Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, January 27, 2017

William Morrow & Company: End of Story by A.J. Finn

From My Shelf

Gold Stickers: The 2017 Newbery and Caldecott Winners

On the Monday after the presidential inauguration, the March for Social Justice and Women, and several major sports events, the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards were announced at ALA's Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, Ga. Right up there, decibel-wise, with the shouts of marchers and sports fans were the enthusiastic hurrahs of librarians and publishers rooting for their favorite children's and teen books, with 19 different types of awards celebrated that day. Find the complete list of Youth Media Awards here.

The best-known ALA prize, the Newbery Medal, was awarded to Kelly Barnhill's The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Algonquin Books for Young Readers). In our interview with the thrilled Newbery winner, she said her thought-provoking fantasy was about "a 500-year-old witch and a poetry-quoting swamp monster and a perfectly tiny dragon with delusions of grandeur who all have to raise a magical baby." Thom Barthelmess, chair of the 2017 Newbery Medal selection committee, notes that this is the first "high fantasy" to win the Newbery Medal since 1985, when Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown was selected.

Javaka Steptoe won the Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Radiant Child (Little, Brown), a picture-book biography of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) who covered New York City with his electrifying graffiti. The book begins, "Somewhere in Brooklyn, between hearts/ that thump, double Dutch, and hopscotch/ and salty mouths that slurp sweet ice,/ a little boy dreams of being a famous ARTIST." Steptoe's gorgeous, Basquiat-inspired, collage-style paintings literally incorporate "bits of New York City"--they're painted on the wood scraps he found in discarded Brooklyn Museum exhibit materials and in brownstone dumpsters. In our interview with Steptoe, he says, "It was something that I really put my heart into and I appreciate the love I'm getting back in return." --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

The Writer's Life

Laurie Frankel: The More Things Change...

photo: Natalia Dotto

Laurie Frankel writes novels, reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, and raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels in Seattle, Wash.

In Frankel's latest novel, This Is How It Always Is (Flatiron Books, reviewed below), the youngest of five boys decides he wants to be a girl, and his parents grapple with how to best raise their new daughter. In this funny, heartfelt book about growing up, Frankel shows that issues of gender are just as weird and just as normal as any other.

Where do you see This is How It Always Is in the larger struggle for transgender rights?

It's been keeping me up nights. I wrote the book for a [post-election] world that it is simply not being published in. I knew the book would be controversial, I knew it would p*ss people off. I knew it would be political. But I thought that the people it was going to p*ss off were going to be the fringe.

And now I'm thinking that less. I am profoundly grateful to do anything at all in the wake of this election to help this cause. But I am also terrified. I suppose the point of the book all along was to tell a good story with good characters, and people who don't necessarily understand--or haven't thought the issue all the way through, or don't have any personal experience themselves--would read it and be touched and compelled, and therefore make the world a better place for my kid. While also being entertained and amused. [Laughs] That's the goal going into a novel in general. And whether or not that's going to happen, I just do not know.

I feel like writing and reading are always political, in a now-more-than-ever kind of way. Even if the book weren't going to be controversial, that's where we are at the moment. More writing, more reading is another one of those "things we can do" in that desperate search for "things we can do."

You surround the central story with typical problems kids have growing up. Was the intent to show that Poppy's search for an identity should be considered just another basic narrative of adolescence?

Yes! The short answer is "this is how it always is." The very kernel of this idea was a metaphor. This is how parenting and how being a child always is. You have huge decisions, things that feel monumental and unique. But, in fact, all kids have them, and therefore all parents have them. There are decisions that seem like they can't be undone, but of course they can. You try something, and if it works, great, and if it doesn't, you try something else. I very much feel that kids that deal with any kind of gender nonconformity deal with it within the parameters of being kids. Kids are always facing issues with their identity, challenges growing up. This is part of that, a wonderful part of that. It should be celebrated.

But thinking of gender nonconformity as something totally aberrant, very unusual and dysfunctional is doing no good to anyone. In this country, a few months ago it was all about bathrooms, and schools accommodating transgendered students in bathrooms. And I just think, "This is what elementary schools do." They accommodate kids. They accommodate all sorts of craziness with kids. This is just another thing, and it doesn't have to be treated as this giant issue.

Was there a moment you had with your own child that sparked the book?

I was starting the book as my kid was starting this exploration, this transition. It was not clear to me at the beginning necessarily that this was where it was going. So when I started the book, my author-ly imagination was thinking, "Oh, what if being trans was what this is," not really thinking that it was going to be [for my child]. But, being prepared for it, I was reading and researching.

You watch your kid grow up, and it is something that is endlessly fascinating to you, and not that fascinating to everybody else. In this particular case, suddenly it was. That was also a very strange experience.

The transgender stories we think of the most are TV shows like Transparent, where those transitioning are adults. You're presenting different view.

The idea of transgender kids is new. But transgender kids aren't new at all; we're acknowledging that these kids exist. The adults who are transgender were able to have blockers and hormones, if that's what they chose to do, as young adults. That's how long these treatments have been around. The conversation has changed completely. There isn't a model. There are not adults who have grown up the way these kids have grown up. Adults who are transgender have taken very different, and often much more painful, paths than our kids will have to take.

Poppy expresses that she wants to be a girl very strongly at the beginning, but later, she's in a place of deep confusion and doubt. It seems that you wanted to make sure it remained an ongoing conversation for her.

Yes. She's confused, but that doesn't mean that she's not one way or the other. There's a lot of doubt and fear and confusion on the part of everyone in this family. The parents want to support and protect their kid. But when supporting and protecting your kid become opposite things, which do you pick? It's basically an impossible question, and therefore an interesting one to write about. And it's one that is not going to be resolved in a chapter.

The other part of it is that kids grow and change, even transgender kids! Like anything else, transgender is a spectrum. Some of these kids will try it on for a while, then go back. Some of them will be gender nonconforming, rather than transgender per se. It's hard to know, because kids are growing and changing all the time. That's what we want--we want them to grow and change, to evolve and take in new information and process it in different ways. I do feel like I wanted to make that conversation a little more complicated.

Though it is really wonderful when parents embrace their gender nonconforming children, it also strikes me as necessary to leave some room, rather than going the route that Penn [the father] does, which is "let's just do this thing and get it over with. She'll be a girl, and that'll be the end of it." Well, no. It's more than that, it's better than that. We want to celebrate that, too, and not bury it or pretend it's not part of the transition. --Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill.

Sleeping Bear Press: Junia, the Book Mule of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, illustrated by David C. Gardner

Book Candy

Book Loving Moments

Relax with some "subtle moments only book lovers will enjoy."


Reader's block? Bustle found "11 ways to fall in love with reading after hitting a book slump."


Mental Floss showcased artist Nicholas Rougeux, who "transforms sentences from classic literature into constellations."


"When we read, we are looking through a window, and what we often want is something dramatically different from our own lives," wrote Peter Swanson in picking his "top 10 books about voyeurs" for the Guardian.


Headline of the day: "S.F. library book returned, 100 years overdue."

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Plot Against America

American aviator Charles Lindbergh, who achieved fame with his record-setting 1927 transatlantic flight, became a staunch isolationist in the years prior to World War II. He was a spokesman for the anti-war America First Committee, received an Order of the German Eagle award from Hermann Göring in 1938, advocated a neutrality pact with Hitler as late as 1941 and held anti-Semitic views. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh worked as a consultant for American aircraft companies.

In Philip Roth's The Plot Against America (2004), Lindbergh runs as a surprise Republican candidate in the 1940 presidential election. With strong support from Southern and Midwestern states, Lindbergh defeats FDR, then signs "understandings" with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan that promise nonintervention in Europe and Asia. Roth returns to his oft-used autobiographical setting of Newark, N.J., where his Jewish family is imperiled by this dark turn in American politics. Anti-Semitism sweeps the nation, with Jewish children forcibly sent to the Midwest to "Americanize" them, prominent Jewish citizens arrested and violence spreading in the streets. Roth's actual experiences with American anti-Semitism in the 1940s give The Plot Against America a chilling basis in reality. The novel also serves as a portrait of the grim possibilities lurking in electoral surprises. It was published in paperback by Vintage in 2005 ($16, 9781400079490). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Always Happy Hour

by Mary Miller

The women in Mary Miller's knockout second collection of stories, Always Happy Hour, are frequently in a bad place--usually of their own doing. Listless and conflicted but also smart and self-aware, they drift among the trailer parks, apartment complexes and suburbs of small Southern cities like Meridian, Miss., or Round Rock, Tex., looking for a way out--but not looking too hard. They've got bad boyfriends and exes they love, bad booze and dope they can't resist, bad jobs they need, bad TV they binge-watch, bad food they scarf and bad sex they crave. As the narrator of "Proper Order," one of the strongest stories, describes her life: "I keep moving... counting the number of paychecks until the paychecks run out and I have to find new paychecks, new boyfriends and friends and living arrangements."

Miller's women are captivating. Vulnerable and insecure, yet plucky when they need to be, they're the shrewd women of the New South. Ironic when appropriate, caustic when called for, they don't miss a thing. In "Dirty," for example, the narrator observes: "I look at my boyfriend--eye boogers, dried spit around his mouth--and know I'll miss him too. I'll miss the orgasms he gives me, and how he smells, and I'll be sad I didn't accidentally get pregnant while I had the chance." A former Michener Fellow, Miller (The Lost Days of California) gets inside the heads of her struggling women, and she does so with such compassion and humor that each story delivers a penetrating portrait and leaves a knowing, if often sad, smile. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Mary Miller's new story collection features a gallery of savvy but stuck Southern women, admirable even when they can't quite get it all together.

Liveright, $24.95, hardcover, 256p., 9781631492181

The Sleepwalker

by Chris Bohjalian

Domestic situations that go awry are common in the psychological suspense novels of Chris Bohjalian. In The Sleepwalker, Bohjalian examines sleepwalking (or parasomnia) and the devastating impact it has on a Burlington, Vt., family.

Narrator Lianna Ahlberg deconstructs events that took place when she was a 21-year-old college senior during the autumn of 2000. When her father, Warren, a professor, went away to a conference, she tended to her 12-year-old sister, Paige, and her mother, Annalee, who had a history of sleepwalking that included benign destructive behaviors--especially when Warren was gone. Annalee had been undergoing treatment at a sleep clinic, and it had been four years since she took a nocturnal journey. Therefore, Lianna's caretaking was merely a precautionary measure. Believing her mother was past the "witching hour" (the first three hours of sleep) and out of harm's way, she dozed off, only to wake the next morning and discover Annalee missing. As the family rallies to search for her, a piece of her nightshirt is found near a riverbank, and the mystery deepens when a detective working the case seems privy to eerie, intimate details about Annalee.

Bohjalian (The Guest Room) has written an absorbing, cerebral story that probes a family's haunted emotional response to the mother's disappearance, and how each copes with confusion and grief. As they plumb the depths of Annalee's life, they uncover secrets that ultimately reveal a startling truth. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A mother's sleepwalking leads to her eerie disappearance and a family's search for her--and for answers.

Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 304p., 9780385538916

This Is How It Always Is

by Laurie Frankel

In light of recent strides by the transgender community in the U.S., Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is, which charts how a child born Claude becomes Poppy, comes at the perfect time. But unlike TV shows like Transparent, in which an adult transitions after years in hiding, This Is How It Always Is depicts the moments before, tracking how Poppy and her parents navigate gender-fluidity and whether she should undergo hormone therapy or surgery, or remain as she is.

Rosie and Penn are learning how to support their trans child even as they raise Poppy's four older brothers, now going through puberty and teenage angst. Frankel (Goodbye for Now) nicely mixes typical issues of growing up with those that may concern a trans child, giving a full sense of a family not so much in shambles as having to figure everything out all at once. The novel is careful not to take sides as the parents' opinions diverge in how to best raise Poppy, instead showing how a middle way may be the best option. Frankel's handling of Rosie and Penn's family rightfully shows how Poppy is simply another member of their little clan, with her own worries. That is ultimately the sly and charming point: how normal Rosie, Penn and Poppy's struggles truly are. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: This Is How It Always Is explores the travails of a modern family, where challenges about a child's gender are the same as any other struggles of growing up.

Flatiron Books, $25.99, hardcover, 336p., 9781250088550

The Crossing

by Andrew Miller

How many people, after having fallen two dozen yards onto brick from the deck of a docked ship, would be able to get up and walk away before finally collapsing? Maud Stamp would, and that's only the first of many signs of cold determination she displays in The Crossing, Andrew Miller's quietly elegant novel. It's also one of the qualities that Tim Rathbone, who attended the same English university as Maud, is attracted to. They're an odd pair: Maud the middle-class daughter of schoolteachers, Tim the son of parents who land their private jet at the family estate. Odder still, the tattoo on Maud's forearm broadcasts her attitude toward life: sauve qui peut--every man for himself.

Tim and Maud become lovers and have a daughter they name Zoe. While Tim is content to be a stay-at-home father who writes concertos named after liver enzymes and plays his expensive guitars, Maud becomes a clinical research associate for a lab that's testing a powerful analgesic. She's no less rigid since their union, but her calm is tested after an unforeseen tragedy prompts her to take a solo voyage on the couple's boat across the Channel toward France. The beauty of this subtle novel is that it derives enormous power from small details, such as the discovery of a heart-shaped hair clip, and Maud's encounters with children on a distant island. "Everything changes," she tells the children, and one lesson of this wise story is that inflexibility can have profound consequences. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

Discover: A devastating family tragedy prompts a young woman to sail across the English Channel as a way to deal with her grief.

Europa Editions, $18, paperback, 320p., 9781609453473

Sleeping Mask

by Peter LaSalle

In one of the stories in Sleeping Mask, Peter LaSalle (The City at Three P.M.) writes of "the stylistic daring, the sheer visionary magic of words" in Virginia Woolf's work. Stylistically daring is a good way to describe LaSalle's work. Readers know what to expect from some short story writers, but if they think the title piece--a hypnotic tale in which a honey-voiced seducer coos unsettling words to a woman as he helps her put on her velvet-and-satin mask--is typical of the entire volume, they soon discover that LaSalle is far less predictable. The pieces collected here range from a faux-scholarly paper about Edgar Allan Poe to the account of an airplane passenger who returns from the lavatory to discover that everyone else on board, including the pilot, has disappeared.

Sleeping Mask's experimental pieces--including "Found Fragment from the Report on the Cadaver Dogs of Northern Maine, 1962," a 15-page sentence about a failed novelist's attempt to rid the world of literary journals--are less successful than the more straightforward narratives. But the latter contain jewels: "Lunch Across the Bridge" features a young couple, still grieving their son's death, who walk across the Laredo bridge in Texas to a Mexican restaurant, where a drug lord recently out of prison has appeared; in "A Late Afternoon Swim," a middle-aged man's reminiscences about a childhood visit to a Rhode Island beach becomes a meditation on the vagaries of memory. An entertaining, assured sampling from an endlessly inventive writer. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

Discover: These 12 stories--from domestic tales to more experimental works--by Peter LaSalle showcase his literary inventiveness.

Bellevue Literary Press, $16.99, paperback, 256p., 9781942658184

Mystery & Thriller

A Perilous Undertaking

by Deanna Raybourn

The intrepid Veronica Speedwell, Victorian society lady and lepidopterist extraordinaire, and her curmudgeonly colleague Stoker are working together to create a natural history museum when Veronica receives a summons to the Curiosity Club, a private establishment at which adventurous and scientifically minded ladies gather. She is asked by a mysterious noblewoman calling herself Lady Sundridge to investigate the death of Artemisia, an artist whose lover, Sir Miles Ramsforth, is about to be hung for her murder.

With the help of Stoker, whose curious mind and boxing ability mesh nicely with Veronica's brash investigative style, she sets out to discover who besides Sir Miles might have wanted the lovely Artemisia to die, and for whom Lady Sundridge is really acting. The hunt takes Veronica and Stoker everywhere from a Bohemian artist's colony to a seedy opium den to a secretive grotto with a questionable history, and it soon becomes apparent that more than a few people had reasons to want Artemisia dead.

Full of innuendo and amusing repartee, Deanna Raybourn's sly wit will be appreciated by readers of romance and historical fiction alike, especially those who enjoy her Lady Julia Grey series. The sexual tension between Veronica and Stoker is intense, and Veronica's antics will keep the reader laughing. An intriguing mystery, which will test Veronica and Stoker's detective abilities to the maximum, A Perilous Undertaking (the follow-up to A Curious Beginning) is a fun read, reminiscent of Elizabeth Peters's novels, whose cross-genre charm is sure to appeal to readers. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Dauntless Victorian butterfly collector Veronica Speedwell is drawn into a second murder investigation when a mysterious lady asks her to find out who murdered a pregnant artist.

Berkley, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9780451476159


by Hank Parker

Hank Parker's gripping bioterrorist thriller, Containment, shows how deadly pathogens in the wrong hands can be far scarier and more destructive than bombs.

Parker, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's School of Medicine and a former adviser to the U.S. government on agro-terrorism, uses his scientific expertise to craft a realistic plot in which an obscure hemorrhagic virus, similar to Ebola, is used by terrorists as a weapon of mass destruction via ticks and other animal vectors. Parker develops his two protagonists, epidemiologist Mariah Rossi and covert bio-threat agent Curt Kennedy, with a nice human touch that offsets more technical aspects of the plot. Although some of the character-driven subplots that unfold are a bit contrived--a missing-father scenario, for one--they never overwhelm the narrative's main action.

And when it comes to action, Parker delivers. His prose is tight, rhythmic and vivid, propelling his characters from scene to scene. Besides some riveting sections set in the Philippines as Rossi and Kennedy hunt down a terrorist cell, Containment's most exciting passages trace the fallout of a mass quarantine in the U.S. as the virus spreads. Deftly switching points of view among government officials, journalists and people trapped in the increasingly chaotic quarantine zone, Parker creates an eerie yet disturbingly real apocalyptic atmosphere. Even scarier than gruesome deaths from the disease are outbreaks of violence and the gradual deterioration of civil order. Well-written, well-paced and sobering in its implications, Containment recalls the work of Michael Crichton and other greats of the bio-thriller genre. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist and fiction author.

Discover: A real-life expert on agro-terrorism concocts a terrifying thriller about a deadly virus spread through weaponized ticks.

Touchstone, $25.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781501136443

Biography & Memoir

I Hate Everyone, Except You

by Clinton Kelly

Clinton Kelly, the Emmy Award-winning cohost of The Chew and What Not to Wear, is no stranger to bookshelves, having written several self-help books on dressing right, avoiding fashion mistakes and entertaining on a budget. I Hate Everyone, Except You is Kelly's first book of autobiographical essays, detailing growing up gay on Long Island, N.Y., snagging a writing job at Marie Claire magazine and segueing into a successful career hosting two very popular television shows.

The acerbic and droll Kelly is a marvelous storyteller, whether he's remembering teenage weekends spent with his best female friend renting porn videos and critiquing the dialogue; having a bathing suit mishap at a water park; experimenting with edible marijuana; or enjoying his favorite pastime: correcting other people's grammar. Fans will also enjoy his affectionate and biting behind-the-scenes tales of working with cohost Stacy London on WNTW. He writes that they got along like "a house on fire, from my first day on the job. And as the years wore on, I wished that house would have burned down to the ground." Kelly also tries his hand at fiction, including one short story and an unsold roman à clef TV pilot he wrote about working on a make-over TV show.

I Hate Everyone, Except You is snarky and witty fun, but it's grounded by a solid base of good will and optimism. The final chapter finds Kelly reluctantly returning to a high school he hated and giving a commencement address that is much like this book--funny, smart and profane. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Clinton Kelly's collection of autobiographical essays showcases his snarky and biting humor but often reveals his heart and vulnerability.

Gallery Books, $24.99, hardcover, 240p., 9781476776934

Social Science

The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First-Century Refugee Crisis

by Patrick Kingsley

Patrick Kingsley (How to Be Danish) is a journalist and the first migration correspondent assigned by the Guardian. In The New Odyssey, he investigates why and how the people of the refugee crisis migrate to Europe or die trying. He meets and travels with migrants, people smugglers and rescue boat crews. Alternate chapters tell the harrowing story of Syrian refugee Hashem al-Souki, who flees his destroyed home outside Damascus with his wife and three young sons, and hopes to settle in Sweden. Al-Souki ends the book with a two-page postscript.

Kingsley says the refugee crisis has been "caused largely by our response to the refugees, rather than by the refugees themselves." The mass migration to Europe is "only about 0.2 percent of the EU's total population... an influx that the world's richest continent can feasibly absorb, if--and only if--it's handled properly." He offers solid alternatives for consistent humane resettlement. The U.S. failure to take in more refugees has also contributed to the crisis. Many people who die while crossing the Mediterranean and the Sahara to Europe have lost all hope of being accepted to the U.S. They know and understand the risks, but have nothing to lose. As one migrant tells Kingsley, "Right now Syrians consider themselves dead. Maybe not physically, but psychologically and socially.... I don't think that even if they decided to bomb migrant boats it would change people's decision to go." --Sara Catterall

Discover: Guardian reporter Patrick Kingsley takes a close look at the human costs of the refugee crisis and the mismanagement that is causing it.

Liveright, $26.95, hardcover, 368p., 9781631492556

Psychology & Self-Help

The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters

by Emily Esfahani Smith

As a child in Montreal, Emily Esfahani Smith was accustomed to spiritual seekers. They filled her parents' living room twice a week, gathering to drink tea, meditate and deepen their practice of Sufism, the mystical expression of Islam. After her family moved to the U.S. and she began to study philosophy, Smith started exploring other ways of pursuing a meaningful life, but she never forgot the Sufi seekers and their warm, joyous practice of mohabbat (loving-kindness).

Disillusioned with the typical Western markers of success--career ambition, wealth and status--Smith began asking how people could truly pursue a life of meaning, beyond external symbols of achievement. She identified four "pillars" that can provide the stabilizing structure for a meaningful life: belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence. In her first nonfiction book, The Power of Meaning, Smith explores these pillars, sharing scientific data and individual stories to illustrate their importance. 

She writes in a brisk, accessible style, weaving together psychological studies and anecdotes from researchers, ministers, trauma survivors and other people concerned with this line of thinking. She visits and explores "cultures of meaning" such as churches, veterans' communities and even the Society for Creative Anachronism, whose members share a common interest in medieval life and practices. In each chapter, Smith asks how people can foster cultures of meaning in their families, workplaces and other communities.

Part memoir, part observant field guide, The Power of Meaning is a refreshing contrast to the cultural obsession with personal happiness. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Emily Esfahani Smith's first book explores four pillars of meaning that can provide the stabilizing structure for a meaningful life.

Crown, $28, hardcover, 304p., 9780553419993

Children's & Young Adult

The Ethan I Was Before

by Ali Standish

Twelve-year-old Ethan Truitt is traumatized, but at first readers don't know why. Whatever happened was so bad that the Truitts packed up and moved from Boston to Ethan's mother's "drooping and faded and flat" hometown of Palm Knot, Ga., so the blue-eyed, dark-curled, messed-up Ethan could "pretend to be a normal kid," as bluntly stated by his ever-exasperated teenaged brother, Roddie.

This "fresh start" is hard on everyone, including the once-happily-solitary Grandpa Ike, who suddenly has a tense family walking on eggshells in his own home. Ethan's mom clearly has issues with her father, Roddie is frustrated that there's no baseball team, and everyone's trying not to mention death or any other unpleasantness around Ethan. Fortunately, Ethan finds a real friend in another soul seeking a clean slate: Coralee Jessup, a "scrawny" and seemingly fearless black girl with lots of tiny braids and just as many big stories. As Ethan shares his dark secret with Coralee, the two friends stumble into new ones. A creepy old house, a mysterious woman and some suspicious jewels they find have them watching their backs and scrambling for answers. Soon Ethan is left wondering if there's anyone he can trust.

In The Ethan I Was Before, small-town coastal Georgia leaps to life with debut author Ali Standish's vivid descriptions of sticky hot afternoons, bays at sunset, saltwater taffy and hurricanes. Even in pain, Ethan is a sweet, affable protagonist and readers will join his friends and family in cheering him on as he staggers through grief and guilt all the way to hope. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this bittersweet debut novel, the Truitt family moves from Boston to small-town Georgia to help 12-year-old Ethan recover from a traumatic event involving his best friend.

Harper, $16.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 8-12, 9780062433381

Here We Are: 44 Voices Write, Draw, and Speak About Feminism for the Real World

by Kelly Jensen, editor

In Here We Are, 44 voices speak loud and clear about feminism, gender, race, sexuality, pop culture, family, violence, romance, body image, fandom, friendship and much more. The perspectives are diverse and even fascinatingly contradictory at times, but as this electrifying anthology's introduction states, "What unites feminists is the belief that every person--regardless of gender, class, education, race, sexuality, or ability--deserves equality."

Author Malinda Lo writes about how her literary heroines--from Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables to "the most popularly reviled sister" Amy March of Little Women--never spoke overtly about feminism, but reflected its ideals: "Self-motivated, not selfish. Human, not perfect. Bold and adventurous in spirit--just like my grandmother." Kody Keplinger provides a playlist of "Feminist Songs to Sing Along To," including "Sisters" by Mary Lambert and Beyoncé's "Flawless." Author Roxane Gay writes a tongue-in-cheek essay called "Bad Feminist: Take Two" about how "she's doing feminism wrong" by caring what people think, liking pink, reading Vogue and loving babies. There's a list of "Ten Amazing Scientists (Who Also Happen to Be Women)" and a comic strip by Liz Prince (Tomboy) chronicling her growth from "teenage misogynist" to T-shirt-sporting feminist. Editor Kelly Jensen has a conversation with Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak) and Courtney Summers (All the Rage) about sexual violence and "the YA canon of resilience literature." Printz Honor author Ashley Hope Pérez challenges "the Nice Girl Commandments," such as "Nice girls do not talk back" and "Nice girls always smile."

Within the lively pages of Here We Are is a 21st-century "feminist party," and everyone is invited. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This exciting, provocative anthology for young adults collects diverse and even fascinatingly contradictory viewpoints on modern feminism.

Algonquin, $16.95, paperback, 240p., ages 12-up, 9781616205867

The Murderer's Ape

by Jakob Wegelius, trans. by Peter Graves

In the early 20th century, Sally Jones is, variously, a ship's engineer, an accordion fixer in Portugal and, in India, a maharaja's companion and airplane mechanic. She is also a fiercely loyal friend. When her beloved ship's captain, Henry Koskela, also known as the Chief, is wrongly accused and imprisoned for murder, she goes to the ends of the earth to try to prove his innocence. But resourceful though she is, there's one problem: Sally Jones is a gorilla.

She can understand human language, but she can't speak. Her intelligence and her powerful ability to read people's behavior does give her some advantages, though, and her mechanical skills help put her in favorable positions to gather clues that might help exonerate the Chief she sorely misses. A marvelous group of friends keeps her from debilitating despair: a factory worker cum traditional fado singer named Ana Molina, an elegant but crusty accordion builder called Luigi Fidardo and miscellaneous ship workers, police inspectors and Indian royalty.

Award-winning Swedish writer and illustrator Jakob Wegelius weaves together a head-spinning story of mystery, intrigue, love and adventure, beautifully translated by Peter Graves and narrated by Sally Jones via typewriter, a gift from the Chief: "I am going to use it to tell the truth." Wegelius's intricate black-and-white drawings of the extraordinary cast of characters contribute greatly to establishing the flavor of the era, as do the remarkable details about life in shipping ports and on oceans around the world. Will we see more of Sally Jones in future novels? The outlook is good. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A gorilla named Sally Jones travels the world in the early 1900s on a quest to prove the innocence of her friend who has been falsely accused of murder.

Delacorte, $17.99, hardcover, 624p., ages 12-up, 9781101931752


Author Buzz

Visions of Flesh and Blood:
A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

Today is the release of VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium, and I am so excited that you finally get to see and read it!

I saw the love you had for Miss Willa, watched how following along with all the series twists and turns brought you joy, and thought... wouldn't it be nice to have a book to help with that, yet give even more new stuff?

So, my publisher and I came up with a plan. It included loads of stunning art commissions, strategic disclosures, and brand-new material. When it all came together, it was even better than I imagined.

VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD is so much more than a series bible. It's a journey and a work of art. A collector's item for sure!


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Visions of Flesh and Blood: A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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