H T YOUTH Older Readers Akata Warrior.
By Nnedi Okorafor.
Oct. 2017. 496p. Viking, $18.99 (9780670785612). Gr. 7–10.
This highly anticipated sequel to Akata
Witch (2011) begins a year after Sunny unearthed secrets pertaining to her heritage and
joined the secret Leopard Society. Plagued by
strange dreams, Sunny endeavors to increase
her magical powers by studying with her demanding
mentor, and she continues
to grapple with secrets that
lie within her peculiar and
wondrous Nsibidi book.
However, the fate of humanity rests on her shoulders and
time is not a luxury she has.
Soon, she must step into her destiny and fight
a looming, apocalyptic battle. If she loses or
isn’t up to the task, it will spell catastrophe for
all. While the story’s beginning is a bit jarring,
the feeling is fleeting. A few chapters in, the
reader gets tangled up in Sunny’s journey in
the most delicious of ways. The lush world
and high-stakes plot are fun, imaginative,
timely, and authentic. Sunny as a character
is beautiful, strong, and resilient, and her
host of friends and allies are well-drawn and
compelling, adding to the magic of the story.
Okorafor’s novel will ensnare readers and keep
them turning pages until the very end to see if
and how Sunny fulfills the tremendous destiny
that awaits her. —Enishia Davenport
All Rights Reserved.
By Gregory Scott Katsoulis.
Aug. 2017. 400p. Harlequin Teen, $18.99
(9780373212446). Gr. 7–10.
Speth is about to deliver her Last Day speech,
signifying her becoming a paying adult, who’s
charged for every word she speaks and for most
of her gestures and sounds. But when a friend
commits suicide in front of her to escape his
family’s debt, Speth fights back by saying nothing at all. Even she is surprised, however, when
her rebellion begins to inspire others . . . and
to disturb the government. In his debut novel,
Katsoulis finds intriguing new ideas to explore
in the dystopian genre. Speth is a reluctant
heroine and very worried when her defiance
begins to adversely affect those around her. The
world in which she lives is convincingly built
and even the legalese elements of the story don’t
bog it down too much. Speth’s induction into a
strange career field does throw off the pace, but
the unique characters with whom she interacts
make up for that slowdown. By the end of this
first book, readers will be thinking about every
word they speak, knowing, as Speth does, that
“words matter.” —Snow Wildsmith
All the Crookted Saints.
By Maggie Stiefvater.
Oct. 2017. 320p. Scholastic, $18.99 (9780545930802);
e-book, $18.99 (9780545930826). Gr. 9–12.
Bicho Raro, Colorado, is a town where the
people, particularly the Mexicans and Mexi-
can Americans, are mysterious and magical.
Strangers travel far and wide in search of the
town where miracles happen or, alternately,
find themselves in this town not realizing
that they need a miracle. Stiefvater puts the
three Soria cousins at the center of the nar-
rative. Each cousin has their own propensity
for miracles, but Daniel, the oldest, is the
one with the power to perform miracles for
strangers and friends. His cousins Beatriz and
Joaquin struggle to form their own futures.
This is an intensely character-driven narra-
tive, and Stiefvater’s use of magic realism is
at times too dependent on commonplace
Latinx stereotypes. For example, Beatriz is
the archetypal Latina vixen, or, in Stiefvater’s
words, “la chica sin sentimientos” (the woman
without feelings). Still, this makes for a great
opportunity for YA readers and educators to
discuss how people of color get represented in
literature as subservient, mystical beings, and
it would pair interestingly with Anna-Marie
McLemore’s When the Moon Was Ours (2016).
—Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Stiefvater’s
first stand-alone since the Raven Cycle will
demand lots of attention.
Before She Ignites.
By Jodi Meadows.
Sept. 2017. 496p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $17.99
(9780062469403); e-book, $9.99 (9780062469427).
Mira Minkoba is used to being seen and
heard. Born the same day as the peace treaty that
was named for her, Mira is the mouth of her
government, helping to ease tensions between
six island nations. Her beauty is cultivated, and
her speeches written for her, but Mira’s real love
is her work with the dragons protected under
the treaty. When Mira stumbles upon a dangerous secret about these dragons, she is sent
immediately to the Pit, a huge, frightening
prison. Mira’s life has never been anything but
soft, and her struggles with crippling anxiety
threaten to overwhelm her as she faces life as
a prisoner. But the dragons are still in danger,
and Mira will have to summon inner strength
she never knew she had if she’s to be more than
a mouthpiece. Pacing can be slow, as Mira is
imprisoned for the bulk of the story, but the
complex political system is compellingly built,
and Mira’s characterization is admirable. Hand
to fans of rich world building—and, of course,
fans of dragons. —Maggie Reagan
Our own Ilene Cooper sniffed out the phenomenon early: here is our original starred review of the book that launched a decade of
paranormal romances. Don’t be surprised by the star; check out the
September 15, 2015, issue of Booklist for my own (very positive!) look
back at the book. —Daniel Kraus
By Stephenie Meyer.
2005. 499p. Little, Brown, paper, $15.99 (9780316015844). Gr. 9–12.
In the tradition of Anne Rice and YA titles such as Annette Curtis Klause’s The Sil-
ver Kiss (1999) comes this heady romance that intertwines Bella Swan’s life with that
of Edward, an alluring and tormented vampire. Bella’s life changes when she moves to
perpetually rain-soaked Forks, Washington. She is instantly drawn to
a fellow student, Edward Cullen, beautiful beyond belief and angrily
aloof. Bella senses there is more behind Edward’s hostility, and in a plot
that slowly and frighteningly unfolds, she learns that Edward and his
family are vampires—though they do not hunt humans. Yet Edward
cannot promise that his powerful attraction to Bella won’t put her in
danger, or worse. Recklessly in love, Bella wants only to be with Ed-
ward, but when a vicious, blood-lusting predator complicates her world,
Bella’s peril is brutally revealed. This is a book of the senses: Edward is
first attracted by Bella’s scent; ironically, Bella is repelled when she sees blood. Their love
is palpable, heightened by their touches, and teens will respond viscerally. There are some
flaws here—a plot that could have been tightened, an overreliance on adjectives and
adverbs to bolster dialogue—but this dark romance seeps into the soul. —Ilene Cooper
YA Flashback: Class of 2005