Here at SLJ headquarters, the editors usually need to read about three to five books per week (not including picture books) in order to be ready for stars voting. But what are we reading, loving, and can’t wait to recommend? A few standouts below.
Daryl: Right now I am rereading Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood (Cinco Puntos, 2011; HarperTempest, 2006), and it is breaking my heart all over again. (Sáenz will be at SLJ’s Summit in Seattle next month.) The story is set in the late 1960s in a Las Cruces, NM, barrio. This coming-of-age story follows Sammy Santos through his last years of high school as he helps his father care for his younger sister, loses his first love through family violence, and sees friends go off to the Vietnam War. Even though I know what to expect, I rush home each evening to get back to this story (and characters), that have me, once again, in its grips.
Shelley: I’m currently reading Aaron Starmer’s The Whisper. I just finished Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest. And will be starting Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge. I’m clearly looking to be creeped out this whole weekend.
Mahnaz: Lately, I’ve been diving into a ton of poignant 2015 middle-grade novels: Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff, The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt, and more. I love that these authors portray realistic situations yet still imbue their works with a thread of hope, and Lost in the Sun does a particularly wonderful job of depicting authentic parents: for better and worse. Consider my heart strings officially yanked! So in my spare time, I’ve gone in a completely different direction: mafia movies and TV! I’ve been making my way through Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” series and rewatching The Sopranos, and I’ve even started listening to some great Italian music (nothing beats a good tarantella!). Of course, I can never stray too far from the kid lit and YA (just when I think I’m out, Emily Jenkins, Carolyn Mackler, and Mo Willems find a way to pull me back in!).
Kiera: I just finished In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III. It’s a beautiful blend of a fictional road trip tale (a middle schooler and his grandfather visit landmarks and monuments related to Crazy Horse) and nonfiction information passed down through the Lakota oral tradition (flashbacks told in present tense covering key moments in Crazy Horse’s life.) The last chapter about the surrender at Fort Robinson had me bawling. I also just finished Everything, Everything by debut YA author Nicola Yoon. It’s about a teen who has a rare disease that makes her allergic to pretty much everything in the world, so she’s lived her entire life in the “bubble” of her antiseptic home. Until that is, an intriguing young man moves in next door and her life will never be the same. It’s swoon-worthy romance and smart, funny writing.
Ashleigh: I borrowed a copy of Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy that was hanging around, and gobbled it up in one weekend. I loved reading about an unabashed fat girl with a strong sense of self. The conflicts that arise aren’t exclusively related to her size, although she doesn’t shy away from acknowledging her physical insecurities either. I just finished the book, and already I want more Willowdean!
Stephanie K.: I’ve been loving Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. It starts out as a relatively straightforward play on the Beauty and Beast story, but the author quickly spins out her own original mythology, building a magical world that feels both familiar and absolutely fresh.
Luann: I always enjoy the complex and multifaceted novels by the inimitable Tim Wynne-Jones. Right now, I’m deep in the throes of The Emperor of Any Place, which is, among other things, a book within a book, a mystery, an intergenerational look at war and memory, and an exploration of the bonds between fathers and sons. In other words—it’s right up my alley. Unfortunately, that means I have no interest in going to work, keeping up with the news and mundane chores, or hearing from my family. An absorbing read.