A Phở Love Story by Loan Le

Loan Le’s debut novel, A Phở Love Story, reads a bit like a happy ending Romeo & Juliet (in fact that story is mentioned many times by the characters throughout this book).

Bảo Nguyen and Linh Mai are high school seniors who work at their families’ Vietnamese restaurants. Sounds perfect, right? Oh so wrong. It turns out that their familes are in a years’ long feud even though their restaurants are across the street from each other.

Bảo is average and not that interesting – his words. He goes to school and isn’t particularly amazing at anything in general. He is reliable, his grades average, and he isn’t quite sure what he wants to do with his future.

Linh loves art. She desperately wants to have a career in it. For as long as she can remember, Linh has been an artist. The only issue is that her parents do not believe that art is a stable enough career choice. Her parents rely on her to help them with their restaurant almost every day, so on top of her school work and her art projects, Linh spends hours at the restaurant.

Even though the Mai and Nguyen’s restaurants are across the street from each other, the two families do not interact. In fact they are incredibly competitive. When one does a contest, so does the other. Rumors swirl about each respective restaurant. The feud between the two families seems very complicated to Bảo and Linh, but their parents won’t discuss why it exists.

One day, a chance encounter between Linh and Bảo results in sparks. They find themselves working close together and despite their family history and their initial desire to steer clear of each other, there is an undenable attraction. The more they get to know each other, the more they wonder why it took so long for them to meet and become friends. The tensions between their parents has the power to destroy their budding relationship. Bảo and Linh will have to decide what they want and how far they are willing to go for love and answers.

This book is also available in the following format:

You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen McManus

My favorite author Karen McManus continues her winning streak with this Ferris Bueller-inspired mystery starring three estranged friends racing against time to discover why one of their classmates has been murdered. Quick-paced with relatable characters, You’ll Be The Death of Me is perfect for fans of mysteries, YA books, and of course McManus’ earlier work.

Ivy, Cal, and Mateo haven’t been close since eighth grade when they suddenly grew apart, but the day after the senior student council election they each find themselves desperate to recapture the spirit of their former friendship and adventures. Ivy just lost the election – badly – to the class slacker “Boney” Mahoney; Cal is trapped in a conflicted relationship that’s making him long for simpler days, and Mateo is exhausted from working multiple jobs to help his family. In an impulsive moment, they skip school together, awkward though it is with all that’s been left unsaid. But then they see the class slacker (and new president) also out of school, and decide to follow him. It may be the worst – and last – decision they ever make. Before they know what’s happened, Boney’s been murdered, Ivy’s a suspect, and if they don’t figure out what happened they’ll lose more than just their friendship.

If we’re being honest there’s too much tension right off the bat to really strike a Ferris Bueller vibe, but the echoes are there in the ways Mateo, Ivy, and Cal relate to each other – Ivy and Mateo’s unspoken attraction contrasts with Cal’s loneliness as an outsider, and they consistently drag each other into variously flawed decisions. Along the way some pretty serious conversations are had, and no one person or relationship will leave the day unchanged. There’s also a sibling/rival figure, a rogue teacher, and a race to beat the parents home (and keep them from finding out what’s really going on). In a way it’s Ferris Bueller if the story had been told from his sister Jeannie’s perspective, complete with a darker tinge and lots of unresolved feelings and secrets to resolve.

I loved how distinct the characters were, and how realistic their different problems were; and as usual McManus expertly shifts between their voices to round out all perspectives. The action is both propulsive and realistic for the characters’ age, and the bit of romance isn’t gratuitous but is entwined with the plot and character development. I also really appreciated the representation of positive, supportive, and involved parenting in several different styles.

If you like Karen McManus as much as I do, or just YA mysteries in general, this is definitely a book you won’t want to miss.

The Assignment by Liza M. Wiemer

What would you do if you were asked to do an assignment in class or at work that you believed was discriminatory? Liza M. Wiemer explores this topic in her latest young adult novel, The Assignment.

The Assignment  is inspired by a real-life incident that was splashed all over the news. This book talks about the impact of discrimination and antisemitism in schools, surrounding communities, and the world.

It’s their senior year of high school and Cade Crawford and Logan March are ready to graduate. Taking a class from Logan’s favorite teacher, the two are excited to be together until a certain assignment is given. He has given an assignment to the students that they must argue for the Final Solution, the Nazi plan for the genocide of the Jewish people. Horrified and disgusted, Logan and Cade want nothing to do with that assignment. They can’t believe that more of their fellow students aren’t willing to stand up. This teacher can’t really expect them to argue for discrimination, intolerance, and antisemitism.

Not getting the response that they want from the teacher, Logan and Cade work together to put together an alternate assignment to present to the teacher and school administration. When they still are not satisfied with the school administration’s response, Logan and Cade decide that they have to take a stand and do more. The more they explore their options, the wider and more known this assignment becomes. The student body, their families, and the community become divided over the assignment. The turmoil gets worse and worse, leading to an explosive situation full of anger and resentment on both sides. Striving for justice and tolerance, Logan and Cade aren’t sure where this situation will lead, but they know they want love and peace to succeed.

This book is also available in the following format:

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Young adult fiction hardly ever fails me. When I need a pick-me up read, I can generally find one in the young adult section with little effort. My latest read came recommended by another librarian, so I knew I would most likely enjoy it and it didn’t disappoint!

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson is so many things: a romance, an underdog story, friends becoming lovers, but most of all it is full of yearning. Liz Lighty has grown up believing that she is never enough. She’s awkward, poor, black, and doesn’t fit in with the rich and prom-obsessed kids who go to her high school. Liz isn’t what people expect her to be in her tiny midwestern town of Campbell, Indiana, but she has always known that she has an escape. Liz plans on getting out of this super small town to attend Pennington College to play in their orchestra. Eventually she wants to become a doctor in order to treat patients who have the same life-threatening condition that killed her mom and is ravaging her younger brother.

Liz’s senior year is sailing by and the world finally seems to be on her side. All of that comes crashing down when Liz learns that the financial aid and scholarship she was depending on in order to go to college falls through. She is $10,000 short and has no idea how she will get the money to cover the cost and let her keep her Pennington hopes alive. Knowing that her grandparents would sell their house to support her, Liz is desperate to find a solution on her own.

The solution she finds? She must win prom queen. Why? Her school awards a scholarship to the prom king and queen. The very last thing that Liz wants to do is campaign to be prom queen, but with no other options, she reluctantly turns to her friends to help her win. Her high school’s competition for prom court is elaborate: full of mandatory public events, social media popularity, and fellow contestants willing to do whatever it takes to sabotage Liz so they will win. With her friends by her side, Liz struggles to get over her fear of being the center of attention in order to get herself to Pennington.

At the first prom meeting, Liz meets a new student who rocks her whole world. Mack does not fit into the cookie cutter mold that Campbell tries to put their students in: she’s hilarious, smart, and different enough to repeatedly catch Liz’s eye. The only downfall to Liz is that she is also running for queen. The closer the two get, the more Mack wonders if their relationship will keep her from getting to Pennington. What is she willing to risk?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Young adult fiction is my escape. I have always found comfort in reading about young people as they work to discover who they are and who they have the capacity to be. Lately, I have been reading a lot of young adult fiction that discusses social justice themes and has characters working on finding their voices. It’s a relief to read about characters speaking out and affecting change.

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan has been referred to as a feminist anthem for young adults working to raise their voices. Watson is a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author who has written a timely and thought-provoking novel about a group of teenagers who want their high school and surrounding neighborhoods to change.

Jasmine and Chelsea, along with their two other friends,  attend a progressive New York City high school. The curriculum may be different than other local high schools, but Jasmine and Chelsea quickly realize that the school is not as progressive as it claims to be. All students must join an after school club, something these young women greatly enjoy. When they each experience issues in their respective clubs, they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. The two post their work online for all to see. Soon their essays, poems, and videos go viral as other people in the community resonate with the stories of racial, gender, and weight-based microaggressions the two share. The club receives so much positive support, but that doesn’t stop trolls from targeting the group.

When the negatives start to boil over into real life, the school administration gets involved and the principal shuts the club down. Devastated and angry with this turn of events, Jasmine and Chelsea take the club off-campus to their favorite bookstore where they plan ways to fight back. Refusing to be silenced, Jasmine, Chelsea, and their friends risk everything to raise their voices and be heard at their school who touts the platform of all voices being heard, even though that just isn’t true. The art this group of friends creates adds a level of realness to this novel about two young women who demand to be heard.

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai is a heartfelt young adult novel that tells the history of a family of Indian vichole. Vichole are also known as matchmakers. Simran ‘Simi’ Sangha is expected to be a matchmaker one day and take over the family business that is currently run by her mom and aunt. Her family is known for helping parents find good matches for their children.

Out one day with her family, Simi accidentally sets up her cousin with a soon-to-be lawyer. This chance meeting organized by Simi has her aunt and her mom in a flutter. She must have the matchmaking gift! The only problem is that Simi doesn’t want to have anything to do with matchmaking. She is an artist and wants to create art for a living.

Simi and her best friend Noah have decided that this year is the year that they will change their circumstances and become more popular. When one of their friends suggests that matchmaking may be the thing that makes Simi and Noah popular, Simi is unsure. Since Simi is working with her mom, she has access to the family’s ancient matchmaking guide. Simi, her brother, and friends develop a matchmaking app using those ancient tips that starts to upend the fragile school hierarchy. When the app matches the school soccer star with the new girl, Simi quickly finds herself the focus of unwanted negative attention. She must find a way to balance the old and the new, matchmaking and her art.

This book is also available in the following format:

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Books told from multiple viewpoints have a way of tearing at my soul. Seeing the same storyline through different characters lends additional compelling layers of emotion, backstory, and meaning that readers wouldn’t have through only one character. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal is a young adult novel told from two viewpoints over the course of one night.

Atlanta high school seniors Lena and Campbell, one black and one white, want to be normal teens. After a football rivalry escalates into a riot one Friday night, the two are forced to rely on each other to survive. From two very different backgrounds, the two girls are unexpectedly thrown together when chaos erupts at their school. During that night, Lena and Campbell must travel through the violent race riot that has enveloped Atlanta as they try to get home.

Lena knows what she wants out of life. With an awesome boyfriend, amazing style, and big plans for her future, Lena is determined to make a name for herself. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to survive. Being abandoned by her mother and starting her senior year at a new school in a new town with her dad is not how she imagined her life turning out. Campbell just wants to make it through the school year.

When the two head to the football game, they have plans for what they expect the night to be. When a rivalry with another school turns into a riot, Lena and Campbell are thrust together into a fight for survival. They aren’t friends. They barely know each other and don’t understand what the other is going through. Racing through town, their differences matter less as the city goes up in flames and people riot in the streets.

This book is also available in the following formats:

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Some of my favorite books to read when I’m searching for hope, yearning for positive thoughts, and trying to find a purpose are young adult books. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo was my latest young adult read that gave me a glimpse into another life. This book focuses on family, friends, love, and the struggle to figure out your future.

Emoni Santiago is a teen mom. Pregnant with her daughter during her freshman year of high school, Emoni works hard to overcome the judgment she faces from strangers and her fellow students. Knowing that she has to provide for Emma, Emoni does whatever needs to be done to help support her daughter and her abuela. Her life is stressful, but Emoni is grateful for what she has.

When she needs a break, Emoni heads to the kitchen and whips up some magic. She is able to look at ingredients and know what will fit well together. Whenever she shares her food with others, Emoni knows that it makes them think of memories, of home, of long-lost family and friends. As much as she would love to become a professional chef, Emoni knows that her family must come first. Now a senior in high school, she is struggling to figure out what to do with her future. Her counselor, friends, and family have all been asking what she wants to do.

Hoping to push her in the right direction, her counselor tells her she should take the new Culinary Arts class. Emoni is beyond excited. Once she starts cooking in that class, she lets her talent free and has to deal with the consequences. Her dreams of working as a chef are so close she can almost taste it.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ on September 9th

It’s time for a new book club! On the second Wednesday of the month through December 2020, Book Club @ Night is meeting at 6:30pm to talk about young adult books!

On Wednesday, September 9th, at 6:30pm central, Book Club @ Night will be discussing The Way You Make Me Feel by Maureen Goo. Information about how to join is below.

Using GoTo Meeting, patrons will be able to meet to talk about a new book with one of our librarians. Book club books available at the Eastern Avenue Library.

Curious what The Way You Make Me Feel  is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

This book is also available in the following formats:

The November meeting will not take place on November 11 as the library is closed on that day in observance of Veterans Day. The November program will meet instead on November 18.

Book Club @ Night
Wed, Sep 9, 2020 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/433493381

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3212

Access Code: 433-493-381

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/433493381

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson is a haunting story of one teenage girl’s struggle to get someone to believe her that her best friend is missing.

Claudia always believed that she and her best friend Monday Charles told each other everything. They are inseparable soul sisters who may not be related, but who spend a lot of time in each other’s company. Having spent years together, Monday and Claudia even made up their own language. Without Monday, Claudia would not have had any friends and school would have been even more difficult for her. Monday helps her so much with tests and bullies; the two always stick up for each other. They are incredibly close.

Every summer, Claudia spends the summer with her grandma, leaving Monday behind. They stay in touch by sending letters back and forth. The summer before 8th grade was no different with Claudia leaving and hoping to hear from Monday. However Monday never sent her any letters. Coming back from her visit, Claudia immediately tries to call Monday, but no one answers. Her mom tells her not to worry because Monday will show up to school. She doesn’t.

No one seems to care or even notice that Monday is missing except for Claudia. Monday doesn’t show up to school for weeks and Claudia is worried. She knows something is wrong. Not able to get any adult to help her look for Monday, Claudia starts digging into Monday’s disappearance herself. Monday’s mom isn’t giving her a straight answer and Monday’s older sister April isn’t helping either. As Claudia keeps looking for her best friend, she discovers that no one can remember when they last saw Monday. The lack of concern or call to arms to search for Monday has Claudia sick to her stomach and worried. How could no one have noticed that Monday was gone? Where did she go? What happened to her? Why does no one care?

This book is also available in the following formats: