Every Exquisite Thing

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Title: Every Exquisite Thing

Author: Matthew Quick

Summary: Nanette O’Hare is a good girl. She’s been a great student, star athlete and loyal friend with her future mapped out for as long as she can remember. When her favorite teacher gives her a copy of The Bubblegum Reaper, an obscure paperback with a cult following. She seeks out the mysterious author, who lives near her in suburban New Jersey and her friendship with him changes everything. Questioning why she just goes along with everyone else’s idea of who she should be, Nanette stops it all and embarks on a new adventure: Finding out who she is on her own terms. Rejecting expectations, falling in love and leaping wildly into possibility, Nanette begins to author her own story instead of following the plot that has been written for her since before she even had a say in the matter. But life isn’t a fairy tale and sometimes there are sad and serious consequences for rebellion.

Matthew Quick is one of the best writers of mature young adult fiction working today and he maintains his track record with this new book. With characters so real you feel like you know them already, Every Exquisite Thing is a terrific choice for anyone who wonders about the ‘whys’ behind all the rules young people are expected to follow. While Nanette may not exactly be a role model, she just might inspire you to think a bit more deliberately about your own choices and the path you choose to walk.

Who will like this book?: People with inquisitive, curious minds who like to ask questions and find unexpected answers. Readers who like stories with unique and witty protagonists. Anyone whose life has been changed forever by a book.

If you like this, try this: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, also by Quick. A non-fiction book about going your own way (with darker results), Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Swagger

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Title: Swagger

Author: Carl Deuker

Summary: Jonas is nervous about moving to Seattle. He was an all-star with a shot at a college scholarship at his old school – will he be able to get on the team and garner the stats he needs to compete at his new one? Before school begins, he meets two important people who will change his life forever: His neighbor Levi, the son of a strict pastor with a simple manner and a good heart who is also a monster on the court and potential future teammate, and Ryan Hartwell, a local guy not much older than them who hangs out at the practice court with a lot of good advice on how to improve their game. Hartwell tells Jonas and Levi that they need to celebrate their swagger on the basketball court and in life – but the collision of these three people will lead to both incredible success and devastating, irreversible damage.

At first this book seems like a simple sports story about teammates and friends. As the pages turn, however, it becomes something deeper, more affecting and ultimately unforgettable. Jonas is a protagonist you will really root for, even as he makes questionable decisions in part of a chain of events that may leave you heartbroken. While it contains sensitive content, Deuker, a master of sports fiction, handles these serious situations without sensationalism and with careful grace. A challenging and rewarding tale that should be read by teens and parents/caregivers together.

Who will like this book?: People who like quick reads. Fans of sports stories that are about more than sports. Readers of intense books about friendship.

If you like this, try this: Boy21 by Matthew Quick. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Crackback by John Coy.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

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Carry On

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Title: Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Summary: Orphan Simon Snow is the chosen one – born into the World of Mages to triumph over the Insidious Humdrum, a dark entity that swallows magic whole, leaving devastation and ruin in its path. The problem is that Simon barely understands his power and has almost no control over it. Entering his final year at Watford School of Magicks, he finds himself the focus of an inevitable battle, tutored by a strict and mysterious headmaster, bolstered by support from his best friend, the supremely talented and brilliant Penelope, confounded by his on-again, off-again girlfriend Agatha and tormented by his roommate and nemesis, Basilton, a rich kid from a legendary magickal family.

This sounds…familiar, right? It is supposed to – the story of Simon Snow was introduced to readers of author Rainbow Rowell’s popular book Fangirl, about a college freshman who is also an internet-famous author of slash fiction. But you don’t have to read Fangirl first to fall in love with Simon Snow. As he makes his way through his final year at Watford, he comes face to face with the true nature of the Humdrum, the true motives of his teacher, the mysterious nature of his origin and his true feelings for Baz. This fast-paced and funny fantasy tale is perfect for readers who grew up with The Boy Who Shall Not Be Named (in this post, at least) who are looking for a book with the same sense of emotion and adventure.

 

Who will like this book?: This is the ‘Drarry’ book you’ve been waiting for, shippers!Potterheads. Fan Fic (particularly Slash Fic) devotees. Readers who love coming-of-age adventure stories.

If you like this, try this: The book that inspired this story, Fangirl, also by Rainbow Rowell. For a darker take on fandom, try Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky. Another magical quest/school story with a high page count, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. We don’t need to recommend J.K. Rowling’s stuff, right?

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

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Title: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

Author: Isabel Quintero

Summary: During her senior year of high school, Gabi Hernandez keeps a diary about the things that are on her mind: friends, her appearance, guys, family, college and the future. Each piece of her life has its own complications and contradictions: Her best friends are dealing with coming out and an unplanned pregnancy. Her dad is in and out of her life due to his meth addiction. And does a Mexican-American girl from a poor neighborhood really have any chance of getting in to college, let alone her top choice school? Gabi finds herself making serious decisions about her life and the person she wants to be, as well as discovering her talents as a writer and artist over the course of an awful, wonderful, unforgettable year.

Don’t let the strange-looking cover fool you  – this is an incredible book and worthy 2017 High School Nutmeg nominee, as well as a Printz Honor winner, for a reason. If the story sounds melodramatic, that’s because it is – but only a bit more so than the life of any teen girl  growing up today. What makes this book extraordinary is its clear-eyed portrayal of the ups and downs that make up an ordinary life. You will be so glad to have spent time observing the world through Gabi’s eyes and will miss her frank, unsentimental voice in your head once the story is done. This is a book that teens and parents should consider reading together – adults could learn quite a bit about what life feels like for young people today.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who like realistic, contemporary fiction. People who like multicultural stories. People who like reading books in diary format.

If you like this, try this: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. Yaqui Delgado…by Meg Medina. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Symptoms of Being Human

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Title: Symptoms of Being Human

Author: Jeff Garvin

Summary: Riley Cavanaugh is starting a new school, in part because of the bullying they endured in private school, and in part because with their dad running for re-election, it just looks better, politics-wise, for Riley to be in a public school. No more uniforms – now Riley gets to choose their own outfits each day. This isn’t as easy as it sounds: Some mornings, Riley feels feminine, and some mornings, masculine and sometimes somewhere in between. Trying to navigate life outside the accepted binary of male vs. female is enough of a struggle when your internal dial always seems to be shifting from one gender to another, but things are even more complicated as a politician’s kid who is expected to participate in the image of the perfect family. Coming out as gender-fluid –  something not many people are prepared to understand or support – is terrifying. Convinced that they will always be an outcast, Riley doesn’t have high hopes for this new situation, but following the advice of their therapist, they create an anonymous blog about life as a gender-fluid teen that soon goes viral. In connecting to other gender-fluid and queer people, Riley begins to find a sense of belonging as they navigate the social scene at school, making friends and enemies in equal measure. But as the reputation-conscious Cavanaugh family gears up for the political season, Riley begins to sense that someone at their school has figured out the truth behind the blog, which threatens to derail not only Riley’s progress, but the outcome of their dad’s election.

This brilliant and necessary story delves into the life of a ordinary teen who happens to be non-binary. It is a book for mature readers: There is an intense scene of violence and its aftermath that is jarring but ultimately necessary, as sadly it is an all-too-common reality in the lives of LGBTQ+ people. What makes reading about Riley an extraordinary experience is the clarity and sensitivity of debut-author Garvin’s writing style. Riley is honest, complex and longing to be accepted, like most people. This is a book and a main character you won’t forget.

Who will like this book?: Anyone interested in learning about gender fluidity. Mature readers of coming-out stories. This is an important book for anyone who considers themselves a LGBTQ+ ally to take a look at.

If you like this, try this: Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger. I am J by Cris Beam. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Dumplin’

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Title: Dumplin’

Author: Julie Murphy

Summary: Willowdean Dickson is waiting for that moment when her life will really start. Living in a small Texas town famous for it’s beauty pageant as a fat girl isn’t always easy, but Will knows that she is who she is and she shouldn’t have to apologize for it. Even though things have been tougher since her beloved Aunt Lucy passed away, Will has always had her long-time best friend Ellen, a new job at Harpy’s Dogs and Burgers, and her own piece of freedom in the form of her car, Jolene, named after the legendary song by her all-time hero, Dolly Parton. As the summer before junior year begins, Will begins to realize that Bo, the hot athlete from a local private school might want to be more than just co-workers with her. Is this the beginning of her real life? Suddenly she finds her hard-won self-confidence begin to slip away, setting into a motion a chain of events that will reshape her life and her outlook, forever.

There is a strong chance that this might become your new favorite book. It captures some of the raw truths of navigating the high school experience as someone who doesn’t conform to what is supposedly normal to reveal that, in fact, everyone has something unique about them that makes them better than whatever normal is supposed to be. This delightful and emotional story deserves to be read by anyone who has ever felt less than perfect. Readers will feel like they have been transported to Texas and will wish that Willowdean could leap off the page and into their lives.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are fans of Rainbow Rowell and John Green. Anyone who ever dreamed of being a pageant queen.

If you like this, try this: Food, Girls and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allan Zadoff. This Book Isn’t Fat It’s Fabulous by Nina Beck. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. For mature readers, The Duff by Kody Keplinger.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Con Academy

Con-Academy-Joe-SchreiberTitle: Con Academy

Author: Joe Schreiber

Summary: Will Shea has a plan. He’s managed to hack the system and get himself into the prestigious Connaughton Academy for his senior year of high school. All he has to do is impress his absurdly wealthy classmates with his invented back story about being a scholarship student from a tiny island in the Pacific, enter their social circles and leverage those connections forge this path through those connections to a life of immeasurable influence, power and privilege. Will is determined to leave his rough and tumble life on the streets of Trenton, New Jersey, and his less-than-professional con artist father, behind. But things are not going to be as easy as that, once he collides with Andrea, another Connaughton student/scammer who herself is operating under a falsified identity, aiming at the same life path Will has his eyes set on. Suddenly, the long con is on: The first person to reel in the biggest, richest fish on campus gets to stay at the Academy while the other has to try their unlawful scheming elsewhere.

This is a fun and fast-paced story with plenty of twists, turns and fake-outs with elaborate swindles running through the entire story. You’ll be rooting for Will as he finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into his caper as unexpected challenges, including the appearance of his criminal family members and the possibility of a real connection to another Connaughton student, get in the way of his perfect score. Con Academy reads like your favorite school comedy movie and it deserves to find its way on to your list of must-read books.

Who will like this book?: Readers who have ever contemplated a life of (non-violent) crime. Anyone looking for a quick, light read with plenty of action and laughter.

If you like this, try this: How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller. Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick. Tracers by J.J. Howard. For mature readers, Catch Me If You Can: The Amazing True Story of the Youngest and Most Daring Con Man in the History of Fun and Profit by Frank W. Abagnale and The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian