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Bull, A Novel - David Elliott

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Minos thought he could Pull a fast one On me, Poseidon! God of the Sea! But I’m the last one On whom you Should try such a thing. The nerve of that guy. The balls. The audacity. I AM THE OCEAN! I got capacity! Depths! Darkness! Delphic power! So his sweet little plan Went big-time sour And his wife had a son Born with horns and a muzzle Who ended up In an underground puzzle. What is it with you mortals? You just can’t seem to learn: If you play with fire, babies, You’re gonna get burned.


I love my Greek mythology, and I love a good novel in verse, and I really appreciate it when an author plays with narrative and perspective! In the case of BULL, David Elliott manages to turn the story of the Minotaur onto its head by giving readers the opportunity to understand what went down, through the eyes of deliciously twisted Poseidon. Elliott employs humour, sexual references, double entendre, and many other delightful turns of phrase in this fast-paced retelling of a disturbing and tragic tale. Poseidon's nar…

Vanilla - Billy Merrell

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Vanilla is the story of two boys breaking up, and the reasons that bring their relationship to a head. Told in verse, Merrell's narrative explores asexuality and gender fluidity in the lives of teens against the backdrop of a world obsessed with sex. Being brought up in a society that sees sex as the ultimate expression of love in a relationship, asexuality is currently misunderstood by many and is ultimately the reason that Vanilla and Hunter feel unable to continue dating.

The writing and language are powerful, and the range of poetic forms ensures that Vanilla never feels monotonous even as it defies any type of simplistic chronological storytelling. Merrell's background as a poet is evident and I feel that the style elevates an already complex and messy story.

Vanilla and Hunter's relationship is the core of the story, and the failing of it due to differences in expectations around sex. But there is more to it than that. A third character eventually emerges as an importa…

Feral Youth - Edited by Shaun David Hutchinson

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At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, ten teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come from all walks of life, and they were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive. Inspired by The Canterbury Tales, Feral Youth features characters, each complex and damaged in their own ways, who are enticed to tell a story (or two) with the promise of a cash prize. 

Contributors: Shaun David Hutchinson - The main narrative Suzanne Young - A Violation of Rule 16 Marieke Nijkamp - The Butterfly EffectThe Chaos Effect Robin Talley - Look Down Stephanie Kuehn - A Caut…

Long Way Down - Jason Reynolds

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After his brother dies, fifteen-year old Will finds himself wanting to get revenge on his brother's murderer. He's sure he knows who did it. Well, he's pretty sure. At least, he thinks he's sure. He goes home and finds his brother's hidden gun. As he's descending in the elevator, which is going soooooo slow, the lift keeps stopping on ever floor, letting on an odd assortment of individuals, each of which leads Will to question his resolve and wonder what actually went down to lead to his brother getting shot in the chest.

The novel takes place over the course of a a few short minutes, though the reader, just like Will, is given the impression that time has slowed to a crawl. Long Way Down is a psychological and emotional journey through Will's subconscious. Reynolds' poetry is both beautiful and frightening in its brevity and impact. Young readers will hopefully find themselves invested in Will's internal journey as past figures and current ones help…

It Gets Worse: A Collection of Essays - Shane Dawson

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Hi, my name is Shane Dawson, and I'm here to tell you that it gets worse. It really does. The problems you have as a kid will seem ridiculous when you get older because bigger and worse problems will come along. But you will learn to deal with them easier as you grow up, or like me, you'll just stop giving a shit. So yes, it gets worse, but you know what gets better? Your tolerance for bullshit.I can't say I hate the It Gets Better project, but I definitely find it to be more problematic than helpful. Yes, it's true, things can change, but the project often leads to a sense of expectation that things will change on their own, while also giving young people the idea that being young is inevitably horrible and they should simply expect to be bombarded by homophobia, transphobia, physical violence, and feelings of inferiority. Now, this book isn't specifically a response to It Gets Better, but it certainly speaks to the need for a change in how we think about being yo…

That Inevitable Victorian Thing - E. K. Johnston

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Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she'll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire's greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

I adore E. K. Johnston. She can write, too, dammit! If you haven't read E…

The Wicker King - K. Ancrum

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The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

This book is another fantastic addition to the sub-genre of mindfuck fiction for young adults. While this is not an official marketing term (I don't know that it would go over well with schools or libraries) it is one that nevertheless perfectly encapsulates this style in the best possible way. Other similar titles I've reviewed…

Jame, Unlimited - Kristin Cashore

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Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family's island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: "If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you'll go." With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn't know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine…

The Empress - S. J. Kincaid

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It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if provin…

Miles Morales: Spider-Man - Jason Reynolds

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Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He's even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he's Spider Man.

But lately, Miles's spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren't meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad's advice and focus on saving himself.

As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can't shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher's lectures on the historical "benefits" of slavery and the importance of the m…

Who's That Girl - Blair Thornburgh

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Junior Nattie McCullough is totally OK with her place in life: Latin whiz. Member of the school’s gay-straight alliance. Joni Mitchell superfan. Seventeen-year-old who has never been kissed. So when last summer’s crush and her former classmate—Young Lungs lead singer Sebastian Delacroix—comes back to town with his new hit single “Natalie,” she can’t bring herself to believe it could possibly be about her…could it?

As Nattie sorts through the evidence (the lyrics, Sebastian’s elusive text messages, and their brief romantic encounter last year), the song’s popularity skyrockets, and everyone starts speculating about “Natalie’s” identity. If that wasn’t mortifying enough, Nattie runs into another problem: her confusing, flirtation-packed feelings for her good friend Zach. With her once-average life upended, Nattie is determined to figure out once and for all if her short-lived past with Sebastian was something love songs are made of—or just a one-hit wonder.


While the protagonist in this n…

Genuine Fraud - e. lockhart

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Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.

Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. 

A bad romance, or maybe three.

Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. 

A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.

A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.


Inspired by The Talented Mr. Ripley,The Man in the Rockefeller Suit, and Great Expectations, lockhart's new novel is an homage to orphan stories and anti-heroes, spy novels and thrillers. Told in reverse chronological order--from a chase through an all-inclusive resort, to the beginnings of a brand new life--Jule's story is full of twists and turns. Stories shift and "facts" change over time, fooling both readers and other characters, leaving everyone guessing whether or not the truth of Jule's identity actually exists.
The narrative is swift and the no…

The 57 Bus - Dashka Slater

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One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.


Told in the style of a documentary film, The 57 Bus tells an incredible and heartbreaking real-life story of one teenager trying to simply exist as themself and another thin…

All the Dirty Parts - Daniel Handler

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Cole is a boy in high school. He runs cross country, he sketches, he jokes around with friends. But none of this quite matters next to the allure of sex. "Let me put it this way," he says. "Draw a number line, with zero is you never think about sex and ten is, it's all you think about, and while you are drawing the line, I am thinking about sex."

Cole fantasizes about whomever he's looking at. He consumes and shares pornography. And he sleeps with a lot of girls, which is beginning to earn him a not-quite-savory reputation around school. This leaves him adrift with only his best friend for company, and then something startling starts to happen between them that might be what he's been after all this time-and then he meets Grisaille.


Where to begin this review?
Daniel Handler has certainly done something different with this book. Though I realize that discussions will rage for ages as to whether or not this book should be classified as Adult or YA, I think …

Wishtree - Katherine Applegate

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Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

Katherine Applegate does it again with Wishtree. In this book, the wishtree examines its life and recounts stories from its 216 rings of experience. Some of the stories are funny, others are sad, but all of them are important. With her usual spare writing style and empathetic characters, Applegate explores friendship, love, family connections, and even the complex issues around racism and immigration. Though Samara and Stephen are important to the narr…