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August 2018 Back-to-School Horn Book Herald: High School

The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
HarperTeen     361 pp
3/18     978-0-06-266280-4     $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-266282-8     $9.99

Fifteen-year-old Xiomara, a self-described “brown and big and angry” Dominican girl from Harlem, finds peace in writing poetry. The slow-burning suspense of what will transpire when devoutly Catholic Mami discovers Xiomara’s clandestine relationship with a classmate is eclipsed only by the devastation that occurs when Mami reads Xiomara’s candid poetry journal. Acevedo’s debut verse novel — winner of the 2018 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry — is an arresting portrait of a young poet coming into her own.

Speak: The Graphic Novel
by Laurie Halse Anderson; illus. by Emily Carroll
Farrar     376 pp.
2/18     978-0-374-30028-9     $19.99

In this new graphic-novel adaptation of Anderson’s novel — a powerful narrative of a high school freshman’s year of self-preservation after a brutal sexual assault — artist Carroll starkly renders protagonist Melinda’s pain and healing in black and white, expertly deploying visual perspective and tension to sharpen the emotional impact. A tumultuous first-person narration juxtaposed with the third-person visual perspective offers a new way to experience Melinda’s story.

Between the Lines
by Nikki Grimes
Penguin/Paulsen     213 pp.     g
2/18     978-0-399-24688-3     $17.99

This companion to Bronx Masquerade again mixes students’ first-person narratives and their forays into poetry. Students in Mr. Ward’s Bronx high school class are preparing for a poetry slam. Each student is given a voice among the story’s multiple points of view; though they all have different life stories, they bond over the power of words: “We were more alike than we were different.”

Heretics Anonymous
by Katie Henry
HarperCollins/Tegen     330 pp.     g
8/18     978-0-06-269887-2     $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-269889-6     $8.99

Michael’s family’s latest move has landed him at a conservative Catholic prep school. Atheist Michael assumes the school will be full of “mindless Catholic sheep” but finds himself welcomed into Heretics Anonymous, a secret support group for students whose beliefs don’t match up with school doctrine. In addition to being a frequently hilarious comedy with its share of complicated romance, the story presents a thought-provoking look at faith.

The Librarian of Auschwitz
by Antonio Iturbe
Holt/Godwin     424 pp.
10/17     978-1-62779-618-7     $19.99

The children in 1944 Auschwitz-Birkenau’s “family camp” are kept busy so their parents can work more efficiently — or so the Nazis think; in fact, the prisoners are running a school. Even more extraordinary, the school has a librarian: fourteen-year-old Edita Adlerova (based on a real person), in charge of eight precious, forbidden books. Iturbe’s remarkable account uses an immediate present tense to immerse readers in Dita’s story. Bib.

The Secret Science of Magic
by Melissa Keil
Peachtree     305 pp.
4/18     978-1-68263-014-3     $17.95

Chapters alternate between Aussie high schoolers Sophia (a math-and-science whiz preoccupied with finding a reclusive Russian mathematician and passing her hated drama class) and Joshua (an amateur magician whose longstanding love for Sophia is unrequited). Excellent character development of the protagonists, their diverse group of friends, and their families makes their budding romantic relationship just one among several satisfying plot lines; witty (sometimes profane) dialogue keeps pages turning.

by Brendan Kiely
McElderry     342 pp.
5/18     978-1-4814-8034-5     $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-8036-9     $10.99

In this dark and timely novel, two teens confront the dangerous sexism entrenched in their elite, formerly all-male boarding school. After Jules Devereaux is sexually assaulted by her influential ex-boyfriend, new (platonic) friend James Baxter resolves to stand up for her. Together, they hatch a daring plot to make a public statement. Alternating chapters from these equally compelling narrators detail two distinct paths toward activism.

The Altered History of Willow Sparks
by Tara O’Connor; illus. by the author
Oni Press     152 pp.     g
1/18     Paper ed.  978-1-62010-450-7     $19.99

When miserable teen Willy has a chance to write her preferred reality into a magical book, she does. But Willy’s reinvention as cool, stylish “Willow” has unexpected consequences. At this graphic novel’s heart is an examination of the often-volatile dynamics of high school friendships and social standing. In O’Connor’s detailed, blue-toned grayscale art, the main characters’ expressive faces and body language convey nuanced emotional arcs.

Boots on the Ground
by Elizabeth Partridge
Viking     214 pp.
4/18     978-0-670-78506-3     $22.99
e-book ed.  978-0-425-29178-8     $11.99

Partridge’s indispensable volume about the Vietnam War employs a powerfully moving structure that sends readers back and forth between America and Vietnam over a twenty-year period. Each chapter centers on an individual affected: Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon; Martin Luther King Jr.; Maya Lin; etc., alternating with eight people (seven veterans, one Vietnamese refugee) Partridge interviewed. Ample direct quotes and carefully researched details, along with spectacular photographs, bring the war close. Bib., ind.

After the Shot Drops
by Randy Ribay
Houghton     325 pp.     g
3/18     978-1-328-70227-2     $17.99

High school basketball star Benedict (“Bunny”) Thompson transfers to an elite school where he’s one of six black kids out of a thousand. Ribay alternates the first-person points of view of Bunny and his best friend Nasir and avoids heavy-handedness through authentic-sounding dialogue. The story revolves around basketball, but will have wide appeal as a tale of friendship and trying to do the right thing.

From the August 2018: Back-to-School issue of The Horn Book Herald.

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