As you may know, we’ve been doing #PenguinIcebreakers over on Instagram for the last year. Alexandra Leigh Young, author of Idol Gossip, decided to change things up by sending us her answers in written form – check them out below, along with our K-pop playlist inspired by our #Penguin10 titles!
#PenguinIcebreakers with Alexandra Leigh Young
What’s the weirdest/most random book on your bookshelf?
The most random book on my bookshelf has to be Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. Years ago, I was alone in a subway station in Manhattan late at night, waiting for a train back to Brooklyn, and I noticed a book had been abandoned on the bench next to me. On a whim, I picked it up and read it on the train all the way home. It ended up being one of my favorite books of all time, and I am so grateful to whoever left it there!
What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading Made in Korea by Sarah Suk and My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki.
What is the one book you tell everyone to read?
Earlier this year, I read Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor and recommended it to everyone in my life. I am a better person for having read that book.
What’s a unique or unexpected talent that you have?
Most people don’t know this, but I used to be a competitive pole vaulter in high school. I even held my school’s record until my best friend’s little sister broke it years later!
If you could be quarantined anywhere in the world, where would you be?
I was an exchange student in Hokkaido, Japan when I was in middle school, and I’ve continued to visit over the years. Japan makes me feel deeply nostalgic for my childhood, and it’s been calling to me during the pandemic.
Thanks, Alexandra! Make sure to check out Idol Gossip, in stores now!
Want some more K-pop (and YA) in your lives? Here’s our playlist of songs inspired by our #Penguin10!
By Alexandra Leigh Young
352 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536213645 | Walker Books US
Every Friday after school, seventeen-year-old Alice Choy and her little sister, Olivia, head to Myeongdong to sing karaoke. Back in San Francisco, when she still had friends and earthly possessions, Alice took regular singing lessons. But since their diplomat mom moved them to Seoul, her only musical outlet is vamping it up in a private karaoke booth to an audience of one: her loyal sister. Then a scout for Top10 Entertainment, one of the biggest K-pop companies, hears her and offers her a spot at their Star Academy. Can Alice navigate the culture clashes, egos, and extreme training practices of K-pop to lead her group onstage before a stadium of 50,000 chanting fans – and just maybe strike K-pop gold? Not if a certain influential blogger and the anti-fans get their way. . . . This debut novel is about standing out and fitting in, dreaming big and staying true. It will speak to fans of K-pop and to anyone who is trying to take their talents to the next level.
Earlier this week, we hosted our annual #PenguinTeenSocial where we played a bit of trivia, talked about summer reading, and, of course, revealed our #Penguin10 of 2021 – the top ten books you need to read this fall. Here are all ten titles . . . sorry in advance for how long your TBR is about to get.
Both Sides Now By Peyton Thomas 300 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover ISBN 9780735269750 | Penguin Teen Canada Release Date: August 24, 2021 There’s only one thing standing between Finch Kelly and a full-blown case of high school senioritis: the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Taking home the gold would not only be the pinnacle of Finch’s debating career, but the perfect way to launch himself into his next chapter: college in Washington, DC, and a history-making career as the first trans congressman. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, Finch could develop a teeny tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner, Jonah. Never mind that Finch has never considered whether he’s interested in more than just girls. And that dream of college in DC? Finch hasn’t exactly been accepted anywhere yet, let alone received the full-ride scholarship he’ll need to make this dream a reality. Worst of all, though, is this year’s topic for Nationals: transgender rights. If he wants to cinch the gold, and get into college, Finch might have to argue against his own humanity. People say there are two sides to every argument. But, as Finch is about to discover, some things – like who you are and who you love – are not up for debate.
Dark and Shallow Lies By Ginny Myers Sain 432 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover ISBN 9780593403969 | Razorbill Release Date: August 31, 2021 La Cachette, Louisiana, is the worst place to be if you have something to hide. This tiny town, where seventeen-year-old Grey spends her summers, is the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World – and the place where Elora Pellerin, Grey’s best friend, disappeared six months earlier. Grey can’t believe that Elora vanished into thin air any more than she can believe that nobody in a town full of psychics knows what happened. But as she digs into the night that Elora went missing, she begins to realize that everybody in town is hiding something – her grandmother Honey; her childhood crush Hart; and even her late mother, whose secrets continue to call to Grey from beyond the grave. When a mysterious stranger emerges from the bayou – a stormy-eyed boy with links to Elora and the town’s bloody history – Grey realizes that La Cachette’s past is far more present and dangerous than she’d ever understood. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who she can trust. In a town where secrets lurk just below the surface, and where a murderer is on the loose, nobody can be presumed innocent – and La Cachette’s dark and shallow lies may just rip the town apart.
Idol Gossip By Alexandra Leigh Young 352 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover ISBN 9781536213645 | Walker Books US Release Date: September 14, 2021 Every Friday after school, seventeen-year-old Alice Choy and her little sister, Olivia, head to Myeongdong to sing karaoke. Back in San Francisco, when she still had friends and earthly possessions, Alice took regular singing lessons. But since their diplomat mom moved them to Seoul, her only musical outlet is vamping it up in a private karaoke booth to an audience of one: her loyal sister. Then a scout for Top10 Entertainment, one of the biggest K-pop companies, hears her and offers her a spot at their Star Academy. Can Alice navigate the culture clashes, egos, and extreme training practices of K-pop to lead her group onstage before a stadium of 50,000 chanting fans – and just maybe strike K-pop gold? Not if a certain influential blogger and the anti-fans get their way . . . . This debut novel is about standing out and fitting in, dreaming big and staying true. It will speak to fans of K-pop and to anyone who is trying to take their talents to the next level.
Walking in Two Worlds By Wab Kinew 296 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover ISBN 9780735269002 | Penguin Teen Canada Release Date: September 14, 2021 Bugz is caught between two worlds. In the real world, she’s a shy and self-conscious Indigenous teen who faces the stresses of teenage angst and life on the Rez. But in the virtual world, her alter ego is not just confident but dominant in a massively multiplayer video game universe. Feng is a teen boy who has been sent from China to live with his aunt, a doctor on the Rez, after his online activity suggests he may be developing extremist sympathies. Meeting each other in real life, as well as in the virtual world, Bugz and Feng immediately relate to each other as outsiders and as avid gamers. And as their connection is strengthened through their virtual adventures, they find that they have much in common in the real world, too: both must decide what to do in the face of temptations and pitfalls, and both must grapple with the impacts of family challenges and community trauma. But betrayal threatens everything Bugz has built in the virtual world, as well as her relationships in the real world, and it will take all her newfound strength to restore her friendship with Feng and reconcile the parallel aspects of her life: the traditional and the mainstream, the east and the west, the real and the virtual.
Iron Widow By Xiran Jay Zhao 400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover ISBN 9780735269934 | Penguin Teen Canada Release Date: September 21, 2021 The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected – she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead. To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way – and stop more girls from being sacrificed.
When We Make It By Elisabet Velasquez 368 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover ISBN 9780593324486 | Dial BFYR Release Date: September 21, 2021 Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied. When We Make It is a love letter to girls who were taught to believe they would not make it at all. The verse is evocative and insightful, and readers are sure to be swept into Sarai’s world and rooting for her long after they close the book.
Beasts of Prey By Ayana Gray 496 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover ISBN 9780593405680 | Putnam BFYR Release Date: September 28, 2021 There’s no such thing as magic in the broken city of Lkossa, especially for sixteen-year-old Koffi, who holds a power within her that could only be described as magic – a power that if discovered could cost her life. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, Koffi knows the fearsome creatures in her care and paying off her family’s debts to secure their eventual freedom can be her only focus. But the night those she loves are gravely threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi finally unleashes the power she doesn’t fully understand, upending her life completely. As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six – an elite warrior – and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, Ekon encounters not only the Shetani – a vicious monster that has plagued the city for nearly a century and stalks his nightmares, but Koffi who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior. Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani could also be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon form a tentative alliance and together enter the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild, frightening magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.
Hunting by Stars By Cherie Dimaline 400 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback ISBN 9780735269651 | Penguin Teen Canada Years ago, when plagues and natural disasters killed millions of people, much of the world stopped dreaming. Without dreams, people are haunted, sick, mad, unable to rebuild. The government soon finds that the Indigenous people of North America have retained their dreams, an ability rumored to be housed in the very marrow of their bones. Soon, residential schools pop up – or are re-opened – across the land to bring in the dreamers and harvest their dreams. Seventeen-year-old French lost his family to these schools and has spent the years since heading north with his new found family: a group of other dreamers, who, like him, are trying to build and thrive as a community. But then French wakes up in a pitch-black room, locked in and alone for the first time in years, and he knows immediately where he is – and what it will take to escape. Meanwhile, out in the world, his found family searches for him and dodges new dangers – school Recruiters, a blood cult, even the land itself. When their paths finally collide, French must decide how far he is willing to go – and how many loved ones is he willing to betray – in order to survive. This engrossing, action-packed, deftly-drawn novel expands on the world of Cherie Dimaline’s award-winning The Marrow Thieves, and it will haunt readers long after they’ve turned the final page.
The Heartbreak Bakery By A.R. Capetta 352 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover ISBN 9781536216530 | Candlewick Release Date: October 12, 2021 Syd (no pronouns, please) has always dealt with big, hard-to-talk-about things by baking. Being dumped is no different, except now Syd is baking at the Proud Muffin, a queer bakery and community space in Austin. And everyone who eats Syd’s breakup brownies . . . breaks up. Even Vin and Alec, who own the Proud Muffin. And their breakup might take the bakery down with it. Being dumped is one thing; causing ripples of queer heartbreak through the community is another. But the cute bike delivery person, Harley (he or they, check the pronoun pin, it’s probably on the messenger bag), believes Syd about the magic baking. And Harley believes Syd’s magical baking can fix things, too – one recipe at a time.
Skin of the Sea By Natasha Bowen 320 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover ISBN 9780593120941 | Random House BFYR Release Date: November 9, 2021 Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata – a mermaid – collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home. But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi does the unthinkable – she saves his life, going against an ancient decree. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy it. To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail. . . . Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she doesn’t, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.
Once you’re done adding all these titles to your TBR, make sure to check out our K-pop playlist inspired by this list too!
If you missed the social, have no fear: we recorded it! Check it out on YouTube now and keep scrolling for our two playlists: the official #PenguinTeenSocial playlist and our “read these books if you like these Taylor Swift songs” list.
And if you attended and really enjoyed the synth-y vibes of our intro/outro music, here’s the link: