By Erin Entrada Kelly.
Mar. 2017. 320p. Greenwillow, $16.99 (9780062414151). Gr. 3–6.
Four middle-schoolers’ fates intertwine one summer in Kelly’s ( The
Land of Forgotten Girls, 2016) touching tale of friendship. Scrawny,
part, Valencia struggles with nightmares after being rejected by her best
friend, and the fact that she’s deaf hasn’t made finding new friends easy.
When she spots Kaori’s “business card” on a notice board, she makes
an appointment to discuss her troubling dreams. That very day, Virgil
goes missing, and Valencia joins Kaori’s search for the boy. Chapters
alternate between the four kids’ perspectives, infusing the story with
their unique interests, backgrounds, beliefs, and doubts. Lola’s hilariously grim Filipino folk stories weave in and out of Virgil’s mind,
ultimately giving him the courage to stand up for himself; and rather
than holding her back, Valencia’s deafness heightens her perceptiveness. Readers will be instantly engrossed in this relatable neighborhood
adventure and its eclectic cast of misfits. —Julia Smith
Ronit and Jamil.
By Pamela L. Laskin.
Feb. 2017. 192p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $17.99 (9780062458544). Gr. 9–12.
Israeli-born Ronit’s abba works as a pharmacist in East Jerusalem;
Palestinian Jamil’s abi works as a doctor. But when both fathers de-
cide to drag their willful teens onto the job with them, they impart
the same stern words of advice: “Don’t look.” Yet in this modern-day
Romeo and Juliet revamp, Ronit is quick to admire Jamil’s hazel gaze,
and Jamil, too, swiftly swoons for the “girl / with the song in [her]
voice.” So begin text-message trysts, marketplace meetups, and a love
as fierce as it is forbidden. Like its predecessor, Laskin’s tale, a series of
mostly page-length poems, unfolds in five acts. Alternating between
the perspectives of each teen (and, eventually, their fathers), it illumi-
nates a tense but textured land riddled with rockets, roadblocks, and
olive trees. Occasionally saccharine but always accessible, the modern
verse—flecked with Arabic, Hebrew, and iconic excerpts from the play
itself—will ease romance-hungry teens into both Shakespeare’s original
and the challenging context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A wel-
come nod to hope in the face of the impossible. —Briana Shemroske
When Morning Comes.
By Arushi Raina.
Jan. 2017. 210p. Tradewind, paper, $10.95 (9781926890142). Gr. 9–12.
South Africa’s 1976 Soweto student uprising brought the bitterness
and tragedy of the antiapartheid struggle onto the world stage. Raina’s
novel tells the story via multiple narrators who offer their own takes
in alternating chapters: Zanele assumes a bold and dangerous activist
role; Meena, daughter of an Indian shopkeeper, gets involved as an intermediary; Thabo, Zanele’s neighborhood boyfriend and wannabe junior
gangster watches helplessly as Zanele gets more deeply enmeshed in the
political movement and falls for Jack, a privileged white teen smitten
with her beauty and spirit. Class and race intersect at a pivotal moment
in history as the compelling characters—a wide cross section of South
Africans—offer their stories, and a day in the life of a country in crisis
comes into focus. Suspense builds gradually to the day of the uprising, a surprise twist grabs the reader near the end, and action-movie
excitement takes over when Zanele becomes a fugitive. A sophisticated
political thriller that challenges readers and offers no pat endings. The
appended historical note and glossary are essential. —Anne O’Malley
mackids.com children’s publishing group
“Don’t be afraid of death;
be afraid of an unlived life.
You don’t have to live forever,
you just have to live.”
—Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting