Pig Park

by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez      claudiaguadalupemartinez.com

Fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga spent her life working in her family’s bakery in Pig Park, so named for the lard company that, until outsourcing, provided most of the area’s jobs. Now Masi’s neighborhood is becoming more and more of a ghost town. Her school closed down. Her family's bakery and the other surviving businesses may soon follow. As a last resort, the neighborhood grown-ups enlist all the remaining able-bodied boys and girls to haul bricks to help build a giant pyramid in the park in hopes of luring visitors. Maybe their neighbors will come back too. But something's not right about the entrepreneur behind it all.

Rockin' the Boat:  50 Iconic Revolutionaries - From Joan of Arc to Malcom X

by Jeff Fleischer               www.jefffleischer.com
Whether they fail, succeed, or succeed only to become what they once fought against, people who can rally others to their cause and shake up the status quo tend to be inherently interesting. Rockin' the Boat tells the stories of 50 such legends throughout the world, from people fed up with the Roman Empire and the revolutionaries who helped create America.


by Nnedi Okorafor             nnedi.com

After word gets out on the Internet that aliens have landed in the waters outside of the world’s fifth most populous city, chaos ensues. Soon the military, religious leaders, thieves, and crackpots are trying to control the message on YouTube and on the streets. Meanwhile, the earth’s political superpowers are considering a preemptive nuclear launch to eradicate the intruders. All that stands between seventeen million anarchic residents and death is an alien ambassador, a biologist, a rapper, a soldier, and a myth that may be the size of a giant spider, or a god revealed.

Phantom Limbs

by Paula Garner              www.paulagarner.com

When Meg Brandt sends Otis Mueller a message notifying him of her return, he can barely believe it. Three years ago, after Otis' little brother, Mason, died, the Brandt family left Chicago, and Otis lost his best friend. During those three years Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But with Meg’s return Otis must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind.

Playlist for the Dead
by Michelle Falkoff                     michellefalkoff.com

The book jacket tells us “There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, Sam's best friend, Hayden, was dead,” and so the mystery of Michelle Falkoff’s Playlist for the Dead begins. Part mystery, part coming of age story, part teenage drama, and part love story, Playlist for the Dead has all the engaging elements of a relevant YA novel. Sam finds his best friend Hayden dead of an apparent suicide the morning after a party. While both young men were bullied at school, Sam still feels responsible. But Sam begins to realize his memory and recollection of events may not be as good as he once thought it was. Propelling the story forward, and adding a unique element for the readers, Hayden leaves Sam a playlist of music in lieu of a suicide note with the message, “listen and you’ll understand.” As Sam listens to the songs, he struggles with the grief associated with his friend’s death and begins to pull together events to come to a clearer understanding of what led to his friends’ death. As strange things begin to happen to Sam and others connected to Hayden’s suicide, the reader is drawn into a psychological thriller. When two people closely connected to Sam and Hayden’s bullying are viciously attacked, Sam falls under suspicion. As he sets out to uncover the mystery and to understand what truly happened to his friend, Sam is forced to redefine himself and his relationships with others. One of the unique elements of this novel is that each chapter is centered on one of the songs on Hayden’s playlist. Readers will not only enjoy the story, but will find themselves considering the music that author Falkoff has chosen and what the songs reflect about coming of age in modern times.

Play Me Backwards
byAdam Selzer                 adamselzer.blogspot.com                 

Leon Harris isn’t exceptional and he isn’t popular. He’s a high school senior slacker who thinks his life peaked in middle school. Leon panics when he finds out that Anna, the love of his life might be moving back to town. Determined to get his act together, Leon asks his best friend Stan (who may or may not be Satan) for help. Stan gives Leon a few seemingly random and mysterious assignments. Date a popular girl. Listen to Moby-Dick, the audiobook. Find the elusive white grape slushee. Join the yearbook committee. As each task brings Leon one step away from slacker city and one step closer to Anna, he starts to wonder if maybe he shouldn’t have promised Stan his soul after all.

Special thanks goes to Jan Dundon, Cathy Askeland, Kathleen March, Terry McHugh, Leslie Forsman, Patti Tylka, Kim McKenna, and Neal McKenna for their help in writing the book descriptions for the 2017 books.