Everyone seems to know what they want to do after high school except Cliff Sparks. It’s senior year and Cliff has no idea. Not only that, he is also dying to have a girlfriend. As a first person, sometimes unreliable, narrator, Cliff takes you through his life as a senior - the ups and downs of dating, standing up for friends, his dreams and aspirations, and finally, finding his calling. Not only are there awkward high school social situations to wade through, there are family financial stresses that cause tension between Cliff and his volatile, unemployed father. How does one teenage boy juggle work, school, family, social life (or lack thereof) and hope to graduate?
On Monday, November 4, 2013, the lives of two teenagers intersected on the 57 bus in Oakland, California. As one of the teens dozed during the hour-long ride home after school, the other decided to set the first’s skirt on fire. This is the compelling true story of two teens whose lives are turned upside down by this tragic event. We follow their stories as one tries to heal, forgive and move on and the other navigates through the criminal courts with remorse hoping for a second chance. All this is cast against a backdrop of questions about race, gender, identity, and class. Was it a hate crime? Will there be justice for both the victim and the perpetrator?
Taiwanese-American teen, Mei, is about to start freshman year at MIT. Her super-traditional family has always pushed her to get into a good college, become a doctor, and marry the right guy (preferably a Taiwanese-American boy). She’s trying her best to not be like her brother who chose his own path instead of following their parents’ strict ideas for what defines success. Mei does not want to be disowned like him, however, at college, she is discovering that what her parents want for her does not match up with who she is. As an extreme germophobe, she can barely get through basic bio labs with all the animal dissections involved. Plus, she might be falling for Darren Takahashi who is not Taiwanese, not even Chinese. So, how will Mei juggle her parents’ expectations and her own dreams for her future?
Nadia and Saeed are friends, lovers, refugees... They leave their families and war torn country behind in the search for a better future. Their journey takes them to Mykonos, London, and finally the US. Along the way, Nadia and Saeed’s relationship ebbs and flows as they step through the different doors that offer them escape to new places. With each journey and arrival, we meet other migrants like them whose stories briefly parallel theirs. A beautifully written bittersweet story of two friends, lovers, refugees...caught in circumstances outside of their control, leaving their past to seek out a safer, unknown future.
Bangladeshi-American high schooler Naeem is caught in a catch 22. The cops discover stolen goods that his so-called friend Ibrahim put in his backpack. Now, he has to choose between being prosecuted for a crime he didn’t commit or being an informant on his Muslim community. Tasked with reporting any suspicious activity in the area mosques and Muslim youth groups, Naeem feels increasingly conflicted about his role as a “watcher” and what that means for his family and those around him.
Ivy League-bound Justyce McAllister is one of the few African American students at his prep school. After being racially profiled while helping a friend, he decides to study Dr. Martin Luther King’s teachings to see how they apply to his life today. As he navigates the complex racial dynamics at his school, he is forced to confront the grim realities of being an African American male in the US - when every encounter with the police could lead to a life or death situation. Nic Stone’s debut novel shines a harsh light on the issues confronting young African American youth today from implicit bias, racial profiling, gang membership, multi-racial relationships, police brutality and more.
For Will, there are only 3 rules he needs to live by:
#1 - No crying
#2 - No snitching
#3 - Revenge: If someone you love gets killed, find the person who killed them and kill them. Now that his brother Shawn has been shot dead, Will is trying to decide how he’s going to live by these rules. With his brother’s gun tucked in his jeans, Will takes the longest elevator ride down. Stopping on each floor, the elevator is haunted by memories? Ghosts? of all the people around Will who have been shot. Each “talks” to Will as he tries make sense of who they are and why they are in the elevator. Before he reaches the lobby, Will will have to make a decision - is he going to be a rule breaker or get revenge.
Isma Pasha and her younger twin siblings, Parvaiz and Aneeka, are trying to carry on with their lives after the death of their mother. They never knew their father, who was accused of being a jihadi and supposedly died at Guantanamo. Both Isma and Aneeka are about to leave to pursue higher education - Isma in the US and Aneeka in the UK. This leaves Parvaiz who quickly becomes the target of a jihadi recruiter in the UK. Told from alternating points of view the Pashas’ lives become unwittingly linked to that of Eamonn, the well-to-do son of the first Muslim Home Secretary of the UK. Each of the four Muslim main characters is trying to navigate a world where they are seen as the enemy - whether they like it or not.
There are a lot of books about rape. Many of them give an intense portrayal of the aftermath, how the victim is increasingly isolated, blamed, falling apart. This book is kind of the opposite. It’s about strength, resilience, and the role of the supporting cast - the parents, the friends, the police investigator. Hermione Winter is a competitive cheerleader in the small town of Palermo Heights. Over the summer, she is assaulted at a cheer camp when her drink is drugged. She doesn’t remember much about what happened. She suffers many negative consequences as a result of the assault from having scary flashbacks, to people blaming her for it happening to not having enough evidence to find the perpetrator. However in this story, the people around her are all helping her, even as they are grappling with this despicable crime and its effect on Hermione. With their support, Hermione is able to start the process of healing. Now all they want is for the perpetrator to be brought to justice.