Shoshana's Picks

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte has been my favorite book in the world since I was about 16; in that light, I’m very picky about Jane Eyre retellings, sequels, or spoofs. Jane Steele, with the brilliant tagline “Reader, I murdered him,” completely took me by surprise and blew me away with its dark humor, and general awesomeness. It’s a pretty morbid homage to Bronte’s work, but manages to capture the strength, romance, and subversiveness of the original story, while creating something new and wonderful to read. I recommend it to everyone who loves Jane – and also to those who don’t, but love a good murder (or six)!

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin by Nic Stone is, simply put, incredible. The emotional impact of the story cannot be overstated; inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the shootings of un-armed African-American young people, this novel is critically important to the current moment. Justyce, a black teen attending a prep school far removed from the rougher neighborhood he grew up in, begins to write letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as a way to examine his teachings after being profiled and handcuffed by a cop. Then, when his best friend is shot over playing loud music, Justyce finds himself the focus of a racially fueled media blitz.

 

I’d recommend Dear Martin to everyone in 8th grade (or mature 7th – basically, there’s language) and older.

This Would Make a Good Story Someday by Dana Allison Levy

Ever imagined what it would be like to be trapped on a train for the whole summer with your moms, hyperactive younger sister, activist older sister, and her recycling-obsessed boyfriend? Neither had Sara, until her blogger mom wins a Writer in Residency on Amtrak. What follows is a story full of heart and humor that I couldn’t get enough of. I was already a fan of Dana Allison Levy’s before I picked this up, thanks to her Family Fletcher books, but I loved how this one brought us across the country and addresses issues of class, race, the environment, and even technology, without ever feeling preachy or giving the sense of talking down to the reader. Wholehearted recommendation for 4th grade and up.

The Memory Wall by Lev AC Rosen

Seventh grader Nick Reeves is having a tough time. His mother has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's and has had to move into a nursing home; Nick is convinced of a misdiagnosis, and is determined to rescue his mother. 

 

Despite a heavy premise, Rosen manages to keep the story from being bogged down by angst and loss, with moments of lightness and well-rounded secondary characters, particularly Nick's father, and his friend Nat. The story is also broken up by weaving it together with immersion in a video game, Wellhall, a Skyrim-like MMO that Nick plays - and believes his mother is using to try and communicate with him.

 

I loved this book for how well-crafted the story is, and how deftly Rosen deals with issues like illness, grief, friendship, and race (Nick is bi-racial, as is his friend Nat), and to me it stood out from the crowd of "issue" or "tragic" books because of how real it felt in its characters, interactions, and emotions. I'd recommend it to readers ages 10 or 11 and up, particularly fans of Counting by 7s, or Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Here's the thing: I never really got on the zombie bandwagon. The movies, the books, the apocalypse scenarios... They just never caught my imagination. Until Dread Nation. This is the reimagined Civil War Era historical fiction zombie book I never knew I needed. Because, when it comes down to it, Dread Nation isn't about zombies. It's about race and power structure in the United States; it's about the scary, privileged majority shaping the world to their advantage; and it's about young women of color kicking some serious butt, doing what it takes to survive and protect a place for themselves in the world. Ages 14+

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