Summer is beginning to wind down and soon a new school year will be upon us. If you are like me, you might be thinking it’s time seize the last few days of summer and get some reading done! But what should you read? May I suggest a few fresh new YA novels? If you are looking for diverse, spunky characters, lush description, and maybe a good cry, the following books could be a great fit for you.
This book is set after the invasion of the Ilori. More than 1/3 of earth’s population has been wiped out. Humans are being kept in lock down. They are not allowed to read or listen to music. Janelle is running a clandestine library, until one of her books goes missing. This could lead to a death sentence. But the Ilori who found it doesn’t turn Janelle in. Instead, he talks to her. Janelle and M0RR1S find they share a passion for music. This passion sends them on a road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums in a race to save humanity.
Camino Rios can’t wait for dad’s yearly visit to the Dominican Republic. When she arrives at the tiny airport, she finds her dad’s plane crashed. Camino has to come to terms with her grief, but then she discovers something more about her father. She has a sister named Yahaira in New York City. Does her father’s life hold more secrets? This story is told in verse from dual perspectives. It’s a fast read, but it sure packs a punch.
Kayyam is seventeen and on a dream trip to Paris. She should be in heaven, but she’s not. She just wants to go home. That is until she runs into a descendant of Alexandre Dumas and begins research on Leila, a 19th century Muslim woman with ties to Dumas and Lord Byron. Kayyam is a strong female protagonist who is full of passion and sparkle. The rush to find Leila throughout history is really fun to read.
Ever Wong thinks she is going to Taiwan for an educational immersion program. But when she gets there, she discovers she’s on the infamous “Loveboat”. Every passenger is a prodigy, or a rich kid, or both. But no one seems to be interested in studying. They just want to party. While Ever is navigating Taipei’s nightlife, she also is figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up. But will her parents approve of a life they haven’t already chosen for her?
Jamie Goldberg and Maya Rehrman couldn’t be more different. But when the two are thrown together to canvas for their local state senate candidate, things suddenly start to change. Jamie begins to have a serious crush on Maya and Maya starts to see Jamie as more than just “that awkward guy.” This book has it all. Political activism. Check! Cute love story. Check! Multicultural bonding. Check! I liked it a lot.
In the reading world, I don’t know if there are many things worse than being disappointed by a book you are or have just finished reading. Sometimes, it can’t really be helped. If the rest of the book, or even series, is great but the ending falls short, there is no way of knowing before the end. What frustrates me more is finding unexpected content and twists (or lack thereof) in the middle of a book when I’m just starting to really enjoy it.
Genre fiction comes with a promise that certain elements will be present in certain genres. Romance is no different. As the saying goes, some like it hot, some like it cold. Part of enjoying a great romance book is being able to read the level of spice you enjoy. Sometimes a cover is enough to tell you what kind of spice you’ll find inside, but sometimes it isn’t.
So what do you do when the cover doesn't really show whether the book's content is a good fit for you?
Novelist (a library database) and Goodreads are great places to get reviews and recommendations for books to read as well as great resources for doing a quick content check. In Novelist you can search for different spice levels. Here’s how: in the advanced search, you can type in chaste, mildly sensuous, steamy, or explicit and then select AP Appeal Factors in the drop menu. The picture below outlines it a little more.
Although I love Novelist, there have been a couple times where new romance books I’ve been interested in have not had a spicy list term. In that case, there is another great option. One of our other librarians found a site years ago, allaboutromance.com. This site is purely for romance books and, similarly to Novelist, has a rating system for the sensuality level in each book. Often, authors will have an overall sensuality rating as well based on the average spice level of their books. All About Romance’s rating system is shown below.
This one is a little simpler to use. Simply type in the title of the book (or name of the author) and the results will come up with a synopsis of the book as well as its spice level and rating. May you now more easily find the level of spice you’re looking for!
I don’t know if you knew, but all librarians at The Provo City Library have fabulous hair. It’s a fact. Look at any one of us and you’ll see wonderful hair. Color, length, texture we have it all. You might even think great hair is a requirement to become a librarian, but I digress.
Beautiful hair isn’t just a librarian trait. Many book characters have some pretty awesome locks. Take a look at a few heroines with fierce hair!
Heroine: Gum Baby
Hair level: Fierce
Why: Throughout the book, Gum Baby changes her hairstyle to fit the mood. Whether it’s a powerful afro, corn rows, or fabulous pigtails, Gum Baby pulls off any hairdo with style.
This book is about a boy who falls into a world of folklore and legends. He meets Briar Rabbit, John Henry, and a sassy doll named Gum Baby. When Tristan first meets Gum Baby, he’s not sure what to think of her, but as they get into one pickle after another, Gum Baby and Tristan work together to survive and eventually become friends.
Hair level: Fiery
Why: Not only is Aerin a ginger with red curls, but in her society of beautiful cinnamon skinned people with sleek dark hair, she stands out like a sore thumb. She owns her unruly hair and doesn’t let her differences get in the way of her girl-power attitude.
This read follows Aerin, the princess of Damar. Due to rumors of her mother being a witch from the North, Aerin feels like she doesn’t belong. To prove her worth, she decides to become a dragon slayer and goes on a heroic adventure of self-discovery.
Hair level: Flawless
Why: She’s a mermaid. Need I say more?
This story follows Echo. She is invited to the coolest party. Her favorite band will be performing and Echo is super excited. Well, at least she was excited until she found out her best friend, Shelly, wasn’t invited. Shelly wants Echo to go anyway, but Echo plans to involve Shelly in the festivities.
Hair level: Fabulous
Why: Do you see her silky locks and magenta bangs?
In this graphic novel readers get to explore the relationship between Claudia and her sister Janine. No two sisters have been more different. Janine enjoys art and being a member of The Babysitters Club. Meanwhile, Janine is the most studious girl in town. Will anything help them stop their bickering?
Heroine: Hermione Granger
Hair level: Fantastic
Why: Hermione’s frizzy locks are iconic and give thick haired girls everywhere a sense of kinship. In this specific book, Hermione tries taming her hair for a school dance, which goes over very well. However, she decides to keep her hair natural instead of constantly preening over it. This not only ignites the love of dress up, but also lets girls know that it’s ok to leave their hair natural.
This book follows Harry Potter on another adventure. He looks forward to this school year being easier than the previous three. With the Triwizard Tournament (think deadly Olympics for teens) taking place he’s sure to have fun with his best friends. But then, the unexpected happens. His name somehow is placed in the drawing and now he needs to face difficult challenges. Will he make it out alive?
There you have it! Five characters with great hair. Who would you add to the list?
We certainly are in a season of change, especially when it comes to racial equality, social justice, and how we connect with one another. The news is filled with powerful images of people marching, powerful voices leading people to new ideas, and powerful questions that might shake us to our core. Maybe you are wondering how to educate yourselves so you can understand #BLACK LIVES MATTER (BLM) and other groups marching for change.
There are some great resources from the library you can use as a place to start. They're aimed at teens, but are great reads for adults, too.
Reynolds and Kendi explore how racist ideas are part of our country. Those ideas have been used to gain and keep power away from black people. In order to have an antiracist America, the authors argue that we must acknowledge that truth. Not only do the authors give great information about racism in America, they give active steps that can be used to discredit racist ideas.
Dr. Carol Anderson explores the myths of the easy, straight line of progress toward Black equality. She talks about five tipping points in history where the United States could have become more equal, but it did not because of racist political maneuvering meant to limit that progress. Those points include the end of the Civil War, The Great Migration, Brown v. Board of Education, Civil Rights Act of 1964, The War on Drugs, and Barak Obama being elected.
Starr Carter is catapulted into a life of activism after seeing her friend Kahlil shot by police. Both the police and the local drug lord intimidate Starr and try to find out what really happened the night her friend was shot. This is a powerful page turner, filled with Starr’s disillusionment and anguish at the death of her friend, but also the hope that the movement will bring about change. This is a must-read if you want to understand BLM better.
Justyce McAllister just wants to go to college. But his life is pulled in opposite directions by race relations in his neighborhood and in the country. He finds peace as he writes letters to the late Martin Luther King Jr. This is a character driven, issue-oriented story that shows Justyce’s struggle to face the racism in his life. The narrative is fast paced and thought provoking.
Kierra is 17 year old honor student who also likes to play a multiplayer online role-playing game Slay that honors Black culture. Her two worlds are fine until they begin to overlap and collide, revealing cracks of which she wasn’t aware. This story is not only about the life of a black girl dealing with racism, it is about the life of a black, gamer girl dealing with prejudice from predominantly white, male gamers. I really like how this book deals with so many issues when if comes to racism and prejudice. Kierra is an awesome female protagonist that will appeal to many readers.