Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Strange Birds

Image result for strange birds perez coverStrange Birds
Celia C. Perez
Kokile/Penguin, September, 2019 365 pages
Grades 4-8
Realistic Fiction

Four different and diverse girls tell the story of their unlikely friendship and path to activism. Lane pulls the group together, as she is stuck staying at her grandmother's Florida home for the summer while her parents work out their divorce. She invites the daughter of her grandmother's assistant as well, as finding two random outsiders, to join her new club in a tree house on Grandma's property. Home-schooled her whole life, Aster breaks away from her guardian Grandfather, who is convinced that the wealth belonging to Lane's family was stolen from his ancestors and is determined to prove it. Cat sheds awareness on the cause that brings them all together. She loves birds and is horrified when the organization for girls that her mother forces her to join features a hat covered with feathers taken from birds hunted for this purpose. The daughter of Grandma's assistant, Ofelia, longs to be a journalist and records the group's adventures as accurately as she can. Ofelia wants to join a seminar in New York City for future journalists, if only she can prove to her overprotective parents that she is responsible enough to handle the big city. As the summer progresses the friendship between the seemingly unconnected girls grows, as does their passion to "save the birds". In order to fight for their cause they must bend the rules a bit and take some chances, but it’s all in the name of aviary rights, so it can't be wrong, right?

I am a big fan of Celia Perez--and not just because she's a fellow public youth services librarian. I loved The First Rule of Punk and was anxious to read her sophomore novel. As in the first, this new title features feisty characters who are struggling to fit in and find their place in the world. All four girls have a chance to tell the story from their own perspectives. I had a hard time telling the girls apart sometimes and thought that an intro page with faces and names would not go amiss, but that could just be my fifty-year-old brain, which has too many characters floating around. Perez uses the birds to encourage readers to find their own passions and to stand up for what they believe in. Staying away from politics, the cause she picks will translate to the reader’s personal agenda and encourage them to take a stand. Yes, the girls break rules and take crazy chances, but they pay the price for their transgressions and manage to win others over to their sides without any permanent scars. Perez also questions traditions and treasures from our country's past that might now be hurtful in today's context, challenging readers to question what is handed down and giving permission to let go. At its core this is a story about friendship, finding acceptance, loyalty and trust. Readers will wish for their own supportive groups like the one formed in this book and envision themselves spending the summer scheming in a tree house for the greater good.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

King of the Mole People

Image result for king mole people coverKing of the Mole People
Paul Gilligan
Holt/Macmillan, 2019 247 pages
Grades 3-6
Humor/Graphic Hybrid

Our story begins with our hero, Doug Underbelly, on stage with the most popular girl in school when all of the sudden a giant worms pushes through the boards to the horrification of the audience. This sets the scene for what is to come. Doug has been crowned the "King of the Mole People" and as such must go to the underground kingdom whenever summoned to help solve the problems of these strange creatures. Doug has enough troubles fitting in without being forced underground in the muck and mold. He has one reluctant friend and is the punching bag for the school bullies. Even class weirdo, Magda, Makes fun of him. The Mole People understand his frustrations and try to help their king in his quest for popularity. Kids in school start to disappear and not show up for activities. This helps Doug rise to the top of the all of the activities he's attempting to get involved with, as he finds himself kicking the winning goal and landing the lead in the school play. Unfortunately, his victories are not of his own accomplishments, as his Mole friends are found to be involved in the disappearances. Life gets trickier as the Moles get into a war with the Slugs and Doug loses his crown to his megalomaniac adviser. He must team up with Magda to help his underground friends out, even if he would rather not be involved. Does Doug have what it takes to save the day?

At first glance this book seems like another fairly stupid graphic hybrid written to attract reluctant boy readers. Yes, there is potty humor and lots of gross mud and slime, but this silly book is a cut above the usual fare written for this audience. Even though there are plenty of comic-style illustrations, there is more text, almost tricking kids into reading more than they bargained for. The vocabulary is surprisingly advanced and readers may pick up a new word or two without realizing it. Yes, the plot involves helping save the civilization of the Mole People, but there are underlining themes of loyalty, friendship, being true to yourself and accepting others who may be different. Doug is a boy who lives next to a graveyard with an eccentric father. As much as he tries to be like all of the other kids, he is unique to himself, which can be difficult as a kid. Luckily, he finds a reluctant friend in Magda. It’s always easier to march to the beat of your own drummer if you have a buddy to march alongside you. Parts of the book are genuinely funny and the target audience will eat this title right up. The illustrations are well drawn and assist in the narration instead of being primarily decorative. The ending leads to a possible sequel--and then maybe a series. Give to the Big Nate/Wimpy Kid crowd for a sure-fire hit.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

COG

Image result for cog van eekhout coverCOG
Greg Van Eekhout
HarperCollins, October, 19 196 pages
Grades 3-7
Science Fiction/Adventure


Cog, which is short for "Cognitive Development" is a highly specialized and cutting-edge robot. He looks exactly like a boy and can learn, as well as feel pain and emotions. Cog lives a relatively simple life with scientist Gina, who developed him and makes constant changes to his systems. Gina is training Cog to adjust to the outside world and presents him with different stimuli, such as the grocery store, to help him learn through experience. After Cog explores on his own and gets hit by a truck trying to rescue a Chihuahua, everything changes. After blacking out, Cog wakes up in a strange laboratory, where Gina is nowhere to be seen. Instead a swarmy scientist named Nathan seems to have nefarious intentions and threatens to cut into Cog's brain. Cog manages to escape and takes a robotic dog, who is being abused through testing, a trashbot, who just wants to be fed, and ADA, who appears to be his sister and was also trained by Gina, but has been constructed for evil gains. The crew of new friends hijacks a state-of-the-art driverless smart car and hit the road to search for Gina. On the way they encounter many hazards including giant hotdogs, a flat tire, and arrest. Somehow they locate the secret laboratory where they think Gina resides. The problem is it’s on a private island that's heavily guarded. How will they break in? And how do they find Gina once they get there?

Van Eekhout presents a first person account of the adventures of a robotic boy who is trying to make sense of his world. It is interesting to see the events in the novel interpreted through Cog's eyes and voice and the reader learns what is happening and makes sense of events right along with our new friend. As the novel progresses, Cog discovers a secret power that Gina put into his make-up and Nathan wants to remove, which becomes a real game-changer for the escaping robot team. Cog's sister ADA is a robot designed for war, yet she also discovers things about herself that brings about character growth--robot style. I loved the robotic point of view and Van Eekhout never loses Cog's voice. Cog may be a robot, but readers will sympathize with him and root for the team’s success. The action never stops in this Escape to Witch Mountain-esqu journey to Gina and home. Cog would make a great movie and I would not be surprised if a movie studio picked it up. Both boys and girls will enjoy this action story with heart and it will appeal to reluctant readers. Perfect for those science fiction reports, it will be enjoyed by younger children not ready for heavier tomes and older readers who need something short and fast. Most of all, this book is fun, helps the imagination to soar and never gets boring. Robots are trending and this book will fill the bill for kids looking for more books on this topic.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Operatic

Image result for operatic kyo coverOperatic
Kyo Maclear
Byron Eggenschwiler, illustrator
Groundwood, 2019 160 pages
Grades 5-8
Graphic Novel

Charlie is given an assignment in music class to choose a song that defines this moment in her life. This is a very hard assignment in that she does not connect to music in a person way and is undergoing so many changes. Charlie and her friends are finishing eighth grade and about to enter high school with all of the changes and fears that entails. Meanwhile, she is still struggling with a crush on her classmate Emile, even though he doesn't seem to notice her. She also struggle with the empty desk pushed against the wall. That desk formally belonged to Luka, who was different than the other boys. His wore his hair long, sang embarrassing songs in a feminine way, and dressed in a style that other eighth grade boys teased. After sever bullying, Luka stopped going to school and Charlie not only misses him, but wishes she stood up for him. Meanwhile, the music teacher keeps playing different genres of music to find what resonates with the students. Surprisingly, it is the unusual beauty and rawness of Maria Callas that speaks to Charlie and she becomes interested in both opera and the life of her new idol. Maria Callas' struggles are highlighted as her life is told with red highlights. Charlie's life is told in yellow and the past with Luka's backstory is told in blue.

This may be the most beautiful graphic novel I have ever read. The story with its message of accepting people despite their differences, feeling like an outside, and the restorative power of music is lyrically told. We all have songs that define parts of our lives and I love that the teacher alerts his students to them. I also love a school where the music program is such that the kids all learn to play guitars and listen to different genres. Both author and illustrator are Canadian, so maybe that country puts more of an emphasis on the arts, unlike the stem-mad USA. Music certainly saves Charlie and brings her friends together in a healthy and healing way. The illustrations help to tell the story with beauty and intention and perfectly reflect the author's words. Although music is heard throughout the entire book, it is never directly represented by musical notes. Eggenschwiler depicts the music through creative, yet appropriate means allowing the reader to experience the notes visually without being hit over the head. The use of color helps to separate the three stories/time periods and help to place the reader in the proper timeline. A few wordless panels and amazing full-page spreads give the reader a chance to rest and take the book in, while spending a minute in the beauty of the music. The cover is lush and appealing, the pages are thick and creamy, and the design is exceptional. A true gem of a book in every way.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Secret of Nightingale Wood

The Secret of Nightingale Woods
Lucy Strange
Chicken House, 2017 304 pages
Grades 4-7
Mystery/Historical Fiction

It is 1919. The Great War is over and England is trying to put its pieces back together. Henrietta's (Henry) family has too many loose pieces to count since her brother Robert died the year before. Her mother has been suffering from a long and serious depression, so father moves the family out of London, where all of the memories lie, to a seaside town once visited in happier days. Father cannot bare the sadness and brokenness of the family and escapes abroad for business, leaving mother, Henry, and baby Piglet in the care of competent Nanny Jane.  Nanny Jane has her hands full and allows herself to be influenced by a local doctor, who believes that the best course of treatment for mother is to keep her in a drugged state in a locked room for "rest". He makes plans to take the baby and give her to his wife for "safe keeping", while conspiring to commit mother to a mental institution, where questionable methods are employed. Henry feels helpless and desperate. A walk in the woods leads her to a crumbling trailer where a woman resides, who is rumored to be a witch. Henry becomes friends with the witch, who offers her hope and advice. Who is this witch? And who is the mysterious man hovering on the cliff who appears to be watching Henry's small family? And what can she do to save mother and Piglet from the clutches of the evil doctor and his creepy wife?

I recently read Our Castle by the Sea and loved it so much I wanted to give Strange's first novel a try. Much in the same vein as Castle, this first book is a dark, atmospheric mystery set in Britain's past. Both books feature young female protagonists, who are left with a big mess and must save their families.  Who feel powerless, yet tap into the inner strength they didn't know they had. This book will appeal to fans of The War that Saved my Life with bits of The Secret Garden thrown in. There are mysterious figures, evil doers with whom our hero must battle, and kind adults that lend a hand. Sensitive readers may find the story disturbing in that it deals with severe mental illness and death. The setting is well conceived and readers are offered a slice of British life following the dark days of the first world war. The mystery is the identity of the witch and this is satisfyingly revealed. Another mystery is the exact circumstances of Robert's death, which Strange chooses not to reveal until towards the end. Readers will be frustrated by the behavior of Henry's father, yet he pulls through in a clutch, showing that even adults make mistakes, yet we can attempt to fix them. And indeed-all is fixed by book's end, but poor Henry deserves a happy ending and no one can begrudge her that, even if it is a bit unrealistic. An adventurous and surprising tale, give to kids who like their historical fiction with a dark and mysterious twist.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

With the Fire on High

Image result for fire on high acevedoWith the Fire on High
Elizabeth Acevedo
HarperCollins, 2019 400 pages
Grades 9-Up
Realistic Fiction

Teen Mom Emoni Santiago is struggling with finishing high school, taking care of her toddler daughter (with the help of her grandmother), and working a horrible fast-food job. Her favorite thing to do is cook and is blessed with the natural talent and ability to make people cry with her food. When a culinary arts class opens up in her magnet high school in Philadelphia, Emoni decided to give it a try, even though she knows she can't afford the week-long trip to Spain that is built into the curriculum. It is here that Emoni meets a cute boy, who seems to see past her looks and baby and is willing to get to know the real person underneath. Meanwhile, something is going on with Abuela. Why does she go to the doctor's so much? Is she sick? As senior year progresses, Emoni grows up and makes decisions about her future. She manages to travel with the class to Spain and that trip, as well as the culinary arts class, becomes a real game-changer. Graduation rolls around and Emoni has a plan. If only she had the money and support to make it work...

Acevedo's follow-up to her outstanding Poet X moves from poetry to prose, yet still embraces the grittiness of the hood. This sophomore novel is a bit fluffier than the first, yet is equally riveting and impossible to put down. Emoni attempts to keep many balls in the air at once, balancing school, motherhood, and work, which is no small feat for adults, let alone a teenager. Acevedo does not shy away from the sacrifices involved with teen parenting and although Emoni's life revolves around her daughter, she misses out on a lot of teen experiences. Readers will be happy to see her find love with a kind and understanding suiter and see her finally have a bit of a social life. They will be exposed to the realities behind teen parenting and the responsibility it entails. Emoni is very lucky in that she has discovered her gift in cooking and even luckier that she had the opportunity to take the class that leads her to her future. Many young people are not blessed with the mentorship that Emoni is offered and will hopefully try to seek out their own opportunities after reading this novel. All ends a little too happily, yet readers will be satisfied and relieved with the outcome. Armchair chefs may be inspired to turn off the Food Network and get into the kitchen to try to whip up something of their own. Sure to find a readership, this book may not be as beautifully crafted as Poet X, but is just as entertaining and certainly time well spent.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse

Image result for me sam-sam coverMe and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse
Susan Vaught
Simon & Schuster, 2019 309 pages
Grades 4-Up
Realistic Fiction/Mystery

Alternating chapters relate the story of Jesse, a middle school who is neurodivergent. Some of the chapters describe the events leading up to "apocalypse", while others tell what happens after the disaster hits. Life has not been easy for Jesse. She is constantly bullied in school, her mother is overseas in Iraq, and her teacher father is accused of and arrested for stealing money from the school's library fund. To make matters worse, she struggles with social cues, human touch and reading emotions. What Jesse does have is a loving and supportive family, a new friend who understands her named Springer, and a winning dog named Sam who Jesse is trying to train to sniff out hidden bombs, like her mother does in the military. Terrified of Dad getting sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, Jesse and Springer decide to crack the case and flush out the real culprit. Their search puts them in danger by further antagonizing the bullies and stirring up trouble with the school principal. As we see the events leading up to the climax that seems to signal the end of the world, both stories come together as Jesse, Springer, and Sam prove their courage and the mystery is solved. A final surprise awaits Jesse as she and Springer resume their friendship and adventures, both more confident and strong. An author's note at the end explains more about autism and Asperger's.

This book has a lot going on, but somehow it never feels frantic. On one hand it is a realistic problem novel about a girl with Asperger's who is being bullied and on the other it is a mystery to be solved by our amateur sleuth/heroes. There are actually two mysteries: who stole the money and what exactly caused the apocalypse. Readers will guess at what really is happening, yet Vaught does not come right out and tell us until the bitter end. The noise and chaos would certainly feel like the end of the world for someone on the Autistic spectrum and the response to events accurately portrays a person with sensory issues. Readers will be amazed and inspired by Jesse's courage and fierceness. She is a bold character who does not apologize for who she is. Contrastingly, Springer is a gentle giant with parental pressure to "man up". He also finds his inner courage and proves himself by book's end. The supportive friendship is a beautiful element of the novel and it is a gift that these two alternate thinkers have found each other. Vaught never fully reveals if Springer is on the spectrum as well, but evidence supports that he is, even if not formally diagnosed. A mystery on its own is interesting, but seeing it unfold through Jesse's eyes adds another layer. This is a satisfying read. The bullies are finally punished, the mystery is solved, we witness great character growth, and both protagonists’ families are happy and whole. Readers will breathe a sigh of relief and wait for Jesse and Springer to solve another mystery and have their adventures continue. Hand to fans of Erskine's Mockingbird, Draper's Out of My Mind or anything by Lynda Mullay Hunt.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Stargazing

Image result for stargazing jen wang\
Stargazing
Jen Wang
First Second, September, 2019 224 pages
Grades 3-7
Graphic Novel

Christine is a traditional Chinese-American daughter. She plays violin, does well academically, and obeys her parents in every way. When Moon moves next door, everything changes. Moon is everything Christine isn't: carefree, creative, and fearless. The most interesting thing is that Moon talks to celestial beings, who convince her that she belongs more to them than the planet earth. The two girls become unlikely friends. When school starts, Moon's confidence brings her popularity, even though she is different, and Christine feels a little jealous. Suddenly, everything changes as a medical tragedy strikes. Christine feels really weird and struggles with how to relate to her friend. Finally, she processes her feelings, figures it out and all is well that ends well.

This middle grade graphic novel from the highly popular teen author of The Prince and the Dressmaker will be equally as successful. Though written for a younger audience and more contemporary, Wang still throws in some gender-bending touches, as Moon is very androgynous, yet extremely comfortable in her own skin. Fans of smile and other graphic memoirs will appreciate this autobiographical account of the author's own experiences, complete with a note and actual photos at the end. Drawn with a manga feel, this graphic novel will be presented in full color and is well designed for the intended audience. Readers will draw from Moon's confidence and will hopefully learn to embrace that which makes them special, even if it does not align with cultural or familial expectations. The medical crisis comes as a surprise and readers will gasp and worry until the situation is resolved. Both characters are likable and relatable and this title is sure to find an eager audience. I plan on buying two, as it feed my insatiable fans of Roller GirlAwkwardReal Friends, and Pashmina and Be Prepared.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

My Jasper June

Image result for my jasper june cover
My Jasper June
Laurel Snyder
Harper Collins, September, 2019 291 pages
Grades 5-8
Realistic Fiction

Leah has very few expectations for the summer ahead. A family tragedy from the summer before has devastated her family and nothing is the same. Her parents have become ghosts and barely notice that she is around. With nothing planned for the summer and all of her friends distant both physically and emotionally, Leah takes to exploring the neighborhood. At a pond by an old farm she meets Jasper, who is living rough in an abandoned house after she escapes from an unhappy situation. Leah and Jasper have an instant connection and spend the ensuing month hanging out, watching tv and eating snacks. They are able to tell each other secrets about their pasts that they can't confess to anyone else and begin to trust and protect each other. Finally, Leah's parents tune into the fact that she has a new friend of whom they have never met and become concerned and curious. Leah meets a creepy homeless man and begins to worry about the safety of Jasper. The action comes to a head as Leah rushes to protect her new friend, just as her parents rush to protect her. Finally, Leah's family talks about the tragedy from the year before and make a plan to move forward. What will become of Jasper now that her homelessness is revealed to Leah's parents and what steps will the family take towards healing?


I am a big fan of Snyder's book Orphan Island from 2017 and, in fact, picked it as one of my top books of that year. Judging from the cover and the previous book I was expecting something slightly magical and fantastic. This new title is very different from this last work by the author. Snyder turns to gritty reality as she explores family tragedy and teen homelessness. Much of this book is sad, which will appeal to many of today's readers, who are clamoring for such titles. Leah is a very lonely and lost character with who the reader will sympathize. Luckily, positive resolution happens for both her and Jasper, which will allow the reader a sigh of relief, as most of the plot threads are sewn up in a satisfying manner. Not a lot happens in the book. It is more about character development and traces the friendship between the two girls. Readers will worry about Jasper and keep turning pages to see if she gets a forever home and finds safety. At nearly 300 pages the book felt long to me, but is a perfect representation of those long summer days that fall into each other with not much happening and feel as if frozen in time. It’s too bad it will not be released until September for it is a perfect summer book and I know a lot of readers I could recommend it to right now. At any rate, this is sure to be a popular title with middle grade readers and will circulate well in my library.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Year We Fell From Space

Image result for year we fell from space coverThe Year We Fell From Space
Amy Sarig King
Scholastic, October, 2019 262 pages
Grades 4-7
Realistic Fiction

Sixth grade Liberty, feels as if she fell from space, just like the meteor that fell from the sky, breaking windows in her home as it crashed. Dad has left the family for reasons not fully disclosed to her and nothing is the same. Both younger sister Jilly and Liberty miss him so much and as he keeps canceling schedule visits, they feel very confused and hurt. To make matters worse, Liberty is ostracized from the sixth grade when she refuses to have a boyfriend or be bossed around by her boy-crazy friend. When the friend loses her mother's diamond ring at a pretend wedding and Liberty picks it up, she makes a poor decision. Back home the meteor starts talking to her and navigates Liberty through the feelings she is experiencing about both her changing family and lack of friends. Seventh grade brings on the start of middle school and more transitions. Relations with Dad resume, only not in the way Liberty plans. The truth behind Dad's leaving is revealed and everyone is hurt, yet now can start to travel down the road to healing.

Critically acclaimed teen author, A.S. King, writes her sophomore novel for middle grade under the name Amy Sarig King. Still keeping her quirky plot touches (in this case a talking meteor), her middle grade is a bit less stream of consciousness and more tangible than her teen books. In this case, the title indicates the moment her dad left the family and the year that they attempt to reconstruct their family. Readers will recognize early on that the meteor isn't really talking: it is Liberty's subconscious revealing truths that she is not always ready to handle. As she mentally begins to cope with her new family dynamic, the meteor stops talking and goes back to being a meteor. Liberty is not the only fully developed character in this book. All of the characters are interesting, experience growth and contain many shades of grey. Adults are supportive, yet flawed, and even our protagonist makes bad choices, yet owns and fixes them by the end of the book. Chapters are short, helping the book to read quickly, with much of the action written in dialog. They are separated by beautiful black papers with stars, making for an unusual design. Liberty is interested in outer space and this will help draw-in scientific kids, who may not naturally gravitate towards fiction. Readers will learn truths such as that romance is not necessary for sixth graders and it’s okay for boys and girls to be friends, divorce effects the whole family, and everyone makes mistakes. Beyond this, sometimes, no matter how hard we want something, it doesn't always come out the way we hoped, but the new normal can be okay after all.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Okay Witch

Image result for okay witch steinkellnerThe Okay Witch
Emma Steinkellner
Simon & Schuster, Sept., 2019
Grades 3-7
Graphic Novel

It’s not easy being thirteen, especially when you discover quite by accident that you are magic. Moth has always known that she is different and struggles with connecting to other kids. Suddenly, things get really weird when she realizes that she can make things happen by wishing them so. After confessing to her mother what is going on, her mother has a confession of her own: they are descendants of early American witches from Salem days who are currently in hiding in a magical realm. Moth longs to discover this magical realm and to learn to wield her magic, only Mom has intentionally left that life and refuses to tap into her powers. Meanwhile, a new boy moves to town, who becomes a much needed friend with secrets of his own. A talking cat arrives on the scene to offer Moth advice as she navigates her new abilities, contributes to the town's Founder's Day celebration, and discovers a long-lost relative.

Kids love graphic novels. And they love fellow kids who can wield magic (i.e. Harry Potter). Readers will fall into the world of Moth and devour this book, wishing that they could tap into their own magical abilities and gain control over their own circumstances. Moth is a very relatable and likable character who will charm readers, as they experience the discovery of magical powers through her eyes. Her male best friend will invite boys to the story and help them feel comfortable with a book featuring a female protagonist. The wise talking cat will draw in fans of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which has enjoyed a recent reboot and a new audience. The plot is interesting, going back in time to the witch-hunt era of America. We meet other members of Moth's family as she is faced with the decision of joining the witches or staying with her loving, yet boring mother who refuses to teach her witchcraft. Debut graphic novelist, Steinkellner, combines fantasy and humor in way that will appeal to young readers. Her full-color illustrations will speak to the target audience and the panels scan well and are easy to navigate. A winning graphic novel from a new talent that is sure to be popular.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

On the Come Up

Image result for on the come up angie thomasOn the Come Up
Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray, 2019 464 pages
Grades 9-Up
Realistic Fiction

Bri Johnson's dream is to be a rapper, like her deceased father, who was gunned down by a gang at the height of his career. She has his abilities and motivation, but what she lacks is proper guidance. Bri's aunt is her agent, but gang business keeps her aunt from getting the job done. Mom is distracted by staying clean after eight years of sobriety, job hunting, and keeping food on the table and the lights on. Bri is bused to a magnet school for the arts, where security guards unfairly search and harass the students of color on a daily basis. One day Bri speaks out, which leads to an altercation with the guards and Bri is physically thrown onto the ground. In retaliation she records a rap lifting up all of the behaviors society accuses her of exhibiting called On the Come Up, which becomes a battle cry for all folks of color in the city. When a riot ensues at Bri's school and the kids are chanting her words, the song goes viral, the words get taken out of context, and Bri is labeled a thug. Her popularity skyrockets and she has a chance for stardom, but is this new image one that she is comfortable projecting?

Angie Thomas has chosen to set her sophomore novel in the same fictionalized neighborhood as her uber-popular and critically acclaimed The Hate U Give, yet although some of the events from the fore mentioned novel are discussed, there is no overlapping of characters. Bri and her family are trapped in a dangerous neighborhood with little chance of pulling themselves out of poverty. Making it in the hip-hop world is a ticket out and the temptation to sell-out is alluring. Bri has to decide for herself the person that she wants to be and the people that she surrounds herself with. Fans of the first book will be equally pleased with this second novel. I almost liked it better. I enjoyed the glimpse into hip-hop culture and found the story compelling. Even though the book is long, it reads fast and I was never bored. There were moments of severe discomfort for me while reading, as Bri made a few bad choices and lost her temper. This is realistic for a teenage girl thrown into this world with little training and guidance. She works it out by the end, but there were times that I found her character very frustrating. There is a light romance that will please readers. Minor characters are also well fleshed out and interesting. Younger teens will enjoy this book, but because of the strong language, I think it is more appropriate for older readers.