Books We’re Looking Forward To In February

Here’s a look at some notable new YA books coming out in February…

February 7th

Beastly Brains by Nancy Castaldo — Castaldo delves into the minds of animals and explores animal empathy, communication, tool use, and social societies through interviews and historical anecdotes. “This eye-opening, cogent, and well-structured volume will enlighten students to both the richness of the animal kingdom and the nature of intelligence itself” (Booklist starred review).

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella — Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. “Kinsella creates characters that are well-rounded, quirky, and a complete joy to read” (Kirkus starred review).

February 14

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone — A gorgeous, full-color oversized book about educating girls across the world inspired by the documentary that Entertainment Weekly says “every mother, sister, daughter, should see, as well as the men who love and support them.” “A moving account of hardships and triumphs that is bound to inspire future activists, this is a devastating but crucial read” (Kirkus starred review).

MWD: Hell Is Coming Home by Brian David — With unflinching candor, this moving graphic novel follows a young woman’s return from war and her bond with two dogs—one who saves her life in Iraq, and another who helps her reclaim it at home. “A nuanced and skillfully composed snapshot of one woman’s postwar struggle to live” (Kirkus starred review).

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson — Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. “This unique and thought-provoking title offers a nuanced meditation on race, privilege, and intersectionality” (School Library Journal starred review).

We Are Okay by Nina Lacour — Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. “With hauntingly spare prose, the emphasis on the past, and references to gothic tales…this is realistic fiction edged with the melancholy tinge of a ghost story” (School Library Journal starred review).

February 21

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage — Mira and Francesca Cillo were beautiful, overprotected by their father, and, frankly, odd. To the neighborhood boys they seemed untouchable. But one boy, Ben, touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira arrives in Ben’s mailbox. “Even though the truth can be seen before it’s revealed, the girls’ secrets pack a gut punch that lingers. Haunting and mesmerizing” (Kirkus starred review).

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller — Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map―the key to a legendary treasure trove―seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship. “Levenseller makes an impressive debut with this funny, fast-paced, and romance-dashed nautical fantasy, set in an alternate world of pirates, sirens, and myriad islands” (Publishers Weekly starred review).

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham — When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past… and the present. “Mystery fans will enjoy this cleverly plotted, suspenseful work, while the broader social issues will draw a wide audience” (School Library Journal starred review).

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen — Sixteen-year-old Petula de Wilde is anything but wild. A former crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula shut herself off from the world after a family tragedy. She sees danger in all the ordinary things, like crossing the street, a bug bite, or a germy handshake. She knows: life is out to get you. “Nielsen excels at depicting troubled, clever teenagers in familiar environments” (School Library Journal starred review).

February 28

10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac — Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver. “With Maeve, Mac delivers a character who’s heartwarmingly real and sympathetic, and her story provides a much needed mirror for anxious queer girls everywhere” (Kirkus starred review).

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix — Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own. “With wonderfully inventive creatures, challenging vocabulary, and a captivating story, this fantasy is recommended as a first purchase for YA collections” (School Library Journal starred review).

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. “This is a marvel of verisimilitude as it insight-fully examines two worlds in collision. An unarguably important book that demands the widest possible readership” (Booklist starred review).

Velocity by Chris Wooding — Cassica and Shiara are best friends. They couldn’t be more different, but their differences work to their advantage — especially when they’re drag racing. Cassica is fearless and determined, making her the perfect driver for daring, photo-finish victories. Shiara is intelligent and creative, able to build cars out of scrap and formulate daring strategies from the passenger’s seat. “An action-packed, wild ride with unexpected twists and turns and characters readers care about—call it a dystopia with heart” (Kirkus starred review).


New Nonfiction at CA Library

Here are some of the latest nonfiction titles we’ve added to the library collection. Look for them in the New Books section!

Books For Living by Will Schwalbe — From the author of the best-selling The End of Your Life Book Club, this is a wonderfully engaging new book: both a celebration of reading in general and an impassioned recommendation of specific books that can help guide us through our daily lives. “In this warmly engaging, enlightening, and stirring memoir-in-books and literary celebration, Schwalbe reminds us that reading isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control, and domination; it’s one of the world’s greatest joys” (Booklist starred review).

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller — In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. “Though readers will know the outcome of the trial from the very beginning, they will be invested in the narrative. Sure to be a hit with true crime fans everywhere” (School Library Journal).

Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America by Gail Jarrow — Traces the efforts of doctors to halt the spread of the plague during the 1900 outbreak in San Francisco, discussing how political leaders tried to keep the epidemic from being publicized and the scientists working to unlock the secrets of the disease. “The intertwined themes of prejudice against Asian Americans, public health officials hampered by politicians, and mistrust of scientific research…make the story complex, revealing a good deal about human nature as well as the period and the disease itself” (Booklist).

Game On!: Video Game History from Pong and Pac-Man to Mario, Minecraft, and More by Dustin Hansen — Find out about the fast and furious growth and evolution of video games (including how they are quickly taking over the world!) by looking at some of the most popular, innovative, and influential games ever, from Pong , the very first arcade game ever, to modern hits like Uncharted. “This satisfyingly thorough and worthy addition to any collection is sure to please hard-core gamers and newbies alike” (School Library Journal).

George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones — The author of the bestselling biography Jim Henson delivers a long-awaited, revelatory look into the life and times of the man who created Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Indiana Jones. “Highly recommended for readers of modern biographies, film enthusiasts, and Star Wars aficionados” (School Library Journal).

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel — The little-known true story of the unexpected and remarkable contributions to astronomy made by a group of women working in the Harvard College Observatory from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s. “With grace, clarity, and a flair for characterization, Sobel places these early women astronomers in the wider historical context of their field for the very first time” (Publishers Weekly).

Ignite Your Spark: Discovering Who You Are From the Inside Out by Patricia Wooster — A guide for teens that helps navigate the confusing and sometimes depressing challenges of adolescence while sharing positive advice on topics ranging from relationships and self-image to willpower and learning from failure. “Readers are challenged not only to change their outlook and think more positively but also to create practical action plans for personal success, with relatable examples and suggestions” (Booklist).

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: a Young Black Man’s Education by Mychal Denzel Smith — How do you learn to be a black man in America? For young black men today, it means coming of age during the presidency of Barack Obama. It means witnessing the deaths of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, and too many more. Smith chronicles his own personal and political education during these tumultuous years, describing his efforts to come into his own in a world that denied his humanity. “This is a commanding read that deserves a place in all libraries. It will make a great book group discussion, especially when paired with Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoir, Between the World and Me” (School Library Journal).

J.J. Abrams vs. Joss Whedon: Duel For Media Master of the Universe by Wendy Sterba — Sterba compares the parallel careers in film and television of these creative masterminds pitting one against the other in a light-hearted competition. With in-depth discussions of their works, she seeks to determine who is the Spielberg (or perhaps the Lucas) of the twenty-first century. “A smart, fun analysis for film fans” (Booklist).

Katha Sagar, Ocean of Stories: Hindu Wisdom For Every Age by Sarah Conover with Abhi Janamanchi — A captivating collection full of the sights and sounds of India, this a book of stories from Ancient Hindu epics, myths, and folk traditions. “There are some unanswered puzzles (Are the gods immortal? When is the entire universe cyclically remade?), but as Conover reminds readers, the point is to experience the tales, not to seek philosophical consistency” (School Library Journal).

The March Against Fear: the Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power by Ann Bausum — James Meredith’s 1966 march in Mississippi began as one man’s peaceful protest for voter registration and became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement, bringing together leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, who formed an unlikely alliance that resulted in the Black Power movement. “This compelling account will be equally engaging for classroom resource material or individual research” (Booklist).

March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March For Voting Rights by Zachary Michael Jack — The forgotten, real-life story of “General” Rosalie Gardiner Jones, who in the waning days of 1912 mustered and marched an all-women army nearly 175 miles to help win support for votes for women. “With an informal writing style, this is an engaging title that will appeal to many readers. The use of newspapers accounts of the march helps bring this event into the 21st century” (School Library Journal).

The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own, edited by Veronica Chambers — In addition to a tribute to Michelle Obama, this book is also a rollicking, lively dinner party conversation about race, class, marriage, creativity, womanhood and what it means to be American today. “Readers who wish to know more about the First Lady’s influence and who want to understand her impact will enjoy the perceptions expressed in this unusual collection” (Library Journal).

An Overview: Who Are The Muslims? by Anbara Wali — A snapshot of life in the Islamic world, with an overview of the countries in which Muslims live, basic information about the beliefs shared by all Muslims, and the history of the spread of Islam throughout the world. “Effectively incorporates key icons throughout to encourage library readers to build knowledge, gain awareness, explore possibilities, and expand acquaintance with various viewpoints on the content” (Booklist).

Shackles From the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy by Michael H. Cottman — An investigation into the wreck of the Henrietta Marie and how it reflects the tragic history of slavery in England, West Africa, the Caribbean and America. “Every bit of this concise, detailed book feels personal, and Cottman’s exploration and investigation of the wreck is rich with intrigue and poignant, thought-provoking questions” (Booklist starred review).

Steven Spielberg: A Life In Films by Molly Haskell — A film-centric portrait of the extraordinarily gifted movie director whose decades-long influence on American popular culture is unprecedented. “Haskell’s biography…reveals how a movie-making genius’s personal life shaped his craft and, in the process, reshaped popular culture” (Publisher Weekly).

The Story Of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden To Your Plate, And How There’s More Of Less To Eat Around The World by Nancy F. Castaldo — With a global cast of men and women, scientists and laypeople, and photographic documentation, Castaldo chronicles where our food comes from, and more importantly, where it is going as she digs deeper into the importance of seeds in our world. “An impassioned call to action, likely to leave readers both scared and inspired” (School Library Journal).

The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook: Entertaining For Absolutely Every Occasion by Isa Chandra Moskowitz — Author, vegan goddess, and comfort food queen Moskowitz is back with her biggest book ever–to prove that making festive vegan food for any occasion can be easy, delicious, and superfun. “All of these recipes mix and match so well, you don’t have to wait for a holiday to make any of these stellar dishes” (Booklist).

Teen Incarceration: From Cell Bars to Ankle Bracelets by Patrick Jones — Looks at the issue of teenage incarceration and introduces the stories of former teen incarcerees who have turned their lives around. “A strong addition to collections in need of social science titles on prison reform” (School Library Journal).

Un-American: The Incarceration Of Japanese Americans During World War II by Richard Cahan And Michael Williams — Featuring images by Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams and other government photographers, this is one of the first visual looks at the Japanese-American internment during the 1940s, told with brilliant photographs that help us better understand this important chapter in U.S. history. “An intensely revelatory and profoundly resonant book of beauty and strength, history and caution” (Booklist starred review).


Best YA Books of 2016

With much fanfare, here it is — CA Library’s Best YA Books of 2016! With so many great books out there, it can be a daunting task to pick out the best of the best. After spending a few weeks compiling titles from various sources, I came up with the books that appear on the most lists.

This year, I again tried to include as many reputable best books lists as I could find. I go to my usual sources of book reviews (School Library Journal, Booklist, etc.), then check out a few other media outlets that have year-end reviews as well. Here are my Top 22 Best YA Books lists of 2016…

Each list is a little different — some include just fiction or nonfiction, some include both, and some include books for all ages, from which I pick the ones written for teens and young adults (again, it’s a daunting task!)

This year, from the 22 lists I drew from, one title showed up on an amazing 15 of them: The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon. Two books were on 10 best-of lists: Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys and The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Three books appeared on 9 lists: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo and Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree. Two titles were on 7 lists: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo and The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir and Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell of Other People’s Houses each appeared on 6 best-of lists. Six titles made it onto 5 best-of YA lists, and four books were on 4. Those 20 books make up the CA Library Best YA Books of 2016 Superlist!

The Best of the Best…

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon — Natasha: “I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him”. Daniel: “I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that”. “Lyrical and sweeping, full of hope, heartbreak, fate…and the universal beating of the human heart” (Booklist starred review).

Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys — For readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, bestselling author Sepetys returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war’s most devastating — yet unknown — tragedies. In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the ill-fated German transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff. “Artfully told and sensitively crafted, Sepetys’s exploration of this little-known piece of history will leave readers weeping” (School Library Journal starred review).

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner — Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace. “Zentner explores difficult themes head on — including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness — while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship” (Publishers Weekly starred review).

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina — While violence runs rampant throughout New York, a teenage girl faces danger within her own home in Medina’s riveting coming-of-age novel. “A devastatingly intense story, this work is a must-have for all collections, especially where Ruta Sepetys’s books are popular” (School Library Journal starred review).

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo — Amanda Hardy only wants to fit in at her new school, but she is keeping a big secret. When she falls for Grant, guarded Amanda finds herself yearning to share with him everything about herself, including her previous life as Andrew. “Never didactic, this debut is a valuable contribution to the slender but growing body of literature about trans teens” (Booklist).

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge — Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy–a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries. “Hardinge…melds a haunting historical mystery with a sharp observation on the dangers of suppressing the thirst for knowledge” (School Library Journal starred review).

…and the Rest of the Best!

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo — In this sequel to Six of Crows, Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. “Brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam” (Kirkus starred review).

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry — Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too. Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas. When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. “An expertly crafted piece of historical fiction, Berry’s latest is a must for middle and high school libraries” (School Library Journal starred review).

A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir — In this sequel to An Ember In The Ashes, Laia and Elias fight their way north to liberate Laia’s brother from the horrors of Kauf Prison, a mission that is complicated by hunting Empire soldiers, the manipulations of the Commandant, and lingering ghosts from their pasts. “Strong and compelling characters, particularly Helene, who is fleshed out more than in the previous volume, and a number of action-packed sequences help keep things moving” (School Library Journal).

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock — In Alaska in 1970, being a teenager isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent. “An excellent debut sure to appeal to teens who prefer relationship-based fiction” (School Library Journal).

Exit, Pursued By A Bear by E.K. Johnston — Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team–the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black. “A beautifully written portrait of a young woman facing the unthinkable, this is a must-buy for high school collections” (School Library Journal starred review).

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley — Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him. Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But how can she prove she deserves a spot there? “Chapters alternate between Sol’s and Lisa’s third-person narrations and brim over with warm, witty, authentic dialogue. Readers will easily come to care about these bright, wonderfully nerdy, flawed characters” (Kirkus starred review).

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows — Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger–and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England. Like that could go wrong… “Wonky, offbeat, and happily anachronistic this fantasy adventure politely tips its hat to history before joyfully punting it out of the way. An utter delight” (Booklist starred review).

Scythe by Neil Shusterman — A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. “Instead of exploring the ways in which men are monsters, [Shusterman’s latest] deals in what happens to men when there are no monsters” (Booklist starred review).

Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King — Sixteen-year-old Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has “done the art.” She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she wanders the urban ruins of Philadelphia. “A deeply moving, frank, and compassionate exploration of trauma and resilience, filled to the brim with incisive, grounded wisdom” (Booklist starred review).

The Reader by Traci Chee — Set in a world where reading is unheard-of, Sefia makes use of a mysterious object to track down who kidnapped her aunt Nin and what really happened the night her father was murdered. “With evocative language, fascinating world building, multifaceted characters, and a compelling plot, this is a series fantasy lovers will want to sink their teeth into” (Booklist starred review).

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova — Alex is a bruja and the most powerful witch in her family. But she’s hated magic ever since it made her father disappear into thin air. When a curse she performs to rid herself of magic backfires and her family vanishes, she must travel to Los Lagos, a land in-between as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland, to get her family back. “Córdova’s realistic world-building is the backbone of this engaging read. She spins a fantasy tale based in Latin American culture, with original mythology that rings true” (School Library Journal).

The Raven King by Magge Stiefvater — All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore. “This is a series that is destined for greatness and The Raven King is a crowning achievement” (School Library Journal starred review).

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab — There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. “First in a planned duo, this taut creation about the nature of humanity lingers long after its disquieting finale” (Booklist starred review).

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson — Abducted by aliens periodically throughout his youth, Henry Denton is informed by his erstwhile captors that they will end the world in 144 days unless he stops them by deciding that humanity is worth saving. “Hutchinson has crafted an unflinching portrait of the pain and confusion of young love and loss, thoughtfully exploring topics like dementia, abuse, sexuality, and suicide as they entwine with the messy work of growing up” (Publishers Weekly).