Saturday, January 21, 2017

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Paperback: $18.99

Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex. 
No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too. 
Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try. 
So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing. 
But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

About the Author

Robin Talley’s first novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves (Harlequin Teen, 2014), about two girls on the front lines of the school desegregation battle in 1959 Virginia, was on the short list for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her second young adult novel, What We Left Behind (Harlequin Teen, 2015), a contemporary story about love and identity, was called a “must-read” in a starred review from School Library Journal. Her newest novel, As I Descended (Harper Teen, September 2016), is a retelling of Macbeth centering around a girl/girl couple who set out to take down their boarding school’s resident queen bee. In a starred review, Kirkus said, “This adaptation’s bewitching intrigues and enthralling deceptions will whet the daggers of any reader’s mind.” Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife and their daughter, plus an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. You can find her on the web at or on Twitter at @robin_talley.

Brief Review

Being a teenager inherently comes with questioning one's identity, and there's probably no better author to explore those issues that Robin Talley. As we celebrate the Women's March on Washington today, it's important to look at all of the issues that girls face, including those that Aki and Christa encounter.

Surrounded by religion, Aki doesn't quite know how to understand and express her sexuality. She decides to go with her older brother and her father (who is a minister by the way) on a mission trip to Mexico. There, she begins to realize who she really is and who she wants to be. The book becomes not such a questioning of identity so much as an acceptance, which is rare. 

There are so many LGBTQ issues in the United States right now, so it's nice to see a book out there for young adults who may be facing the same future as Aki. The fact that Aki is African-American also opens the discussion to not only questions of sexuality but those of sexuality and race. 

Overall, Talley's book stands out, not only for its distinct characters, but for its exploration into an issue that is not widely accepted or examined in the real world.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Blog Tour (Spotlight): The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

“[A] poignant, coming-of- age story. . . . Spinelli again shows his mastery at evoking a particular time and place while delving into the heart of a troubled adolescent.”—Publishers Weekly

"The prison community is a powerful backdrop for Cammie’s turbulent coming of age, populated with messy lives that brighten in Cammie’s presence but that have their own demons to tame."The Bulletin

Jerry Spinelli, one of the biggest names in children’s literature, offers readers a unique and unforgettable story in THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTER (Knopf Books for Young Readers / on sale January 3, 2017), a novel about a preteen girl finally coming to grips with the pain of losing her mother years earlier. THIS is the must-read book of 2017, and it will haunt your heart and mind long after you have read the final page.

Cammie O’Reilly is the warden’s daughter, living in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. But she’s also living in a prison of grief and anger over the mother who died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. And in the summer of 1959, as twelve turns to thirteen, everything in Cammie’s life seems to be in flux. Cammie’s best friend, Reggie, is discovering lipstick and American Bandstand. A child killer is caught and brought to her prison. And the only mother figures in her life include a flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo and a sullen reformed arsonist of a housekeeper named Eloda. All will play a role in Cammie’s coming-of-age. But one in particular will make a staggering sacrifice to ensure that Cammie breaks free from her past.
The New York Times has called Spinelli “a poet of the prepubescent. . . . No writer guides his young characters, and his readers, past these pitfalls and challenges and toward their futures with more compassion.” In THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTER, he masterfully spins a tale of loss, redemption, and love like no other. Not only does this book demonstrate the power of kindness, but it also makes readers realize that kindness can be hidden in the least likely people and places.

About the Author

JERRY SPINELLI is the author of many books for young readers, including Stargirl; Love, Stargirl; Milkweed; Crash; Hokey Pokey; Wringer; and Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal; along with Knots in My Yo-yo String, his autobiography. A graduate of Gettysburg College, he lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, poet and author Eileen Spinelli. You can follow Jerry on Twitter at @JerrySpinelli1 and visit his website at

by Jerry Spinelli
An Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers hardcover / On sale January 3, 2017 / 978-0-375-83199-7
352 pages / $16.99 / $22.99 Can. / Ages 9–12 / Ebk: 978-0-553-49463-1 / $10.99
Available as an audiobook from Listening Library.

Fans, Writing, and Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli Talks The Warden's Daughter

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Best from 2016 (January): This is Where it Ends (Spotlight)

"[A] compelling story of terror, betrayal, and heroism… This brutal, emotionally charged novel will grip readers and leave them brokenhearted."--Kirkus Reviews

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Paperback: $17.99

The #1 New York Times Bestseller!
Everyone has a reason to fear the boy with the gun.
10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
The auditorium doors won’t open.
Someone starts shooting.
Told from four perspectives over the span of 54 harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
A Buzzfeed Best YA of 2016 

#1 Young Adult Debut of 2016
Publishers Weekly Bestseller 
Winter ’15 Kids Indie Next List
Goodreads YA Best Books of the Month
Buzzfeed 5 YA Books You Should Be Reading This January 18 of 2016’s Most-Anticipated YA Novels
BookRiot 15 Books out in 2016 You Should Mark Down Now
A Goodreads Choice Award Finalist for Young Adult Fiction

Brief Review

No one wants to think about a school shooting, yet they occur all too often. When Columbine happened, we said "never again." And then came Sandy Hook. As a teacher, it never fails to cross my mind on a daily basis that I could be walking into a situation where I will encounter a school shooter. It seems, though, to get pushed to the back of mind as the year progresses uneventfully. Not until we have our annual lockdown drill is it brought back to the forefront. As I sit silently with my students in the corner of the room, we look at each other and wonder, "what if this were the real thing?," and we pray that we never know the answer.

In this book, four students from Alabama's Opportunity High School provide a timeline of the events of a school shooting. They are all connected to the shooter, Tyler, in some way (sister, girlfriend, girlfriend's brother, and ex-girlfriend). Each tells his/her perspective of what happened on that tragic day. The timeline is told as a flashback, which helps to provide some clarity of the plot of the events of the day, and the description of the events doesn't lose any intensity. While we hope we only ever read about such tragedies in fiction, school shootings are more common than ever, and this book helps to shed light on those connected to a school shooter as well as the decisions made (both heroic and tragic) amidst chaos.