The Door at the Crossroads. By Zetta Elliott. 2016. 408p.
CreateSpace, paper, $15 (9781515392163). Gr. 9–12.
Elliott stands out among the ranks of self-published authors.
In this sequel to A Wish after Midnight (2010), Genna is
hurled back to the present day of September 11, 2001, while
Judah remains trapped in 1863. The novel parallels significant
stages in U.S. history as Judah battles with wanting to leave
the country yet desiring to stay in place so Genna can find
him—not to mention staying alive as a black man. For her
part, Genna struggles to disengage from family and friends
and works to discover the spiritual reasons for their time travel, so that she can reunite with Judah. Driving readers on with
fear and love for its characters, Elliott’s plot hurtles toward a
dramatic, cliff-hanger ending. Elliott writes with acuity, bringing both times to vivid life as her characters contend with
love, loyalty, friendship, what it means to be black in America,
and the ways in which circumstances shape individuals and
Fair to Hope. By Sam Reed. 2016. 222p. North Loop, paper,
$14.95 (9781635051940). Gr. 9–12.
Velma does not want to fight in the Apocalypse. After her
mother died, her father abandoned her, and she kicked around
the foster-care system, Velma made a crucial choice to seek the
light and goodness in others rather than self-centered callousness. In that moment, she joined the ranks of the Taram, an
ancient order fighting against the world’s darkness. The novel begins, however, with Velma betrayed by Josh—her closest friend,
the guy she loves, and the one she needs to fight to the death in
order to save the world. The novel’s beginning suffers from occasional unevenness in the speed of narration, as it bumps between
plot action and background information, and the copyediting
could use improvement. Still, this presents a thoughtful, powerful black young woman as a messiah figure, akin to Tananarive
Due’s African Immortals series. With a racing, epic plot and a
cast of faithful companions, Reed deftly turns the Apocalypse
into a story of hopefulness and friendship.
Diverse YA Fiction from Micro-Presses
BY ZARA RIX
While mainstream publishers are taking steps toward diversity, a large and diverse group of authors turn to micro-presses: publishing entities smaller than traditional small presses, and
Juliet Takes a Breath. By Gabby Rivera. 2016. 274p.
that include self-publishers. Here is the first of our periodic roundups,
this one offering titles from the past three years.
Riverdale Avenue, paper, $16.99 (9781626012516).
“If there’s room in your world for a closeted Puerto Rican
baby dyke from the Bronx, you should write me back.” Juliet
Palante writes to a white feminist author because she loves her
ideals, yet she deeply wants to see “my round, brown ass in
your words.” Then the author writes back, and Juliet leaves the
Bronx for an internship in the author’s lesbian community in
Portland, Oregon. Though on occasion the narrative sounds
like a primer on contemporary queerness, the issues surrounding that subject, as well as feminism and race, are effectively
conveyed through complexly depicted characters whom readers
will come to love. This is a story of coming out within a tight,
loving, charismatic, and Christian Puerto Rican family and a
funny and moving tale of a brown girl finding her place in a
world dominated by patriarchy, “white lady” feminism, and
the sort of colonialism that leads to Juliet and her girlfriend
fighting over the ethics of shopping at a store called Banana
The Marauders’ Island. By Tristan J. Tarwater. 2016. 272p.
Back That Elf Up, $30 (9781942062998). Gr. 7–10.
The day 16-year-old Azria completes her training as a mage,
her ship-captain mother offers her a life of riches and adventure
if she joins her crew. For Azria, it’s a chance to prove that she
is the greatest of Mizrian mages; unravel the secrets surrounding her parents’ lives; and discover the mysterious connections
between her family, the mage war, and the gods. The good ship
Hen and Chick sails between islands and peoples who are diverse and distinct, led into incredible adventures by a powerful,
capable, brown-skinned mother-daughter team. At points, the
description of the world and its cast of complex characters are
reminiscent of Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring (1998)
and The Chaos (2012). In this first volume of the Hen & Chick
series, Tarwater creates a richly imagined fantasy world thrumming with adventure, successfully kick-starting the story of a