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February 15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more Diverse YA Fiction from Micro-Presses
While mainstream publishers are taking steps toward diversity, a large number of talented, diverse authors turn to micro-presses: publishing entities smaller than traditional small presses, and including self-publishing. Here is the first of our periodic roundups, this one including titles from the past three years.
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 or 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 communities.
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.
Juliet Takes a Breath. By Gabby Rivera. 2016. 274p. Riverdale Avenue, paper, $16.99 (9781626012516). Gr. 10–12.
“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 the Banana Republic.
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 people 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 young woman who may become the greatest mage her world has ever known.
The Spanish Club. By Danielle Burnette. 2014. 290p. Fine Kennings, paper, $14.99 (9780692269855). Gr. 9–12.
Three weeks before Brianna goes on a Spanish Club trip to Mexico, she discovers that she was adopted. Her parents don’t intend to tell her; she simply sees her birth certificate and realizes why her hands are slimmer than theirs, her hair less kinky. She begins to imagine where she might come from as she suffers déjà vu in different parts of Mexico and as people she meets identify her as possibly Colombian. In the midst of her anger and hurt (and in the midst of pursuing her crush, Enrique), Brianna fails to recognize that her best friend, Dana, is also struggling with a betrayal by her parents. Readers will question Brianna’s friendships and love story throughout the novel, and even the ending opens Brianna’s choices to critique. With engaging characters and a well-drawn depiction of a high-school trip, the book is absorbing reading, raising questions about how racial, national, and personal pasts affect our individual presents and futures.
The Unforgettables. By G. L. Tomas. 2016. 256p. Rebellious Valkyrie, paper, $8.20 (9781943773138). Gr. 9–12.
Half-Japanese, half-Welsh Paul Hiroshima hates that his parents left Chicago for Portland, Maine; and Haitian American Felicia Abelard struggles to make friends as a geeky, all-A’s black girl. Together, however, they make the Unforgettables: a superhero team able to overcome high school, dictatorial parents, pestering siblings, and even the biggest danger of all: falling in love with your best friend. Even the side characters of Paul and Felicia’s world resist being one-dimensional; the Portland of Tomas’ novel is surprisingly diverse. Paul’s younger brother is a boy who likes being a boy despite also liking “girly” things like nail polish and ponies, and even Felicia’s strict Christian mother loves exchanging recipes with the gay couple at her church. This new novel by a pseudonymous sibling pair is alive with the fun, affection, insecurities, and complexity of real people’s lives.
Zara Rix received her doctorate from the University of Connecticut, where she specialized in young adult literature.
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