Four new recommendations to help make your Thanksgiving great!
Ms. Bartels Recommends
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This one was on my "to read" list this past summer. I figured it would be the perfect beach read, and it was. But it was so much better than your average beach read. It read like it was equal parts "Almost Famous," VH1's "Behind the Music," and "A Star is Born," but it was also wholly original and really well-written. I could visualize each character and hear them in my head. The descriptions of band life are so vivid and detailed the reader can practically smell the booze and sweat and smoke oozing out of every pore as this group fights and sings its way to stardom. It is this gritty realism that makes the book so compelling. There is nothing glorified here, nothing romanticized, until, unfortunately, the final ten pages, which read a bit too sentimental for my tastes.
"Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six: The band's album Aurora came to define the rock 'n' roll era of the late seventies, and an entire generation of girls wanted to grow up to be Daisy. But no one knows the reason behind the group's split on the night of their final concert at Chicago Stadium on July 12, 1979 . . . until now.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it's the rock 'n' roll she loves most. By the time she's twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she's pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 10+
Ms. Ricker Recommends
Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu
Eventown is a strong contender for the 2020 HM Mock Newbery. It easily made it into Round Three and students have been excited to talk about it. I enjoyed the world building in this book: Eventown is a perfect utopia where everyone walks instead of drives, the weather is always perfect, and the air smells like roses. This is the perfect place for Elodee's family to move to since they have recently experienced a trauma that has not yet been revealed. Elodee begins to notice that perfection has a cost. The ice cream parlor only has three flavors of ice cream and the books don't have any words – they're all blank. As Elodee questions the world around her (something that is frowned upon in Eventown), the perfect utopia starts falling apart and soon everyone has to confront the memories they've been trying to forget. Although the premise is good, the pacing is so slow that I'm not sure if students will actually enjoy this book. I imagine most readers will be able to guess what the memory is that the family is trying to avoid, which makes it hard to push through to get the anti-climactic reveal. I would recommend this to students who enjoyed Lois Lower's The Giver (which I also found slow), but if students want an action-packed dystopian novel that is still gentle enough for younger readers, I would probably steer them towards Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld or, my all-time favorite, Delirium by Lauren Oliver.
"The world tilted for Elodee this year, and now it's impossible for her to be the same as she was before. Not when her feelings have such a strong grip on her heart. Not when she and her twin sister, Naomi, seem to be drifting apart. So when Elodee's mom gets a new job in Eventown, moving seems like it might just fix everything.
Indeed, life in Eventown is comforting and exciting all at once. Their kitchen comes with a box of recipes for Elodee to try. Everyone takes the scenic way to school or work – past rows of rosebushes and unexpected waterfalls. On blueberry-picking field trips, every berry is perfectly ripe.
Sure, there are a few odd rules, and the houses all look exactly alike, but it's easy enough to explain – until Elodee realizes that there are only three ice cream flavors in Eventown. Ever. And they play only one song in music class.
Everything may be 'even' in Eventown, but is there a price to pay for perfection – and pretending?" ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 6+
Ms. Kazan Recommends
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
I enjoyed this sophomore novel by Angie Thomas even more than her roundly praised debut, The Hate U Give. Brianna is a dynamic, vibrant protagonist whose story pulls the reader in from page one. Thomas has an incredible ear for realistic teen dialogue and a keen understanding of the challenges faced by the characters who populate her novel. I love that Bri's mother, brother, and grandparents are fully formed, complicated people rather than clichéd secondary players. This novel is timely, relevant, and incredibly entertaining. No matter the reader's familiarity level with rap music, reading how Bri creates her songs is compelling and absorbing.
"Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri's got massive shoes to fill.
But it's hard to get your come up when you're labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral . . . for all the wrong reasons.
Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn't just want to make it – she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+
Ms. Matlin Recommends
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, illus. by Wendy Xu
The basics for the comic Mooncakes hooked me right away: magic as an academic subject; integrated queerness; super awesome grandmas; and a primarily female/non-binary cast. After reading it several times, I'm happy to say that the comic definitely lives up to the hype. Mooncakes is alternately an adorable first love story and magical adventure. It's hard for me to decide which parts I enjoyed more. Nova and Tam are both really amazing characters, with lots of layers to their respective identities. While the "slay the baddies" plot line is more about Tam, Nova's journey in aid of her friend leads to much more poignant growth. If you happened to read Mooncakes when it was a web comic, I'd still recommend trying the book. Wendy Xu's gorgeous, more recent artistic style has been applied to the earlier chapters making for a smoother visual read overall. As a bonus for this time of year, the book depicts the hands-down strangest Thanksgiving dinner scene I've ever read. I voted for Mooncakes for best graphic novel on Goodreads, so you know love for this one is real.
"A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.
Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers' bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.
Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 7+