The F-Word…a look at Feminism for YA readers


Higgins, Nadia Abushanab. Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2016. 978-1-4677-6147-5. 112 pp. $35.99. Gr. 7 and up.

The bold cover of Feminism by Nadia Abushanab Higgins first drew my attention to the book, and I’m so glad that it did! This highly readable nonfiction title opens with a chapter on the three waves of feminism: the 1848-1920 fight for suffrage and other basic rights for women, the mid-20th century second wave that roughly coincided with the Civil Rights movement, and the ongoing “Third Wave.” Beginning in the early 1990s, this Third Wave kicked off with a combination of the previous movements’ wisdom and a thoroughly modern perspective on individuality, power, privilege, and femininity. Higgins then moves on to how things stand in the realms of work, violence against women, sex and beauty, reproductive rights, and the future of the movement. Higgins does not shy away from regrettable chapters in feminist history, such as the failure of white feminists to vigorously protest forced sterilization procedures in the United States. She also has a clearly Pro-Choice position on abortion rights. Excerpts from the book would work well in curriculum areas such as American History and Sociology. The book also serves as a starting point for building a multimedia library of feminist documents, books, images, and video. THOUGHTS: Kudos to Nadia Abushanab Higgins for creating this nonfiction book for teens that has tremendous value for researchers and browsers alike.

COMMENTARY: I plan to include Feminism in the “Notable Nonfiction” read-alike list that is featured on the Ridley High School Library’s Web site ( , as well as incorporating it into my booktalk repertoire. For an even more in-depth discussion of the terrible history of eugenics and forced sterilization, listen to the Fresh Air interview with Adam Cohen, author of the recently published Imbeciles.

Feminism (305.4)      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

New YA from Alexandra Bracken and Don Calame


Bracken, Alexandra. Passenger. Los Angeles: Hyperion, 2016. 978-148471577-2. 486 pp. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Etta Spencer’s world revolves around her budding violin career, until the night of a high-stakes performance at the Met when she is unexpectedly thrust into a portal that delivers her to 1776, aboard a ship that has recently been seized by pirates, no less. Etta is descended from a long line of time travelers, and while she receives a crash course in temporal passages from her fellow traveler Sophie, she is also instantly drawn to the dashing pirate (and freed slave) Nicholas. Etta soon learns that her mother Rose has been taken hostage by the Grand Master of travelers, Cyrus Ironwood. In order to rescue Rose, Etta must go on a scavenger hunt of sorts to London, Paris, Cambodia, and Damascas — across various timelines — to locate a coveted astrolabe that can actually create new passages through time. Nicholas accompanies her as a protector, partner, and love interest. Though the premise is stellar, the book is oddly slow-paced at times. Several long chapters could easily be summarized in just a sentence or two because Bracken includes too much exposition and too little forward momentum as she sets up the second installment in the duology; Wayfarer is due in 2017. THOUGHTS: Despite the novel’s inconsistent pacing, it has a lot going for it. Lush historical settings, feminist commentary, unsettling racist comments, and a swoon-worthy romance all practically overflow from its pages and will hold readers’ interest until the cliffhanger ending.

I was very excited to read Passenger as part of the January “Booksplosion” online book club with some of my favorite BookTubers. I would not recommend the audiobook version, which would have been far stronger with a male narrator for Nicholas’ chapters.

Historical Fantasy    Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School
Calame, Don. Dan Versus Nature. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2016. 978-0-7636-7071-9. 384 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.
As a long-time fan of Don Calame’s Swim the Fly series, I was thrilled to discover that he had a new book slated to arrive in 2016, and Dan Versus Nature does not disappoint! Calame brings his signature brand of cringe-inducing hilarity to the story of Dan Weekes. Dan spends his time working on his graphic novel, crushing on Erin, hanging out with his germaphobic best friend Charlie, and avoiding getting stomped by the wrestling team. He is horrified to learn that his mom has gotten engaged to outdoorsy dentist Hank, and even more horrified when he finds out that she has booked her “two favorite men” on a one-week wilderness survival adventure. With the help of Charlie (and Calame’s unflagging willingness to play his protagonist’s biological functions for laughs), Dan uses the week in the woods to launch a campaign of annoyance, pranks, and embarrassing heart-to-hearts in an attempt to scare Hank away for good. The presence of cute Veronica on the trip complicates both Dan’s pranking agenda and his loyalty to Erin. A bush plane with a failing engine, a relentlessly curious bear, angry wasps, and syrup of ipecac will keep readers giggling and turning the pages. THOUGHTS: Dan Versus Nature is fast-paced, funny, and perfect for booktalking with 9th graders!
Realistic Fiction; Humor            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

2016 Titles are Officially Here

As per our usual, Literature Review focuses on reviewing and recommending one publishing year at a time.  With PSLA’s Annual Conference in full swing, our 2015 list is out, so it’s time for 2016 (Officially…several titles have already been added to the blog).  Happy Reading!



Rutkowski, Marie. The Winner’s Kiss. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-0-3743847-39. 496 p. $17.99. Gr 7-12.

Marie Rutkowski’s excellent Winner’s Curse trilogy ends with this epic, immensely satisfying conclusion! Arin is at war, both physically and emotionally; in his attempts to find allies and fight the Valorian army, he can’t seem to forget about Kestel, even if his memories are tinged with hatred. Kestrel’s father has betrayed her to the Emperor, and she’s now working in a brutal work camp in the North, her daily food and water tainted with drugs to keep her docile. With each day and each batch of drugs, Kestrel finds herself losing her memories, along with her sense of self. An encounter with a soldier and a maker moth begins to unravel Arin’s distrust; he begins to question both he and Kestrel’s previous actions and moves to rescue her, setting in motion a series of exciting events that will have readers on the edge of their seats. While much of the story focuses on the relationship between Arin and Kestrel, fans of action, adventure, and epic war battles will not be disappointed. THOUGHTS: A beautifully written, brilliant end to one of the best YA series in recent memory.

Fantasy    Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

PSLA Conference 2016

Literature Review will present their “Best of 2015” lists this Friday, May 13, 2016, during Session C.  We’re very excited out this years list and hope you are too.  The session format has changed, so be prepared for an interactive session of booktalks, book discussion, and ideas (lots of them).  Here’s a sneak peek of this year’s titles:  Happy Reading!