejudices of their community? Expressive illustrations flesh out the urban setting of this thought-provoking story. For another complex teen couple navigating the intersection of race and romance, try Anna Banks' Joyride.
In Darkness by Nick LakeFiction. In this book that Kirkus Reviews calls "engrossing, disturbing, illuminating" and "a journey well worth taking," readers meet Shorty, a young Haitian man who is trapped in the ruins of a hospital after the devastating 2010 earthquake, waiting for someone -- anyone -- to come to his rescue. As he thinks about the events that led him there, we learn Shorty's story, which alternates with that of 19th-century slave Toussaint L'Ouverture, the leader of the revolution that ousted the French and established Haiti as a black republic. Brutal yet mesmerizing, this novel weaves Haiti's past and present together brilliantly and is certain to provoke both thought and discussion.
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope PérezHistorical Fiction. The tragic real-life explosion of a Texas school in 1937 anchors this multilayered, award-winning book, which imagines the events leading up to the incident. Though multiple perspectives are shown, two characters stand out: Naomi, a Mexican American girl who's just moved to town to live with her white father and twin stepbrothers, and Wash, the African American boy she loves. New London, Texas, is sharply segregated along racial lines, and as their romance blossoms, Naomi and Wash become more and more aware of the volatile atmosphere surrounding them. With graceful, inventive storytelling, Out of Darkness will fascinate readers who crave sophisticated historical fiction.
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana PeterfreundScience Fiction. From Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube, Jane Austen adaptations are popular, and For Darkness Shows the Stars offers a unique, dystopian spin on Austen's Persuasion. Years ago, Elliot refused to run away with her sweetheart, Kai, because she was the daughter of a Luddite lord and he was the son of a Reduced lower-class laborer. Now Kai is back and they've both changed -- but have they changed enough for a second chance? Set in a post-apocalyptic world of genetic engineering gone wrong, this futuristic tale will please fans of Lauren DeStefano's Chemical Garden trilogy.
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