Archive | April, 2012

Purity

26 Apr


When her mother passed away, Shelby made three promises: to love and listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. She didn’t mean it at the time, but how can you not keep promises made to your dying mother? Five years later, Shelby’s living her life with these promises as her guide and with the support of her two besties, Ruby and Jonas. But keeping the promises becomes more complicated when her dad joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, a dance and ceremony during which she will have to vow to her father that she will live a pure life. For Shelby, the purity vow doesn’t jive with promise #3, but not making the vow goes against promise #1. So Shelby finds a loophole: if she loses her virginity before making the vow, it doesn’t count.

I’ve been a bit fascinated by purity balls since I came across a photo of a father and his two daughters at a purity ball (photo by Rebecca Greenfield) in New York Times Magazine. Some of the feelings and questions that the image brought up for me, were also stirred up during the reading of Purity. From the value of father-daughter relationships (and in particular the importance of open communication and support) to the patriarchal implications of vowing one’s purity to their father, Purity gave me quite a lot to think about.

In a way, the promises Shelby made to her mother function like religion for her. They are the guiding force in her life. The third promise, to live without restraint, helps her take chances and be brave. The first promise, to love and listen to her father, is complicated by the fact that the two simply aren’t close with one another. While the plot is centered on Shelby trying to lose her virginity before the Princess Ball, her relationship with her father was of more interest to me. How their relationship grows during the month leading up to the Princess Ball is very touching. There were scenes between the two of them that were so sweet they brought tears to my eyes.

Like Shelby, the idea of making a vow regarding my “lady parts” to my father, feels pretty icky. Of course losing ones virginity to keep true to a mother’s dying wishes also feels all sorts of wrong. It’s hard to follow a character down a path inspired by some clearly flawed-logic (would her mother really want her to take the promises this far?), but Pearce does a good job portraying the complexity of Shelby’s situation while mixing in some humorous and light-hearted moments. While the story was predictable, it wasn’t bland and Pearce thankfully avoided one particular cliche (which I will not specify so as to avoid spoilers) that would have been pretty easy for her to rely on.

Em’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Author: Jackson Pearce
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 2012)
Note: Reviewed from ARC passed on to me by local bookseller

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Characters

24 Apr


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature created at the fabulous The Broke and the Bookish, featuring weekly top ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This Tuesday’s topic is Top Ten Characters and since we’re a YA blog, we’re going the YA route on this one (with a few MG or kid lit characters for fun).


1. Jessica Darling (Sloppy Firsts, etc.) – JD is cynical, snarky and annoyed by everyone. If she were real we’d totally hang out. (Alicia)

2. Legs Sandusky (Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang) – Easily one of my favorite heroines, Legs bravely and brazenly challenges authority while also inspiring sisterhood among an unlikely group of girls. (Alicia)

3. D Foster (After Tupac and D Foster) – As someone who has been the “new girl” many times over, I love D because she embodies both the resilience needed to survive as the new girl and the vulnerability required to find true friendship. (Alicia)

4. Stargirl (Stargirl) – The owner of a pet rat whose hobbies include serenading her classmates with a song on her ukelele, Stargirl never hesitates to be herself even when no one else understands. And I love her for it. (Alicia)

5. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games, etc.) – It is Katniss’ humanity that helps her to survive an inhumane experience and in doing so she is redefines our cultural understanding and expectations of girls. (Alicia)

6. Arnold Spirit Jr. aka Junior (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) – Junior is brave and smart and funny and draws cool pictures and lets me read his diary. He is also an unapologetic book kisser. (Em)

7. Manchee (The Knife of Never Letting Go) – I thought that Manchee was going to ruin The Knife of Never Letting Go for me. After all, how long can you listen to a dog talk about poo? But boy did I fall for this dog. Thank goodness this wasn’t one of those books where the dog dies! (Em)

8. D.J. Schwenk (Dairy Queen) – I have so much respect for D.J. Schwenk. She’s extraordinary without being flawless and has a terrific narrative voice. She’s a high school student, a farm-worker, and a skilled athlete/trainer. D.J. doesn’t have much free time, but she does her best (in the end) to find the time and courage to seek out something that she feels passionate about. (Em)

9. Charlie (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) – Oh Charlie. What a sweet, sensitive, sincere soul! He is like no other narrator I’ve ever spent time with. He sees things in a special way. His writing is beautiful and moving – at times heartwarming, at times heartbreaking. (Em)

10. Pippi (Pippi Longstocking) – With Pippi, life is always full of surprises! Everything is absolutely absurd in the best of ways. She’s the spunky orphan child (complete with monkey and horse companions) you always wished lived next door to you. (Em)


Some honorable mentions: Elizabeth from The Paperbag Princess, Leslie Burke from Bridge to Terabithia, Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief, and just about every character from the Harry Potter series (Snape, Luna, Neville, etc.). Who are your favorite characters from books (YA or otherwise)?

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

22 Apr


When 18 year old Frankie Pratt graduates from high school, her mother gives her a blank scrapbook as a graduation gift. She wants to be a writer and the scrapbook will be her first story. Armed with her father’s old Corona portable typewriter, she tells her own story as she searches for love and success in the 1920s. Her story takes her from Cornish, New Hampshire to Vassar College to Greenwich Village to Paris via third class cabin on the Mauretania and back to New Hampshire again.

Frankie almost doesn’t make it out of New Hampshire. Offered a half-scholarship to Vassar upon graduation but unable to afford the remaining $500 in tuition, Frankie opts to stay at home and pursue nursing certification instead. She takes on work as a nursing aide for Mrs. Pingree, a rich elderly woman in town, whose 30 year old son Jamie takes a liking to Frankie (and she to him). When her mother brings their affair to the attention of Mrs. Pingree, Frankie’s tuition is paid for and off to Vassar she goes. At Vassar, she dates boys from Yale, struggles to pass her exams, and finds outlets for her writing. A meeting with Vassar grad (Class of 1917) and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay leads her to Greenwich Village upon graduation, where she struggles to find work in publishing and falls for a man she met during her Vassar days. Her search for success and love eventually takes her across the Atlantic to Paris, but when circumstances require that she return home to New Hampshire, she finds what she has been looking for all along.

Caroline Preston’s love for vintage scrapbooks and ephemera, and her previous work as an archivist, shines through in The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt. Each page contains a treasure trove of photographs, magazine clippings, ticket stubs, maps, letters, candy wrappers, and other items that help Frankie tell her story and introduce readers to what life in the 20s was like for a young, single, female, aspiring writer. While Frankie’s journey is an exciting story in itself, what I found most interesting was exploring the items and the composition of each page, and being introduced to a period of time in somewhat familiar places (I grew up in NH, went to Vassar, and have spent time in NYC and Paris). Frankie is an exciting protagonist. Her success is not served to her on a silver platter. She works hard, she stumbles, she succeeds, she loves, she plays, and she creates. She’s brave, albeit sensible, in both matters of career and the heart. And she is an amazingly talented and committed scrapbooker! This Alex Award winner is an impressive work on many levels and is sure to delight readers of historical fiction as well as those who enjoy a bit of visual storytelling and exploration.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Caroline Preston
Publisher: Ecco (October 2011)

The Fault In Our Stars

17 Apr


Hazel has terminal cancer and has to wheel around an oxygen tank. Gus lost a leg to cancer, and appears to be in remission. They meet at a cancer support group which, prior to Gus showing up, consisted of Hazel sharing eye rolls with a boy named Isaac and ticking off the frequent deaths of the group members. Gus is clever and beautiful, and Hazel is determined not to let him love her, as she doesn’t want to cause any more pain in the world than necessary.

A love story between two teenagers with cancer is not exactly a promising topic. Unless one enjoys melodrama, and the Jodi Picoult quote on the cover does little to dispel this notion, reading about cancer and dying can be, well, unappealing. However, the humor and realism John Green injects into his characters makes the book funnier and much more interesting and complicated than one would think.

Gus, Hazel, and Hazel’s parents are well-imagined, complicated, and filled with humor and truth. Hazel’s friendship with Isaac rings true, and is exactly the type of friendship that forms out of a common sense of humor about something ridiculous and tragic (in this case cancer). The only issue I had with the book was the framing device of a book written by a grumpy man from Amsterdam. Hazel loves the book, and Gus is determined to use his “wish” (referring to a make-a-wish type organization – Hazel wasted hers on Disneyland) to get her to meet the author. I found this part a bit boring, and wanted to get back to the relationship between the characters.

Overall this is a great read, and is as good as all of Green’s other books. Sometimes I wonder if I would have been ready as a teenager to see how real and accurate he is with regards to the young adult experience, or if having some distance from my youth has helped me see things more clearly. Green is one of the best YA voices out there, and adults really need to read his work.

Nora’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (January 2012)

Picture The Dead

14 Apr


Picture the Dead is a work of historical fiction, a victorian gothic ghost story, a mystery, and a scrapbook all in one. Taking place during the American Civil War, and during the early years of the Spiritualist Movement, Picture the Dead tells the story of Jennie Lovell, a young woman who has experienced great loss in her young life. Orphaned and forced to live with uncaring relatives, she loses her twin brother Tobias in the war and at the start of the story, learns that Will, her cousin/fiance (this was done back in the day after all), will not be returning home either. When her cousin Quinn, Will’s brother, returns home she hopes to find answers to her questions about the mysterious circumstances surrounding Will’s death. What she gets instead are more questions. When her family attempts to connect with their lost son through a spirit photographer, Jennie begins to believe that Will’s ghost is trying to tell her something through the prints. With a new romance blooming, will she be able to move forward or will she remain haunted by the past?

This isn’t your classic mystery. There are no detectives involved and the pacing of the investigation is fairly calm. There may be ghosts. There are plenty of secrets ripe for discovery that have little to do with the initial mystery. The historical element is subtle as well. While we gain access to a particular place and time, and are given plenty of material to inspire further research, Griffin doesn’t inundate the reader with history lessons or issues that are hard for contemporary audiences to relate to (cousin love aside). I appreciate subtlety.

Jennie Lovell is a strong and in many ways classic protagonist. Orphaned, living with cruel or otherwise unwelcoming guardians, living in poverty under the guise of wealth, and forced to move to an attic room upon the death of her fiance, she’s that character that you can’t help but root for. She’s independent, smart, inquisitive, and brave. Jennie’s scrapbook, as illustrated by Lisa Brown, serves both as additional insight into her as a character and also helps fuel the mystery.

While Adele Griffin’s writing is rich with detail and flows beautifully, as per usual, it was Lisa Brown’s artwork that initially drew me in. I know one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the paperback cover with Lisa Brown’s artwork caught my eye and after a quick flip through, I knew this book was for me. While the story could stand on its own without the scrapbook illustrations, they definitely added a special touch. Having a visual element also ties in nicely with the focus on spirit photography, which was one of the most interesting aspects of the story for me.

For additional exploration, I highly suggest the Picture the Dead blog, which features posts on the real-life 19th century models for the characters in the novel and an introduction to the history of spirit photography.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Adele Griffin
Illustrator: Lisa Brown
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (Hardcover May 2010, Paperback February 2012)

Katniss Everdeen: Girl

9 Apr

“No woman is really an insider in the institutions fathered by masculine consciousness. When we allow ourselves to believe we are, we lose touch with parts of ourselves defined as unacceptable by that consciousness.” – Adrienne Rich

The Hunger Games debuted the first of the trilogy’s film adaptations last month to record-breaking success. It had the highest grossing opening weekend for a film that wasn’t a sequel. The top two are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and The Dark Knight, which makes THG the highest grossing opening weekend for a film with a female protagonist! I have been doing a lot of thinking, talking and reading about THG and I am writing this because I am disappointed in the lack of discussion around gender. Many are celebrating Katniss for being a gender-neutral character and the conversation seems to be defining gender-neutral as meaning boys like her too. In order for this character to be gender-neutral it would have to not matter that she is a girl. And, to the citizens of Panem, or in the Arena, maybe it doesn’t. But, for American audiences, it does. And here’s why.

1. Female protagonists are few and far between

In both literature and film males vastly outnumber female protagonists. Studies have shown that, while females regularly view movies with male leads, males are less likely to view films with a female lead. From personal experience, as someone who seeks out female driven stories, I can say I have read way more books with interesting female characters than seen films, especially in the teen genre. Considering the harmful effect media images have on girls specifically, it is extra important that Katniss has become a film character accessible to girl viewers.

2. Katniss is a girl created by a girl

Just as it is for characters, gender disparity is present in the creation of these characters. Men outnumber women in all areas of publishing as well as producing, directing and writing films. This has resulted in what researchers have coined the “male gaze” meaning all characters, whether male or female, are created from the male point of view and satisfy a heteronormative masculine desire. Men and women have different experiences in the world that are directly related to their gender and this makes their perspective vastly different. A hero is defined as an ordinary person in extraordinary situation. When creating a hero Suzanne Collins chose a girl to be that extraordinary person and in doing so created an entirely different narrative – a girl’s story. The more these stories are told the more our ideas about gender and gender roles change and then maybe it really won’t matter that she’s a girl.

Note: Suzanne Collins also wrote the screenplay – double bonus for Hollywood!

3. Katniss redefines “girl”

The cultural standard of human behavior is defined by the behavior of men. This is something feminist scholars, activists and others work to disrupt, however, we still exist in a reality where woman is defined as “other” and “different.” It is usually these differentiating characteristics that we devalue. Because Katniss is a girl every time she operates outside a traditional female assigned behavior she challenges a stereotype and every time she participates it adds value to the female experience. It also fully reflects one of the primary tenets of feminism: the freedom to choose. When we put a girl like Katniss on the screen – one who is tough, resilient, strong, caring, loyal, loving, protective, responsible, focused – she creates a new image in which girls can see themselves. She also presents a new image in which boys see girls – as individuals worthy of being friends with rather than sexual objects for them to play with.

4. Katniss is a fighter

I am a big believer in teaching girls to fight (and NOT WITH OTHER GIRLS!) Now, you may hear this and think of a physical response. And you know what, sometimes that is part of it. What I am really talking about is inspiring the fight inside a girl to be brave, to be strong, and to persevere. As a culture, we teach that to boys but we teach girls to depend on someone else, to let someone else fight for them. Or we teach them not to care. We distract them with things like clothes, makeup, and boyfriends. Katniss learned to fight out of necessity but she never compromises her integrity when doing so. In fact, being a girl, influences not only how she fights (with her head and her heart) but also what she is fighting for (ultimately, freedom for Panem and all its citizens).

5. Katniss is motivated by love

An essay by Mary Borsellino had me thinking about Katniss as a character who is motivated by love and the political implications of those choices. Because love has traditionally been assigned as a female emotion, a female character has more agency to act with love then a male character. When they do, it activates a non-traditional power source to which women have access and thus the potential to instigate change. This translates to the real world as well but, as history has shown us, women are often afforded more opportunity when following the dominant pattern of success (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em). This is usually because female associated behaviors such as love, compassion, and relationships are also seen as weaknesses. However, successful leaders who usurp this model have often been male such as Gandhi and MLK Jr. Because she is driven by love – supporting her family, honoring Rue’s death, saving Peeta’s life – Katniss emulates a new way of doing that disrupts the culture of competition that measures success by individual achievement rather than what is good for the whole. Because she succeeds, her story tells us that it’s OK to love and, on another level, that it is OK to be a girl. Both strong messages that we could all stand to be reminded of more often.

The thing is, Katniss Everdeen is a unique representation of girlhood that is far more common than Hollywood would have you believe. Her presence in the pop cultural landscape is important, especially in a medium that legions of teens have access to, because she is changing the way we view youth, culture and gender.

And, yes, it matters that she’s a girl.

YA Sneaks Into The Seder

7 Apr

I don’t generally write about religious holidays on this blog, because 1) I’m not particularly religious, and 2) we blog about YA lit not religious texts. But Friday night we celebrated what has become one of my favorite holidays over the years, Passover, and this year our seder had a touch of YA, which let’s face it, always makes things more interesting.

For those who have never attended a Passover Seder, it is an annual Jewish ritual feast that commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. The dinner is centered around the reading of the Haggadah, which includes the Exodus story, blessings, rituals, songs, and commentaries. There is also wine (at least four cups) and tasty matzoh “sandwiches”. Altogether, a good time with family or friends (or both!).

This year my husband and I celebrated our tenth Passover together with several close friends (including Nora!). Each year he adds to or subtracts from our Haggadah. It is a real hodgepodge of different source materials. The majority of the Haggadah that we use comes from the Love + Justice in times of war Haggadah, a zine compiled and created by Dara Silverman and Micah Byzant back in 2003 (the dated parts are funny: e.g. their “annoying plagues of our times” list). In the L+Jitow Haggadah, they suggest taking a Choose Your Own Adventure approach to using the Haggadah (i.e. not just reading front to back, but picking and choosing and adding and subtracting and modifying….). And this year my husband added a few sections to our Haggadah from New American Haggadah, edited by Jonathan Safran Foer (one of my favorite authors), translated by Nathan Englander, and contributed to by several fine folks including Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) (see there it is! the YA connection!). Throughout New American Haggadah, there are commentaries by four major Jewish writers/thinkers, a timeline, and beautiful design work by Oded Ezer which perfectly represents both the order and “the muddle and the mess” (which we’ll get to in a minute) of the celebration. I’m not going to claim to have read the whole book. I will someday, but time was not on my side this year. This is not a review, but rather an introduction. Below is a section from New American Haggadah that I thought added something special to our seder and is quintessential Snicket/Handler (which I love):

The Passover seder is conducted in an orderly fashion, with each ritual performed at a certain time, in a certain way, according to thousands of years of tradition. This is surprising as the Jewish people do not have a history of being particularly well organized. Even God Himself often seems engaged in convolution, a phrase which here means “as if He has not quite followed His own plan.” If you look around your Passover table now, you will most certainly see the muddle and the mess of the world. There is likely a stain someplace on the tablecloth, or perhaps one of the glasses has a smudge. Soon things will be spilled. You might be sitting with people you do not know very well, or do not like very much, so your own emotional state is somewhat disordered. Nobody likes everything served at the Passover dinner, so there will be chaos within people’s palates, and the room is likely to be either too cold or too hot for someone, creating a chaos of discomfort. Perhaps there is someone who has not yet been seated, even as the seder is beginning, because they are “checking on the food,” a phrase which here means “sneaking a few bites” when they’re supposed to be participating in the ceremony.

This is as it should be. Passover celebrates freedom, and while the evening will proceed in a certain order, it is the muddle and the mess around the order that represent the freedom that everyone deserves, and that far too many people have been denied. With that in mind, why not excuse yourself, in an orderly fashion at some point in the ceremony, so that you might check on the food?

    – Lemony Snicket, p. 12

Happy Holidays to those celebrating Passover or Easter this weekend! And special thanks to Lemony Snicket for giving me an excuse to talk about YA at our Passover Seder!

Title: New American Haggadah
Editor: Jonathan Safran Foer
Translator: Nathan Englander
Contributors: Mia Sara Bruch (timeline), Nathaniel Deutsch, Jeffrey Goldberg, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, and Lemony Snicket
Designer: Oded Ezer
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2012

Chopsticks (review + giveaway)

3 Apr

CHOPSTICKS is a novel, an app, a website. It is a collage of original drawings, objects, text, sounds, and video. It is a love story. It is a mystery. Read it. View it. Experience it. CHOPSTICKS was born out of the desire to tell a story with multiple medias, without losing the fundamental truths which make reading fiction an emotional human experience.


After the death of her mother, Glory immersed herself in her music. Her father raised her on Chopin and Shostakovich, with rigid daily schedules, and performances in grand venues around the world. But now Glory, piano prodigy, has gone missing. As we flash back to the year and a half leading up to her disappearance, we also meet Frank, the young man who moves in next door. Glory begins to lose herself in Frank’s artwork and late night instant messages. He becomes at once her main connection to the world and her escape from it. When she and her father head off on her first international tour, her grip on reality weakens and eventually she finds it hard to play anything other than the Chopsticks Waltz. As we inch closer and closer to the day of her disappearance, we must contemplate how real Glory’s reality is, how much is imagined, and where exactly Glory has disappeared to?

What a treat this book is! I never realized how much I needed a YA coffee table book until Chopsticks made its way to my home. Now, I can’t imagine life without one. I doubt the authors intended for this book to be considered a coffee table book, but the shape of the book and attention to design make it a good fit. Chopsticks is lovely and it’ll be fun to watch guests casually flip through it. Perhaps they’ll even dive deep into the mystery.

I love books that tell stories with images. Chopsticks is not a wordless picture book, but the images do take charge. There is so much to explore on each page and sometimes even off the page (Glory and Frank share YouTube web links in their instant messages that a reader can look up online). While the story is told more or less in a linear fashion, once I made it to the end, it was fun to flip to random pages and try to piece together the mystery. The story is bittersweet. The relationship between Glory and Frank is adorable and evokes memories of first loves, but it’s clear that Glory is lonely and cut off from most of the world despite how much of the world she has seen. There is a bit of an open ending to the story, which may encourage readers to head back and explore for clues of both what happened and what may happen next. And for those who can’t get enough of the experience or want to try out something a little different, there is also a Chopsticks App, which features the same story and images, but with added video, songs, and digital links to make for a unique reading experience. The official website is also worth checking out if you want to sample images from the book and see some of the videos Glory and Frank IM about.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
Publisher: Razorbill (February 2012)
Note: Review copy received from publicist for honest review.

Thanks to Big Honcho Media and Penguin group, we have a copy of Chopsticks to give away to one lucky winner! To enter fill out this form. Prizing & samples courtesy of Penguin Group. One winner will receive a copy of Chopsticks. Giveaway open to US mailing addresses only

April (No-Fooling) Releases

1 Apr


The List by Siobhan Vivian
Push
Anticipated Release: April 1, 2012

I have never read a book by Siobhan Vivian. I know. I’m a fool. Why I’m choosing The List to be my first ever S.V. read? Well, the easiest answer is “it’s new” and it doesn’t feature a near-smooch on the cover (though I want to read that book too). But the real draw for me is the story premise and the focus on not one but eight characters and how each of their lives are affected by The List. The eight characters are the eight young women whose names appear on The List – a list of the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade, freshman to senior.


I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Anticipated Release: April 3, 2012

My dad is not a serial killer (thankfully). Jasper Dent, the main character of Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers, can’t say the same thing. His dad, Billy Dent – better known as The Artist or Green Jack – was arrested when Jasper was thirteen. Billy Dent’s work was not a secret to his son, but rather he taught Jasper all the tricks of the trade. Four years later, when bodies start to pile up again, Jasper decides to use what his dad taught him to try to track down the new serial killer on the scene.


Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John
Dial
Anticipated Release: April 12, 2012

I can’t resist a road trip book. In Thou Shalt Not Road Trip a teenage author of a best-selling spiritual self-help guide goes on a cross-country tour with his agnostic older brother and his former best (girl)friend. Even though I’ve never been particularly religious or spiritual, I am always interested in reading about religious teens who are neither all high-and-mighty perfection nor hateful bigots (the two most common portraits I see in mainstream media). I’m hopeful that Antony John has created complex and believable religious (and not religious for that matter) characters that defy these mainstream stereotypes.


The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Anticipated Release: April 17, 2012

Nalo Hopkinson has made a name for herself writing fantasy and science fiction for adults, and I’m excited to see her dive into the YA field with this upcoming release. The main character, Scotch, is settling into her new home in Toronto when things start to get weird. She begins to notice sticky black spots on her skin and one night out on the town a giant bubble appears. When her brother touches it, he disappears. Then things get even weirder as the Chaos that claimed her brother seems to take over the whole city. The story of Scotch’s journey across a surreal landscape in search of her brother incorporates Caribbean folklore and fantasy, while also dealing with personal identity and self acceptance.

Other highly anticipated April releases: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Knopf Books for Young Readers, April 10, 2012; The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman, Candlewick, April 10, 2012; The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Harcourt Children’s Books, April 17, 2012; All the Right Stuff by Walter Dean Myers, Amistad, April 24, 2012; and Purity by Jackson Pearce, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 24, 2012.

The above titles are a mere (yet exciting) sampling of the upcoming releases that I’m excited about. What are you most excited to read this month?!