Tundra Telegram: Books for a Wakanda Wild Side

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we check out the things that people are vibing (short for vibranium-ing) with on social media and recommend some forever heroic reads.  

This past weekend, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was released in theatres across North America. The Marvel superhero film had an opening weekend box office of $180 million, making it the year’s second largest movie opening, and the largest movie opening in November ever. In addition to the financial success, the film is also, reportedly, a hit with critics and a fitting tribute to the late star of the original Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman.

With the release of any new Black Panther movie (yes, we know there have only been two so far), our minds naturally turn to afrofuturism, and the many great books – particularly YA – that combines science-fiction, history, and technology to explore the African diaspora experience. If you’re a fan of T’Challa, Shuri, Okoye, and the entire Black Panther supporting cast, and have been wondered what to read (with the youngsters in your life or by yourself) to hit that same chord, we have a few recommendations for you.

PICTURE BOOKS

It may not surprise you to discover there aren’t that many science fiction picture books. (Why there aren’t is another story. There are so many ones based in fantasy!) But perhaps the most obvious scratch for your afrofuturist itch can be found in the Frank Berrios-authored Little Golden Books Black Panther (illustrated by Patrick Spaziante) and Shuri Is Brave (illustrated by Anthony Conley). The Black Panther and his sister Shuri are each featured defending the technological utopia of Wakanda in these picture books with a fun retro design.

It’s less science fiction than science fact that’s featured in Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, a picture book about an aspiring young astronaut who rouses her community (with a charisma worthy of T’Challa) to take a break from their various distractions and look to the skies for a rare comet appearance. (You can read more Rocket adventures with Rocket Says Clean Up!, but the astronaut stuff seemed more futuristic.)

Finally, STEM enthusiast Ruby does some futuristic things in This Is Ruby by Sara O’Leary and Alea Marley. Ruby is curious about her world, which leads to her inventing things like a time machine and a book with smells instead of words (so dogs can read it). And illustrator Alea Marley has depicted Ruby growing up in Caribbean, based on her own youth in Barbados.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

A futuristic amusement park in – or rather over – Atlanta? You’ll find it Futureland: Battle for the Park by H. D. Hunter. When an extraordinary flying theme park where you can live out your wildest dreams arrives above Atlanta, it’s up to one boy – Cam Walker, the son of the park’s famous creators – to stop a sinister force from stealing the park’s technology and taking over the world.

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor is the perfect read if you’re looking for more African superheroes with superpowered family legacies. Nnamdi is a twelve-year-old boy whose father was the chief of police in their town in Nigeria until he was killed. But with his death, Nnamdi inherits a magical Ikenga figurine that allows him to transform into a huge and powerful monster, in a superhero origin story steeped in Igbo spiritualism.

Let’s be clear: there’s nothing futuristic or supernatural in Tight by Torrey Maldonado, a realistic and contemporary coming-of-age story. But the lead character Bryan loves reading comics and drawing superheroes – and relies on them and their guidance, in fact, when trying to escape the drama in his life. Especially when that drama is a new friend who might be pressuring him to do things he doesn’t want to. Tight shows how superheroes like Black Panther can lead us all on the right path.

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi is about a kid, Ebony Grace Norfleet, who loves everything science fiction. Her grandfather, who raises her, was one of the first Black engineers at NASA. An ds long as she can remember, Ebony has loved all things Star Trek and Star Wars. When Ebony is sent to live with her father in Harlem, she has trouble finding her place as a lover of all things space, but she finds even the big city can make room for stargazers.

YOUNG ADULT

If you’re looking for a YA novel that manages to be afrofuturist, superheroic, AND have connections to Hollywood, you want Nubia: The Awakening, the first book in a new series by acclaimed actor Omar Epps (Love & Basketball, House) and Clarence A. Haynes. The story follows three teens – Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho – the children of refugees from a fallen African utopia, who must navigate their newfound powers in a climate-ravaged New York City. It’s like X-Men meets Black Panther who team up to tackle class stratification and the climate crisis – who doesn’t want to read that?

Tochi Onyebuchi has been carrying the afrofuturist torch in YA for some time now, and his War Girls (and the follow-up, Rebel Sisters) are must-reads. Onyii and Ify star as two sisters in the futuristic, post-apocalyptic Nigeria of 2172 (where people fight in flying mech suits, which rules) who are willing to fight their way to a better future – but soon find themselves at battle with one another. Like the best afrofuturist fiction, it combines future with history, as Onyebuchi used the Nigerian civil war of the 1960s and 1970s as inspiration.

For a real charcuterie platter of some of the best afrofuturist women authors working in YA today, check out A Phoenix First Must Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell, and featuring stories from Dhonielle Clayton, Ashley Woodfolk, Alaya Dawn Johnston, and many more. Alternate planets, soucouyants, dystopian future societies – this anthology has something for everyone.

Finally, the name Nnedi Okorafor has come up before – and with good reason: she’s one of the foremost authors of afrofuturist books and comics working today. Binti: The Complete Trilogy collects her Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning series that follows one extraordinary girl’s space journey from her home to distant Oomza University – a journey waylaid by an attack by the jellyfish-like Medusae on Binti’s spaceship. It’s an attack that leaves her the only survivor on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, and an event that leads to Binti herself trying to broker peace between two different species.

Wakanda forever, friends! See you in the (afro)future!

Spring-Summer 2022 Sequels

Some of our fave books have sequels coming out this year and we can’t wait to get back into those worlds. Here are some of the ones we’ve read and loved so far:

Akata Woman
By Nnedi Okorafor
416 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780451480583 | Viking BFYR
From the moment Sunny Nwazue discovered she had mystical energy flowing in her blood, she sought to understand and control her powers. Throughout her adventures in Akata Witch and Akata Warrior, she had to navigate the balance between nearly everything in her life – America and Nigeria, the “normal” world and the one infused with juju, human and spirit, good daughter and powerful Leopard Person. Now, those hard lessons and abilities are put to the test in a quest so dangerous and fantastical, it would be madness to go . . . but may destroy the world if she does not. With the help of her friends, Sunny embarks on a mission to find a precious object hidden deep in an otherworldly realm. Defeating the guardians of the prize will take more from Sunny than she has to give, and triumph will mean she will be forever changed.

Bound by Firelight
By Dana Swift
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593124253 | Delacorte Press
After a magical eruption devastates the kingdom of Belwar, royal heir Adraa is falsely accused of masterminding the destruction and forced to stand trial in front of her people, who see her as a monster. Adraa’s punishment? Imprisonment in the Dome, an impenetrable, magic-infused fortress filled with Belwar’s nastiest criminals – many of whom Adraa put there herself. And they want her to pay. Jatin, the royal heir to Naupure, has been Adraa’s betrothed, nemesis, and fellow masked vigilante . . . but now he’s just a boy waiting to ask her the biggest question of their lives. First, though, he’s going to have to do the impossible: break Adraa out of the Dome. And he won’t be able to do it without help from the unlikeliest of sources – a girl from his past with a secret that could put them all at risk. Time is running out, and the horrors Adraa faces in the Dome are second only to the plot to destabilize and destroy their kingdoms. But Adraa and Jatin have saved the world once already . . . Now, can they save themselves?

Crimson Reign
By Amélie Wen Zhao
496 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525707875 | Delacorte Press
The Red Tigress, Anastacya Mikhailov, has lost the gift she was only beginning to realize defined her. Stolen from her during the battle in Bregon, her blood Affinity rests with Sorsha Farrald, a dangerous Affinite who is on the run, headed straight to Cyrilia and to Ana’s aunt . . . the Empress Morganya. Thought she is weakened, Ana’s course remains true – yet her return to her homeland reveals a Cyrilia on the brink of collapse. Morganya’s tyrannical rule has transformed into a sinister quest for unquestioned authority, and she has set her sights far beyond Cyrilia. Morganya seeks a legendary ancient power, rumored to have once belonged to the Deities themselves. If she can locate it, she can rule the world. What’s more, Ana’s allies, the insurgent Affinite rebels known as the Redcloaks, no longer support her. For their allegiance is with the people – and there can be no equality with a monarchy. Ana faces enemies at every turn, and every day without her Affinity brings her closer to death. Yet she is determined to liberate her people and vanquish the legacy of her own imperial bloodline the inequality sewn into the fabric of her land. Her only hope lies in the navy she recruited in Bregon, the courage of her band of friends, and the cunning crime-lord-turned-captain she’s fallen for. If Ana loses this fight, it will be her last. And Morganya’s reign of darkness with consume the world.

In the Serpent’s Wake
By Rachel Hartman
512 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780385685917 | Penguin Teen Canada
Tess has a mission from the Queen: sail across the oceans to the bottom of the world and prevent a war. Unbeknownst to the Queen, Tess also intends to find the last World Serpent – a once-mythical creature with the magical ability to heal her best friend Pathka from a life-threatening injury. Tess never was one to follow the rules and this self-assigned mission feels like her duty, her calling, her destiny. Destiny has other ideas. When someone from Tess’s past makes a surprise return, old wounds are cracked open, throwing her mission – both the Queen’s and Tess’s personal agenda – into complete disarray. What’s more, Tess’s personal pain is intertwined with a history greater than her own and the mending of it threatens the delicate balance of the entire Southlands. Tess was sent on this journey to prevent a war, but she may be starting one of her own.

The Montague Twins #2: The Devil’s Music
By Nathan Page
Illustrated by Drew Shannon
320 Pages | 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780525646815 | Knopf BFYR
Alastair, Pete, Charlie, and Rachel aren’t just magical teen detectives in their coastal town of Port Howl – they are also members of a local teen rock band. Before a show one night, Charlie and Rachel meet a famous rockstar, Gideon, and invite him to their show. He’ll never come, but why not try, right? Little do they know, Gideon does show up, and he brings the threads of his dark past with him. In fact, he might even be the source of the rumored Devil’s Music, a limited-release song that entrances all of its listeners in a deadly hypnosis. When Pete quickly gets drawn into Gideon’s web, it’s up to his brother and friends to save him. But Pete might not be the only Montague Twin at risk for Gideon’s spell . . . .

And here are three coming out soon (but not soon enough)!

Rivals
By Katharine McGee
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593429709 | Random House BFYR
Beatrice is queen, and for the American royal family, everything is about to change. Relationships will be tested. Princess Samantha is in love with Lord Marshall Davis – but the more serious they get, the more complicated things become. Is Sam destined to repeat her string of broken relationships . . . and this time will the broken heart be her own? Strangers will become friends. Beatrice is representing America at the greatest convocation of kings and queens in the world. When she meets a glamorous foreign princess, she gets drawn into the inner circle . . . but at what cost? And rivals will become allies. Nina and Daphne have spent years competing for Prince Jefferson. Now they have something in common: they both want to take down manipulative Lady Gabriella Madison. Can these enemies join forces, or will old rivalries stand in the way?

The Gifts That Bind Us
By Caroline O’Donoghue
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536222227 | Walker Books
It’s senior year, and Maeve and her friends are practicing and strengthening their mystical powers, while Maeve’s new relationship with Roe is exhilarating. But as Roe’s rock star dreams start to take shape, and Fiona and Lily make plans for faraway colleges, Maeve, who struggles in school, worries about life without them – will she be selling incense here in Kilbeg, Ireland, until she’s fifty? Alarm bells sound for the coven when the Children of Brigid, a right-wing religious organization, quickly gains influence throughout the city – and when its charismatic front man starts visiting Maeve in her dreams. When Maeve’s power starts to wane, the friends realize that all the local magic is being drained – or rather, stolen. With lines increasingly blurred between friend and foe, the supernatural and the psychological, Maeve and the others must band together to protect the place, and the people, they love.

The Merciless Ones
By Namina Forna
464 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984848727 | Delacorte Press
It’s been six months since Deka has freed the goddesses and discovered who she really is. There are now wars waging across the kingdom. Oterans now think jatu are traitors to the nation. Deka is called a monster. But the real battle has only just begun and Deka must lead the charge. Deka is tasked with freeing the rest of the goddesses. Only as she begins to free them, she begins to see a strange symbol everywhere in places of worship and worn on armor. There’s something unnatural about that symbol; just looking at it makes Deka lose her senses. Even worse, it seems to repel her powers. She can’t command or communicate with the new deathshrieks. In fact, she can’t even understand them when they speak. Deka knows freeing the goddesses is just the beginning. She can tell whatever dark force out is powerful and there is something sinister out there threatening the kingdom connected to that symbol – something merciless – that her army will need to stop before humanity crumbles. But Deka’s powers are only getting stronger . . . and her strongest weapon could be herself.

Which sequels are you waiting for??

Five Women’s History Month Recommendations

March is Women’s History Month! There are SO many books we could recommend but we limited ourselves to a fierce five for now, including a sci-fi alternate history, a reimaging of a classic, and an epic conclusion to a fantasy trilogy.

Akata Woman
By Nnedi Okorafor
416 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780451480583 | Viking BFYR
From the moment Sunny Nwazue discovered she had mystical energy flowing in her blood, she sought to understand and control her powers. Throughout her adventures in Akata Witch and Akata Warrior, she had to navigate the balance between nearly everything in her life – America and Nigeria, the “normal” world and the one infused with juju, human and spirit, good daughter and powerful Leopard Person. Now, those hard lessons and abilities are put to the test in a quest so dangerous and fantastical, it would be madness to go . . . but may destroy the world if she does not. With the help of her friends, Sunny embarks on a mission to find a precious object hidden deep in an otherworldly realm. Defeating the guardians of the prize will take more from Sunny than she has to give, and triumph will mean she will be forever changed.

Fight Like a Girl
By Sheena Kamal
272 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265578 | Penguin Teen Canada
Love and violence. In some families they’re bound up together, dysfunctional and poisonous, passed from generation to generation like eye color or a quirk of smile. Trisha’s trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent. Her father comes and goes as he pleases, his presence adding a layer of tension to the Toronto east-end townhouse that Trisha and her mom call home, every punch he lands on her mother carving itself indelibly into Trisha’s mind. Until the night he wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner’s permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Her father is killed, and her mother seems strangely at peace. Lighter, somehow. Trisha doesn’t know exactly what happened that night, but she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. Her mom has a new man in her life and the patterns, they are repeating.

Great or Nothing
By Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, and Jessica Spotswood
400 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593372593 | Delacorte BFYR
In the fall of 1942, the United States is still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor. While the US starts sending troops to the front, the March family of Concord, Massachusetts grieves their own enormous loss: the death of their daughter, Beth. Under the strain of their grief, Beth’s remaining sisters fracture, each going their own way with Jo nursing her wounds and building planes in Connecticut, Meg holding down the home front with Marmee, and Amy living a secret life as a Red Cross volunteer in London – the same city where one Mr. Theodore Laurence is stationed as an army pilot. A reimaging of Little Women, each March sister’s point of view is written by a separate author, three in prose and Beth’s in verse, still holding the family together from beyond the grave. Woven together, these threads tell a story of finding one’s way in a world undergoing catastrophic change.

Iron Widow
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.

The Silver Blonde
By Elizabeth Ross
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780385741484 | Delacorte BFYR
Hollywood, 1946. The war is over, and eighteen-year-old Clara Berg spends her days shelving reels as a vault girl at Silver Pacific Studios, with all her dreams pinned on getting a break in film editing. That and a real date with handsome yet unpredictable screenwriter Gil. But when she returns a reel of film to storage one night, Clara stumbles across the lifeless body of a woman in Vault 5. The costume, the makeup, the ash-blond hair are unmistakable – it has to be Babe Bannon, A-list star. And it looks like murder. Suddenly Clara’s world is in free-fall, her future in movies upended – not to mention that her refugee parents are planning to return to Germany and don’t want her to set foot on the studio lot again. As the Silver Blonde murder ignites Tinseltown, rumors and accusations swirl. The studio wants a quick solve, but the facts of the case keep shifting. Nothing is what it seems – not even the victim. Clara finds herself drawn, inevitably, to the murder investigation, and the dark side of Hollywood. But how far is she willing to go to find the truth?

Black Authors To Read in February

February is Black History Month and while we believe you should be reading books by Black creators all year, we’ve made a list of a dozen of our fave books by Black authors you should add to your TBR right away. If you want more recommendations, check out our post for younger readers or our list for World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture.

Akata Woman
By Nnedi Okorafor
416 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780451480583 | Viking BFYR
From the moment Sunny Nwazue discovered she had mystical energy flowing in her blood, she sought to understand and control her powers. Throughout her adventures in Akata Witch and Akata Warrior, she had to navigate the balance between nearly everything in her life – America and Nigeria, the “normal” world and the one infused with juju, human and spirit, good daughter and powerful Leopard Person. Now, those hard lessons and abilities are put to the test in a quest so dangerous and fantastical, it would be madness to go . . . but may destroy the world if she does not. With the help of her friends, Sunny embarks on a mission to find a precious object hidden deep in an otherworldly realm. Defeating the guardians of the prize will take more from Sunny than she has to give, and triumph will mean she will be forever changed.

And We Rise
By Erica Martin
160 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593352526 | Viking BFYR
In stunning verse and vivid use of white space, Erica Martin’s debut poetry collection walks readers through the Civil Rights Movement – from the well-documented events that shaped the nation’s treatment of Black people, beginning with the “Separate but Equal” ruling – and introduces lesser-known figures and moments that were just as crucial to the Movement and our nation’s centuries-long fight for justice and equality. A poignant, powerful, all-too-timely collection that is both a vital history lesson and much-needed conversation starter in our modern world. Complete with historical photographs, author’s note, chronology of events, research, and sources.

Bad Witch Burning
By Jessica Lewis
352 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593177389 | Delacorte BFRY
Katrell can talk to the dead. And she wishes it made more money. She’s been able to support her unemployed mother – and Mom’s deadbeat-boyfriend-of-the-week – so far, but it isn’t enough. Money’s still tight, and to complicate things, Katrell has started to draw attention. Not from this world – from beyond. And it comes with a warning: STOP or there will be consequences. Katrell is willing to call the ghosts on their bluff; she has no choice. What do ghosts know of having sleep for dinner? But when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this lucrative new business go. Only magic isn’t free, and dark forces are coming to collect. Now Katrell faces a choice: resign herself to poverty, or confront the darkness before it’s too late.

Bitter
By Akwaeke Emezi
272 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593309032 | Knopf BFYR
After a childhood in foster care, Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside this haven, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the city of Lucille. Bitter’s instinct is to stay safe within the walls of Eucalyptus . . . but  her  friends  aren’t  willing  to  settle  for  a  world  that’s  so  far  away from what they deserve. Pulled between old friendships, her artistic passion, and a new romance, Bitter isn’t sure where she  belongs – in  the  studio  or  in  the  streets.  And  if  she  does  find a way to help the revolution while being true to who she is, she must also ask: at what cost? This  timely  and  riveting  novel – a  companion  to  the  National  Book Award finalist Pet—explores the power of youth, protest, and art.

Instructions for Dancing
By Nicola Yoon
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271234 | Penguin Teen Canada
Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually. As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything – including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met. Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

Off the Record
By Camryn Garrett
320 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984829993 | Knopf BFYR
Ever since seventeen-year-old Josie Wright can remember, writing has been her identity, the thing that grounds her when everything else is a garbage fire. So when she wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine, she’s equal parts excited and scared, but also ready. She’s got this. Soon Josie is jetting off on a multi-city tour, rubbing elbows with sparkly celebrities, frenetic handlers, stone-faced producers, and eccentric stylists. She even finds herself catching feelings for the subject of her profile, dazzling young newcomer Marius Canet. Josie’s world is expanding so rapidly, she doesn’t know whether she’s flying or falling. But when a young actress lets her in on a terrible secret, the answer is clear: she’s in over her head. One woman’s account leads to another and another. Josie wants to expose the man responsible, but she’s reluctant to speak up, unsure if this is her story to tell. What if she lets down the women who have entrusted her with their stories? What if this ends her writing career before it even begins? There are so many reasons not to go ahead, but if Josie doesn’t step up, who will?

Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman
By Kristen R. Lee
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593309155 | Crown BFYR
Savannah Howard sacrificed her high school social life to make sure she got into a top college. Her sights were set on an HBCU, but when she is accepted to the ivy-covered walls of Wooddale University on a full ride, how can she say no? Wooddale is far from the perfectly manicured community it sells on its brochures, though. Savannah has barely unpacked before she comes face to face with microaggressions stemming from racism and elitism. Then Clive Wilmington’s statue is vandalized with blackface. The prime suspect? Lucas Cunningham, Wooddale’s most popular student and son of a local prominent family. Soon Savannah is unearthing secrets of Wooddale’s racist history. But what’s the price for standing up for what is right? And will telling the truth about Wooddale’s past cost Savannah her own future? A stunning, challenging, and timely debut about racism and privilege on college campuses.

Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School
Foreword by Tyehimba Jess
Edited by Peter Kahn, Hanif Abdurraqib, Dan “Sully” Sullivan, and Franny Choi
176 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593226810 | Penguin Workshop
For Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Spoken Word Club, there is one phrase that reigns supreme: Respect the Mic. It’s been the club’s call to arms since its inception in 1999. As its founder Peter Kahn says, “It’s a call of pride and history and tradition and hope.” In its pages, you hear the sprawling echoes of students, siblings, lovers, new parents, athletes, entertainers, scientists, and more – all sharing a deep appreciation for the power of storytelling. A celebration of the past, a balm for the present, and a blueprint for the future, Respect the Mic offers a tender, intimate portrait of American life, and conveys how in a world increasingly defined by separation, poetry has the capacity to bind us together.

Sugar Town Queens
By Malla Nunn
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525515609 | Putnam BFYR
When Amandla wakes up on her fifteenth birthday, she knows it’s going to be one of her mother’s difficult days. Her mother has had another vision. This one involves Amandla wearing a bedsheet loosely stitched as a dress. An outfit, her mother says, is certain to bring Amandla’s father back home, as if he were the prince and this was the fairytale ending their family was destined for. But in truth, Amandla’s father has long been gone – since before Amandla was born – and even her mother’s memory of him is hazy. In fact, many of her mother’s memories from before Amandla was born are hazy. It’s just one of the many reasons people in Sugar Town give them strange looks – that and the fact her mother is white and Amandla is Black. When Amandla finds a mysterious address in the bottom of her mother’s handbag along with a large amount of cash, she decides it’s finally time to get answers about her mother’s life. What she discovers will change the shape and size of her family forever. But with her best friends at her side, Amandla is ready to take on family secrets and the devil himself. These Sugar Town queens are ready to take over the world to expose the hard truths of their lives.

The Passing Playbook
By Isaac Fitzimons
304 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984815408 | Dial BFYR
Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother, and a David Beckham in training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of isolation and bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio. At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boys’ soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing. But when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even though it would mean coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.

The Taking of Jake Livingston
By Ryan Douglass
256 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984812537 | Putnam BFYR
Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can’t decide what’s worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student – the handsome Allister – and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake. Unfortunately, life as a medium is getting worse. Though most ghosts are harmless and Jake is always happy to help them move on to the next place, Sawyer Doon wants much more from Jake. In life, Sawyer was a troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school before taking his own life. Now he’s a powerful, vengeful ghost and he has plans for Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about dead world goes out the window as Sawyer begins to haunt him. High school soon becomes a different kind of survival game – one Jake is not sure he can win.

Vinyl Moon
By Mahogany L. Browne
176 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593176436 | Crown BFYR
When Darius told Angel he loved her, she believed him. But five weeks after the incident, Angel finds herself in Brooklyn, far from her family, from him, and from the California life she has known. Angel feels out of sync with her new neighborhood. At school, she can’t shake the feeling everyone knows what happened – and that it was her fault. The only place that makes sense is Ms. G’s class. There, Angel’s classmates share their own stories of pain, joy, and fortitude. And as Angel becomes immersed in her revolutionary literature course, the words from Black writers like Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Zora Neale Hurston speak to her and begin to heal the wounds of her past. This stunning novel weaves together prose, poems, and vignettes to tell the story of Angel, a young woman whose past was shaped by domestic violence but whose love of language and music and the gift of community grant her the chance to find herself again.

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Witchy Reads for the Summer Solstice

Tonight is the summer solstice so we put together a list of wickedly good witch books to help you get into the spirit. Let us know which one is your favourite!

Akata Witch
By Nnedi Okorafor
384 Pages | 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780142420911 | Speak

Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. Her features are West African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent” with latent magical power. And she has a lot of catching up to do.

Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But as she’s finding her footing, Sunny and her friends are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a career criminal who knows magic, too. Will their training be enough to help them combat a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs?

Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House
By Janet Hill
240 Pages | 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770499249 | Tundra Books

It has been a year since Lucy Crisp graduated from high school and she still hasn’t found her calling. That is, until she discovers an exclusive arts college called Ladywyck Lodge. On a whim, she applies and is thrilled to be accepted into their program. Lucy moves to Esther Wren, the charming little town where it’s based, and stays in the house her father buys as an investment: a magnificent building built by a sea captain in 1876. The house has history and personality –perhaps too much personality. . .

Strange things start happening: Lucy hears voices and footsteps in empty rooms. She sees people and things that should not be there. Furniture disappears and elaborate desserts appear. What’s worse is that the strange events are not restricted to her house. Lucy begins to understand that the town and its inhabitants are hiding many secrets, and Ladywyck is at the heart. As the eerie happenings escalate, Lucy fears she is being threatened — but she is determined not to let fairy potions, spells and talk of witchcraft scare her away.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found
By Moïra Fowley-Doyle
384 Pages | 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780147517333 | Speak

One stormy Irish summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hairclips and jewelry, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something much bigger, something she won’t talk about, and Olive thinks her best friend is slipping away.

Then seductive diary pages written by a girl named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing estate. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they’re holding tight to painful secrets.

When they discover the spellbook, it changes everything. Damp, tattered and ancient, it’s full of hand-inked charms to conjure back things that have been lost. And it just might be their chance to find what they each need to set everything back to rights.

Unless it’s leading them toward things that were never meant to be found…

Tarot
By Marissa Kennerson
288 Pages | 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780451478412 | Razorbill

Born of a forbidden union between the Queen and the tyrannical King’s archnemesis, Anna is forced to live out her days isolated in the Tower, with only her mentors and friends the Hermit, the Fool, and the Magician to keep her company. To pass the time, Anna imagines unique worlds populated by creatives and dreamers–the exact opposite of the King’s land of fixed fates and rigid rules–and weaves them into four glorious tapestries.

But on the eve of her sixteenth birthday and her promised release from the Tower, Anna discovers her true lineage: She’s the daughter of Marco, a powerful magician, and the King is worried that his magical gifts are starting to surface in Anna. Fearing for her life, Anna flees the Tower and finds herself in Cups, a lush, tropical land full of all the adventure, free-spiritedness, and creativity she imagined while weaving.

Anna thinks she’s found paradise in this world of beachside parties, endless food and drink, and exhilarating romance. But when the fabric of Cups begins to unravel, Anna discovers that her tapestries are more than just forbidden expression. They’re the foundation for a new world that she is destined to create–as long as the terrors from the old world don’t catch up with her first.

The Babysitter’s Coven
By Kate Williams
368 Pages | 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525707370 | Delacorte Press

Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it’s kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she’s good at it.

And lately Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let’s just say she owes some people a new tree.

Enter Cassandra Heaven. She’s Instagram-model hot, dresses like she found her clothes in a dumpster, and has a rebellious streak as gnarly as the cafeteria cooking. So why is Cassandra willing to do anything, even take on a potty-training two-year-old, to join Esme’s babysitters club?

The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra’s mother left her: “Find the babysitters. Love, Mom.”

Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they’re about to discover what being a babysitter really means: a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home.

The Lost Coast
By Amy Rose Capetta
352 Pages | 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536200966 | Candlewick

Danny didn’t know what she was looking for when she and her mother spread out a map of the United States and Danny put her finger down on Tempest, California. What she finds are the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they’re ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn’t just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: she can bring back Imogen, the most powerful of the Grays, missing since the summer night she wandered into the woods alone. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill. Lush, eerie, and imaginative, Amy Rose Capetta’s tale overflows with the perils and power of discovery — and what it means to find your home, yourself, and your way forward.

The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea
By Maggie Tokuda-Hall
368 Pages | 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536204315 | Candlewick

The pirate Florian, born Flora, has always done whatever it takes to survive—including sailing under false flag on the Dove as a marauder, thief, and worse. Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, a highborn Imperial daughter, is on board as well—accompanied by her own casket. But Evelyn’s one-way voyage to an arranged marriage in the Floating Islands is interrupted when the captain and crew show their true colors and enslave their wealthy passengers.

Both Florian and Evelyn have lived their lives by the rules, and whims, of others. But when they fall in love, they decide to take fate into their own hands—no matter the cost.

Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s sweeping fantasy debut, full of stolen memories, illicit mermaid’s blood, double agents, and haunting mythical creatures conjures an extraordinary cast of characters and the unforgettable story of a couple striving to stay together in the face of myriad forces wishing to control their identities and destinies.

The Waking Forest
By Alyssa Wees
304 Pages | 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525581161 | Delacorte Press

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

These Witches Don’t Burn
By Isabel Sterling
336 Pages | 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780451480347 | Razorbill

Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.

Isabel Sterling’s delightful, suspenseful debut is equal parts sweet romance and thrilling mystery. With everything she loves on the line, Hannah must confront this murderous villain before her coven–and any chance she has with the new girl–is destroyed.

Undead Girl Gang
By Lily Anderson
320 Pages | 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780451478245 | Razorbill

Meet teenage Wiccan Mila Flores, who truly could not care less what you think about her Doc Martens, her attitude, or her weight because she knows that, no matter what, her BFF Riley is right by her side. So when Riley and Fairmont Academy mean girls June Phelan-Park and Dayton Nesseth die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders. But they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.