YA – Financial Literacy (Series NF)

Financial Literacy. Essential Library, 2020. $26.00 ea. $156.00 set of 6. 112 p. Grades 7-12.

Burling, Alexis. Managing Debt. 978-1-532-11914-9.
Donohue, Moira Rose. Making Smart Money Choices. 978-1-532-11913-2.
Edwards, Sue Bradford. Earning, Saving, and Investing. 978-1-532-11911-8.
Hulick, Kathryn. Protecting Financial Data. 978-1-532-11915-6.
LaPierre, Yvette. Economy 101. 978-1-532-11912-5.
Regan, Michael. The Cost of College. 978-1-532-11910-1.

Financial literacy is an area of a student’s education that may be heavily influenced by one’s upbringing and socioeconomic status. ABDO’s Financial Literacy series attempts to help libraries level the playing field by giving ALL students access to valuable information. This reviewer had the opportunity to read The Cost of College. With eight chapters ranging from Where to start? to What if I change My Mind? this title covers many aspects of what students should know before going to college. Each chapter has clear headings, interesting graphics and text highlights, and student worksheets. The book concludes with key takeaways, a glossary, additional resources, source notes, and an index.

THOUGHTS: This series is a good addition to enhance secondary library collections seeking to refresh their financial literacy offerings.

300s Business & Finance          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – It Sounded Better in My Head

Kenwood, Nina. It Sounded Better in My Head. Flatiron Books, 2020. 978-1-250-21926-8. 260 p. $18.99. Grade. 8-12.

Natalie had a good grip on her life until her parents jovially announce they’re getting a divorce. They’ve known this for months but waited until the Christmas holidays and high school graduation (which coincide in Australia, where the book was first published). A rarity for literature, Natalie has a great relationship with her parents and is devastated by the news and hurt by their deceit. She turns to her support network, her best friends Lucy and Zach. But since they started dating, Natalie sometimes feels like a third wheel. Having suffered through severe, scarring acne during puberty, Natalie has a shattered self image and has not dated. At a party, she connects with Alex, Zach’s older brother, but quickly convinces herself Alex’s interest was an act of kindness perpetrated by Zach. But an accidental case of musical bedrooms at a beach house over New Year’s brings Natalie and Alex back into close proximity, and as they talk they again feel a positive connection. However, Natalie’s lack of confidence and poor self image quickly threaten to sabotage the burgeoning relationship. This engaging book covers a topic not discussed in YA literature, the trauma of severe teen acne, and the scars it leaves, both physical and psychological. Natalie is a bright teen with caring parents and friends, but the long term effects of her acne are evident in her image, (styling her hair to cover which side of her face looks worse) confidence, and self-worth. American readers will need to translate Australian terms and references but will recognize themselves in the three friends as they shakily navigate through the next phase in their lives.

THOUGHTS: A welcome addition to YA realistic fiction collections. While some characters have sex off-page, Natalie and Alex discuss the issue and decide they are not ready.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Eighteen-year-old Natalie is looking forward to her well-planned future: she and her close friends and new couple, Zach and Lucy, will join her in their respective majors at a local Australian university. Perhaps then, Natalie will be able to shed some of the body shame she has from her years with inflammatory, scarring acne and finally experience a love life.

When Natalie’s seemingly loving parents announce their divorce on graduation night, Natalie relies even more on her friends, though she’s feeling more and more like a third wheel. As the trio await their uni placements, they join Zach’s family at their beach house in Queenscliff to vacation and celebrate New Year’s. What follows is a comedy of errors. Going against his house rules, Zach asks Natalie if she will trade rooms so he and Lucy can sleep together. Older brother, Alex, shows up at the beach house in the middle of the night and crashes in Zach’s room surprising both Natalie and himself. It doesn’t help that Natalie has a secret crush on handsome Alex since he gave her a peck on the cheek during a game of Spin the Bottle at a pre-graduation party. As their nights together multiply, romance blossoms. The revelation of the pair as boyfriend and girlfriend causes a ruckus not just in Alex’s and Zack’s family but also in Zach’s and Natalie’s relationship. Natalie’s first-person narrative reveals her insecurities in navigating the new terrain of sex and a boy/girl relationship. Though no graphic sex scenes occur, It Sounded Better In My Head does percolate the angst and delight of true friendship, first love, and new beginnings. Author Kenwood makes this story light and funny and her characters seem very real.

THOUGHTS: Natalie spends a lot of time obsessing over her bad skin and her lack of a love life. Natalie and Alex spend a lot of time talking and kissing in bed during the room switch and afterward. At this time when there are so many serious issues abound, Natalie’s common concerns about friendship, sex, appearance, university, and her parents may seem a bit trite; however, young readers may share Natalie’s insecurities and longings and enjoy her sense of humor.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

YA – Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard

Brown, Echo. Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard. Henry Holt and Company, 2020. 978-1-250-30985-3. $17.99. 291 p. Grades 9 and up.

The reader meets the main character of Echo Brown’s Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard at age six in a dangerous situation and follows her until she embarks to college. On the way, Echo is becoming a wizard –not the Hermione Granger kind–but the kind made from determination and desire. Each chapter in this memoir-like novel includes a quality Echo, the Black girl of the title, assumes to realize her true self. Bad things happen as Echo treads that path to her goal: household rife with alcoholism and addiction; molestation; rape; incarceration of her brother; injury to her best friend. But author Brown realizes Echo’s existence is complex. Her mother craves the “white rocks;” but she, too, is a wizard with nurturing powers. Her brothers hang on the corner and drink too much; but they also have dreams and are their sister’s strongest champions. Echo has good friends, mostly Black, but also Jin, a Korean-American gay classmate, and Elena, an Iranian-American gay friend. (Their sexual orientation is irrelevant to the plot.) Her Cleveland neighborhood is supportive and proud of her accomplishments. She has an encouraging teacher, Mrs. Delaney, who takes Echo under her wing to help her attain her college goals. The first time she goes to Mrs. Delaney’s large, suburban home, Echo is shocked to discover her white teacher’s husband is Black. Seventeen and insecure, she senses his restrained and even dismissive opinion of her. The author has an ineffable talent for infusing these important themes of racism, white supremacy, implicit and explicit biases, micro-aggressions, Black versus Black aggression, self image among Black women, and misogyny among Black men seamlessly because she tells them as part of Echo’s story. At times, the author takes a non-linear approach to deliver Echo’s tale, especially when the lessons of wizardry are at work. This technique fits with the book. It is a study in opposites: real but fantastic; lovely but harsh; despairing but hopeful. It is a story of inequity and the innate ability to fight that inequity and succeed, hence the power of wizardry. In truth, the wizards are strong women, overcoming flaws and shortcomings. All of them show Echo how capable and resilient she is.

THOUGHTS: Echo Brown’s writing style is moving. Ms. Brown also differentiates between the main character’s standard English narrative and Ebonics of her family and Cleveland, Ohio, neighbors. Because of some language (the n word), sexual scenes, and the sophistication of the writing, this book may be better suited to older teens and young adults. An outstanding book.

Magic Realism          Bernadette Cooke, SD Philadelphia

Breakfast Served Anytime

breakfast

Combs, Sarah. Breakfast Served Anytime. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2014. Print. 978-0763667917. 272p. $16.99. Gr. 9+. 

This is a sweet, simple coming-of-age tale that will interest readers preparing for the leap from high school to college. Gloria has always believed that she and her best friend, Carol, would go to New York City after they graduated to make it in the big city, far away from their native and unglamourous hometown in Kentucky. That is, until Gloria is accepted to attend Geek Camp, thus assuring herself a full-ride to the University of Kentucky. Assuring Carol that she won’t consider accepting the scholarship, Gloria plans to go to Geek Camp and picks the major “Secrets of the Written Word,” curious about the cryptic title. The professor doesn’t disappoint. In his introductory letter, he requests that students leave all forms of technology at home, and on the first day of classes sends the students on a scavenger hunt. The small group of four students in the class are an eclectic mix of individuals, including one boy that Gloria at first can’t stand but interests her nonetheless. When the professor eventually surfaces, he sees it as his mission to teach the students about life in Kentucky and gives them their task for the summer- to select one novel as the Great American Novel.  The dialogue is witty and engaging, and the relationships between Gloria and her friends are believable as teens trying to navigate the slippery slope between high school and the college world. This is an excellent book to highlight as a summer reading option for those students beginning to look at life beyond their immediate community.

Realistic Fiction   Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

I found this lovely book by doing a general search on Goodreads for new Young Adult novels. It was a nice change from the many books on suicides that have cropped up lately. Gloria is an interesting character, and I enjoyed reading about her transition into adulthood. In the upcoming month I plan on giving a few book talks for summer reading suggestions, and this one will definitely be included on my list that I share with students. Gloria and her relationships with her new roommate, classmates, and professor give her a glimpse into the life of a college student, which is a great opportunity that would benefit many students. Gloria spends a good amount of time reflecting on her own actions and how they affect people,  which is something that I wish more students would do, and I hope that they begin to do as they leave high school. Empathy is one characteristic that is missing in many students, and to see it in action in a book might push them to develop an understanding of how important it is to show to others.