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

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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

None of the Above

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Title: None of the Above

Author: I.W. Gregorio

Summary: Kristin Lattimer takes things in stride – literally. She’s a star athlete with a full track and field scholarship awaiting her once she finishes senior year of high school. She has a wonderful father, great friends and a beloved boyfriend who mean the world to her. No one is surprised when she is voted Homecoming Queen – except for Kristin herself and her best friend Vee who was convinced the crown was hers. Kristin had already planned for that night to be special – she and her boyfriend Sam had decided to become intimate. But when their experience turns out to be one of intense pain for Kristin, she goes to the doctor and learns a shocking truth that turns her life inside out – she is intersex.

While she has the outward appearance and features of a woman, Kristin’s internal anatomy and chromosomes are male. Dealing with this diagnosis would be challenge enough, but when her classmates find out, the intolerance of many of her friends sends Kristin on a downward spiral. She stands to lose everything she believes make her who she was and feels that she has no way to get a handle on who she is now.

This riveting book by debut author Gregorio, a surgeon who based Kristin on a patient she had early in her training, brings this rarely-discussed condition to light. Readers will root for Kristin to overcome the struggles brought on by her diagnosis, while also learning more about intersex people and the lives they lead. The story leads to some wonderfully unexpected places and will have you thinking more carefully about what it really means to be a girl or a guy, all or none of the above.

Who will like this book?: Readers of LGBTQ fiction. Anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin. Fans of stories about high school friendship and/or relationship drama.

If you like this, try this:  Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman. For mature readers, try Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin, Annabel by Kathleen Winter, or Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginedes.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Fangirl

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Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Summary: Cath is into Simon Snow. Really, really into it. She spends a lot of her free time writing slash fiction about Simon and his roommate Baz as they study at an enchanted school for magicians. Cath might be painfully shy, but her posts online gather thousands of hits and sometimes it seems like she has as many fans as the actual author of the Simon Snow stories. She used to write with her twin sister, but as they head off to college for freshman year, Wren has been drifting away: She cut her hair and left Cath to dorm with a stranger. As if leaving home and having to deal with all sorts of new people weren’t bad enough.

As Cath progresses through freshman year, her life is constantly thrown into disarray – her sister seems to party all the time, her dad is more manic than usual, her brash roommate insists that she eat in public with her and two boys vie for her attention. The one thing that keeps her focused – her epic, two-years-in-the-making fic – needs to be finished before the final Simon Snow book comes out in the spring. Cath is a queen of the fandom – but can she thrive when the computer is off? This book caps off a remarkable year for author Rainbow Rowell, and like her wildly popular Eleanor and Park, this is a beautiful, funny and deeply-felt story that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure.

Who will like this book: Fangirls, of course. Anyone who has spent even a bit of time inserting themselves into the Harry Potter stories. Romance readers.

If you like this, read this: Eleanor and Park, also by Rowell. OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Eleanor and Park

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Title: Eleanor and Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Summary: Park sees Eleanor getting on the bus and he knows she’s in for it. Her weird clothes, her wild red hair, her complete newness. He lets her sit down next to him but makes sure to keep his distance. He does okay at school, which is impressive considering his half-Korean/half-Irish heritage – not a common thing in 1986 Omaha, Nebraska. He’d like to keep his head down, listen to his music, read his comics and get through high school without any issues.

Eleanor sits next to Park on the bus and knows instantly that he is not happy about her presence. He doesn’t say a word to her, unlike the awful kids behind them. She doesn’t say a word either: Not to him, or them, because she has other things to think about, things that are a lot more important than school. Like finding a toothbrush. Or figuring out how she can manage to share a room with four younger siblings. Or how to avoid her merciless, manipulative stepfather.

This is the beginning of a beautiful, heart-shredding love story that will leave you breathless. As the connection between Park and Eleanor grows from silently sharing issues of Watchmen, to trading mix tapes, to falling in love, you will be swept along in their tumultuous, difficult romance. This isn’t Romeo and Juliet – the obstacles that exist within both Park and Eleanor’s lives make their attempt at a relationship something that requires more effort than many people would be willing to make, then or now. And that is what makes Eleanor and Park something rare in this genre. It is more honest, more true and ultimately, more beautiful, than a lot of love stories out there. To say this is the best book I’ve read so far this year is an understatement. This is a story that will stay with me – and you – forever.

Who will like this book: Readers who treasure heartfelt, realistic romance against steep odds. Criers (you know you’re out there)! People who are nostalgic for the ’80s.

If you like this, try this: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian