February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

10 Books To Read After “The Hate U Give”

What do you read after completing the most lauded and talked about YA book of 2017? Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give by has already garnered multiple accolades—Boston Globe Horn Book Fiction winner, National Book Award long list, SLJ Best Book, and Morris finalist, among others. Below are a few recently reviewed YA titles that explore the lives of Black teens, police brutality, and systemic racism.

BEACON HOUSE TEEN WRITERS. The Day Tajon Got Shot. edited by Kathy Crutcher. 230p. Shout Mouse. May 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780996927451.

Gr 8 Up–Tajon Williams, a black teen, sells weed as a means of getting his mother and sister away from his abusive and alcoholic father. He is threatened at gunpoint by the neighborhood drug dealer into handing over his weed supply without receiving money from him. Their transaction is interrupted by a white police officer, and Tajon is shot twice while running from the officer. The shooting is witnessed by Razia, a longtime school friend of Tajon. She knows Tajon did not have a gun, contrary to the police officer’s claims. Her sister, Angel, is best friends with Ashley, a white female member of the basketball team who figures out the police officer is none other than her own father, Pete. Her brother, Zach, lashes out at Pete for shooting his friend. When the school finds out Pete is their father, it is Ashley who unwittingly earns the wrath from Angel and the basketball team. The 10 teen writers of Beacon House have brilliantly crafted a YA book in which they take on the perspectives of 10 central characters. Each is given multiple layers. However, Pete’s nameless wife and Ashley and Zach’s mother are not as nuanced. Readers will appreciate the usage of multimedia, such as newspaper headlines, social media, and protest signs and posters. The book gives off an element of anticipation, which will cause readers to wonder the outcome of the comatose Tajon’s condition. Readers will also be alarmed at the list of unarmed people of color killed by police in the United States, from March 2015 to the writing of this book. VERDICT This smart and courageous YA novel will open up a dialogue started by young voices who deserve to be heard. A strong purchase.–Donald Peebles, Brooklyn Public Library

redstarFULTON, Sybrina & Tracy Martin. Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin. 352p. Spiegel & Grau. Jan. 2017. Tr $26. ISBN 9780812997231.

STAR-AB4T-Fulton-RestinPowerFour years after Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, was killed walking home by George Zimmerman, a white neighborhood watch coordinator with a gun, the teen’s mother and father, in alternating chapters, share the devastating experience of losing a son to senseless violence: “We tell it in hope for healing, for bridging the divide that separates America.” Evident throughout are Fulton’s and Martin’s anger and frustration with the way the case was handled by the Sanford (FL) Police Department, the makeup of the jury, the prosecution’s weak performance, and the often outrageous behavior of the defense. Why was Zimmerman allowed to go home with evidence on his body? Why was Trayvon, but not Zimmerman, subjected to drug and alcohol tests? Why were there background checks on Trayvon but not on Zimmerman? Both parents also chronicle the numerous protest marches that propelled a national movement. Pointing out the blatant missteps they encountered, Fulton and Martin come across as caring and compassionate individuals who remain hopeful that their son will live on through their continued work with the Trayvon Martin Foundation. VERDICT A well-told and gripping portrayal of the killing of a son and the subsequent legal process, with all its twists and turns.–Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

Gattis, Ryan. Air. 320p. ebook available. Adaptive. Dec. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780986448423.

Gr 9 Up–A fast-paced contemporary title that takes readers on a journey through political conversations and in-your-face stunts. An adrenaline junky, 17-year-old Grey, is shipped off to live with his aunt in inner-city Baltimore after he witnesses the tragic death of his mother in Colorado. He struggles to fit in at a new school and community. His aunt watches his every move, and the only thing that Grey wants to do is run free. He meets a new friend, Akil, who introduces him to the mysterious Kurtis, the leader of a group that uses sports as a form of social activism. By challenging the police with death-defying stunts that are then posted online, the teens become rebels in the fight against the prejudice that surrounds them. Kurtis and Grey develop into constant companions. They attract more and more followers as they post videos of their extreme acts that defy law enforcement. The lines between social activism and criminal behavior become muted as their stunts become increasingly dangerous. The two must decide how far they are willing to go for their message and their friendship. The dialogue sometimes gets in the way of true description and development of the plot. The characters, however, invite readers to ponder big political and social questions, many of which are easily applicable to contemporary life. The uneven plot’s pacing might deter some readers. VERDICT Purchase where Gattis’s previous books are popular or if there’s a need for social justice–centered YA.–Amy Caldera, Dripping Springs Middle School, TX

magoon, Kekla. How It Went Down. 336p. Holt. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780805098693.

Gr 9 Up—When 16-year-old Tariq, a black teen, is shot and killed by a white man, every witness has a slightly different perception of the chain of events leading up to the murder. Family, friends, gang members, neighbors, and a well-meaning but self-serving minster make up the broad cast of characters. The police bring their own personal biases to their investigation of the case. When all points of view are combined, the story of a young man emerges and with it, a narrative that plays out in communities across the country every day. Heartbreaking and unputdownable, this is an important book about perception and race. How It Went Down reads very much like Julius Lester’s Day of Tears (Hyperion, 2005) in a modern setting and for an older audience. With a great hook and relatable characters, this will be popular for fans of realistic fiction. The unique storytelling style and thematic relevance will make it a potentially intriguing pick for classroom discussion.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

redstarMedina, Tony. I Am Alfonso Jones. illus. by John Jennings & Stacey Robinson. 176p. Tu Bks. Oct. 2017. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781620142639. POP

Gr 9 Up –Alfonso Jones loves to play trumpet and is thinking of trying out for his class’s hip hop–themed Hamlet. On a shopping trip with his crush Danetta, the African American teen, who is looking for his first suit to wear in celebration of his father’s release from jail, is shot by a white off-duty cop who incorrectly assumes the suit hanger is a gun. The rest of the graphic novel jumps among Alfonso’s past, the aftermath of the shooting, and his experience on a possibly never-ending train ride with other victims of police violence, including Amadou Diallo as his guide. Medina’s juggling of the three threads isn’t always graceful, but the variation of Robinson and Jennings’s panels and design pushes the narrative forward. A teacher’s dialogue with Alfonso’s classmates is illuminating and realistic. The outrage and grief are palpable, and the black-and-white illustrations enforce the gut-punching pull of each character’s journey. And as Alfonso meets the historical figures who preceded him, readers will understand the systemic racism that underlies these violent cases. VERDICT A brutally honest and bleak but necessary selection for all graphic novel collections.–Shelley M. Diaz, School ­Library Journal

redstarOlder, Daniel José. Shadowhouse Fall. 368p. (Shadowshaper Cypher: Bk. 2). Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545952828. POP

Gr 7 Up –Sierra and her crew of shadowshapers are back for another adventure in this sequel to Shadowshaper. A mysterious card deck appears and, with it, a conflict between Shadow House and The House of Light arises. Sierra must act quickly to figure out whom she can trust while learning what it means to be a leader. She also begins a relationship with a new love interest. There is a satisfying conclusion, leaving threads of an open-ended mystery involving the Deck of Worlds. It will be exciting to see where this increasingly political urban fantasy will go next. Older has upped the ante with this second installment. This entry adds a layer of social activism that is refreshing and timely. The crew challenges their white AP history teacher about how she is approaching the topic of slavery. Many of the protagonists experience conflicts with the police and are able to resist. For a change of pace, those who enjoyed Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give may want to check out this fantasy title. In addition, it is good to see a sequel include a very realistic changing romantic landscape for the protagonist. VERDICT A worthy follow-up to Shadowshaper that fans will devour.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Reinhart, Liz. Rebels Like Us. 496p. ebook available. Harlequin Teen. Feb. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212200.

Gr 9 Up –This well-done romance offers up a chivalrously complex Southern boy and a transplanted heroine who accepts the mantle of reluctant social activist. Agnes Murphy-Pujols is a take-no-prisoners refugee from heartbreak and Brooklyn. Her mother, a professor, uproots the two of them just a few months from the end of Agnes’s senior year and deposits them in a small town outside of Savannah, Georgia. On the one hand, Agnes is angry with her mother for causing the implosion of their life and family. On the other, she is glad to escape her cheating former boyfriend. The teen is a standout with her mother’s Irish temper and her father’s Dominican coloring, and Doyle Rahn’s flirtatious attention within the first week at her new school moves her from a curiosity to a target of the school’s best connected mean girl. The first half of the book is overfilled with “electric touches” and sexually frustrated banter. It is the second half that redeems the opening chapters. Doyle and Agnes defy tradition by organizing an alternative to the segregated proms sponsored by members of the community and, concurrently, struggle to find balance in a relationship that moves beyond physical to intimate. VERDICT Fans of teen romance will find a thought-provoking and nuanced story that transcends its initial dosage of clichéd descriptions of lustful longing. A must-have for YA romance shelves.–Jodeana Kruse, R. A. Long High School, Longview, WA

redstarReynolds, Jason & Brendan Kiely. All American Boys. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks.Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481463331.

Gr 8 Up –Rashad Butler is a quiet, artistic teen who hates ROTC but dutifully attends because father insists “there’s no better opportunity for a black boy in this country than to join the army.” He heads to Jerry’s corner store on a Friday night to buy chips, and ends up the victim of unwarranted arrest and police brutality: an event his white schoolmate Quinn Collins witnesses in terrified disbelief. Quinn is even more shocked because the cop is Paul Galluzzo, older brother of his best friend and Quinn’s mentor since his father died in Afghanistan. As events unfold, both boys are forced to confront the knowledge that racism in America has not disappeared and that change will not come unless they step forward. Reynolds and Kiely’s collaborative effort deftly explores the aftermath of police brutality, addressing the fear, confusion, and anger that affects entire communities. Diverse perspectives are presented in a manner that feels organic to the narrative, further emphasizing the tension created when privilege and racism cannot be ignored. Timely and powerful, this novel promises to have an impact long after the pages stop turning. VERDICT Great for fostering discussions about current events among teenage audiences. A must-have for all collections.–Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Stone, Nic. Dear Martin. 224p. Crown. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101939499.

Gr 9 Up –Justyce is an African American teen caught between two worlds. He knows that the education he’s receiving at a private school will grant him more economic opportunities; however, he begins to question the effects of his private school education on his own identity. Some of his classmates believe that the racial pendulum has swung too far, giving African Americans an unfair advantage over their white counterparts. The kids he grew up with believe Justyce has assimilated too much and has forgotten where he came from. He questions his blackness, his relationship with his biracial girlfriend, and his attraction to his white debate partner Sarah Jane. Through a series of journal entries, Justyce attempts to figure out his place in the world by exploring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. A violent altercation between a retired white police officer and his best friend causes Justyce to examine what it means to be an African American male in 2017. The length and pace of this well-written story make it a perfect read for reluctant and sophisticated readers alike. The main characters are well balanced and will resonate with teens. However, the voice of African American women is largely absent from the narrative. The characterizations of Justyce’s mother and his girlfriend are one-dimensional compared to some of the other protagonists. Still, this important work should be read alongside Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s All-American Boys and Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down. ­VERDICT A good choice for school and public libraries.–Desiree Thomas, Worthington Library, OH

redstarWatson, Renée. Piecing Me Together. 272p. Bloomsbury. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781681191058.

Gr 7 Up –High school junior Jade is an “at-risk” student from a rough neighborhood in Portland, OR. She is also a talented collage artist, and she attends an elite private school on scholarship. More than anything, she wants to go on a study abroad week offered at her school to use her Spanish skills. Instead, she is given an invitation to join Woman to Woman, a mentorship program for young women like her: poor and black. Her mentor, Maxine, is from a more privileged background, and Jade doesn’t see what she can learn from her. But in spite of her early resistance to Maxine, Jade begins to open up and gain confidence, and, eventually, she is able to express the importance of her family, her community, and her art. The two strong female characters and the ways in which they struggle with and support each other form the center of this tale. Most young people will relate to Jade’s search to find her voice and learn to advocate for herself in appropriate ways. The lack of a romantic lead may leave some young teen readers disappointed, but there is a real, refreshing strength in a fully fleshed-out female character whose story is her own. This is a memorable novel that demonstrates that a happy ending doesn’t require a romantic subplot. VERDICT This unique and thought-provoking title offers a nuanced meditation on race, privilege, and intersectionality. A first purchase for YA collections.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) 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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Comments

  1. Kathy Wellington says:

    And Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down.

  2. Long Way Down!

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