Maybe You Missed… Young Adult

Today is the last day of a series of posts on books revolving around the theme Maybe You Missed rather than a “best” or a “favourite” list. Readers need different things at different times. I do not feel that there are any best or favourites – there are just too many phenomenal books to read, talk about and share with others. So, here are 12 young adult books that perhaps you read, or maybe you missed.

As always, I welcome your thoughts or books that Maybe I Missed in the comments.

Laurie

Maybe You Missed…Graphic Novels

In case you missed my post earlier in December, I discussed how in late November, early December, those “Best Lists” roll in, and yes, I admitted to looking at them, but it was more to see what I may have missed rather than see what others have deemed “best.” Since I am always on the lookout for new books to read, enjoy and share with others the past few posts, I have shared books that perhaps you may have missed and can add to your reading stack. I am trying my best to include 12 – one for each month of the year but, admittedly, I am not always successful. 

Today I am sharing graphic novels. I decided to separate the middle-grade graphic novels into genres and then added the young adult section. I provided details about the two Canadian titles that I read. Clearly, I need to read more Canadian graphic novels in 2021!

So here are the graphic novels that Maybe You Missed…

Middle Grade Animals & Fantasy

Kodi by Jared Cullum

Mellybean and the Giant Monster by Mike White

Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian by Tim Probert

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Bear by Ben Queen, illustrations by Joe Todd-Thanton

Middle Grade: Realistic, Historical and Biographical

Class Act by Jerry Craft

Trespassers by Breena Bard

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu

Twins by Varian Johnson and illustrated by Shannon Wright

I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic of 1912 by Lauren Tarshis and art by Haus Studio

Young Adult

As promised, here is some further details on the two Canadian graphic novels that in my opinion should be in every YA classroom and library.

If I Go Missing is the one title not published in 2020 but released in December of 2019. A haunting, powerful book to hiFrom the Roots Up is the second in the Surviving the City series by Tasha Spillet. It begins where Surviving the City left readers off, with Dez grieving over her grandmother, trying to adjust to life in a group home and living life as an Indigenous Two-Spirit person.  From the Roots Up focuses on Dez and her struggles to be accepted. From her best friend Miikwan not fully understanding what Dez is experiencing to Elder Linda still following protocols from when she was young,  readers see the challenges as Dez goes about daily life. Vibrant colours and the inclusion of elder spirits complement the storyline as those connected to Dez work together to make the world more inclusive. Having a Two-Spirit person as the main character and tackling the issues they face and resolving them provides mirrors and windows on a neglected but relevant issue. Everyone needs to see themselves in stories, and From the Roots Up is the first of its kind that I have read to share and inform readers about Two-Spirited people in a caring and informative manner. ghlight again, so more readers become aware of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). The book contains excerpts from the letter sent by 14-year-old Brianna Jonnie to the Chief of Police in Winnipeg in 2016, who ponders why the police and media are slower to react when Indigenous females go missing versus white individuals. The novel with few lines outlining who she is as an individual and the many societal stereotypes she is not. With shades of black, grey and white with splashes of red, acknowledging the Red Dress movement, this graphic novel adds to the sombre tone of the sparse but powerful text. The ending drives home the inequities Jonnie feels. “If I go missing and the [Winnipeg Police Service] has not changed the behaviours I have brought to your attention, I beg of you, do not treat me as the Indigenous person I am proud to be.” If you are not familiar with this title, I urge you to read it and include it in your classrooms and libraries.

From the Roots Up is the second in the Surviving the City series by Tasha Spillet. It begins where Surviving the City left readers off, with Dez grieving over her grandmother, trying to adjust to life in a group home and living life as an Indigenous Two-Spirit person.  From the Roots Up focuses on Dez and her struggles to be accepted. From her best friend Miikwan not fully understanding what Dez is experiencing to Elder Linda still following protocols from when she was young,  readers see the challenges as Dez goes about daily life. Vibrant colours and the inclusion of elder spirits complement the storyline as those connected to Dez work together to make the world more inclusive. Having a Two-Spirit person as the main character and tackling the issues they face and resolving them provides mirrors and windows on a neglected but relevant issue. Everyone needs to see themselves in stories, and From the Roots Up is the first of its kind that I have read to share and inform readers about Two-Spirited people in a caring and informative manner. Another must have book for classrooms and libraries.

If I Go Missing by Brianna Jonnie with Naheni Shingoose, Art by Nshannacappo

Go With the Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneeman

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, Art by Gurihiru

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Art by Danica Novgorodoff

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Flamer by Mike Curato

From the Roots Up (Surviving the City Vol.2) by Tasha Spillett and illustrations by Natasha Donovan

Some of you may not agree with the placement of some titles in Young-Adult, feeling that perhaps you would have them as middle-grade or upper middle grade. I placed them here as the libraries I borrowed from or other libraries I checked placed them as young-adult. It would make for some interesting conversations – are there any you remove from the young-adult?

Next Thursday, I look forward to sharing the Middle-Grade books that Maybe You Missed. Til then, happy reading.

Laurie

Maybe You Missed…

Image by CongerDesign

Instead of my usual #IMWAYR post, I thought I would let you know what I will spend a good part of December sharing. I did have a good reading week, and some of those books will undoubtedly show up in later posts. For now, they will remain a mystery.

Late November, early December, those “Best Lists” roll in, and yes, I will admit to looking at them, but it is more to see what I may have missed rather than see what others have deemed “Best.” I am always on the lookout for new books to read, enjoy and share with others and seek out a variety of places to add to my TBR/Options pile. In the next few posts, I will share with you some books that perhaps you may have missed and can add to your reading stack. I hope to include 12 – one for each month of the year, but as of this post, it has been hard to narrow it down.

So here is the list and the dates, and I hope YOU will add books Maybe I Missed to my TBR/Options pile in the comments.

Dec. 8: Nonfiction 

Dec. 10: Picture Books

Dec. 15: Early Chapter Books and Graphic Novels

Dec. 17: Graphic Novels

Dec. 22: Middle Grade

Dec. 29: Young Adult

Happy Reading,

Laurie

Dear Justyce

Author: Nic Stone

Narrator: Dion Graham

Publisher: Crown

Release Date: September 29/20

Page Length: 288 pages, Audiobook 4 hrs. 45 min.

Reviewer: Laurie

I first became familiar with author Nic Stone when I was part of Jennifer LaGuardia’s and Jennifer Northrup’s #2jennsbookclub, and one of the selections to read was her debut, Dear Martin.  I listened to the audiobook of Dear Martin narrated by Dion Graham, and my white-privileged eyes became wide open as the story unfolded. As much as I thought Dear Martin is a book that needed to be read and unpacked with young adults and adults, I believe Dear Justyce is on an even higher plane because it will connect to more readers personally as it either reflects their own story or, of someone they know. It is not necessary to read Dear Martin first, but it will provide more context to Dear Justyce.

Right from the opening, we hear Nic Stone introducing in her voice Dear Reader and how she never intended to write this book. It came about from a series of texts from some boys that she had met writing Dear Martin. The boys shared the fact that they are so very different from Justyce, how they needed their story told and how Nic Stone was their voice. From there, she realized that there was a character from Dear Martin, Vernelle LaQuan Bank Jr., who had a story that readers needed to hear.

Similar in format to Dear Martin, Vernelle LaQuan Bank Jr. (known as Quan) reveals his story in a series of flashbacks and letters. This time the letters’ recipient is Justyce, who now is in law school. Quan is in a holding cell awaiting trial for the murder of a police officer, although innocent. As he sits in jail, we see the injustice of all the systems that failed to support him and countless other Black kids that leads to where he sits now.

Dion Graham’s narrated both books that added to the story as he created a variety of different voices and used his pacing to create tension and to indicate how quickly events were happening. The various inflections used in specific characters also made certain scenes more dynamic. As I listened, you could hear the many emotions that Quan experienced and felt like you were listening to dialogue from a movie as hard as it was to listen to Quan’s story.

Gutwrenching and hard to read because it so accurately portrays what is happening today and not just in America. It is yet another wake-up call to expose the systemic racism that exists and begs us to change our ways so that Quan’s story is fictional rather than being almost biographical.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Dear Martin (Dear Martin, #1), Clean Getaway, and Shuri: A Black Panther Novel 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Gr. 8+

#IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) Nov. 16/20

Another busy week of shovelling as we received more snow and my poor dog got “fixed” as they say, so lots of time devoted to him as adjusted to life with the dreaded cone and therefore not a lot of reading accomplished. Despite that, oh how the books were EXCEPTIONAL!

Last Week

  • Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow #3 by Jessica Townsend, narrated by Gemma Whelan. Ms. Townsend has down it again. Although darker and hitting a little too close to home with a mysterious disease attacking the Wunimals, this series is phenomenal and can stand right alongside Harry Potter. In the third installment, Morrigan Crow, the only Wundersmith in Wunsoc is learning the Wretched Arts. As Morrigan learns more about her abilities and the past Wundersmiths, readers see more of the political side of Nevermoor and how many people have something to gain by using Morrigan. I hope we do not have long to wait for the next book in the series.
  • Dear Justyce by Nic Stone, narrated by Dion Graham: Dear Martin was so incredibly strong, but Nic Stone has raised her game to another level with this book. Written in a similar format to Dear Justyce, we meet Quan, incarcerated for the murder of a police officer. Pleading not guilty, Quan writes to Justyce (the protagonist of Dear Martin)  and details just how systemic racism has landed him where he is in this cell. This was gut-wrenching to read because it is sadly too accurate. Quan will stay with me for a long time. This is a must-read.
  • All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat: I am so so glad that this book #ownvoice author Christina Soontornvat shared this story and provided the details from the Thai perspective. Learning about the Thai Navy SEALS and the work that Thanet and Colonel Singhanat did to divert the water out of the cave and seeing the photos of what they accomplished was incredible. Soontornvat expertly intertwines the expository information as it comes up in the exploration of the cave by the boys or the rescue. Well researched and a personal author note make this a favourite nonfiction read for me this year.

Up Next

  • Skyhunter by Marie Lu narrated by Natalie Naudus: I have enjoyed other books by Ms. Lu, so I was happy that the audiobook came in from the library. Looks to be another dystopian type book – a genre I haven’t read for a while.
  • Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini by Betsy Uhrig: I started this one based on a conversation during the #MGBookChat by @aslan_magic, who was reading it and finding it funny. I wanted something light, and yes, it is quite humorous. Reluctant reader Alex has been asked to help his aunt review a book she has written. It is incredibly dull, so Alex and his friends are providing suggestions with the help of a ghostwriter. Funny and a mystery to solve – a welcome combo.
  • Genius Jolene by Sara Cassidy, illustrations by Charlene Chua: This is a Shining Book nominee, and I am looking forward to reading this one as there are not many chapter books that include LGBTQ+ characters.

Down the Road

Royal Rangers #4 The Missing Prince by John Flanagan: well, I have moved up in the queue for this book but still waiting. 

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? has changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s’ lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too and hence a version for #kidlit began! So every Monday, join in on the fun by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading and to show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

Happy reading!

Laurie

 

From The Roots Up

Author: Tasha Spillett

Illustrator: Natasha Donovan

Publisher: Highwater Press

Release: October 27/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the publisher for an eARC of this book.

I was very excited to get a chance to read this YA graphic novel sequel to Surviving The City. The series is set in Winnipeg, and it’s an important book for readers not only for its insightful and honest depiction of what many Indigenous youth face, but for greater empathy and understanding about the Two-Spirit person experience.

In this story, Dez is living in a group home after the death of her kokum. She and Miikwan are still best friends, but they’re both exploring relationships with other people. Dez is discovering that she is a Two-Spirit person, but she isn’t sure how to tell Miikwan. Miikwan is attracted to a new boy at school named Riel, and invites him to take part in an after school program for Neechi students. When Dez wants to take part in the drumming that is traditionally a male-only activity, the Elders are faced with addressing change and expanding their understanding of the gender roles with which they were raised. Riel’s Auntie Alex, who is a Two-Spirit person, attends one of the group’s meetings and talks about their experience, and the fact that many nations have had individuals who have different genders or sexualities, but that it’s a part of their cultures that were also taken from them. As Dez begins to connect to a new identity, each person in the story is affected by it.

I think this story is so important because I have never read a story for young people that addresses Two Spirit people, and how they can feel like they belong just as they are. Not only does the author teach the reader, but she does so in a way that’s relatable and respectful of teens and their relationships. I loved the older and supportive female characters such as the group mom, Karen, and Elder Linda, who help Dez and accepted her period of self exploration. The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and add so much depth to the story.

This book is an essential addition to classroom and libraries not only in Manitoba, but also across Canada and the US. Please make sure you also have the first book in the series, Surviving the City.

Breakdown

Author: David A. Robertson

Illustrators: Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk

Publisher: Highwater Press

Release: Oct 27/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the publisher for an eARC of this book.

What an excellent YA graphic novel! I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book, as I LOVED The Reckoner trilogy by author. This book continues that series, but it’s now in graphic novel format, with incredible illustration by Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk.

Cole has returned to Winnipeg, along with Eva, to figure out what’s going on with Mihko Laboratories, but the trauma that he experienced in Wounded Sky First Nation has come with him. He’s experiencing PTSD, and the panic attacks and hallucinations that go along with it. His mental health is also affecting how he feels about being a “superhero”. On the other hand, Eva is really coming into her own as a confident, empowered Indigenous female superhero. She supports Cole, but also realizes she can also go out on her own without needing him by her side. Together, they are trying to figure out what’s going on in Mihko’s building, but true to form, the author leaves us with a cliffhanger to wait and see what’s going to happen to the characters next.

The ownvoices mental health representation in this series is one of my favorite aspects of it. Cole is a character whose struggle with anxiety and the trauma from his past is honest, raw, and extremely relatable to many. To see a character that’s powerful even though he has mental health issues is inspiring, and I love how complex and real he becomes when he’s seen as imperfect. There are scenes where Cole meets with his therapist, and discusses his problems and the need for him to go back on antidepressants. This open discussion of needing support is extremely positive.

Watching Eva develop in this book is also a highlight, as she becomes a real role model with her compassion and strength. Although I certainly missed Choch from the original series, I did enjoy revisiting other characters, too, and Brady’s relationship with Dylan provides Two Spirit representation that adds to the book’s appeal.

I highly recommend this book for young adult collections, and suggest you check out The Reckoner trilogy if you haven’t read it yet.

What I Carry

Author: Jennifer Longo

Publisher: Random House

Release Date: January 21/20 (Audio July 31/20)

Reviewed by Laurie

I knew I would be listening/reading this book when I heard it being compared to Robin Benway’s Far From the Tree a story about siblings and adoption that I loved. I actually borrowed the book from my local public library and then was excited to hear it would be an audiobook and so waited for it. Totally worth it as Reba Buhr’s interpretations of the various characters was just spot on and Francine was my favourite characterization, but the main character Muir will stay with me for a very long time.

Abandoned at birth in a hospital, Muir begins life there named by the nurses after the John Muir Medical Center in California. Although Child Services lists her name as Muiriel she goes by Muir as she has deep rooted connections to her namesake John Muir, as she too has a deep rooted love for the outdoors and prefers to be in the woods. (For those unfamiliar with Muir, he was a naturalist and considered the Father of the National Parks).

Despite her love for the outdoors, Muir has lived her entire life in a variety of foster homes and has one more year until she “ages out” As a result, she has learned to pack light and not carry any additional baggage – items and people. Her case worker Jonelle is the only consistent person in her life and her last care home is to be off the coast of Seattle on a small island and Joellen has asked her to please try to be in one place for just one year and Muir has promised she would try.

As Muir begins life on the island, Luango cleverly reveals her past foster homes by Muir sharing an item in her expertly lightly packed suitcase. We learn the story of where she has lived , through a thimble, a ceramic polar bear from a box of Red Rose tea, an Allen wrench and a delicate gold chain tangled, but not broken. All of these back stories provide us insight to Muir and just how strong and resilient she is, the walls she has built and why she does not want to be dependent on anyone. All she has to do is get through this one year and then she will be free.

Except now that she is on the island, she is encountering new people who make Muir let her guard down. Her foster mother Francine seems to know exactly what Muir needs and her sense of timing to provide advice or space is allowing Muir to actually think about unpacking her suitcase. She also meets Kira also her age at the local coffee shop and she too seems to be able to disarmer Muir’s walls and finally there is Sean who shares her passion for nature and has had his own struggles. All of these characters want her to stay, but will she?

This book has strong character development and I found myself cheering all four of these characters on as they each tackled individual struggles along with trying to break down Muir’s walls. Readers will learn and hopefully connect to what it means to be a true friend. Really listening to your friend, which Kira does so well, but more importantly calls Muir on her irrational thinking when it comes to having friends and a boyfriend with humour and compassion. The relationship between Sean and Muir is also presented in a respectful manner and young adults need to see more of these meaningful and deep interactions. I especially was drawn to the way the two had two polar heroes in the area of the environment and how they would spar back and forth and then it is Sean who provides another way for the two to become closer. Finally, the relationship between Francine, and Muir are perhaps my favourite – as it is Francine who is the catalyst to make things different for Muir by giving her space but having boundaries and the manner in which she speaks to her. We all need a Francine in our lives to show us how we can be loved in different ways.

Not only is the character development so strong but also the topics in the various plots – Longo explores the systematic failure of the current foster system and adoption, along with bullying, racism, addiction and the environment. All of these topics deepen our understanding of the characters, but also remind us that there are serious problems that need to be addressed in real life.

As I was reading this story I was mindful and wondering if this would turn out to be an #ownvoices novel and waited until the end to read the Author’s Note. I was relieved and grateful to find out it Jenifer Luango’s connection to this story and how she wasn’t sure she should tell the story. I appreciated the research and the hard conversations Longo had with foster kids to write this beautiful book and share this story that needs to be told. In addition to there are various links placed at the end to answer any other questions and for further investigation.

Muir is a character that will stay with me for a long time for her resiliency, her love of nature, and for standing up for what is right in a system filled with so many wrongs. This is a MUST ADD and one of the few books I would say worth listening to the audio versus reading.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Six Feet Over It  and Up to This Pointe 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for your YA collection (some language and sexual content)