Sign Up

Get the latest ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

All , , Coverage

All YA Coverage

Interview by

Names often play a pivotal role in stories—and like many aspects of fiction, their importance is reflected in the real world. The novels of award-winning young adult author Darcie Little Badger draw on the power of names: In Elatsoe, Little Badger’s 2020 debut, the titular character carries the name of a legendary ancestor. Little Badger’s new novel (and prequel to Elatsoe) employs the same convention: Sheine Lende, which translates to “sunflower,” is both the title and the Lipan name of Shane, the book’s protagonist.

Little Badger explains that, in her Lipan Apache tribe, “names were given to a person when they’d grown up enough that their personality and other aspects of them had developed, so it’s a coming of age thing. I got my name after I graduated high school.”

Sheine Lende tells the story of 17-year-old Shane, a Lipan Apache girl in 1970s Texas. Including the diacritical marks that indicate pronunciation, Shane’s Lipan name is spelled Sheiné lénde, but the marks were omitted for the official title. When considered in the context of the story, this difference illuminates much of what Little Badger explores in the novel about names, language and the erasure of native peoples.

“I wanted Shane to be named after a sunflower, and there were a couple of different ways that we could have spelled it. We eventually settled on Sheiné lénde,” she says. “Then I learned from my editor that apparently, the system that’s used to distribute books to booksellers, etc.—it’s really not set up to take diacritical marks. Unfortunately, that means that we had to take off the diacritical marks in the title. It was interesting, because part of the book is Shane learning how to say her name. So it was sad that we couldn’t have the faithful pronunciation indicated in the title itself. But throughout the book, you see the diacritical marks are there. That’s the way it should be,” Little Badger says, as she explains the correct pronunciation (phonetically, it’s close to SHAY-neh LEN-day).

“The Lipan language is currently in a revitalization process,” Little Badger explains. “Lots of people are working on trying to not just fill in holes in our language, but to teach the next generations how to speak it.”

“With Shane,” Little Badger continues, “she does feel embarrassed that she can’t really pronounce her own name. It’s almost like she can’t wrap her head around who she really is. And that makes her wonder, ‘Maybe that’s not me.’ It was important for me to highlight that.”

Shane lives with her mother, Lorenza, and her little brother, Marcos. The family has spent the last several years rebuilding their lives after a devastating flood took their home, community and worst of all, Shane’s father and paternal grandparents.

Now, living far from “la rancheria de los Lipanes,” the community in which they used to live that was composed mostly of Lipan households, Lorenza and Shane scrape by however they can. Lorenza, who is a gifted tracker, offers search and rescue services to local families. Along with their two well-trained hounds, Lorenza and Shane also have the help of a powerful secret weapon: the ghost of their dog Nellie, brought back through their ancestral gift.

To Shane, her mother is the truest rock Shane has had since the flood. But when Lorenza accidentally steps into a wild fairy ring and vanishes while looking for a pair of missing siblings, Shane’s entire world turns upside down. The ensuing search for her mother forces Shane onto her own turbulent path of reconnection to her people, her family and herself.

Sheine Lende, with its animal ghosts, fairies, vampires and other mythological figures, is firmly rooted in genre fiction. But each fantastical element is anchored by very real and historic truths. Even in a magical version of the world, natural disasters are as unavoidable as carnivorous river monsters, and Shane and Lorenza feel they must hide their sacred abilities as they navigate systems of oppression augmented by the dominance of white European magic systems.

“The cool thing about writing fantasy is that you can use a lot of different tools to present what you want to say about the world,” Little Badger says. “For example, I studied invasive plant species in the United States when I was in college, and they’re called ‘invasive’ because they cause ecological and/or economic damage to the environment that they’re growing in. So I was like, ‘Well, these fairy rings and fae people in the world of Elatsoe and Sheine Lende are extradimensional, so it’s almost like they’re being introduced to Earth. What if there are unintended consequences and they start to spread like an invasive plant?’”

The actions we take, often to our own benefit, and sometimes even with noble intentions, could potentially cause negative impacts that carry over into the future.

The role of the fairy rings and their environmental impact in the story contribute to a larger metaphor for collective responsibility and environmental stewardship. Though fairy rings are  magical, it’s easy to draw parallels to real world stories of environmental destruction on Indigenous land, such as the heavily protested Dakota Access Pipeline construction at Standing Rock, or the similarly problematic Keystone Pipeline.

Little Badger hints at the importance of collective responsibility early on in the novel, when Shane’s mother comes down with the flu while on a mission. Despite needing help, she stops Shane from using a flare gun because there’s a risk of it starting a fire in the area, which has recently experienced a drought: “She’s thinking of other people in a wider context, but also there’s this acknowledgement that the land we live on is going to be the land that grandchildren and great-grandchildren live on. There’s one Earth. And the actions we take, often to our own benefit, and sometimes even with noble intentions, could potentially cause negative impacts that carry over into the future.”

“It’s especially hard,” she continues, “because a lot of times, it’s not just individual decisions. It’s the decisions made by corporations or by entire countries. It can make someone feel small and overwhelmed when they’re like, ‘Okay, well, I recycle all the time and I do all these things. And it’s just not enough.’ But I do think that, collectively, if we can move to a place where we take future generations and people who aren’t like us into greater consideration—that’s what Lorenza was trying to teach Shane—it’s always a positive thing.”

Little Badger’s unique approach to genre fiction has been described as Indigenous futurism, an artistic movement considers the histories of Native peoples and uses the past to inform reimagined or recontextualized stories and futures. Throughout Sheine Lende, Little Badger uses fantastical devices to create a fun house mirror reflection of her tribe’s experiences.

The Lipan Apache are not a federally recognized tribe, and there is no Lipan reservation. Search engines offer contradictory information about the tribe. Links to the tribe’s official website and history are brought up next to an article from the Oklahoma Historical Society, which speaks of the tribe in past tense, and claims “little of their culture remains.”

“That’s . . . definitely not true,” Little Badger says. “That’s a choice. It ties into the erasure that Sheiné lénde shows.” Little Badger explains that before the Republic of Texas acquired statehood, “there was a ‘treaty of peace and perpetual friendship’ that Texas made with us. But then Texas became a state. Government officials did talk about potentially making a reservation for the Lipan Apache outside of the state of Texas, but unfortunately—well, they would consider us defiant, but we just couldn’t be rounded up. We couldn’t be captured. So they decided to do an elimination extermination campaign instead.”

By the late 1870s, Congress had made it illegal for any Indians to exist freely in Texas. Without a reservation, the Lipan Apache were among the Native peoples who suffered from this lack of recognition. “Until around 2021, we had no tribal land, so essentially we’d always be one disaster or unpaid bill away from losing our homes and having to start over somewhere else in Texas. I’ve heard people call us ‘disenfranchised natives,’” Little Badger says, referring to the fact that Native groups without tribal recognition from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs lack rights given by the federal government.

“With Sheine Lende, so much of it is about that struggle to survive on land that has been, according to the United States government, taken away from you, on which you don’t even exist,” Little Badger adds. Towards the end of the novel, Shane enters the land of the dead, “almost like she is drawn to the thought that she belongs with the dead.” While a physical concept in Sheine Lende, the underworld also “represents Shane’s mental health and the way she sees herself and her people.” This fever dream sees Shane wandering through enchanted deserts that transition into prehistoric tundras. She encounters strange and terrifying beauty, confronting extinction and memory.

“It’s her struggling against that urge to give into despair and remain there with the dead, which eventually she overcomes by thinking of her family out there waiting for her—and a hope for the future, that those who remain need her to be with them and she needs to be with the living for herself,” Little Badger says. “It’s my meditation on what it means to be a disenfranchised native who is so erased by the law, by the military, by history, by books, by everyone outside of your community.”

Ultimately, “Shane finds strength by looking within herself and her community.” It’s this final sentiment of turning toward living, hope and the people who need you and nourish you, that most fully embodies “futurism,” and it’s where Shane embodies her namesake. At the end of Sheine Lende, her family’s grief has not been magically healed, and the ripple effects of colonialism are far from being calmed. But on the book’s final page, there is a note: “This is not the end.” In that message, there is a fervent reminder of hope, if only one remembers to turn, like a sunflower, toward the light.

 

The author discusses how the strange and beautiful world of Sheine Lende, the prequel to Elatsoe, reflect the experiences of her Lipan Apache tribe.
Review by

Between the grief of losing her mother to cancer and the strain from caring for her ill but frivolous father, Ruby Santos is just trying to stay afloat. So when she discovers that her father is in debt to a powerful family who secretly rules the San Francisco BART system, Ruby doesn’t hesitate to take on his contract—which means becoming a “jumper,” or a person who magically travels between train lines to make mysterious, under-the-table deliveries. Ruby is determined to do well, but as she learns more about what the deliveries are and how the train-jumping business works, she begins to wonder if this new, magical world is darker—and deadlier—than she expected.

The Vanishing Station is a sweeping journey told in beautiful, first-person prose full of Ruby’s dynamic personality. As Ruby jumps around the world, Ellickson brings each place to life with vibrant descriptions, including sensory elements and Ruby’s emotional responses. Ruby’s charming and personable voice comes through to the reader in asides, exclamations and clever quips.

Ruby lives in between many worlds. While she was raised in a house passed down through her mother’s Irish family, her father also passed along the food, music and beliefs of his Filipino upbringing. Ruby has a burning desire to pursue art but feels pressured to focus on jobs that pay more because of her father’s mental and physical health issues. Isolated by her family’s troubles and the loss of her mother, Ruby starts the story feeling completely lost: “I’m a ghost in my own city.” 

Becoming a jumper seems to promise a life of adventure, if not freedom. But Ruby finds herself entangled in lies and secrets, stuck trying to balance her heavy responsibilities and her beliefs. As Ruby learns more about the people around her, including her father and members of the Bartholomew family, she begins to recognize that power can manifest and be claimed in many different ways.

Ultimately, Ruby’s development hinges on knowing and accepting herself. As she is forced to look inward, she learns more about where she comes from and who she truly is—and who she wants to be. Even when life feels out of control, we have the power to make meaningful decisions.

The Vanishing Station is about complex relationships: with family, with our choices and especially with one’s self. Ruby is a reminder that even under the heaviest, most difficult circumstances, it’s worth it to love, try and believe in yourself.

As Ruby jumps around the world in The Vanishing Station, author Ana Ellickson concocts vibrant descriptions of settings, sensory elements and her teenage heroine’s emotions.
Review by

Xue is a talented musician of unfortunate background, who hopes to use her skill at playing the qin to earn her place in society. Years ago, her uncle brought her to Wudan’s famous House of Flowing Water to hone her skills in music, courtly manners and the arts, in order to secure a patron or other opportunity once she comes of age. Xue’s quiet life of study and performance is punctuated by visits from her beloved uncle, until tragedy strikes and all she has left of the only family she remembers is a qin he gifted her. 

When an inscrutable new customer, Duke Meng, asks to purchase the instrument, Xue barely has time to process his odd request before danger strikes, in the form of an attack by a strange beast. In the aftermath, the Duke offers a bargain: journey to his estate to work with him, and afterward he will reward Xue with admission to any music academy she wishes. Apprehensive but hopeful, Xue accepts and is thrust into a world of courtly intrigue, godly squabbles, ancient grudges and interplanar consequences. Xue’s music might be the key to helping the Duke unravel the plots swirling around his family.

Judy I. Lin’s Song of the Six Realms, is both a love letter to the power of music and a heady tour through a setting inspired by Chinese mythology and legend. Xue’s quest, which mostly takes place through her explorations of the estate and research on songs, poetry and the legendary Celestial realm, is told with elegant prose that complements the courtly formality of her world. Thoughtful and introspective, Xue learns more about her uncle’s past and the strength of his love, gets to know the Duke and his family, and picks up on small clues that become big payoffs. 

Much of the novel is slowly paced—even contemplative—despite its high stakes, mirroring the tranquil beauty of the verses Xue and other characters turn to for inspiration. This unusual prioritization of interiority and introspection bucks expectations of the young adult fantasy genre in a refreshing way, while still delivering an action-packed climax that feels all the more earned after the slow buildup. With a smart, steadfast heroine, a charming love interest and compelling side characters, Song of the Six Realms is a dazzling, dreamlike escape into a world of powerful poetry, godly magic and humble heroism.

With a smart, steadfast heroine, a charming love interest and compelling side characters, Song of the Six Realms is a dazzling, dreamlike escape into a world of powerful poetry, godly magic and humble heroism.
Review by

Seventeen-year-old Shane has spent much of her adolescence mired in grief. Several years ago, a flood devastated the Lipan Apache community where Shane and her family lived in Texas, and Shane’s father and paternal grandparents died. Only Shane, her mother, Lorenza, and Shane’s little brother left their home unscathed. 

Shane and Lorenza are part of a long line of Lipan Apache women who can raise the ghosts of animals, an ability they put to use to help locate the missing. In their new, patched-together life, Shane helps Lorenza with local search-and-rescue missions, assisted by their well-trained bloodhounds—as well as their ghost dog. 

But one day, Lorenza herself goes missing herself while searching for a pair of siblings. Shane rushes to follow Lorenza’s trail, but it soon becomes clear that Lorenza and the siblings have vanished from the area entirely, thanks to the strange workings of fairy magic. To find them, Shane must call on the support of her family—both given and chosen—and the strength of her ancestors. 

A prequel to acclaimed YA author Darcie Little Badger’s 2020 debut Elatsoe (which features Shane’s granddaughter, Ellie, as the protagonist), Sheine Lende is a powerful and deeply moving tale of family, grief, cultural identity and magic. As a Lipan Apache woman herself, Little Badger combines the myths and legends of her tribe with fantastical elements to tell a story that, while fictional, rings true.The universe the book occupies is almost identical to our own, except in Little Badger’s version of reality, the ancient folklores that have informed cultural beliefs and practices since time immemorial are made manifest in the real world—but they exist alongside representations of true and historic modes of systemic oppression used by the U.S. government against indigenous peoples like the Lipan.

This is not to say, however, that Sheine Lende is all darkness. Though frequently consumed by anxiety, doubt and grief, Shane is a vibrant character who continues to find joy in her family, friends and the world around her. And on a larger scale, Little Badgernever portrays the Lipan Apache tribe as downtrodden or defeated. Much to the contrary, Sheine Lende presents a family and a people who have had atrocities small and large, but who, despite it all, turn toward the light.

Darcie Little Badger combines the myths and legends of her Lipan Apache tribe with fantastical elements in Sheine Lende to tell a story that, while fictional, rings true.

Jo-Lynn Kirby’s always been one of the boys: “For so long, I was the cool girl. I was loud and fun and untouchable, always hanging with the guys—no girls allowed but me.” So it was both a thrill and a surprise when she and Maddie Price became best friends, and together reveled in their popularity at Culver Honors High School—until Maddie abruptly dumped Jo at the end of ninth grade. Jo was deeply hurt, but she’d be fine with her guy pals, right?

As Meredith Adamo’s masterful debut Not Like Other Girls opens, it’s senior year and graduation is on the horizon. But instead of celebrating, Jo’s in survival mode, trying to be invisible.

Last fall, private nudes were stolen from her phone and sent to her classmates. Her grades plummeted, she was labeled “Senior Slut,” and even her supposedly lifelong buddies now ostracize and bully her. Jo’s dismissive parents and brother aren’t thrilled with her either, and a safe place feels like a thing of the distant past.

When Maddie goes missing, Jo decides to investigate in the name of their former friendship. She’s aided by her classmate Hudson, who proposes a faux romance that’ll get her back into the popular clique and closer to people who might know what happened. As the two ferret out information about Maddie, Jo also plumbs the murky depths of her own memories, unearthing truths about the last few years that provoke fresh pain but also bring her self-image—and the motivations of those around her—into sharper focus.

Maddie’s senior year is an eye-opening one, rife with revelations that change her life and offer hope for her future. Not Like Other Girls is a powerful book that’s likely to do the same for its readers as it delivers a fiercely feminist take on rape culture. Whether crafting authentic and immersive narration, spinning a sweet and sexy fake-dating storyline, or building a suspenseful and twisty mystery, Adamo proves herself to be absolutely an author to watch.

Whether crafting authentic and immersive narration, spinning a sweet and sexy fake-dating storyline, or building a suspenseful and twisty mystery, Meredith Adamo proves herself to be absolutely an author to watch.
Review by

For many years, Icarus Gallagher has slipped into the dangerous Mr. Black’s mansion on opportune nights to steal priceless artworks and replace them with perfect forgeries created by Icarus’ father, Angus. Their strange mission is one of revenge: Mr. Black hurt Angus’ family, and so Angus has spent almost two decades trying to hurt Mr. Black.

As a consequence of his father’s obsession, Icarus lives a half-life devoid of any real connection. At 17, he only has a year before he can leave and never see Angus again. Until then, he’ll keep his head down. 

Except one night, Icarus is caught by Helios, Mr. Black’s teenage son. While he originally appears to be a threat that could expose Icarus, the two soon form a tentative friendship—and then something more intense. For Icarus, a boy made of want, it’s almost more than he can bear. But his connection with the broken, golden Helios might prove to be the key to freedom for both of them. 

K. Ancrum’s extraordinary fifth novel Icarus is an elegant, multifaceted gem about art, power and fear. Ancrum performs a confident high-wire act in balancing the weighty manifestations of these themes alongside those of connection, desire and contradiction. 

Icarus—book and boy—is the embodiment of raw yearning, and all of Ancrum’s characters wear their hearts on the tips of their tongues. Occasionally the book’s dialogue can feel unrealistic or even overwrought, showing an honesty and openness not necessarily common among 17-year-old boys. But there is an intimate truth in the intensity of feeling behind their words, and this is one of Ancrum’s greatest skills as a writer. 

“Some of us lead lives that would require suspension of belief from others,” Ancrum writes in the novel’s dedication. Perhaps she references the unreality of a teenaged art thief who tends ferns and scales buildings, but maybe she’s simply talking about the unreality of everyday injuries and ecstasies: the cold rage of abuse; the emptiness of grief; the rapturous beauty and agony of being touched. 

Ancrum’s prose is also thrillingly decadent in certain moments, channeling the masterpieces of art whose power she telegraphs through every page. Often sudden bluntness, either of sentence length or metaphor, gives an edge to the gilded phrasing. In Ancrum’s novel, Icarus’ wings striving for the heat of the sun becomes both a beautiful representation of queer love and a sharp, artful subversion of the original Greek mythos.

In her extraordinary fifth novel, Icarus, K. Ancrum performs a confident high-wire act, balancing the weighty manifestations of connection, desire and contradiction.

In her creative and contemplative debut How Do I Draw These Memories?: An Illustrated Memoir, Jonell Joshua reflects on the people, places and events that helped her become the person—and artist—she is today. 

An interesting pastiche of illustrative styles give this mixed-media memoir a scrapbook-like feel, and Joshua’s artistic range is on full display in painterly full-page pieces, expertly drawn black-and-white comics and colorful, vibrant illustrations. Through the inclusion of photographs of prominent figures in her life, Joshua also illuminates the ways in which others’ perspectives can become woven into our own. 

The author’s childhood years were peripatetic: After Joshua’s father’s death when she was very young, she moved with her mother and brothers to her grandparents’ home in Savannah, Georgia. She and her brothers also lived with their other grandparents in New Jersey while her mother sought treatment for bipolar disorder. The author notes, “I envied the schoolmates who’d grown up together. . . . I kept tabs on how many [schools] I’d gone to. It was like a game I played in my head. Five elementary schools, four middle schools, one high school.” 

While How Do I Draw These Memories? begins with the author’s earliest memories and ends approximately in the present, the memoir moves back and forth chronologically in between, resulting in a reading experience that’s more akin to an assemblage. As Joshua moves from state to state, school to school, her memoir also switches between narrators and storytelling styles—straightforward prose, Q&A format, illustrated narratives, etc.

Additional insight is offered via sections like the informative and empathetic “Bipolar Disorder—From My Perspective” and a detailed chronicle of her path from post-high school uncertainty to where she is today: an illustrator whose clients include the New York Times, CRWN Magazine, and NPR; and someone whose memories remind her that “The moments of joy I felt growing up . . . felt immeasurable. The love I was raised with is the love I carry with me.”

An interesting pastiche of illustrative styles give How Do I Draw These Memories? a scrapbook-like feel. Jonell Joshua’s artistic range is on full display in painterly full-page pieces, expertly drawn black-and-white comics and colorful, vibrant illustrations.
Review by

Since the advent of The Folk of the Air series in 2018, Holly Black has held legions of YA fantasy readers in thrall to the world of Faerie: its acorn cups and everapples, redcaps and ragwort steeds, mad revels and delicate, deadly riddles. Her latest novel, The Prisoner’s Throne, is another delicious descent into the intricacies of Faerie family and politics. 

The Prisoner’s Throne is the sequel to The Stolen Heir and the final installment in the Novels of Elfhame duology, which follow the faerie Prince Oak, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Elfhame, and the Queen of the Court of Teeth, Suren, now known as Wren. 

Whereas The Stolen Heir centered primarily on Wren, this time, we delve into the storm of calculations and insecurities that swirl beneath Oak’s curling hair and curving horns. Oak finds himself Wren’s prisoner after his last misstep shattered the tentative trust they had begun to build. His imprisonment beckons war between Elfhame, which is ruled by his sister Jude, and Wren’s Court of Teeth. Oak’s loyalties are torn: On one hand, he understands his family’s anger; on the other hand, his feelings for Wren and his knowledge of her character have him convinced she is not his enemy. 

Readers will identify with Oak’s desperation for peace as well as his struggles with being a people pleaser. He is undeniably a teenage boy, complete with an overprotective mother and a tad too much angst over whether he is truly known or loved. Wren is less present in this book, but her wintry demeanor is as endearing as it was in The Stolen Heir, and her relationship with Oak retains its innocent, wistful heartbeat. The greatest charm of The Prisoner’s Throne is in the secrets that Oak must unravel, from hidden motives to conspiracies to “straightforward” questions with complicated answers. If you’ve known Oak since his Folk of the Air days, he is no longer a little prince—this is as much a coming-of-age story as it is a saga of magic and mischief.

For fans of Oak and Suren, The Prisoner’s Throne is a fraught and fitting conclusion to their tangled, wild adventures. Fans of Jude and Cardan from the first series: You will not be disappointed.

Holly Black captivated legions—and we mean legions—of fans with the Folk of the Air series, then she whisked them away once more to Elfhame with the Stolen Heir duology. The Prisoner’s Throne picks up where The Stolen Heir left off, switching to Prince Oak’s perspective as he struggles through the explosive consequences of his journey north with Wren. Audience favorites Jude and Cardan might just make an appearance.
Review by

Since the underground caverns are the only place in her town of East Independence, Ohio, where she doesn’t experience hallucinations, 16-year-old Neely takes a job there as a tour guide. There, she meets Mila, a leggy, confident college kid who leads the cavern tour groups. As Neely seeks peace away from her hereditary mental illness and her brother’s haunting suicide, she is drawn to Mila’s kindness, and the two grow closer, eventually buddying up at the staff party—which, between the weed and the alcohol, Neely doesn’t reliably remember anything about. When she and the other tour guides find Mila murdered in the caverns, Neely’s mind breaks. If Neely can figure out who killed Mila, maybe she can get her hallucinations back under control. Assuming, of course, that Neely isn’t the killer.

Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis’ Under This Red Rock is a gritty, brutal young adult novel that blurs the line between broken imagination and reality.

Readers should be prepared for serious themes, including blunt descriptions of suicide, physical and sexual assault, and animal abuse. Those who prefer their psychological thrillers with a raw edge will find McGinnis’s slow-burn plot and fast-paced writing more than satisfactory. Explorations of drug use, the darker side of Internet culture, and how society abandons poorer folks to struggle alone ground a story that could otherwise feel fantastical firmly in reality. Neely’s position as an unreliable narrator will keep readers guessing, leading to several stomach-dropping twists and an ultimately satisfying conclusion.

Disturbing yet compelling, Under This Red Rock is a must-read for readers of unflinching teen thrillers. Fans of Courtney Summers and Tiffany D. Jackson should pick this one up.

Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis' Under This Red Rock is a gritty, brutal young adult novel that blurs the line between broken imagination and reality.
Review by

Every year, Muslim students from different Los Angeles high schools celebrate Independence Day together at Monarch Beach. But this year, while everyone’s waiting for the fireworks, an offshore explosion detonates, destroying the beach, injuring many and even causing death. Police detain six Muslim teenagers at the scene, calling it terrorism. Samia, Nasreen, Qays, Muzhda, Abdullahi and Zamzam are caught in a court case that seems stacked against them, and proving their innocence might mean giving up personal secrets from that night. Can they work together to find the truth? Who can they really trust?

Six Truths and a Lie is a powerful examination of modern justice. The story unfolds from six different points of view, in a dizzying experience that sets up heart-racing tension from the very beginning. As the large cast of characters reveal bits and pieces of the truth, the reader—like the teenagers—must figure out how everything fits together.

The suspects are determined to defend their innocence, at the risk of revealing their true whereabouts and intentions on the night in question. Their dreams and dignity are threatened by accusations of terrorism, and the authorities seem determined to take everything from them.

Ultimately, each teenager just wants to walk free. But Six Truths and a Lie forces them, and readers, to reconsider: What does freedom really mean? And what are you willing to sacrifice, for even just a piece of it? The book holds a mirror up to our modern world and asks us to acknowledge how racism and prejudice still plague our legal system and our everyday interactions—and how our preconceived notions of people can mislead us.

Harrowing and heartbreaking, Six Truths and Lie sheds light on the uncomfortable truth that justice is not blind, while demonstrating the inspiring bravery of those who fight for true justice, no matter what it costs.

Harrowing and heartbreaking, Six Truths and a Lie sheds light on the uncomfortable truth that justice is not blind, while demonstrating the inspiring bravery of those who fight for true justice.
Review by

To grab a young reader’s attention, a book often needs to combine the familiar and the outrageous. Patrick Flores-Scott deftly employs this equation. In No Going Back, he introduces readers to Antonio Echeverria Sullivan on the morning he’s released on parole. After 18 months at Zephyr Woods Detention Center, Antonio has gotten sober and is ready to make amends to those he has harmed, particularly his mom and his best friend, Maya. The conditions of his parole are strict but manageable—even the part about having zero contact with his dad. 

No Going Back opens with a “Dear Reader” letter from Antonio, where he explains what’s about to unfold: the “whole honest-to-God true tale of the seventy-two hours after my release . . . including the improbable and gripping encounter with the same stolen money that got me stuck in Zephyr in the first place.” Teen readers will be compelled by how Antonio navigates returning to a home and a life that looks completely different. The book alternates between short narrative chapters (each with a day and timestamp at its heading) and free verse poems from Antonio’s perspective that describe his relatively happy childhood as well as his father’s alcoholism and abuse. The fast pace of the book will keep readers engaged as they bounce between the present and the past, learning more about Antonio. Eventually, the story accelerates into the thrilling, leaving readers wondering how Antonio might escape from a dangerous situation. Antonio’s voice is inconsistent at times, but the energy of his story will sweep interested readers along, and they will sympathize with his desire to become the person he knows he can be throughout this novel focused on friendship, loyalty and redemption.

The energy of No Going Back will sweep readers along, and they will sympathize with Antonio’s desire to become the person he knows he can be throughout this novel focused on friendship, loyalty and redemption.
Review by

A successful fantasy plunges readers into a world that feels removed from the ordinary, while still maintaining a familiarity or unexpected resonance. National Book Award finalist Traci Chee’s Kindling does exactly that as it takes readers into an unknown world ravaged by a war in which “kindlings”—teenage warriors trained since childhood to wield a dangerous magic—were deployed as an ultimate weapon, but always at a cost. Even if they survived the fighting, using their magic resulted in an early death by “burning out.”

The book opens after the war has ended, and kindling magic is taboo. This dramatic postwar shift means former kindlings can move on with their lives, but having known nothing but fighting and death, many are unable to find purpose and drift through the world as outsiders. However, formal peace doesn’t mean an absence of violence, and a threat on her village leads Tana to seek help from Amity, a powerful and influential kindling formerly known as a Deathbringer. Amity agrees and works to assemble a team of kindlings, all women or nonbinary, all carrying the trauma of their past battles and the uncertainty of their futures.

Chapters alternate between the eight main characters’ individual perspectives. Chee makes an unconventional choice in constructing the whole novel in the secondperson, referring to each character as “you.” This structure takes some getting used to, as does distinguishing the different characters who, while distinct, have much in common as well. Inspired by ensemble films such as Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, Kindling thoroughly reimagines the multi-voice story and offers readers something surprising.

Inspired by ensemble films such as Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, Kindling thoroughly reimagines the multi-voice story and offers readers something surprising.

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Recent Reviews

Author Interviews

Recent Features