YOUNG ADULT

Foreword Reviews - - Contents - by Cather­ine Reed-thureson

Sleep­ing in My Jeans Con­nie King Leonard, Ooli­gan Press (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $16 (240pp) 978-1-947845-00-8

Con­nie King Leonard’s emo­tional and in­tense Sleep­ing in My Jeans is led by Mat­tie, a de­ter­mined six­teen-year-old who wants to go to col­lege and get a good job so that she can help her six-year-old sis­ter, Meg, do the same. Her plans are threat­ened when her mother’s boyfriend beats her mother up, and the fam­ily has to leave the home though they have nowhere to go.

Fam­ily trou­bles ex­tend be­yond do­mes­tic abuse and home­less­ness when the girls’ mother drops them off at the li­brary and does not re­turn. Mat­tie knows that her mother would never will­ingly leave; she is cer­tain that some­thing is ter­ri­bly wrong. In ad­di­tion to try­ing to keep both her­self and her sis­ter safe, she searches for her mother.

Mat­tie does not al­low her­self even the most ba­sic of com­forts. When Jack, a boy at school, tries to get to know her, she re­buffs him, though she longs for the friend­ship. It is painful to wit­ness her suf­fer­ing and to share her fear and lone­li­ness.

Though a work of fic­tion, the book deals with real young adult is­sues, in­clud­ing home­less­ness and vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Mat­tie’s sit­u­a­tion is not ro­man­ti­cized—she is hun­gry and tired and cold, and she fights hard to pro­tect her mom and sis­ter. Her or­deals leave se­ri­ous scars, but she never gives up.

Sleep­ing in My Jeans is an en­light­en­ing teen read; its se­ri­ous is­sues and com­pelling story make it im­pos­si­ble to for­get.

The XY Vir­ginia Bergin, Source­books Fire (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $17.99 (352pp), 978-1-4926-6217-4

Vir­ginia Bergin’s thought-pro­vok­ing dystopia The XY ex­plores what the world might look like if it was de­vel­oped only by women.

Over sixty years ago most men were wiped out by a virus. Those who re­mained were placed in sanc­tu­ar­ies for their own pro­tec­tion; since then, all boys are sent to sanc­tu­ar­ies shortly af­ter their birth. The world was re­built by women, and it is a very dif­fer­ent so­ci­ety than the one that came be­fore.

River has never seen a boy, though she has been taught that they are of­ten vi­o­lent and dan­ger­ous. When she comes across a sick young man ly­ing in the road, she is shocked and fright­ened but feels duty bound to help him. Her de­ci­sion changes ev­ery­thing.

On the sur­face, The XY seems to rely on gen­der stereo­types. The women’s so­ci­ety is peace­ful and safe; the two male char­ac­ters both ex­hibit ag­gres­sion. But there’s more to this story, in which men have be­come sec­ond-class cit­i­zens val­ued only for their sperm. The wo­man-dom­i­nated so­ci­ety still has many prob­lems, in­clud­ing crime and strug­gles over au­thor­ity.

River is an in­ter­est­ing lead who grew up largely without the in­flu­ence of gen­der ex­pec­ta­tions. She is free to think and act and be­come what­ever she chooses. Though her per­son­al­ity is not ex­plored in depth, her abil­ity to act ac­cord­ing to her per­sonal ethics shows her to be an in­de­pen­dent, strong young per­son.

The XY ex­plores ideas about stereo­types, power, and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity within a unique and in­trigu­ing world. It will leave its au­di­ence ques­tion­ing the role of gen­der in so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

Hearts Un­bro­ken Cyn­thia Leitich Smith, Can­dlewick Press (OC­TO­BER) Hard­cover $17.99 (304pp), 978-0-7636-8114-2

When Louise Wolfe’s boyfriend makes dis­parag­ing com­ments about Na­tive peo­ple, she breaks up with him. Af­ter all, she is part of the Musco­gee (Creek) Na­tion and proud of it. But in the small Kansas town her fam­ily has lived in for just over a year, she finds that prej­u­dice is qui­etly preva­lent. When the school mu­si­cal, The Wizard of Oz, is cast with sev­eral non­white stu­dents in lead­ing roles, those prej­u­dices quickly get much louder.

Hearts Un­bro­ken is a thought­ful story about racism in small-town Amer­ica. Louise, who writes for the school news­pa­per, and her younger brother Hughie, who earns the role of the Tin Man in the play, find them­selves at the cen­ter of the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the in­clu­sive cast­ing. They even re­ceive anony­mous notes telling them to get out of Kansas.

Louise is also fall­ing for a boy named Joey who works with her on the school pa­per. Joey is Le­banese, and though he is also sub­ject to dis­crim­i­na­tion and stereo­types, Louise is hes­i­tant to get too in­volved, fear­ing that she will be hurt if he can­not ac­cept her Na­tive eth­nic­ity.

Many kinds of prej­u­dice are shown, and Louise is not al­ways cer­tain how to re­spond. This in­sight­ful, com­plex take on a dif­fi­cult topic also ex­plores ques­tions of how to ap­pre­ci­ate art like The Wizard of Oz, whose au­thor, L. Frank Baum, was him­self out­spo­kenly racist. Even con­sid­er­ing its se­ri­ous­ness, the novel is fun to read, with charm­ing char­ac­ters and a nicely bal­anced teen ro­mance.

Thought-pro­vok­ing and en­gag­ing, Hearts Un­bro­ken will leave its young adult au­di­ence with a great deal to con­sider.

Mam­moth Jill Baguchin­sky, Turner (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $15.99 (304pp), 978-1-68442-194-7

Jill Baguchin­sky’s out­wardly light­hearted Mam­moth comes with an im­por­tant mes­sage. Natalie is a plus-size high school ju­nior who blogs about fash­ion and pa­le­on­tol­ogy. An op­por­tu­nity for a sum­mer in­tern­ship at the Mam­moth Site in Austin, Texas, is dream come true for her. Natalie is also scared, though. She has learned to al­ways act like she is awe­some even if she doesn’t feel it. Now she will be work­ing at a real dig site, and her pub­lic per­sona may not be enough to help her suc­ceed. Mam­moth is in­fused with dan­ger, de­ceit, and ro­mance. Natalie faces a num­ber of pro­fes­sional and per­sonal chal­lenges. Her per­for­mance at the dig site is ex­cep­tional, but her hero steals recog­ni­tion for one of her dis­cov­er­ies. She finds her­self com­pet­ing for the at­ten­tion of a boy who may not de­serve her. Her heart is al­ways in the right place, but she makes poor de­ci­sions that have se­ri­ous con­se­quences. Natalie is a com­plex lead. She deals with cruel judg­ment and ridicule, and she en­gages in self-harm: re­strict­ing her body with tight shapers in the Texas heat, not al­low­ing her­self to eat enough food, and snap­ping her wrist with a rub­ber band. She is also bright, tal­ented, and driven. Over the course of the story, she grows from a young wo­man who knows how to make the world think she is awe­some into some­one who knows that she is awe­some. With its fo­cus on STEM and self-ac­cep­tance, Mam­moth will res­onate.

Were­girl Typhon C. D. Bell, Chooseco (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $17.99 (400pp), 978-1-937133-60-3

Were­girl: Typhon is a fast-paced, in­tel­li­gent story about a young were­wolf and the fam­ily she is try­ing to main­tain.

Nessa and her sib­lings, Delphine and Nate, have come to live with their ec­cen­tric bil­lion­aire fa­ther, Daniel, af­ter the tragic loss of their mother. Daniel has been mostly ab­sent un­til now; the fam­ily must re­build it­self. Nessa is de­ter­mined to in­clude an­other sis­ter, CM, in the mix. Nessa just found out about CM, who was bred and born in a lab af­ter Delphine’s DNA was mixed with that of sev­eral an­i­mals.

Daniel’s drive to dis­cover the next new fron­tier in sci­ence takes prece­dence over ev­ery­thing else, in­clud­ing his fam­ily. Though he claims to love CM, he has sub­jected her to life in a lab. She has ex­tra­or­di­nary in­tel­li­gence and can read minds; she is an­gry, trusts no one, and longs to be hu­man.

An ex­cit­ing blend of sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy, the plot is driven for­ward by the hint of a pos­si­ble ro­mance be­tween Nessa and Bo, a young wo­man who leads a group of chil­dren who live in se­cret in Daniel’s for­est, as well as by in­trigue con­cern­ing the ex­tent of Daniel’s re­search and by the un­cer­tainty of CM’S role in the fam­ily. The nar­ra­tive prompts in­ter­est­ing ques­tions about what de­fines a hu­man be­ing, and ex­plores the moral and eth­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of sci­en­tific ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

Nessa is a com­pelling lead. She is strong, with an in­stinct to pro­tect those around her— es­pe­cially CM, who fright­ens her. Sup­port­ing char­ac­ters, par­tic­u­larly Daniel, Delphine, and CM, are all con­flicted in some way; they add com­plex­ity to the story.

This is the third book in a se­ries. There is lim­ited in­for­ma­tion about what oc­curred in the pre­vi­ous in­stall­ments, but this story is sat­is­fy­ing and stands well on its own. It is a thought-pro­vok­ing and thor­oughly en­joy­able book.

Se­crets of the Casa Rosada Alex Tem­blador, Piñata Books (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $12.95 (160pp), 978-1-55885-870-1

Alex Tem­bla­bor’s mag­i­cal Se­crets of the Casa Rosada fol­lows Martha Ge­orge, a six­teen-yearold girl whose root­less and im­pov­er­ished life with her mother shifts.

When Martha’s mom says they are go­ing to Texas to visit her mys­te­ri­ous grand­mother, Martha as­sumes that they are be­ing evicted and have no other place to go. She is hor­ri­fied and hurt when her mother aban­dons her in her grand­mother’s home. Martha speaks no Span­ish and her grand­mother speaks no English. Martha’s lone­li­ness is keenly felt, even when she is wel­comed by an un­ex­pected, large ex­tended fam­ily.

Martha is an amaz­ing lead, a young wo­man who is faced with a mul­ti­tude of dif­fi­cult ob­sta­cles but who does not hes­i­tate to adapt. She learns a new lan­guage and em­braces her new cir­cum­stances. She wants to learn as much as she can about her mother, but her grand­mother—a re­spected and feared healer, a cu­ran­dera —does not want to share any de­tails from her daugh­ter’s past, and the rest of the fam­ily will not cross her.

The book is evoca­tive with a strong sense of place. From the first page, Laredo, Texas, is de­scribed in beau­ti­ful sen­sory de­tail. The cul­ture of its pri­mar­ily Mex­i­can com­mu­nity is brought to life as Martha ex­plores her new en­vi­ron­ment.

Her grand­mother de­cides to teach her to be a cu­ran­dera, and Martha dis­cov­ers that she has a nat­u­ral ta­lent for it. She must care­fully nav­i­gate fam­ily se­crets, the awe and fear with which the com­mu­nity treats her grand­mother, and a fel­low teen’s baf­fling but dan­ger­ous hos­til­ity as she tries to find her place in this new world.

Se­crets of the Casa Rosada is a fas­ci­nat­ing story with a strong pro­tag­o­nist and a glimpse at some unique as­pects of tra­di­tional Mex­i­can cul­ture.

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