Boxers & Saints

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Title: Boxers & Saints

Author/Illustrator: Gene Luen Yang

Summary: In this stunning masterwork, Gene Luen Yang tells an epic story across two books about young people facing the devastating consequences of war in 18th century China. Little Bao and Vibiana both live in the idyllic but impoverished rural countryside with families that are facing challenges. Soon, inspired and driven by the hidden magic surrounding them (Bao by the god-kings of Chinese mythology and Vibiana by the legend of Joan of Arc), they each embark on a journey through the rapidly-changing world around them, finding themselves as they endure the upheaval, war and devastation that comes when people with different points of view cannot coexist peacefully. When their paths finally cross, neither will be the same.

It probably doesn’t matter in which order you read these dual narratives, but I’d suggest you start with Boxers. You might not learn too much about this famous colonial-era Rebellion in your history classes, but this story will immerse you in the violent and bloody struggle between those who wished to reject foreign influence in China and others who welcomed it. You will  be moved by both of these young people as they find themselves leading their people towards an unthinkable destiny, each believing they are right.

Who will like this book: Graphic n0vel readers. Fans of historical fiction and stories laced with magic and spirituality.

If you like this, try this: Yang’s Printz-winning work, American Born Chinese. Another fantastic graphic novel with a supernatural element, Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brogsol.For another era in Chinese history, take a look at Revolution is not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine. For more on the history of this era, read The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

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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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Six of Crows

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Title: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Summary: Kaz, a criminal prodigy with a mysterious past, has quickly risen to the top of the criminal underbelly in the international trading hub Ketterdam. If you need the impossible done, he is the one you contact.  And, an impossible, deadly heist is just what someone offers to pay him an unbelievable amount of money to commit.  Kaz is up for the challenge so long as he can assemble the perfect crew.  A perfect crew consisting of:

The agile spy whose ability to sneak into just the right spot has earned her the nickname the Wraith;

The sharpshooter with a gambling problem;

A privileged runaway demolitionist;

A Heartrender who has the magical ability to damage a person’s internal organs- from slowing a pulse to snatching the very breath from their lungs;

A former witch hunter and convict torn between the need for revenge and redemption; and

The criminal mastermind who earned the nickname “Dirtyhands” because no job is too despicable or bloody for him.

Oh, and one more thing… if the six fail it could have deadly consequences for everyone in the world.

Who will like this book?:  This smart cross between heist and fantasy will appeal to fans of both genres.  Bardugo alternates telling the story using  five of the six main characters’ points-of-view, so you get more of a chance to understand each character’s motivation.    That means fans of character driven stories will be equally satisfied with this tale.

If you like this, try this: Kristin Cashore’s  Graceling series, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard, and An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Recommended by: Jen, Teen Librarian

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

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