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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Dare to Disappoint

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Title: Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey

Author/Illustrator: Özge Samancı

Summary: Özge grew up in a small village on the Mediterranean sea in Turkey, a proud and ancient nation with a tumultuous recent history. While she treasured her dreams of becoming an actress, or an adventurer, or even an underwater explorer like her idol Jacques Cousteau, she also knew that she had an obligation to her family and to herself to study as hard as she could and enter a profession that would allow her to support herself in a time when such opportunities were rare, especially for girls. So at a young age, Özge sets her dreams aside in order to devote herself to one goal: Getting in to the best college possible so she can study the most challenging subjects so she can get a great job to guarantee her future. Will she succeed? Is it worth it? What will she find out about herself along the way?

This bright and charming graphic memoir was written and designed by Samancı, who is now a professor living in Chicago. While it offers a detailed and lighthearted look at growing up in Turkey, what makes it truly fascinating is its terrific depiction of living through the stress of expectations, be they of your family or your society in general, and how it is truly universal, whether you live in the United States today or grew up halfway around the world 30 years ago. Heartfelt and unexpectedly sensitive, this book is well worth your time.

Who will like this book?: Fans of books set in other countries. Memoir readers. Anyone who likes beautiful illustrations – these pages are full of creative and clever visuals.

If you like this, try this: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. For more on Turkey, try Blue Voyage by Diana Renn.

The Marvels

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Title: The Marvels

Author/Illustrator: Brian Selznick

Summary: In 1766, Billy Marvel, survivor of a terrible shipwreck that claimed the life of an entire crew of sailors, including his brother, lands in London. He finds work in a theater and becomes the founding member of an acting dynasty that would span generations and centuries until it fell into ruin. All that remains of the legendary family is their strange and mysterious mansion in London. Decades later, young Joseph Jervis flees his country boarding school in search of his best friend who has moved to the city. Lost and alone, he calls upon his reclusive uncle Albert, who lives in the incredible and bizarre home that once belonged to the Marvels. Albert has no time or patience for Joseph, and he lives by very strict and strange rules about what can be touched, moved or used in the house. With the help of the girl next door, Joseph is determined to discover the secrets of the house, the truth about Marvels and reasons why his uncle seems so peculiar.

This is another masterpiece from Mr. Selznick – author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was a past One Book One Town title (so yes…we might be a bit biased!) – that takes an unusual artistic artifact – in this case, the Severs house in London, to tell a universal story of love and connection. The history of the Marvel family is told wordlessly and the story of Joseph and Albert is expressed in words, with both tales twisting and spinning their way together for a satisfying and emotional resolution that will stick with you for a long time. This is a book full of surprises and you’ll want to share it with everyone you know.

Who will like this book: Other than everybody? Fans of graphic and illustrated fiction. Artists and actors. Readers who like mysterious stories and characters, but not crime stories or creepy thrills.

If you like this, try this: Anything else by Brian Selznick. (You’ve read Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret already, right?!) The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd.

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

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

I’ll Give You the Sun

Title: I’ll Give You the Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson

Summary: Vibrant, outgoing Jude and shy, artistic Noah are twins. They may not be identical, but they have been together forever. Despite petty jealousies over their parents’ affection, their mother’s ambition for both of them to attend a prestigious art academy, or the attention of local bullies, Jude and Noah can always find their way back to each other. When the unthinkable happens, their bond is shattered and their roles seem to reverse, leaving the twins isolated from each other and their true selves. Brother and sister each have a piece of the whole story of what happened, but because of their grief and guilt, neither of them will share it or begin to help the other heal.

As we learn about these fully realized, complex characters – Noah narrating from age 13 and Jude from three years later, readers see how it all fell apart. This Printz Award-winning book will stick with you for a long time – it is literally gorgeous to read, especially the chapters from Noah’s perspective. It can be heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny, often in the same paragraph.

Who will like this book: Fans of literary fiction. GLBT readers. People who like stories that make you put the pieces together.

If you like this, try this: The Sky is Everywhere, also by Nelson. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. All We Know of Heaven by Jacqueline Mitchard.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Gospel of Winter

Title: The Gospel of Winter

Author: Brendan Kiely

Summary:  This dramatic tale takes place just months after 9/11, but unfortunately it is a storyline that could be ripped from the headlines at any time.  We enter the story at Christmas time right at the start of Aidan Donovan’s mother’s annual Christmas Eve party, a party that is anything but joyous for Aidan.  It’s been a dark time for Aidan with his parents separating and Aidan seeking solace in his Dad’s wet bar and a bottle of Adderall.   Earlier in the year, Aidan turned to the one adult who would listen to him- a person he placed his trust in, the charismatic priest, Father Greg.  Gradually, however Aidan allows himself to recognize the inappropriate and dark nature of Father Greg’s attentions.  Attention that makes him doubt those remaining adults around him and the few friends he is letting get close to him.  And, things become even more complicated when Aidan realizes he isn’t Father Greg’s only victim, nor is Father Greg’s behavior as much of a secret as he thought.

Who will like this book:  This is a story for mature readers. While Aidan is a fictional character, the 2002 sexual abuse scandal that took place in the Catholic Archdiocese was very real.   The subject matter is disturbing,  but I think it’s an important story that needs to be told.  The author, Brendan Kiely, draws the reader into the lives of Aidan and his family and friends in a way that helps readers understand the conflicting emotions that this type of abuse creates. He also gives us some insight into the very deliberate way abusers pick and groom their victims.

If you like this, try this: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, Exposed by Kimberly Marcus and Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Recommended by:  Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian