Candor by Pam Bachorz. Egmont, 2009
Once-troubled teens become model citizens in Candor. “Respectful space in every place!” is a guiding principle that every young couple embraces. Everyone conforms, and teenager Oscar Banks, the mayor’s son, knows why: Music plays everywhere in Candor, and his father embeds subliminal messages in the songs. Not long after his father established Candor, Oscar figured out how to counteract the messages with personal recordings of his own. For him, conformity is all an act. Occasionally—and for a hefty fee—Oscar helps other kids, newcomers who still have a sense of self, escape the town and a future of mindless belonging. But a new girl in Candor poses a dilemma for Oscar. Nia is a free-spirited artist with an edginess Oscar admires. If he tells her the truth about Candor, he knows she’ll want to leave. Can he manipulate the messages she hears so that she seems to fit in even as the things that make her unique and appealing to him remain? Pam Bachorz’s provocative novel examines how both Oscar and his father are caught up in a web of power and control, one in which fear, anxiety, and even good intentions can lead to selfish, frightening ends. Bachorz’s inspiration for Candor was the planned community of Celebration, Florida. CCBC categories: Fiction for Young Adults. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic Press, 2012
Teenage Blue doesn’t have psychic powers but amplifies the signal for her mother and other psychics who live with them. All of them have foretold that if she kisses her true love, he will die. Blue avoids boys until she meets Adam, a student at Aglionby, the elite prep school in her hometown of Henrietta, Virginia. Adam isn’t like other Aglionby boys—he’s local, and he’s poor. Attracted to Adam, Blue is also drawn into his circle of friends and the quest of their leader, a boy named Gansey, to locate the ley line in Henrietta that might lead him to the tomb of a Welsh king. Blue has heard of Gansey: It was the name of a boy whose spirit she saw in her one psychic encounter, on St. Mark’s Eve—a vision that means he’s fated to die in the coming year. Against the backdrop of this tense, richly developed supernatural mystery, Maggie Stiefvater weaves a riveting and often poignant story of friendships and families, love and betrayal, money and identity, exploring the themes through the lives of refreshingly complex characters. The elements that draw the four boys together—and also threaten to divide them—become more and more apparent as Gansey’s search continues, his passion for the quest matched only by his desire and determination to keep his friends close and safe. And Blue’s own struggle—to assert her independence at home, to deal with her fate—is amplified as she becomes part of their tight-knit group. With several surprising revelations, Stiefvater’s immensely satisfying story will leave readers eager for the sequel. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamine Alire Sáenz. Simon & Schuster, 2012
Fifteen-year-old Ari is a loner. So he’s surprised when he becomes friends with smart, open-hearted Dante. They spend most of their free time together during the summer of 1987 in El Paso where they live. In the fall, Dante heads off to Chicago where his father is doing a visiting professorship. It’s in a letter to Ari that Dante reveals he’s gay, and Ari takes it in stride for the most part, even letting Dante kiss him once on a visit home. Reunited during the summer of 1988, the two hang out when they aren’t working. Meanwhile, Ari finds himself growing more and more angry at the silence in his family surrounding his older brother, Bernardo, who’s been in prison since Ari was four. Ari’s learned to swallow all his questions, so powerful is the unspoken message that the topic is forbidden. Then Dante is beaten up after a group of boys catch him kissing another boy. Enraged, Ari tracks one of the boys down and breaks his nose—all of the frustration and anger he feels coming out in the powerful punch. It’s a wake-up call for Ari’s parents, who make an effort to talk—about Bernardo and why he went to prison, and about Ari himself, encouraging him to stop hiding the truth about his feelings for Dante. That scene may be the only false note in a novel distinguished by gorgeous writing and extraordinary characterizations as it illuminates the friendship between the two teens—one who discovers he’s gay, one who knows it—from working-class and upper-middle-class Mexican American families. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Watch Wisconsin student-made book trailers for Aristotle and Dante!
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Simpson Street Free Press, Madison/HS/2013-14)
Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins. Candlewick Press, 2013
Ten authors for young adults explore the intersection of culture and identity in a variety of styles and tones, from humorous to loving to conversational to let’s-face-the-truth matter of factness. That range is highlighted by notable pieces from Gene Luen Yang, G. Neri, Francisco X. Stork, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, and prefaced by Mitali Perkins’s introduction, in which she recommends humor as the ideal tool for negotiating potentially tense conversations about “growing up between cultures.” Some of these selections are funny while others take a different approach, but all offer welcome entrée into a subject zone often approached with caution. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Watch Wisconsin student-made book trailers for Open Mic!
Open Mic (Simpson Street Free Press, Madison/High School/2014-15)