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Teen Read Week 2018

Teen Read Week is a chance for teens to look back on their favorite books of the year and try something they don’t usually read.  The novels listed below were written in 2018 and cover a wide range of experiences within realistic fiction. Some are humorous, some are thrillers, some are romantic, but all are make for good reading. This year's Teen Read Week is Oct. 7-13, 2018 and the theme is "Its written in the stars".

American Panda by Gloria Chao 
Mei loves to dance, but her Taiwanese parents, who live nearby, insist on her completing premed studies at MIT with honors to better prepare her for Harvard Medical School. A marriage to the proper Taiwanese would also not go amiss, but Mei sneaks a side dance business and falls for “nerd hot” Darren, who is not Taiwanese. Mei also struggles to fit in with her fellow students (Mei’s assigned a second roommate after Chinese roommate suggests Mei’s family killed hers). Mei’s feelings about her overbearing parents and ostracized older brother are complicated as are her feelings about Darren. American Panda is a nuanced story readers, no matter what their ethnicity, will enjoy.

The Bright Siders by Jen Wilde
Punk drummer Emmy wakes up in a hospital after a night of hard drinking. Paparazzi film the entire under age episode and soon everyone knows. Her hotel evicts her; her girlfriend, who spent the night in a drunk tank blames her for yet another dust up with police and the band manager struggles to clear up her image because this is not the first incident of Emmy acting out. Emmy must return to the home of her alcoholic parents and is forced to open her eyes to what she could become and begins to own up to her behavior. Emmy narrates her story of rising from childhood neglect to a life of her dreams and then having it almost destroyed by the vestiges of the neglect she still carries around. Bi-sexual and non-binary teens and their struggle to find community are major themes along with alcoholism and substance abuse. Emmy and her friends support each in this love letter to the families one creates.

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
Scott's best friends are in Southeast Asia and his parents are in Iran for the summer. Scott, who has trouble completing things, is home alone in Philadelphia completing the internship his father got for him measuring feces. The internship becomes one more thing he quits, but this time without his parents knowledge. Scott runs away to Washington, D.C., intending to meet with the author of a book on “grit”. Scott has his own views on why Georgetown professor Cecily Mallard book on determination and sticking to something is an indicator of success. On the bus trip he meets Fiora, a scattered, irresponsible but well-meaning George Washington University student who gets sensitive high school student Scott into deeper trouble. Scott’s story is not the typical awkward boy meets beautiful worldly girl narrative. Scott realizes where his grit truly lies in this humorous yet deep coming of age story.

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
Zarin and Porus look down on the scene of their own horrific death and actions that led them this point. Zarin is the illegitimate orphan daughter of a Zoroastrian dancer and a Hindu gangster being raised by an emotionally and physically abusive aunt. She is also an Indian transplant to Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, making her an outsider by race, ethnicity, religion, gender, birth status and family, a nearly insurmountable mix in her xenophobic and paternalist adopted country. Porus is her childhood friend from India. He lives with his mother and works at a deli to help support them both. Porus tries to save Zarin from the abuse and bullying of others, even when his actions could get him deported. Told in 5 voices, A Girl Like That describes the clear-eyed motivations of Zarin’s tormentors and how she memorably chose to fight them. 

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Twins Mara and Owen (the title of the book comes from the constellation, Gemini) are seniors at Pebblebrook, a performing arts magnet school. Mara is a singer and actress, and Owen a violinist. Owen is studious, neat, but plays hard. Mara is the leader of a school feminist group and newspaper, something her mother applauds. Life changes for them both when Mara’s friend and Owen’s girlfriend, Hannah accuses Owen of rape. Mara’s school circle immediately rallies around Hannah while other classmates want to slut shame Hannah. Owen and Mara’s mother takes Owen’s side as well. Added to Mara’s confusion is the fact that Owen has been the only person able to bring her out of the ongoing trauma stemming from an incident that goes back to before she started high school.  Girl Made of Stars is a gripping and even-handed story of the emotional toll of rape and predatory behavior on individuals and communities.

I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall
Jess Cooper, still recovering from the car accident that killed her mother is sent to live with her survivalist father, Carl. She hasn’t seen her father in more than a decade, so his meager existence in Canadian wilderness is unexpected. Carl tries to teach Jess the ways of a north woodsman, but Jess is still mourning her mother. When father and daughter begin to trust one another, men from Carl’s past pay him a visit. Hidden outside their cabin with Carl’s dog, Bo, Jess sees all safety and security go up in flames as the men murder Carl and burn the cabin. No one knows she’s alone and the only person who knows she’s there at all is thousands of miles away.  Will the men return and can she survive until help arrives?  Likened to such survival favorites as Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and The Revenant by Michael Punke, I Am Still Alive is a suspenseful page-turner with a plucky protagonist readers will not soon forget.

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson
Claudia returns from a summer spent with her grandmother in Georgia eager to begin eighth grade alongside her best friend, Monday. She and Monday are like sisters in their Southeast, Washington, D.C. neighborhood. They defend each other against bullies. Monday helps Claudia with schoolwork and often stays with Claudia and her family.  But Claudia hasn’t heard from Monday all summer. She doesn’t see her on the first day of school either, or the days that follow. Missing for months, Monday’s mother and sister offer conflicting stories of Monday’s whereabouts. Claudia finds no help from adults and reaches back into the past to uncover missing details. Dark and sinister (Claudia’s mother reminds her to always call home and “leave breadcrumbs.”) Monday’s Not Coming is a one more captivating thriller by the author of last year’s stunner Allegedly.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
From the author of critically acclaimed American Street comes a twist on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Zuri Benitez and her three sisters await the return of their eldest sister, Janae, who has just finished her freshman year at Syracuse.  The Haitian/Dominican girls may have differing views on love and money, but they don’t like how their neighborhood has changed. The corner bodega’s prices went up since they went organic and the new bike lanes mean being extra careful when stepping into the street. The new neighbors, the Darcys, are another example of well-heeled transplants to working class Bushwick, Brooklyn. Upon meeting the two Darcy sons, everyone is taken by Ainsley, the kindly older brother. Darius, however, sneeringly refers to their regrettable move from Manhattan, something that rankles proud Zuri. Zuri’s plans of enjoying time with Janae are soon thwarted as her sister and Ainsley grow closer. The summer also brings into closer focus how her family would suffer if she, like Janae, goes away for college. Other complications for Zuri arise with new boy Warren.

Recognizing the parallels to the much loved classic are a small part of what makes this novel a must read. This modern retelling features a Latinx and African American cast of characters living with issues such as social media and gentrification. Difficult as some of the topics of this novel may be, Zoboi’s writing stays true to the humor and readability of the original.     

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
“THERE WILL BE FREE TAMPONS FOR ALL!” is how the hijinks begin for the junior class at Elysian High. Slacker Clara Shin and her prank loving friends take a school auditorium joke to Carrie proportions, resulting in Clara and her nemesis, Rose, working Clara’s father’s food truck over the summer to pay for damages. Clara’s 34-year-old Korean Brazilian father is more than a match for the two girls, but Clara comes to appreciate her father’s business. Meanwhile, the intense boy working the nearby coffee stand also brings out a caring and responsible side of Clara.  Wonderfully described street food, teen culture in East Los Angeles, and a hip and wise-cracking protagonist who grows as a person make The Way You Make Me Feel a feel good book that stands out.