YA – Miss Meteor

Mejia, Tehlor Kay, and Anna-Marie McLemore. Miss Meteor. Harper Teen, 2020. 978-0-062-86991-3. $17.99. 392 p. Grades 9 and up.

Meteor, New Mexico is a cheesy tourist town known for three things: the regional cornhole tournament, the Miss Meteor Pageant, and, of course, the huge meteor that landed there fifty years ago. Everyone knows that’s why the town is named “Meteor,” but they don’t know Lita landed there with it. Lita lives her human life now in Meteor with Bruja Lupe, her “mom,” who may or may not have come from the same space rock. Being of Mexican descent and the daughter of the town witch does nothing to help Lita in the popularity department. That doesn’t stop her from fantasizing over and pretending to enter and win the Miss Meteor Pageant as a kid, her best friend Chicky playing along as her manager. Things don’t get better for her over the years, though. Chicky ends their friendship abruptly in middle school, and since then it seems as though Lita is turning back into the stardust from which she came; tiny patches of it are visible under her skin. Also of Mexican descent, flannel-and-combat-boot-wearing Chicky has harbored a secret and has had to deal with bullying for most of her life, Miss Meteor pageant legacy Kendra Kendall being her harshest and most frequent bully. When Lita decides to go for her dream of Miss Meteor because she’s running out of time and has nothing to lose, Chicky decides to resume her role as Lita’s manager. Kendra Kendall losing the crown everyone expects her to win to the weirdest girl in town would be fitting, so it’s worth it to Chicky to rekindle her friendship with Lita to make it happen. How long can Chicky continue to keep her secret from her friend though, since that’s why she ended their friendship in the first place? Will Lita even make it to the pageant, or will she turn to stardust before it even starts? Find out in this beautifully written poignant story of friendship and self-love.

THOUGHTS: Miss Meteor is adorable and imaginative, and Tehlor Kay Mejia is quickly becoming a must-read YA author for me, personally. This book is co-written with Anna-Marie McLemore, and each author writes one of the main characters’ point of view in alternating chapter format. Lita is particularly quirky and innocent (which makes sense, given she’s made of stardust), and I found myself smiling a lot while reading this book… and laughing. And I may have shed a tear or two. While there are several instances of harsh bullying including homophobia and transphobia, this book is heartwarming overall with a cast of extremely lovable and diverse characters. Chicky’s sisters are hilarious, and the girls themselves as well as their friends/love interests are of various sexual orientations including a trans character. Highly recommended addition for all high school collections.

Fantasy (Magical Realism)          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

YA NF – Girl Code; The 57 Bus

Gonzales, Andrea, and Sophie Houser. Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting it Done. Harper, 2017. 978-0-06-247250-2. 264 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Teenagers Andrea “Andy” Gonzales and Sophie Houser met at a summer camp called Girls Who Code, where they teamed up to create a video game called Tampon Run.  Much to their surprise, the video game became wildly popular, solidifying their celebrity status in the tech world.  This book, told in alternating perspectives between Andy and Sophie, gives readers an inside look into their lives, beginning before the invention of Tampon Run and continuing with the impact the game had on their lives after it went viral.  By the end of the book, the girls are heading off to college and sharing their hopes and aspirations for the future.  Also included in the back of the book is a coding appendix that provides readers with coding basics.  A solid addition for any school looking to add to their STEM collection.  THOUGHTS: I felt this title was geared more towards girls than boys.  Not only were there many details included about the menstrual taboo, but there were many references to the lack of female coders in the tech field.  These messages are empowering for young girls who wish to make the topic of menstruation less taboo or who wish to work in the STEM field, but may not speak as strongly to boys.  Pair this title with Reshma Saujani’s New York Times bestseller, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World.

005.1; Computer Programming       Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Slater, Dashka. The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017. 978-0-374-30323-5. 305 pp. $17.00. Gr. 8 and up.

In November of 2013, teenagers Sasha and Richard didn’t have much in common. Sasha attended a small private high school, had a small circle of supportive friends, and identified as genderqueer (preferring they/them pronouns). Richard attended large, public Oakland High School and had already spent a year in juvenile detention. Their lives overlapped for a few short minutes each day on Oakland’s 57 bus. One afternoon, while Sasha was napping in the back of the bus, Richard flicked a lighter near Sasha’s skirt. It erupted in flames and left the teenager with second and third degree burns requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation. Sixteen-year old Richard, who admitted to being homophobic in a police interview, faced a potential life sentence if he was tried as an adult with a hate crime enhancement. Author Dashka Slater takes a remarkably even-handed look at the two young people, the crime, their respective support systems, and role of the justice system in what happened next. In particular, she examines whether a teenager can ever truly act as an adult, and whether adult prisons are an appropriate place for juvenile offenders to serve their sentences.  THOUGHTS: While not a typical true crime story, The 57 Bus is an extremely compelling portrayal of a hate crime and its aftermath. The author deftly illustrates how gender is not always binary, and neither is right/wrong, guilty/not-guilty, just/unjust.

364.15; True Crime     Amy Pickett, Ridley School District

 

Sasha, an asexual white teen from a middle-class background who attended a small private school in Oakland, California, was napping on the 57 bus one afternoon when Richard, an African American teen from a poorer neighborhood who attended a large public school, made the rash decision to light Sasha’s skirt on fire. The skirt went up in flames, and Sasha was hospitalized with severe burns while Richard was arrested and charged as an adult for committing a hate crime. Using interviews, documents, letters, videos, diaries, social media posts, and public records, the author pieces together the entire story in a very impartial manner.  Beginning with the incident itself and then backtracking to provide information on Sasha’s and Richard’s backgrounds, the second half of the book is dedicated to the outcomes and aftermath of the incident. This excellent title raises many timely questions about gender, race, class, hate crimes, and the justice system, and it, therefore, deserves a place in every junior and senior high school. THOUGHTS: Potential uses for this book in an educational setting are boundless.  It could be paired with other outstanding titles like Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give or Nic Stone’s Dear Martin to explore the issues of race and justice.  Social studies teachers may choose to have students read this book and then write a response declaring whether or not they felt justice was ultimately served and why.  Alternately, a mock trial could be set up requiring students to use evidence from the book to defend either Sasha or Richard. The insightful discussions this book could spark about hate, impulsiveness, and forgiveness are sure to stick with students long after they have finished reading it.

364.15; Hate Crimes      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area School District