May 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

5 Highly Anticipated Titles from YA Authors | SLJ Spotlight

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From the first book by John Green since The Fault in Our Stars to the latest “Diviners” installment, these books probably already have long hold lists. Be sure to purchase multiple copies!

Bray, Libba. Before the Devil Breaks You. 560p. (Diviners: Bk. 3). Little, Brown. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780316126069. POP

Gr 9 Up –Ghosts are taking over 1920s New York City, from the potter’s field of Wards Island to the burial grounds in Lower Manhattan to the Bennington apartment building’s basement. Some ghosts seek vengeance, some wish merely to be remembered, and some hint at promises made by the dangerous King of Crows. The Diviners (and the Diviners-adjacent) are fighting the ghosts, but they’re also fighting amongst themselves to figure out whom to trust and whether to protect or reveal their secrets. Jericho accepts Jake Marlowe’s invitation to his mansion upstate, hoping to learn what the industrialist wants with Diviners; Theta must contend with an old enemy; Mabel Rose cozies up to anarchists; Evie fights to stay in the limelight; Ling learns why you shouldn’t meet your heroes; and more. There’s a lot going on here, but Bray moves the overall plot arc forward while keeping the many, many subplot plates spinning and setting up plenty of conflicts to power the next installment. VERDICT Essential reading for series fans, this is a must-purchase for YA collections.–Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

de la Cruz, Melissa. Someone To Love. 352p. Harlequin Teen. Jan. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212361. POP

Gr 10 Up –On the outside, Olivia Blakely’s family seems perfect. Her father is the Speaker of the House, her mother is the perfect wife, and her two older brothers are successful adults. But Olivia is not perfect. She believes she is fat, disgusting, and unlovable. Art is the only thing she remotely feels good at. To help herself cope with her imperfections, she binges, purges, and self-harms. De la Cruz presents several heavy topics facing teens including drug use, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationships, immigration/deportation, and handling family pressure. Due to the number of topics covered, such as sexual assault, not all are given the resolution they deserve. Self-love and acceptance succeed as overlying themes that don’t feel didactic. Despite Olivia’s increasing romantic feelings for her best friend, the protagonist ultimately decides that getting help for her problems and learning to love herself are her primary priority. Like the real world, some characters participate in risky behaviors and face no consequences. Use of alcohol and other drugs make this a title best suited for older teens. VERDICT Paired with resources on how to get help with eating disorders, anxiety, and depression, this book is a welcome addition to any library that services teens.–Ashley Leffel, Griffin Middle School, Frisco, TX

redstarGreen, John. Turtles All the Way Down. 304p. Dutton. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780525555360. POP

Gr 9 Up –Sixteen-year-old Aza Holmes first met Davis Pickett at “Sad Camp” the summers after fifth and sixth grades. Both Aza and Davis had recently lost parents and the kids bonded in their grief and fascination with the natural world. They’ve had little contact since then, even though they still live in Indianapolis, albeit in very different circumstances. When Davis’s billionaire CEO dad disappears on the eve of a fraud and bribery investigation, Aza’s best bud Daisy is intrigued, particularly since the police are offering a $100,000 reward for information about his whereabouts. The bright, talented girls worry about affording college and soon get caught up in solving the mystery. However, a lack of finances is just one of the myriad things, large (existential) and small (microbes), that Aza stresses about. She is living with debilitating anxiety and obsessive-compulsive responses to it. Despite years of therapy and meds, she works hard to function in the face of physically harrowing mental health challenges. When she reconnects with her childhood friend, the prospect of a budding relationship is at once thrilling and terrifying. As always, Green creates whip-smart and articulate characters who will charm, frustrate, and possibly annoy readers. While the romance is never fully realized, this is undoubtedly a love story. Aza is a likable protagonist and readers will be caught up in the claustrophobic, narrowing spiral that is her existence and root for her to gain control of her life. Her tough, brutally honest first-person narrative will leave teens battered and raw but will also show them that, with love, everything is possible.VERDICT A deeply resonant and powerful novel that will inform and enlighten readers even as it breaks their hearts. A must-buy.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

redstarHardinge, Frances. A Skinful of Shadows. 432p. Abrams/Amulet. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781419725722.

Gr 6 Up– Makepeace is raised in a strict Puritanical environment by her single mother in 17th-century England at the brink of civil war. Right before her tragic death, the girl’s mother reveals information about her daughter’s parentage. In a quest to learn more about her ability to interact with spirits of the dead, Makepeace travels to Grizehayes, the home of the rich and sinister Fellmottes. There she befriends other Fellmotte illegitimate offspring, including one who becomes her best friend. The two constantly try to run away, but are always brought back because of their ability to be vessels for spirits. As the years pass, Makepeace is finally able to make her escape, but at a great expense. The sharp, intelligent protagonist is also keeping a secret of her own: she’s possessed by the ghost of a once-imprisoned bear, giving her preternatural abilities. The rich language, distinct and eerie world-building, and truly evil villains make this a layered, thought-provoking tale about power, friendship, survival, and love. Makepeace is caught between identities, religions, and loyalties. As she slips from one misadventure to another, meeting intriguing figures along the way, her fierceness and sheer will keep her alive and true to herself and those she protects. Hardinge continues to create multifaceted characters, well-researched historical settings, and laugh-out-loud dialogue that will enrapture strong readers of fantasy and complex historical fiction. VERDICT A book that only Hardinge could write; add this masterful and spooky historical fantasy to upper middle grade and YA shelves.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

redstarPullman, Philip. The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage. 1. 464p. Knopf. Oct. 2017. Tr $$22.99. ISBN 9780375815300.

Gr 8 Up –Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead is the inquisitive son of two hardworking and no-nonsense innkeepers. He spends his days working on his beloved canoe, La Belle Sauvage, helping his parents, and avoiding Alice, a teen dishwasher with an attitude. When a trio of mysterious gentlemen arrives asking about the nuns at the nearby priory and whether they’ve ever cared for a baby, Malcolm, along with his beloved daemon Asta, begins working as a spy for the underground resistance. Six-month-old Lyra, daughter of Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter, who stars in Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series, has been secreted away into the care of the Sisters, where Malcolm meets and immediately bonds with the orphaned infant. When the enigmatic Mr. Bonneville and his terrifying hyena daemon arrive in Oxford, it becomes clear that Bonneville wants the baby for his own nefarious purposes. As a historic flood ravages southern Brytain, with the Thames overflowing and destroying buildings and bridges in its wake, Malcolm and Alice find themselves thrown together as they save Lyra from Bonneville and the rising waters. But all is not well; both Bonneville and the Consistorial Court of Discipline, an arm of the brutal and dictatorial Church, are quick on the young people’s heels as they race in La Belle Sauvage to London in the hopes of finding sanctuary and reuniting Lyra with her father. Readers need not have read “His Dark Materials” to be swept along on this quest, though fans will delight in returning to Lyra’s Oxford in this prequel. Pullman keeps the tension high as Malcolm finds clever ways to outwit and outrun their pursuers and Alice reveals a tender side. A subplot about The League of St. Alexander, a Church-run organization that recruits kids to spy on their parents and neighbors, is reminiscent of the Nazi Youth. Themes that permeated Pullman’s previous trilogy, including a sharp and subversive critique of organized religion, abuse of power, and the fragility of democracy, are at play once again—and just as timely as ever. VERDICT Luminous prose, heady philosophical questions, and a lovable protagonist combine with a gripping plot sure to enchant fans and newcomers alike.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz ( is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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