Whenever I read collections of book reviews, I pay close attention to books that receive starred reviews, considered the best of the lot. Here are some of the titles we’ve added to the library collection recently that received multiple starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews and other review sources; I expect many of them to be on the Best Books of 2019 lists in December…
With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo — Teen mother Emoni Santiago struggles with the challenges of finishing high school and her dream of working as a chef. “Acevedo compassionately challenges her readers with a wide variety of topics, including cultural and personal identity and the needs and desires of older women, something that is so often forgotten. This sophomore novel is simply stunning” (Booklist starred review).
Internment by Samira Ahmed — A terrifying, futuristic United Sates where Muslim-Americans are forced into internment camps, and seventeen-year-old Layla Amin must lead a revolution against complicit silence. “Teens who finish Ahmed’s captivating work won’t soon overlook the ugly truths stamped into our nation’s history” (School Library Journal starred review).
Lovely War by Julie Berry — The Greek goddess Aphrodite recounts two tales of tragic love during WWI to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. “An unforgettable romance so Olympian in scope, human at its core, and lyrical in its prose that it must be divinely inspired” (Kirkus starred review).
Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta — Resets the Arthurian legend in outer space, with King Arthur reincarnated as seventeen-year-old Ari, a female king whose quest is to stop a tyrranical corporate government, aided by a teenaged Merlin. “A stimulating retelling that is adapted from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. Recommended to fans of Avalon High by Meg Cabot and Damar by Robin McKinley” (School Library Journal starred review).
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi — Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Severin Montagnet-Alarie. “Chokshi shines as a master storyteller in her newest novel; the setting, world building, plot, and conflict are all staggering. However, the elements that perhaps shine the most are the history, riddles, mysteries, and science, woven together in a world brimming with power and magic” (Booklist starred review).
Spin by L.R. Giles — When DJ ParSec, rising star of the local music scene, is found dead over her turntables, the two girls who found her, Kya (her pre-fame best friend) and Fuse (her current chief groupie) are torn between grief for Paris and hatred for each other–but when the police seem to lose interest in the case, the two girls unite, determined to find out who murdered their friend. “This is genre fiction at its best: a taut mystery with rich characterization and a strong sense of place. The depiction of the grassroots music scene that feeds hip-hop and keeps it cutting edge is seamlessly woven into the narrative” (Kirkus starred review).
The Weight Of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf — Amidst the Chinese-Malay conflict in Kuala Lumpur in 1969, sixteen-year-old Melati must overcome prejudice, violence, and her own OCD to find her way back to her mother. “A powerful and raw exploration of mental illness, Malaysian history, and rising above prejudice and hate” (School Library Journal starred review).
Dig by A.S. King — Only a generation removed from being simple Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings now sit atop a seven-figure bank account, wealth they’ve declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grand children. Now the five teenagers are lost in a tangled maze of family secrets. “This visceral examination of humanity’s flaws and complexity, especially where the adult characters are concerned, cultivates hope in a younger generation that’s wiser and stronger than its predecessors” (Booklist starred review).
The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg — Seventeen-year-old Maximo offers to help a Jordan, a fellow student in high school, with the food truck that belonged to Jordan’s deceased father, and which may be the only thing standing between homelessness for Jordan and his mom. “Like David Levithan and Adam Silvera, Konigsberg portrays gay teen relationships in a way that is consistently authentic, compassionate, hopeful, and empowering; and this story, which also touches on issues of masculinity, homophobia, and rape, is no exception” (Horn Book).
Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers — When Sybella discovers there is another trained assassin from St. Mortain’s convent deep undercover in the French court, she must use every skill in her arsenal to navigate the deadly royal politics and find her sister-in-arms before her time–and that of the newly crowned queen–runs out. “This rich tapestry of intrigue, betrayal, trauma, protection, old religion, and historically based politics resurrects the urgency and depth of the His Fair Assassin series. Sharp and breathless, full of anger and strength” (Kirkus starred review).
Fear Of Missing Out by Kate McGovern — When Astrid learns that her cancer has returned, she hears about a radical technology called cryopreservation that may allow her to have her body frozen until a future time when–and if–a cure is available. “McGovern’s impeccable writing carries readers through an incredible journey of self-exploration. A compelling and heartrending read that should not be missed” (School Library Journal starred review).
We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia — Dani must question everything she’s worked for as she learns about the corruption of the Median government. “With its achingly slow-burn romance and incisive examination of power structures, this is a masterfully constructed novel. This timely examination of how women move through the world is potent and precise, and readers will be eager for the sequel” (Booklist starred review).
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas — Sixteen-year-old Bri hopes to become a great rapper, and after her first song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, must decide whether to sell out or face eviction with her widowed mother. “The rawness of Bri’s narrative demonstrates Thomas’ undeniable storytelling prowess as she tells truths that are neither pretty nor necessarily universally relatable” (Kirkus starred review).
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America, edited by Ibi Zoboi — A collection of coming-of-age short stories that reflect on the African American teenage experience in America. “The teens in these tales are dealing with mental health issues, complicated family dynamics, sexuality and gender constraints, and being part of a marginalized group…the entries offer a rich tableau of the black teen diaspora in an accessible way” (School Library Journal starred review).