Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

tweet cuteTweet Cute is the lighthearted, fast-paced, pop-culture infused story of how two high school students, Pepper and Jack, eventually find their way to love. Pepper is an overachiever, a perfectionist, and quite lonely. She struggles to balance her real life as a high schooler in a competitive prep school and secretly running the Twitter account of her family’s huge fast-food chain, Big League Burger. Jack is the class clown, a constant annoyance to Pepper, and he has a secret of his own – he is the creator behind the school’s popular anonymous chat app, Weazel. The story begins with Jack’s discovery that Big League Burger’s new recipe is an exact copy of his family’s signature recipe at their small deli, Girl Cheesing. His retaliation tweet goes viral, and the two teenagers, behind the profiles of their respective businesses, engage in a vicious Twitter war. They are publicly attacking each other while simultaneously flirting and falling in love through Jack’s app. As the story progresses, their feud grows more and more personal. What happens when their (multiple) online personas dissolve? Their romance is awkward, genuine, filled with miscommunications, and so so sweet. While the book is cute and sassy, there are also many heavier layers within the characters’ lives. Both characters face so much outside pressure: Pepper is struggling to hold everything in her life together – her family (with her parents divorced and her sister not speaking to her mom), their business’s reputation, and her perfect academic record, among others; Jack is trying to step out of the shadow of his “perfect” identical twin brother and save his family’s deli from bankruptcy while also attempting to escape from the expectation that this same deli will be his entire future. The story alternates between Pepper and Jack’s points of view, and I particularly loved watching them outwit each other online and experience precious moments in real life.

This book brings to light all of the masks we don in this digital age, their consequences, and their effects on real life. Although this is Emma Lord’s first book, it is incredibly well-written, charming, and the characters are so entertaining. Tweet Cute is a perfect witty, wholesome romance, and it is also a story of family, friendship, and finding your own way.

Audrey S.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

badfeminist 2“Feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights.”

Is there such thing as a “good” feminist or a “bad” feminist? What exactly does being a feminist mean? In this collection of personal essays by Roxane Gay, she explores identity, its facets, and its consequences. She tackles race, gender, sexuality, and other themes through history, contemporary events, literature, entertainment, and her own experiences as a woman of color. The writing is so dense; she writes about privilege, women in literature, tv shows, movies, sexual violence, Black representation in movies, police brutality, among many many other subjects. However, it doesn’t feel that way because she flows from one insight to the next, and it hits so profoundly. I have read a few personal essay books recently, but this one felt the most personal out of all of them; the language Gay uses has so much character – her humor is witty and dry – but it is also serious and heavy at other times. She is justifiably cynical, but it is clear that throughout the book she is working on her own problems and prejudices, continually trying to understand herself and how she fits (and doesn’t fit) into society. Although this book was originally published in 2014, all of its themes are still relevant – perhaps even more so – today. It is an essential read for teens, as it provides a sharp and accurate perspective of how we are a part of a culture, how we become the culture we consume, and what it means to do better.

Audrey S.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

cinder coverIt is 126 years after the fourth world war, and the streets of New Beijing are teeming with people, androids, and a deadly plague is ravaging the population. Earth’s only hope for a cure is by a marriage alliance with Queen Levana, the deceivingly beautiful and manipulative ruler of the moon. Cinder is a talented mechanic, a cyborg, and a girl living with her scornful stepmother and her two stepsisters. As a cyborg – part human, part robot – Cinder does not have the same rights as a “normal” human, and she is constantly reminded of this fact.

One day, the Crown Prince of the Eastern Commonwealth – Prince Kai – steps into her shop to repair his android. She finds herself reluctantly drawn to him, as they continue to re-encounter each other. Cinder becomes drawn into the world of the shining palace, swept into the panic of finding a cure for the plague, caught at the center of a struggle between the Earth and Luna. The deeper she falls into this glittering world, the more she uncovers about her past; she is forced to make choices – between love and betrayal – and reckon with the society’s perception of her.

While Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella, the setting, the characters, and the way their relationships develop are so unique and unconventional. Cinder is opinionated, stubborn, has the driest sense of humor, but she is also incredibly lonely – with only her stepsister Peony as a friend – until she meets Kai. This book was the perfect mix of familiar storylines, futuristic technology, one of my favorite literary romances, interplanetary struggle, and it also makes us wonder what it truly means to be human.

Audrey S.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

graceling2Katsa, the niece of the king of the Middluns, is graced with the skill of killing. Someone who is graced has a single skill beyond ordinary human measure, and in almost all the kingdoms graced people are property of their king. Having an extremely powerful grace, Katsa becomes her uncle’s brute, punishing all the people that the king wishes her to. Living in a land of seven kingdoms, Katsa knows that some kingdoms have cruel, reckless, and insane leaders, except for two, one being the rich island kingdom of Lienid, which rules alone with no influence to the other kingdoms, and the kingdom of Monsea, where the king is kind and generous, according to the stories.

For years, Katsa has been the organizer and leader of an illicit council that works behind the royals’ backs to prevent the misdeeds of the kings and the people. One day, she embarks on a mission to rescue the kidnapped grandfather of the Lienid princes. Upon rescuing the grandfather, Katsa, the most skilled fighter in all the seven kingdoms, meets a fair match to her skill – Prince Po, the youngest prince of Lienid, with a fair share of his own secrets – and befriends him to begin training and fighting with each other. Soon, they travel away from the Middluns in a quest to discover why Po’s grandfather was captured. Through their journey, Katsa and Po discover unimaginable, twisted realities, a power greater than brute force, and together, they try to peel back layers of the world in hopes of beginning a new way to direct the kingdoms and doing what is best for all the people.

The first book of an extraordinary trilogy, Graceling not only maps a stunning adventure tale of breaching myths and discovering how to be accepted into the world, but also captures themes of friendship, belonging, persistence, and love.

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

City of Brass coverThe City of Brass is the first of the Daevabad trilogy. Living in Cairo, Nahri is a thief and a con artist, with an uncanny ability to pick up new languages and heal people. After accidentally summoning a powerful djinn warrior, Dara, through a failed ceremony, he reveals that she is actually the last of the Nahid – a noble family in the magical world where six tribes of djinn are constantly at odds. He brings an initially reluctant Nahri to the capital, Daevabad, the City of Brass, a bustling city of riches, enchantments, and home to all six djinn tribes. There, she is forced to face their pasts (hers as a descendant of the all-powerful healer family; Dara’s as a dark, dreaded, and powerful warrior of ancient legend), to subdue the tumultuous politics and placate the tyrannical King Ghassan.

I was so invested in watching and predicting how the different relationships unfolded: between Nahri and Dara on their journey to Daevabad and afterward as Nahri struggles to reconcile Dara’s past with his present; between Nahri and Ali who, despite having differences initially, share many of the same interests and form an unlikely friendship; the competition and solidarity between Ali and his brother – crown prince Muntadhir. When we are first introduced into the djinn world, there are so many tribes, and factions, who are constantly at odds, changing alliances, and scheming. Until we learn all of their goals and motivations, it can be a little confusing, but as the book continues, we see how this complexity is integral to the plot. The story sweeps us into a vibrant, cosmopolitan world of magic, legends, and intrigue.

Audrey S.

One Day in December: A Novel by Josie Silver

One Day in DecemberOne Day in December follows the ten-year-long love story between Laurie and Jack, and her best friend, Sarah. Through the foggy window of a bus on Christmas Eve, Laurie meets the eyes of a man and falls in love at first sight. Before they can do anything, the bus drives away. She spends next year looking everywhere in London for him, at bus stops, cafés, even enlisting her best friend, Sarah – who jokes about him constantly – to help. A year later at their annual Christmas party, Sarah excitedly introduces Laurie to her new boyfriend, the “love of her life” – Jack O’Mara. When Laurie sees him, she immediately knows: it’s the man from the bus stop. She is shocked and gutted. Jack recognizes her as well, but they say nothing and bury their feelings, not wanting to ruin Sarah’s happiness.

The following decade is a rollercoaster of missed opportunities, tests of friendship, heartbreak, misunderstandings, and bad timing. Alternating between Laurie and Jack’s point of view, we get to see both characters’ insecurities, their love for each other and their closest friends, and their attempts to spare others’ hurt.

Some of my favorite parts of the book were reading Laurie’s New Year’s resolutions year after year. We get to see how her outlook changes over time, when she goes from despair to denial to “just surviving,” and they were especially potent because there is so much love and indecision and angst captured in so few words. While the storyline is a little cliché, given the love-at-first-sight and best-friend’s-boyfriend premise, the characters clearly care and love deeply for each other and there are so many unexpectedly funny, happy, sad, and hopeful moments. This book is a thoroughly enjoyable and addictive read, especially for slightly more mature YA readers looking for an ultimately heartwarming story.

by Audrey S.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere book coverLittle Fires Everywhere is a lyrical, eye-opening, and artistic story that interweaves the lives of the idyllic and the erratic, explores the burden of secrets, and addresses questions of morality. Elena Richardson lives a picture-perfect life, with a big house, steady job, and four high school aged children – Lexie, Trip, Moody, and Izzy with her husband. Her new tenant is Mia Warren, an artist, and her daughter Pearl, who have an enigmatic past. Much to Elena’s chagrin, each of the four Richardson children is inexplicably drawn to Mia and Pearl and creates a unique relationship with them. A custody battle between the Richardsons’ old family friends and another single mother over a Chinese-American baby expands the divide between Elena and Mia, and leads a suspicious Elena to dig deep into Mia’s hidden past.

The two women are foils: Elena focuses on the familiar, the dependable, and the “correct” way to do things to provide the perfect life for her family – when met with the uncontrollable, she unravels; Mia raises Pearl using an artist’s mindset of helping her come from her mistakes transformed, and this care passes to the rebellious Izzy and a rapidly maturing Lexie who find homes with Mia as well. The Richardsons are irrevocably changed by the Warrens, learning to break free of the repressive right and wrong of Shaker Heights.

This book is told from a variety of perspectives, further interweaving and comparing the threads of the separate stories. These shifts give the reader a feeling of omniscience in that we see everything rather than the fragments that the characters see, we can observe all of the separate paths and their parallels, particularly between the four mothers in the story. As a reader, I was able to empathize with parts of every character, and I still cannot decide which “side” I am on. Each of the characters was so unique and vivid with their own arc of development and their perspectives changed and matured with Mia and Pearl’s arrival. This is an incredibly necessary – and oftentimes heartbreaking – masterpiece that explores identity, race, family, motherhood, adolescence, right and wrong, and most of all, change.

by Audrey S.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

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published in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God was written by Zora Neale Hurston. This novel starts with a person named Janie Crawford, a black woman living in southern Florida in the early 20th century. She is returning home after a long period of time away. As she is walking though the town many people criticize her for what she is wearing and her past experiences. A friend named Pheoby comes over to her  house to find out where she has been and what has happened to her. She begins her story from the beginning of her life and explains everything up until the date she has returned. Her grandmother was slave ,who even after slavery has ended was still working for a white family as maid. Janie  never had a mother around and was raised by her grandmother in a white family. Her grandmother tried to control her life, telling her to marry a white man  who would provide money and a home for her. Janie who is a naive young girl listens to what her grandmother has told her. Janie figuring out her sexuality realizes she does not want to marry so young  and to a man that she doesn’t love. Janie’s husband treats her as a slave which causes her to run away to another man who has big dreams for the future. This second husband gives her the luxury of never working if she doesn’t want to but he isolates her from the outside world. This isolation angers Janie because she wants to be independent and free. As her husband’s health depletes and passes away , she gains a surplus of money and her freedom. She wants to find a true love that she has been speaking all of her life. This novel which continues and follows Janie’s life shows her search for perfect love shows the importance of independence and perseverance for a minority back in the 20th century. This inspirational book is good for readers trying to understand love or looking for self-identity.

Thirteen Reasons Why

This lifeThirteenReasonsWhy changing novel by written by Jay Asher has been known for its ability to expose the major problem of bullying. This story starts with a box of audiotapes being sent to a young boy’s doorstep. The tapes are recorded by a girl named Hannah Baker who as committed suicide 2 weeks earlier. As the boy starts to listen, Hannah explains that the tapes are the reasons behind her ending her life and that he is one of the reasons. Each tape is a reason and is for a different person that they must pass it on too. This mystery uncovers many problems that people are dealing with in schools all over the nations. Bullying is a real issue that has only been noticed with the last couple of years. Suicide is the 2 leading cause of death among the youth of the nation. I believe that all children must read this book to understand how their actions can affect another human being. It shows the importance of heathy relationships and acceptance of others. The book was nominated a New York Times best seller.

Citizen: An American Lyric

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Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine is a novel containing critical perceptions about racism and self-identity though a series of poems, pictures and artwork. This novel which was published in October, 2014 has informed readers about racism today. It explores Claudia Rankine’s childhood where she experienced racial prejudice. She engulfs you in the perspective of her life and many others who are experiencing the same ordeal. She explains the concept of “microagressions” which is a term that has come to encompass the verbal action casual degradation of any socially marginalized group. This topic is encompassed throughout her novel giving a meaning to racism in today’s world. She uses her poems and selected pieces of artwork to express her experiences and the experiences of others to touch on the problems that many minorities in the United States are having. It focuses on modern issues that prove points about racism and self-identity. If you are a person who likes to read about controversial issues and loves deep poetry, this is the book for you. While reading this boligon-art-1990-001-ifeelmostcoloredwhen.jpgok your eyes will be opened to the wild world we live in today. This book is a good read for people being introduced to sensitive topics like race. Students will gain knowledge that they can apply to their everyday lives. This book make readers more aware of there surroundings and more aware racial issues that are happening all around them. This book’s poetry and artistic will allow the reader to connect deeply to the text allowing a better understanding of what Claudia Rankine is trying to portray.

This image to the right is a painting by Glenn Ligon who is a artist from New York City. It conveys an important message that Rankine uses as an example in her novel. It explores the idea of minorities in america. “I feel most colored when i am thrown against a sharp white background”. This message in black ink is written over and over again on a white canvas. This symbolism is expressing the feeling that minorities have in america. Minorities might feel as if they stand out compared the rest of “white” America.  Claudia Rankine uses this message and artwork like this to express her thoughts.

It is a finalist in the National Book Award and a New York Times Best Seller. You can purchase it online for as low at $10.