2021 was . . . a year, but at least we got some great reading done! After a lot of thought, we came up with our top two favorite books of the year (and it was very hard!).
Dark and Shallow Lies
By Ginny Myers Sain
432 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593403969 | Razorbill
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.
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.
By Xiran Jay Zhao
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269934 | Penguin Teen Canada
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.
From Little Tokyo, With Love
By Sarah Kuhn
432 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593327487 | Viking BFYR
If Rika’s life seems like the beginning of a familiar fairy tale – being an orphan with two bossy cousins and working away in her aunts’ business – she would be the first to reject that foolish notion. After all, she loves her family (even if her cousins were named after Disney characters), and with her biracial background, amazing judo skills, and red-hot temper, she doesn’t quite fit the princess mold. All that changes the instant she locks eyes with Grace Kimura, America’s reigning rom-com sweetheart, during the Nikkei Week Festival. From there, Rika embarks on a madcap adventure of hope and happiness – searching for clues that Grace is her long-lost mother, exploring Little Tokyo’s hidden treasures with cute actor Hank Chen, and maybe . . . finally finding a sense of belonging. But fairy tales are fiction and the real world isn’t so kind. Rika knows she’s setting herself up for disappointment, because happy endings don’t happen to girls like her. Should she walk away before she gets in even deeper, or let herself be swept away?
By Chelsea Mueller
256 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593180051 | Underlined
Release Date: May 4, 2021
What happens when the best night of your life turns into the worst? Full of menace and suspense, this is an unputdownable thriller – and a trade paperback original! Ten people share a prom house at the Jersey Shore for the weekend. Every one of them has a secret . . . and when they begin to die one by one, panic ensues. Could somebody’s prom date also be . . . a killer?
Walking in Two Worlds
By Wab Kinew
296 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269002 | Penguin Teen Canada
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.
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
By Crystal Maldonado
352 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823447176 | Holiday House
Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat. People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter. But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing – he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? Because it’s time people did.
The Gilded Ones
By Namina Forna
432 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984848697 | Delacorte BFYR
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity – and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death. Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki – near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat. Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be – not even Deka herself.