Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, October 19, 2018

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Teen Readers Recommend

You'll notice a new reviews category in today's Shelf Awareness: Teen Readers Recommend. This section is something we're hoping to run every few months, wherein we give teens space to talk about current and exciting YA titles.
To make sure teens remain the focus of YA, schools, libraries, independent bookstores and publishers are all working to amplify teen voices--it's important to have reader feedback, and the evaluations and criticisms young adults bring to the table are invaluable to YA literature.
The teen reviewers in today's issue, Rifal and Mohammed, were each given a few book options and then selected the titles they wanted to review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (HarperCollins) and Born Scared by Kevin Brooks (Candlewick Press). A Very Large Expanse of Sea features a Muslim teen's experience attending high school the year after 9/11; Born Scared depicts a teen with debilitating fear and anxiety who is forced to venture out into the world.
If you run a teen reading group, know teens or are a teen yourself who would be interested in reviewing for Shelf's Teen Readers Recommend, please reach out. Teens ages 16-18 can send an e-mail to this address with an attached 200-300-word essay introducing themselves and expressing their interest. Not only are they adding their voices to the conversation, they will also be compensated for their work. I adored working with Mohammed and Rifal and I hope you enjoy their reviews as much as I do. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Reading with... Ann Cleeves

photo: Micha Theiner
Ann Cleeves writes two series of crime novels, both of which have been turned into TV series airing on PBS. The Vera Stanhope books have been made into the ITV series Vera starring Brenda Blethyn. The Shetland novels feature Inspector Jimmy Perez and are being filmed by the BBC and titled ShetlandRaven Black, the first Shetland novel, won the CWA Gold Dagger; Wild Fire (Minotaur, September 4, 2018) is the final entry in the series. Cleeves lives in England.
On your nightstand now:
I'm reading Laura Lippman's Baltimore Blues at the moment. I've just come back from the Harrogate Crime-Writing Festival in Yorkshire and she was appearing there. This is an early book and I love it. There are piles of books on the nightstand waiting to be read, so I'll just pick one more--a proof copy of A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan. His last book, The Constant Soldier, was one of my recent favourites.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. It had everything I wanted to spark my imagination: a wild and exciting place, friendship and adventure.
Your top five authors:
This is impossible and depends on my mood and where I am. But today, now, here we go:
Sara Paretsky. I admire her courage and wish I was more like V.I., her central character.
Louise Penny. I've known Louise for many years, in the way that writers bump into each other at book festivals and events, and we've become friends. Her Three Pines books are deceptively simple, but the moral dilemmas explored are complex and challenging.
Arnaldur Indridason. My reading passion is crime in translation, and one of my favourites is Icelander Indridason.
Alain-Fournier. Another translated author, but this is very different. The Lost Domain (Le Grand Meaulnes) is his only novel. It's a rite-of-passage book about love and friendship written at the beginning of the 20th century. I love his depiction of the French countryside.
Graham Swift. A wonderful writer who captures place beautifully.
Book you've faked reading:
Ulysses by James Joyce. I've started reading it several times and really got into the swing of it, but never quite finished it.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Little Deaths by Emma Flint.
This is a fabulous debut novel. Although the author is English, the book is set in Queens, N.Y., in the '60s, and the description of place and the dialogue feels authentic.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Northumberland Coast by photographer Joe Cornish. I love the county of Northumberland, where I live. It runs from the River Tyne to the Scottish border. This is full of wonderful images of home.
Book you hid from your parents:
When I was a child, at night I hid everything, because I read on in bed much later than I was allowed to. During the day, I hid nothing. My parents were very open-minded and never censored my reading or decided what might be age-appropriate.
Book that changed your life:
A collection of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown short stories, discovered in my library. It turned me on to detective stories for adults. Before that I thought mysteries were only for children.
Favorite line from a book:
"Only connect" --from Howards End by E.M. Forster. We still need to break down boundaries of class and wealth.
Five books you'll never part with:
Hilbre: The Cheshire Island: Its History and Natural History. When we were first married, my husband and I lived for four years on this otherwise uninhabited tidal island and it reminds me of being young and the great adventure.
The RSPB Handbook of British Birds by Peter Holden and Tim Cleeves. My husband collaborated on this book. He was a passionate birder and it reminds me of him.
A Maigret Omnibus by Simenon. I stole this book from an elderly couple and still feel dreadful about it. (I borrowed it and never gave it back.) It would feel even worse if I gave it away.
The collected novels of Smollett. These very old books were given to me by university friends for my 18th birthday. I've never read them, and we packed them up every time we moved. It's too late to part with them now.
A Bird in the Hand by Ann Cleeves. This was my first novel, published in 1986. I was so excited to receive it. I have two copies of the first edition, one for each of my daughters.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. Not a great mystery, but a romantic love story.

Book Candy

Organizing Your Home Library

Mental Floss offered "7 expert tips and tricks for organizing your home library."


"The night Vincent was shot he saw it coming." CrimeReads quoted 25 of "Elmore Leonard's greatest opening lines."


William Sieghart collected his "top 10 poetry anthologies" for the Guardian.


Brightly offered tips for "how to get kids to read nonfiction."


Buzzfeed suggested "11 annoyances that make all book nerds swear under their breath."


Spoiled brats and ankle biters, for example. Merriam-Webster defined "8 words for other people's children."

Great Reads

Rediscover: The New York Trilogy

In 1985, Paul Auster's City of Glass introduced an important new voice in American postmodern fiction. After City of Glass, Auster wrote Ghosts (1986) and The Locked Room (1986). In 1987, these works were collected in a single volume as The New York Trilogy, a trio of meta-fictional detective stories full of experimental and ironic postmodern touches. In City of Glass, a strange case involving multiple layers of Paul Auster himself inserted in the book threatens the sanity of a writer turned private investigator. Ghosts finds a PI named Blue, trained by a man named Brown, tasked by a man called White to investigate a certain Black on Orange Street. The Locked Room, whose title references a popular scenario in mystery fiction, follows a struggling writer who steals the work and life of a vanished colleague.

Paul Auster has since published numerous works of fiction, screenplays, essays, memoirs and more. His major novels include Moon Palace (1989), The Music of Chance (1990), The Book of Illusions (2002), The Brooklyn Follies (2005) and, most recently, 4 3 2 1 (2017). On October 15, French publisher SP Books released a limited edition of The New York Trilogy featuring Auster's original handwritten manuscript and notes. SP Books, known for similar treatments to classic novels like Jane Eyre and Frankenstein, has 1,000 hand-numbered copies of The New York Trilogy available in iron gilded slipcases ($200, 9791095457558). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Its Colours They Are Fine

by Alan Spence

First published in 1977, Alan Spence's debut collection of stories, Its Colours They Are Fine, renders the environs and inhabitants of Glasgow with glass-like clarity.
This new edition of the celebrated collection features an introduction by Janice Galloway. The first stories offer a portrait of rough-and-tumble children who cause trouble in the city's many tenements. Spence's Scottish dialect captures the national character; adult biases, such as anti-Catholic prejudices, are transmitted in the speech of somewhat innocent children. Part two focuses on adults struggling to make a living against the cold, gray atmosphere of the city, while part three features a first-person narrator, a writer of sorts who travels between London and Glasgow.
The streets of Spence's Glasgow can be cruel and hardscrabble, but despite the dreary atmosphere, the miraculous is never out of reach; religious symbols abound. In "Tinsel," the trite Christmas decoration provides something of the everlasting in the eyes of the child protagonist. In "Silver in the Lamplight," Spence's impressionistic descriptions of the city add wonder to the narrative that focuses on juvenile characters causing mayhem. It's perhaps in "The Palace" that Spence offers the quintessential portrait of the Glasgow denizen. Two poor old men meet in an enclosed botanical garden, a refuge from the cold weather, and swap stories. One of the men is described as having "that tattered dignity." "His very eccentricity was a kind of affirmation," Spence writes. "There was life in his eyes, in his voice."
Its Colours They Are Fine is a Scottish classic that Americans will enjoy. The prose is as beautiful as it is bittersweet. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: This new edition of Alan Spence's classic story collection showcases the working-class ethos of Glasgow.

Canongate, $16, paperback, 272p., 9781786892973

Cry Wilderness

by Frank Capra

Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) was one of the most influential American filmmakers in the 20th century. In the mid-'60s, Capra wrote a novel but never released it. Published 50 years later, Cry Wilderness is a funny, sometimes brutal take on small towns, nature and what it means to be free. The narrator is Capra himself, presenting this tale as a (somewhat) plausible shaggy dog story about the community of Mono County, Calif., where he has a vacation home. Somewhere in the wilderness are two vagrants, Dry Rot and Bear Bait, who live off the land and the charity of others. When the businessmen of Mono aim to run the two out of the county, a policeman refuses to do the deed, leading to a legal battle inside the municipality with Capra as a major actor and witness. Cry Wilderness moves along like a farce, until its end, where Capra pulls the rug out from under the reader, showing how deathly serious his intentions are. It's a surprisingly assured book from a man who wrote only one.
The novel has a wonderfully conversational style. Capra waxes poetic about the incredible natural landscape of Mono, and his dialogue is as snappy and earnest as the best of his films. But there's a dark tinge to everything as well. Capra sees how the delicate balance between humanity and nature is constantly wobbling, and that the freedom of people to thrive and of nature to endure is in fact one and the same. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: The only novel by American filmmaker Frank Capra is a funny, thoughtful look at humanity's relationship to nature.

Rare Bird Books, $26.95, hardcover, 272p., 9781947856301

Mystery & Thriller

The Craftsman

by Sharon Bolton

"I have no means of knowing exactly what Patricia Wood suffered in the hours following her disappearance. I suppose I should consider that a blessing."
Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady of the Metropolitan Police ponders this in 1999, as she returns to the town where she started her career in 1969. She doesn't want to think about what poor little Patricia suffered, but she knows what happened to the kidnapped girl 30 years ago: Patricia was buried alive. In a casket. And she wasn't the only one.
The reason for Florence's revisit is to attend the funeral of the sadistic serial killer she hunted and captured three decades earlier. She's come to witness the final nail put in the man's coffin. But instead of the case being laid to rest, disturbing new clues surface to indicate this particular brand of evil is alive--and that someone has sinister plans for Florence.
Sharon Bolton's novels (Dead Woman Walking, Daisy in Chains) are known for their atmospheric creepiness, but she cranks up the dial even more in The Craftsman. Florence's--and the reader's--imagination goes to unsettling places in considering the horrors the victims endured. As if that isn't enough, Bolton throws in witchcraft, effigies, spells and night visits to cemeteries, making this a book you might want to read under a blanket in a room with the door locked. She's also known for strong female protagonists, and Florence and a coven of witches fit the bill. Sharp-eyed fans might guess some of the story's outcomes, but that doesn't take away from Bolton's well-earned reputation as a master craftswoman of suspense. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A Met Police assistant commissioner returns to the town where she captured a killer 30 years earlier, only to find the horrific killings may have continued.

Minotaur Books, $27.99, hardcover, 432p., 9781250300034

Graphic Books

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

by Ken Krimstein

Political thinker and philosopher Hannah Arendt was a genius, a survivor and a firebrand. Her distinctive perspective on politics and the human condition has influenced countless writers across genres and disciplines. Moreover, her advocacy of cultural critics like Walter Benjamin helped highlight their work. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt is a graphic novel that plays with memory and thought, most interested in particular points in her life than an encyclopedic retelling of her biography.
Ken Krimstein, a cartoonist whose work has been published in the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal, uses quick outlines and shade to create a world where lost loves and dead friends can emerge from the background to offer commentary or to interact with Arendt as she thinks through her work. There's a rushed quality to the pictures, but that is clearly purposeful, as if Krimstein wants his work to mirror the "escapes" he's depicting in his art. What's certainly clear is how deeply the author respects and understands his subject, beautifully elucidating key arguments in her work as well as defending her robust reputation as a thinker during her lifetime (and which has since come under attack in intellectual circles). The Three Escapes nicely introduces Arendt's life and work to those unfamiliar with her, but it may be best for fans who can pick up Krimstein's references and fully grasp the context of the scenes he lays out. Still, the book is a wonderful honoring of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Ken Krimstein's The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt is a lovely graphic novelization of the life of the political thinker.

Bloomsbury, $28, hardcover, 240p., 9781635571882

Biography & Memoir

Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border

by Octavio Solis

In its physical art form, a "retablo" is a devotional painting on a piece of repurposed metal, offered as a vow of thanks to a higher being for helping someone survive a crisis. Director and prolific playwright Octavio Solis interprets the retablo through the written word in 50 short pieces that soulfully revisit moments in his life as the U.S.-born son of Mexican immigrants. Retablos marvels in its demonstration of the vast understatement of the proverb "Good things come in small packages."
The introduction alone is worth the price of admission. Solis reflects on the foundation of the work ("true stories... filled with lies") and how memories evolve over time--creating life fables that elaborate on experiences, like "lace trimming on a tablecloth." Each piece recounts a specific memory, wholly satisfying even in its brevity.
The collection covers a spectrum of topics in nonlinear fashion, and Solis insightfully displays his own perceived shortcomings rather than painting over them. Particularly touching entries recall his hardworking parents, such as his mother's repeated and wistful drives past a pretty bungalow ("Our Other House"). Another instance is how Solis's perception of being a "junior" changes over the course of a day at work with his father ("First Day"). Solis's language is both lovely and discomfiting, compelling return visits to the borderlands of El Paso.
Taken as a whole, Retablos becomes a glorious mosaic, as if one has stepped back from a single piece of strikingly painted tin and watched a larger masterpiece emerge. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: Director and playwright Octavio Solis recounts his life growing up Hispanic at the U.S./Mexico border.

City Lights, $15.95, paperback, 168p., 9780872867864

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

by David W. Blight

David Blight (American Oracle) is a historian at Yale University who has studied Frederick Douglass and the Civil War for much of his career. Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom is a thorough, insightful and vivid examination of the man's personal, public and intellectual life.
Those who are familiar with Douglass (1818-1895) may know about his childhood and youth as he described them in his autobiographies. Born and raised a slave, Douglass spent nine years as a fugitive before becoming one of the greatest figures of the 19th century, a brilliant writer, speaker and advocate for abolition and women's rights. Liberals and conservatives have both embraced him, but his complexities made up a whole that was greater than any political category. In clear, energetic prose, Blight shows him with all his great virtues and human flaws, as a radical revolutionary, a genuine prophet and an original thinker who rarely shied away from paradoxes and ambivalences. "From his long experience, personal and public, he came to understand the utterly intertwined nature of light and darkness, love and hatred, life and death."
Blight casts a critical eye on the early autobiographies and does his best to locate the man behind them. He considers Douglass's "deep grounding in the Bible" and the influences of his friends, family and enemies. His access to the Walter O. Evans collection of Douglass material contributes to a better understanding of the final third of Douglass's life. This may be the definitive biography for years to come. --Sara Catterall

Discover: A thorough and insightful biography of the great 19th-century author, activist and speaker.

Simon & Schuster, $37.50, hardcover, 912p., 9781416590316


A Person of Pakistani Origins

by Ziauddin Sardar

A Person of Pakistani Origins is Ziauddin Sardar's ode to what he calls Pakistan's lost identity. The title refers to Sardar's personal odyssey as a British national reclaiming his South Asian roots through his love of Hindi cinema, passion for Urdu literature and poetry, and his large, unruly extended family.
Pakistan came into existence in 1947, a result of the British Empire's decision to partition India along religious lines at the end of almost 100 years of colonial rule. Yet the cultural roots and languages of the two countries remain intertwined: Sardar argues that one can't be properly considered without the other and concludes that Pakistan on its own is an incomplete nation. Sardar diagnoses the country as having a massive inferiority complex as a result of its isolation from its own history and the forced separation that severed its multicultural, multi-religious spiritual past. Instead of returning to its sub-continental roots, the country sold its soul to Saudi Arabia by accepting money and allowing Saudi-promoted religious fundamentalism to take root on its soil.
Despite vexing existential concerns, Pakistan exudes grace and beauty in its poetic language, stunning mountainous northern regions and the humanity of its people, Sardar continues. The country's exuberant national pride in its cricket team unites citizens of all socioeconomic backgrounds. To enjoy a successful future divorced from a troubled past, Sadar encourages Pakistan to embrace its greater Indian sub-continental identity. Moreover, he finds hope and promise in the Pakistani people's continued support for democratic rule. It remains to be seen whether the newly elected civilian leader, the spirited former cricketer Imran Khan, can lead the country toward a calmer, more prosperous future. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: This is a British cultural critic's impassioned reflection on identity, his own and Pakistan's, against the backdrop of the country's tumultuous 71-year-old history.

Hurst, $29.95, hardcover, 256p., 9781849049870

Current Events & Issues

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures

by America Ferrera, editor

What does it mean to be an American, especially if you're an immigrant or have immigrant parents? In this thought-provoking collection of essays, actor and political activist America Ferrera has gathered people she deeply admires to discuss the concept of being American. They are successful Olympic athletes, politicians, writers, actors and others who have faced racism and prejudice because they are not white or speak English with an accent.
Many of the stories reflect the turning point, most often in childhood, when the person was forced to recognize that they were indeed different from their peers; they ate different food, wore different clothes, celebrated different holidays or had unusual names. Some have been proud of their heritage and embraced it from the start while others felt shame until they grew older, only later learning to honor their dissimilarities along with the sacrifices and difficulties their parents and grandparents faced. Whether Mexican, Puerto Rican, from Central or South America or from a variety of Asian countries, each person has a story that pushes for reflection on what American identity really is--a concept that goes far beyond skin tone and language barriers. Ferrera writes, "We live as citizens of a country that does not always claim us or even see us, and yet, we continue to build, to create, and to compel it toward its own promise." It's high time the U.S. recognized all of its citizens, and American Like Me is a great way to start. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: In a timely and compelling discussion, Olympic athletes, politicians, writers and actors reflect on their varying heritage and American identity.

Gallery Books, $26, hardcover, 336p., 9781501180910


Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart

by Alice Walker, trans. by Manuel García Verdecia

In Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart, a collection of poetry rendered in English and Spanish, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker (The Color Purple) presents a new generation of readers with her harmonic writing and powerful insights. The collection begins with an introduction by the poet, who wishes to respond directly to the spiritual and existential pains of the contemporary moment by investigating an "inevitable need to circle the wound." The poems that follow, such as "The World Is Standing Up for Palestine" and "Especially to the Toddlers of Iran (and Other Countries) and Those Just Learning to Ride Bikes," confront a multitude of political conflicts. Many of the entries memorialize individuals--famous figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali, as well as unknowns like an Iraqi mother and a Nigerian family.
One of the first poems in the collection, "Breathing," sets a meditative tone for Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart. Walker's even tenor, simple language and thoughtful attention to detail create a soothing atmosphere, despite the politically charged and often upsetting subject matter. While she never flinches from describing the murder of innocents and the separation of families, Walker maintains her spirit and a sense of hope. To avoid getting lost in the immensity of widespread destruction and a slew of violent headlines, each poem makes the political, the distant and the professional deeply intimate. Again and again, ritualistically, she reiterates, "I am telling you/ Discouraged One/ we will win" and in this way connects disparate bodies with a concept as simple as the intake of breath. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: An ambitious collection of poetry by Alice Walker, Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart is an introspective consideration of suffering and hope.

37 Ink/Atria, $25, hardcover, 288p., 9781501179525

Children's & Young Adult


by Shauntay Grant, illus. by Eva Campbell

A modern girl daydreams of how life used to be in the once-thriving black community of Africville in Shauntay Grant (Up Home) and Eva Campbell's picture book collaboration.
Located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at "the end of the ocean,/ where waves come to rest/ and hug the harbor stones," Africville is a place, the child imagines, where "the houses lay out like a rainbow" and "home/ smells like/ sweet apple pie/ and blueberry duff." With berry picking "up over the hill," playing football at "the Caterpillar Tree," rafting "at Tibby's pond" and bonfires "burning red/ like the going-down sun," readers will savor the sweet vision of what life in Africville might have been like.
But, as the backmatter reveals, even though Africville was a "vibrant, self-sustaining community," tax-paying residents had to deal with all kinds of adversity. They lived without such basic services as "running water, sewers and paved roads" and their town became home to "all kinds of unpleasant facilities," including a slaughterhouse and a city dump. Africville was demolished in the 1960s and then, after plenty of opposition, was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 2002. Former residents later received an official apology from the City of Halifax, and "a replica of the community's church was built on its original site, and... now operates as a museum."
Evocative art, deftly rendered in oil and pastel on canvas, brings to life the heartfelt blending of past and present that coexists in this loving tribute to the Africville community. The final uplifting spreads depict an annual reunion festival now held at the town's original site. Though Africville is gone, young readers may find comfort in the book's final words: "memories turn to dreams, and dreams turn to hope, and hope never ends." --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: A young girl daydreams about the once-thriving community of Africville, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Groundwood Books, $18.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-7, 9781773060439

The Third Mushroom

by Jennifer L. Holm

"Scientists are not robots! We're human! We feel things deeply!" Ellie's grandpa Melvin, who went on a cross-country journey to discover a way to reverse aging in Jennifer L. Holm's The Fourteenth Goldfish, is still stuck in the body of a teenage boy. Melvin reluctantly enrolls in school, where he poses as Ellie's cousin; she's delighted to have him as her partner for the county science fair. Beyond taking advantage of his smarts, Ellie finds time with her teenaged Grandpa to be a reprieve from some of the less scientific aspects of life. Now in seventh grade, Ellie feels that things with her best friend, Raj, are on a precipice--"like I'm seeing Raj for the very first time." Confused by these feelings, Ellie is happy to dive into an experiment with Melvin focused on a sea creature with the ability to regrow missing body parts.
The Third Mushroom brims with experimentation--both in the lab and in life. Ellie and Melvin's science fair project, if successful, could have major implications in the medical field. Outside of the lab, Ellie's first experiences with love have unintended consequences. Holm's sequel is extremely funny, with surprising depth--thanks, in part, to Melvin's delightfully cantankerous spirit and insightful, aged wisdom. Beyond the stunning amount of trivia about scientists (the Herschel family, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, James Carroll, Jesse Lazear) sprinkled throughout, Ellie's supplementary notebook at book's end offers additional information in the form of short scientific biographies, books and websites. Holm demonstrates in The Third Mushroom science's beauty and elegance and the boldness it requires. --Kyla Paterno, former children's/YA book buyer

Discover: Ellie and her grandfather (who is still trapped in a teenager's body) begin a new lab experiment for the county science fair.

Random House, $16.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 8-12, 9781524719807

Teen Readers Recommend

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

by Tahereh Mafi

In A Very Large Expanse of Sea, Tahereh Mafi, author of the bestselling Shatter Me series, detours from her usual fantasy novels and, for the first time, takes a leap into the world of contemporary fiction.
The story is told through the eyes of Shirin, a daughter of Iranian immigrants, who is entering her second year of high school a year after September 11, 2001. Shirin, taunted not only at school but also on the streets, feels cast out, humiliated, angry, and forms a shell between her and the world. Then, she meets Ocean, a boy from a universe completely different from her own. Ocean, unaware of the extent of prejudice that lies outside his bubble of privilege, falls for Shirin. Although Shirin knows the difficulties of dating a white boy--her parents' and society's disapproval top of the list--her shell slowly shatters as she ventures into love.
Mafi gives vivid voice to an underrepresented audience in this story, which she has said is related to her own life and to growing up in the aftermath of that tragic day. She develops a connection between her characters and her readers through her candid accounts of prejudice and societal expectations in the United States. Her character development is outstanding as the story progresses: the complexity of Shirin and Ocean's characters grounds a realistic tale in which not only Muslim teens can find themselves, but a majority of young adults as well, regardless of faith. The teens' rich personalities, desires, powerful emotions and struggles come together to form a memorable work. An outstanding contemporary novel, A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a realistic love story that provides a much-needed perspective. --Rifal Imam, 17

Discover: A Muslim teen navigates her way through love and hate in the aftermath of 9/11 in Tahereh Mafi's A Very Large Expanse of Sea.

HarperCollins, $18.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 13-up, 9780062866561

Born Scared

by Kevin Brooks

Winner of the Carnegie Medal, the U.K.'s top prize for children's literature, Kevin Brooks (The Bunker Diary) writes in Born Scared about one teen's struggle with paralyzing anxiety.
Elliot has suffered from constant and extreme apprehension--bordering on terror--since birth. Every day, he fights to contain the beast within; he eloquently describes his "fear of fear itself" as "a truly monstrous thing, like a howling demon... an insatiable beast that keeps getting bigger and bigger all the time." It's okay though, as long as he has his yellow fear pills (Moloxetine) and a select group of people he trusts: the Doc, Mum, Auntie Shirley and Ellamay, the presence of his twin sister who died hours after they were born, and who lives on in his mind. When his fear pills run out and his mum and his auntie fail to bring him his prescription, he pushes down his fear and sets out in a snowstorm to travel the vast, seemingly insurmountable 527 yards to his aunt's house. Elliot, though, has no knowledge of the sinister plot that is keeping his aunt and mum tied up.
Brooks seems to write regardless of what others will think, not afraid to talk about sensitive topics, like mental illness described from a teen's perspective. He uses unconventional story designs and layouts, here rapidly switching perspectives between Elliot's skewed, terrified experience and the stories of the individuals he encounters who try to help him, hinder his process or even cause him pain. This adventurous story may be helpful in allowing readers to empathize with those who suffer from anxiety and is a great read for anyone interested in literature from writers not afraid to write outside social norms. --Mohammed Jahan, 17

Discover: A teen, with the help of the voice of his dead twin sister, overcomes mountainous challenges in Kevin Brooks's Born Scared.

Candlewick Press, $16.99, hardcover, 256p., ages 12-up, 9780763695651

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