Kit Mallory’s dystopian young adult novel, Blackout, is full of as much stellar character development as it is breathless action. Mallory delivers the story with a sense of urgency but doesn’t neglect character backstory or the events informing the text’s destitute politics. This leaves the reader feeling like they’ve spent far more than mere hours getting to know the characters and inhabiting their world. Continue reading
Andrew Wheeler has edited a brilliant collection of eighteen LGBTQ2SIA+ comics targeted to a teen audience. This much needed anthology, Shout Out, begins with a thoughtful foreword by Nalo Hopkinson who testifies to the significance of the collection for queer teens who rarely see representation of gender and sexuality that mirror their identities and experiences.
Most of the comics tell cotton candy sweet love stories and Hopkinson notes she was at first critical of this idealistic picture of queer love. But she then exhaled and realized the stories made her happy. She writes: Continue reading
Matt Mendez’s emotionally demanding Barely Missing Everything (2019) explores the lives of working-class Mexican Americans living in El Paso, TX. A teenage boy named Juan anchors the text, which focalizes his experiences as well as those of his mother, Fabi, and his best friend, JD.
Juan and JD are high school seniors planning life after high school, but just barely. They both have hazy visions of the future. JD, a film enthusiast, aspires to make movies and carries a camera wherever he goes. Juan, a high school basketball star on a mediocre team, doesn’t imagine himself doing anything else. Additionally, Fabi, a teen mom turned 30-something mom of a teenager, tends bar to make ends meet. Continue reading
What Makes Girls Sick and Tired, written by Lucile De Pesloüan and illustrated by Geneviève Darling, will be published March 19 by Second Story Press. It’s a brief and simple text that pairs minimalist illustrations of diverse girls and women with short descriptions of forms of discrimination, stereotyping, and oppression experienced because of gender and sexual identities. Continue reading
A few kids. A crash landing. An island that may or may not be inhabited (or possessed). It’s the stuff of a story we don’t seem able to stop telling.
William Golding’s 1954 version, Lord of the Flies, lives on in our collective imagination, resurfacing in songs by Iron Maiden and on random television shows like The Simpsons. Golding’s take was inspired by The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean, an 1858 book by R. M. Ballantyne. In Ballantyne’s version the kids who crash on the island are moralistic cherubs with a penchant for converting cannibalistic barbarians (yes, it is racist). Golding wasn’t buying the moral simplicity proffered by Ballantyne and created a dystopian parody emphasizing human nature as well as the relationship between humans and nature. Continue reading
Ruth Lehrer’s gritty realism is reminiscent of Dorothy Allison, as is her exploration of poverty, abuse, neglect, miraculously strong girls, and the failure and promise of family. But, Lehrer’s pace and unrelentingly complicated descriptions of young teen subjectivity set Bring Fishkill firmly within the field of YA literature.
*A few spoilers but nothing major.
Being Fishkill, by Ruth Lehrer, is the story of Carmel Fishkill, a thirteen-year old girl growing-up in poverty. Carmel is mistreated by both family and society. She spends the first twelve-years of her life in a rundown home with a violent grandfather and incapable mother. When her grandfather dies and her mother disappears, Carmel reinvents herself in order to survive. Continue reading