The Brutal Truth (41)

HOW DARE THE SUN RISE by Sandra Uwiringiyimana and Abigail Pesta
When she was ten years old, Sandra lived in a refugee camp in Burundi after fleeing violence in her Democratic Republic of the Congo home, but there rebels shot, burned, and killed many of her friends, family, and tribe, including her six-year-old sister who lost her life; now a college student in NYC, Sandra tells the story of her childhood, her immigration to the USA as a refugee, her adjustment to that life and status, and her humanitarian work that now drives her. With powerful, frank language, this memoir is highly relevant and tear-jerking, and necessary reading for teens --
and adults -- today to see what is happening across the globe, how our global governments can help, and how race is American is a big issue to overcome. Sandra's bravery, and her mother's resilience, are amazing. The books ends with hope, a call to action, and a testament to the strength in family. A must read. (Katherine Tegen, 2017)

Who Is Who They Say They Are? (40)

CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber

As a child, Scarlett's grandmother told her stories about Caraval, a traveling performance group with audience participation led by the infamous Legend, and now as a young woman living with her cruel father and betrothed to a man who she has not met, her Caraval invitation arrives, yet more than just the magic of the island make things not what they appear. The frustrating part of this novel is that the rules of Caraval are vague, the clues and solutions to them are undirected, and no one can be trusted, so it is hard to know what you are rooting for the hero to acheive and the story loses tension. The nice parts of this novel are the descriptions of the magic, the relationship between the sisters, and the loathsomeness of their father. The ending asks more questions than it answers, but a sequel is in the works. (Flatiron, 2017)

Collegiate Coming of Age (39)


After her beloved uncle dies of a genetic heart condition while she is in college, Kristen's view of the world changes, and she becomes interested in abandoned, decaying places, finds it hard to settle in one spot, and contemplates how she fits in. The illustrations are great in this coming-of-age-in-college graphic memoir, and the sentiment of self-discovery during this period is strongly represented. Some parts feel a bit scattered, and more images of abandoned places that are stuck in time would've been appreciated given the way the book is pitched, but overall it is a reflective book that wayward college students may enjoy. (Pantheon, 2017)

Risky Photographs (38)

SPILL ZONE written by Scott Westerfeld & illustrated by Alex Puvilland
Three years ago an unexplained event contaminated Addison's hometown, infected her sister, and made her parents disappear; it also changed the landscape, physics, flora, and fauna, so Addie sneaks in and photographs the zone and sells the photos so she can earn money to take care of her sister, but when she is given a special task for a huge payoff, it sets off something new. Details are vague in this first installment of the graphic novel series, and it is hard to tell which side some characters are on. However, the art is dark and atmospheric, the premise is intriguing,
and the story will appeal to those who like a post-apocalyptic vibe along the lines of I AM LEGEND meets THE WALKING DEAD. (First Second, 2017)

Finding Her Voice (37)

AMINA'S VOICE by Hena Kahn
Middle school begins and Amina finds herself competing for her best friend's attention, struggling with her family dynamics, and fighting her nerves about speaking or singing in public, against the backdrop of her Pakistani-American Muslim upbringing. The friend problems feel somewhat typical in this middle grade novel, where one friend is suddenly worried about being "cool" instead of just being a good friend, but the multicultural aspects are fluid, and the story rings true. The hate crime at the end is a bit unresolved, yet it is a nice contrast to the way other parts of the story wrap up happily. An on-point contemporary read. (Salaam Reads, 2017)

Bestseller Follow-Up (36)

INTO THE WATER by Paula Hawkins
After a woman turns up dead in the Drowning Pool she is obsessed with in her small town, previous suicides are investigated and the truth begins to come out. Multiple points-of-view, changes in time period, and the large cast of characters make it harder to get into than her debut novel (and it was difficult to understand the surly attitude of the teen daughter after her mother died), but the story is dark enough to be interesting. The small town setting is a good angle for this book where everyone knows everyone else's history and business, and the various conclusions to the deaths are all plausible for a mystery novel. An addition to the genre that will be popular even if not as well received as her addicting first book. (Riverhead Books, 2017)


GOODBYE DAYS by Jeff Zentner
Carver's three best friends are killed in a car accident that he blames himself for, and he isn't sure he will ever be able to move on until a girl, a grandma, a doctor, his sister, and the dead boys' families help him navigate his grief. The immensely sad premise of this YA novel does evoke lots of crying by the main character and rightly so. However,
it is not completely depressing because there is hope for his own healing and support from side characters. The story serves as a warning about texting and driving without being didactic, and the writing is just really spot on. (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017)

How Our Justice System [Doesn't] Work (32)

JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson, attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, tells the story of how he came to do his legal work, defending children, poor, and black convicts who were facing life or death row sentences after being denied a fair trial or legal representation. He follows the case of Walter McMillan, a black man in Alabama who was wrongly accused of murder, and the conspiracies against him, and hard fight it takes to establish that he should be free. Eye-opening and scary and thoughtful, this non-fiction documentation reads like a legal thriller in places, a murder mystery in others, and a call to social action and justice system overhaul overall. This was hard to put down and should be recommended reading for all. (Spiegel & Grau, 2014)