Title: The Kidney Hypothetical, or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days
Author: Lisa Yee
Higgs Boson Bing (yes, he was named for the God particle) has seven days left of his perfect high school career. Debate team captain, prom king, track team, co-valedictorian, early admission to Harvard, and a perfect girlfriend. Well, maybe not perfect because she’s not super-smart, but she’s super-hot and they make the perfect couple. Anyhow, he’s got seven days left. What could go wrong? And then his girlfriend asks a silly question, “Would you donate a kidney to me?” It’s a simple question, but Higgs gets it wrong.
In a cascading series of events, he is soon girlfriendless, then friendless, then the laughingstock of the entire school, and even his acceptance to Harvard comes under fire as someone launches a deliberate campaign to ruin his life.
Higgs is forced to question exactly what all his superficial achievements mean, and who they were really for in the funny, thoughtful Kidney Hypothetical by Lisa Yee.
Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes is an epic story. It’s Game of Thrones set in the Roman Empire. The story is narrated in turn by Laia and Elias. Laia is a slave and Elias is a soldier, but no one is truly free in the Martial Empire.
When Laia’s brother was taken by soldiers, she went to the Resistance and offered her services in exchange for their help in freeing him. She risks her life daily as a slave, a spy, and a saboteur in Blackcliff Military Academy.
Elias is one of the elite. trained from an early age at the Academy. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce, but in the Empire, defiance means death.
An Ember in the Ashes is a first novel that is bold, thought-provoking, and pulse-pounding. Book two, A Torch Against the Night, comes out August 2016.
Title: Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
Author: Steve Sheinkin
Before Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, there was Daniel Ellsberg.
Ellsberg was a Harvard grad, ex-Marine, and staunch cold warrior. He spent seven years as a Washington insider at think tanks and the Pentagon, analyzing the Vietnam War.
Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin tells how Ellsberg grew to realize that the U.S. presence in Vietnam was built on a breath-taking series of lies and omissions; how he secretly and illegally copied the Pentagon Papers and gave them to the media; and how this eventually led to Watergate, Richard Nixon’s resignation, and the end of the war.
It’s an action-packed page-turner, and it’s all real!
Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
In 2013, Rainbow Rowell published Fangirl, a book about Cath, a young woman who is deeply immersed in the Simon Snow book series she’s grown up with. In fact, Cath is famous for the vast quantities of fan fiction she has written about her 2 favorite characters, Simon and Baz. Simon, by the way, shares many similarities with Harry Potter, and Baz might remind many people of Draco Malfoy.
Anyhow, Fangirl was about a girl writing about a book series that didn’t really exist, but Rowell kept thinking about that fictional world within her fictional world, and about all the Chosen One stories – from Lord of the Rings to Star Wars and Harry Potter – and she decided to write her own. Carry On is the result, and it’s about Simon Snow, the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.
Title: The Boy in the Black Suit
Author: Jason Reynolds
According to NPR, The Boy in the Black Suit is a beautifully real approach to grief.*
Seventeen-year-old Matt is trying to figure out how to go on living after his mother dies of cancer. It’s a small, slice-of-life kind of book and it’s not a unique story, but the writing is terrific. This is only Jason Reynolds’s second book, and he effortlessly captures Matt’s voice and all the little details that illustrate Matt’s home and life in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
As Matt’s father falls apart, Matt gets an after-school job at the local funeral parlor. It might seem like a strange choice for someone whose mother just died, but seeing the rituals of death and the expressions of emotion from all the mourners allows Matt to figure out his own feelings.
This is a short, powerful, and ultimately uplifting story.
*I would never reference NPR when booktalking to teens! Clearly this was booktalked to an adult audience.
Title: We Are All Made of Molecules
Author: Susin Nielsen
Stewart and his father are moving in with Ashley and her mother. He’s 87% excited; she’s 110% horrified.
Thirteen-year-old Stewart is gifted intellectually but not so great at the social/emotional stuff. He’s also getting over the death of his mother a couple years ago. Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the queen bee at her school, and she works hard to maintain her status. It’s difficult enough having to hide the fact that her parents split up because her father is gay. Adding Stewart – or Spewart – into the mix will not help.
The book goes back and forth from sweet and touching to laugh-out-funny as Stewart and Ashley take turns narrating their story of bullying, bigotry, tolerance, friendship, and family.
Title: The Girl with the Wrong Name
Author: Barnabas Miller
Ever since the Night in Question, Theo has been hiding behind a curtain of hair. Something happened on the Night in Question. Something Theo can’t remember, but something that left her with a 4-inch scar along her jaw. Now Theo hides behind her hair and her video camera, making documentary movies. She becomes fascinated with a young man who comes and waits at her local coffee shop. He waits every day for someone who doesn’t show up. Theo films him, and then approaches him to find out his story. Soon she’s helping Andy look for his mystery girl, and soon Theo’s fascination is turning into an unhealthy obsession.
With all sorts of twists and turns, The Girl with the Wrong Name is a darkly entertaining thriller that will have you thoroughly confused about what is real and what is not.