Young Adult Issue - February / March 2021 - Shelf Unbound Magazine

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Young Adult


George Mercer Teal Swan Amanda Dennis Helene Dunbar Nicole Kilpatrick





M A G A Z I N E All we wanted was a really good magazine. About books. That was full of the really great stuff. So we made it. And we really like it. And we hope you do, too. Because we’re just getting started.



Lamb to the

Slaughter by Pete Delohery A novel about love and cour age, sin and redemption “Iron” Mike McGann is facing the twilight of his prizefighting career. Desperate for his future, he has refused to honor his promise to his wife to quit the ring and start a family. Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard is the most menacing presence in prizefighting. But behind his menacing ring presence lives a man nobody knows, a complex man who despises his own image. Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard vs. “Iron” Mike McGann, just another fight shown on The Continuous Sports Network, but by the time it is over the lives of these and many others will be forever different.

“This heartfelt tale makes a powerful emotional impact.” —Blue Ink Starred Review Also in Spanish: El Cordero al matadero Available in print and e-book at Amazon, xlibris, and Barnes & Noble.

w w w. p e t e d e l o h e r y. c o m


Shelf Unbound Staff. PRESIDENT, EDITOR IN CHIEF Sarah Kloth PARTNER, PUBLISHER Debra Pandak CREATIVE DIRECTOR Anna Trokan COPY EDITOR Molly Niklasch CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Megan Lord Lynn Russo V. Jolene Miller Christian Brown Alyse Mgrdichian Gabriella Guerra FINANCE MANAGER Jane Miller

For Advertising Inquiries: e-mail For editorial inquiries: e-mail










Colonel Charles Noble is a US Civil War veteran, and an Army surgeon reservist, who is recommissioned by the government eleven years after the war. Extreme violence in the former Confederacy, in anticipation of a national election, has caused President Grant to send additional federal troops to the Southern states. Dr. Noble uses his Army deployment as an opportunity to help heal the wounds and afflictions of Southern US citizens. However, terrorists are determined to counter Noble’s good intentions, as they threaten the civil rights, and the very lives, of all who oppose them.

1918: THE GREAT PANDEMIC Major Edward Nobel’s mission, as a physician, is to help protect American troops from infectious ailments during the First World War. However, his unique vantage point in Boston allows him to detect an emerging influenza strain that is an unprecedented global threat. Noble desperately tries to warn and prepare the country for the approaching horror. Influenza’s effect on the world, nation, and Dr. Noble’s own family unfolds as medical science seeks ways to somehow stop it. Eventually, the 1918 influenza pandemic killed up to 100 million people, and became the worst natural disaster in human history.

1980: THE EMERGENCE OF HIV Dr. Arthur Noble is a brilliant first-year medical resident in San Francisco, who has a stellar career ahead of him. However, all of Noble’s skills are put to the test when he encounters a strange new illness. The ailment seemingly appears out of nowhere, and delivers its victims a most horrible merciless death. Dr. Noble struggles to find answers to the medical mystery, even as many researchers and society refuse to believe that it is a serious public health hazard, or that it even exists.







12 Young Adult: A Conversation By Gabrielle Guerra

16 Interview: George Mercer By Sarah Kloth

24 Young Adult: A Conversation By Gabrielle Guerra


60 12 Indie YA Books to Bring with You into Spring By Alyse Mgrdichian

30 Bookstagram 37 Recommended Reading 73 Book Shelf 92 Indie Reviews 108 On Our Shelf

ON P G 24

68 Interview: Amanda Dennis By V. Jolene Miller

94 Interview: Teal Swan By Sarah Kloth

110 The Highest and Lowest Performing YA Genres of 2020 By Alyse Mgrdichian

YO U N G A D U LT: A CO NVE RSATI O N . COLUMNS 74 Girl Plus Book Megan Lord

84 Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller

88 Book Mom

Megan Verway

90 Fit Lit

Christian Brown

92 Small Press Reviews Shannon Ishizaki





"As a child, I read because books– violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life. And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it

felt like to bleed.” - Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This issue is dear to my heart. It is our first crossover edition featuring our sister publication, Girl Plus Book, a young adult book blog. Girl Plus Book started as a small passion project that I created over 10 years ago with an old college buddy of mine. And now we are proud to announce that our new website for Girl Plus Book is now live and ready for submissions for indie authors to submit their work for guest posts, interviews, book reviews, and giveaways. We are excited to be reviving this online community and excited for all the new YA titles to share with you this year. Enjoy the issue.



A cop. An ex-FBI agent turned private eye. His contact within the Bureau. An anti-capitalist activist. A shady financier and his right-hand man. A biker gang. The brother of a murdered woman, seeking vengeance. A software program that can capture subjects’ entire lives on video. What do they have in common? Big Deal Enterprises, America’s largest retailer. When the manager of a Big Deal store is murdered, her brother knows the fault lies with BDE. When activist Liberty Halfnight is threatened just as she’s about to release a damning exposé of BDE, she calls on her PI contact to investigate the corporation. The resulting investigation reveals a slick theft operation, blackmail, and rampant corruption. As pieces of the puzzle fall into place, they realize that sometimes justice is best served outside the law.


A lifelong resident of Toronto, Paul Trinetti is proud to have worked for his family’s business for nearly twenty-five years. His passion for writing came out of a love of music. As a young child, he became fascinated by the clever storytelling of The Beatles and later with the writing of other artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, and Lou Reed. In his spare time, Paul has recorded close to seventy original songs. Paul is also an avid sports fan.



Talking Drum. By Lisa Braxton





Robert Ludlum-sized narrative…a Star Trek series level.” - Kirkus Reviews

All space breaks loose as two alien species go to war for a dad’s abducted family. A new science fiction novel from author Dan Dwyer.




“Calling a book 'young adult'

is only important in that it can help get a book to the right reader. After that, it's a useless abstraction and should be discarded." - Eliot Schrefer

“I was a 'young adult' when I

wrote 'The Outsiders,' although it was not a genre at the time. It's an interesting time of life to write about, when your ideals get slammed up against reality, and you must compromise.” - S. E. Hinton





I remember between 4th and 7th grade, I did not like reading. I hated almost every book we were forced to read as a class. Isle of the Blue Dolphin. Hatchet. Couldn’t stand them. I was a good reader, I just found no pleasure in reading these books. However, in 5th grade we had to read Number the Stars by Lois Lowery, and was so blown away by what I was reading, that I never wanted the class to end. As I got older, I would go through spurts of reading and not reading. I was obsessed with The Orphans series by V.C. Andrews when I was about 13. I remember how dark and adult the themes felt to me when I read those books. They discussed heavy issues in those books that I had never really read about. I felt as if I shouldn’t be allowed to read them. I believe this was the first series I ever read, and I remember always wanting more of it and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next one. I also had to read The Outsiders in junior high, and was obsessed with it. I loved the drama, the family dynamics, and the realness. I hated when we had to stop reading it for the day. I really didn’t read much for pleasure when I was in high school and college. I enjoyed a lot of the books and stories we had to read in class, but I rarely did outside of the class reading. I did have to read Go Ask Alice by Anonymous my freshman year in high school.

That was one of the best books I had read up until that time. I was so affected by this book and never read about drug addiction in the way it was presented in a diary format. I remember crying from reading that book. I do regret not reading as much back then because I feel as if I missed out on books that I could have related to and helped me through my insecurities as pre-teen and teenager. Music was my getaway from reality at that point instead of books. But I do feel I missed out on that part of YA that is relatable to its readers. But never fret, I have made up for that lost reading time as an adult. After college, I got a job at a local middle school as a librarian assistant. I wasn’t required to know much about the books in the library, but I did feel a sense of duty to be familiar with the titles so I could recommend books to the students. Because I knew, just like me, being forced to read in school was not always the most fun. I started off reading some of the middle grade level books, and really just whatever seemed interesting. Twilight. This is the series that got me hooked back into reading. The Twilight Series was HUGE around this time. I couldn’t tell you how many times I checked out these books to students. We had a waitlist. I finally gave into the hype of the books, and checked them out myself. I had so much fun reading these books.



I devoured them. I felt kind of silly being 24 reading these books made for 13- and 14-yearold girls, but I loved them! Even if my opinion of that series has changed as I have gotten older, I do have a spot in my heart for it since it reignited that reading spark for me. As much fun as I had reading the Twilight series, my love for Young Adult literature really bloomed with both the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series. I never heard of Harry Potter until I was in college when the movies started coming out. I watched the first two movies and really enjoyed them, but never sought out to read them until my job as a librarian assistant. We had the whole series, and I was checking these books out to a lot of the kids. I took home the first few books during Christmas break, and I absolutely fell in love with this world. Harry Potter starts off as a children’s/middle grade book, but as the series progresses it really deals with many heavy obstacles and issues in these characters’ lives. Even as an adult, I could see myself in many of these characters. I related to the underlining storylines. The books brought me back to being a kid feeling insecure, trying to find my voice, learning to be independent, and trying to find my moral ground as a person. I was still dealing with those feelings and challenges as an adult. I’ve re-read this series, and it still holds up. That’s one thing I really do love about the series. It’s timeless in its themes.





Then, the Hunger Games series came out. I felt that really changed how I saw YA. It felt so raw, unhinged, that the stakes were high. The characters in this book had to grow up so fast, and make life threatening decisions. Characters are dealing with an injustice classist government system that literally wanted you to kill each other for entertainment. This was the YA book that didn’t feel so YA to me. These were issues that adults usually deal with or care about. In the midst of trying to start a revolution and change the country for the better, characters were still dealing with typical teenage feelings such as first loves. I was so in awe of how “grown up” this book felt, and how it incorporated heavy topics so that it was understandable by most reading levels. Then you get into the second book of the Hunger Games series, and you get into topics such as PTSD and other mental health issues. This series was so complex, and really opened up a dialogue with its readers. I was discussing these books with students and adults. It was really great to see how different ages could discuss the book and the topics in it. I was all in at this point with YA. I was reading SO much. If it sounded good, I was reading it. I think I read almost every genre in YA. Fantasy. Dystopian. Coming of age. Romance. Horror. Contemporary. I couldn’t get enough of it.



I may have felt silly for a little while reading books that weren’t made for my age, but I came to a point that I didn’t care. These books made for younger readers felt a million times more relatable for me than any book written for adults. I was still dealing with some of the same issues as an adult was when I was a teenager. Just because ABOUT THE BOOKS you become an adult doesn't mean all your insecurities and problems are magically solved and go away. Characters like Eleanor from Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park were very relatable to me even as an adult. Reading about characters that looked and felt like me allowed myself to get lost in YA books.

history and the importance of remembering what happened during World War II and the Holocaust by using characters and world building so well developed that you feel you are right there with them in the story. The Unwind series by Neal Shusterman is pretty much a series about pro-life and pro-choice set in a dystopian world. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda deals with a teenage boy who isn’t openly gay, but someone founds out and has to deal with being blackmailed. Every Day by David Levithan is about a character that has no gender or body - it wakes up in a new body every day and just lives. Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why goes into the topic about depression and suicide.

Some people will think that YA is just lighthearted reading. But that’s hardly the case anymore. Young Adult novels have now done an amazing job of incorporating mental health, LGBTQ , addictions, toxic relationships, not great home lives, among other topics into their writings.

All of these topics, but the many others YA novels touch on, are so important for young people and adults to not be afraid to read or talk about. No matter the age, these worlds and characters make us feel not alone in the world. Books are such a great way to open a dialogue and discussion with someone. I believe using YA books is a great way to do that. Young Adult reading is meant for everyone. I spent about two or three years reading 90% Young Adult books, and I do not regret it one bit. It was some of the best reading I’ve ever done. Let go and immerse yourself. 

You have books like A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness that talks about how a child deals with death, guilt, and depression in such a way that your heart literally breaks. You are able to empathize with the character because the words are written so beautifully, you have no choice but to. Then there are books like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak that helps young people understand our



Interview: George Mercer. Author of Harking. BY SARAH KLOTH

2018 and 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medalist, George worked for more than three decades as a national park warden in Canada, including work in six national parks on both east and west coasts, the North and the Rocky Mountains. George is the author of Dyed In The Green, the first fiction series ever written about Canada's national parks and is also the author of Harking, his first work of YA fiction, also with a national park setting. Harking was long-listed for the 2020 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Awards.





TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE STORY OF HARKING GM: Harking is a coming-of-age story about

17-year-old Harking Thompson’s fight to save a family of grizzly bears accused of injuring a mountain biker in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. But it’s more than that, as Harking is also trying to find her own path, helped along by an elderly environmentalist who has taken Harking under her wing after the divorce of Harking’s parents and the subsequent death of Harking’s father, who she had gone to live with when her mother decided to leave town with her brother. TELL US ABOUT HOW THE IDEA OF HARKING CAME ABOUT. GM: Unlike my other novels which I wrote to

raise people’s awareness about the challenges facing parks and protected areas not only in Canada but in the United States and around the world, the idea for Harking was born from a desire to influence people’s behaviors when visiting and recreating in our national parks, especially the behavior of young adults who will become the next cohort of visitors to these special places. Harking was also inspired by work we did in Jasper National Park to better understand how our activities were affecting the ability

of some species such as grizzly bears to move through a heavily developed part of the park, an area that includes the town of Jasper, the Jasper Park Lodge golf course, and all of the other outlying commercial accommodation in the valley around the town, that supports the millions of people who visit Jasper each year. That work, which showed us humans were expanding their recreational activities (mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding) into what we considered critical wildlife movement areas, highlighted the challenges of communicating our findings to people and redirecting them away from these critical wildlife areas and back into areas where their impacts were less of a concern. (give some examples and use simple language) What we discovered in our work was that humans were essentially taking over trails we considered to be wildlife trails exclusively. Most of these efforts were led by local mountain bikers, who having tired of the official park trails where mountain biking was allowed, had decided to build their own trails, not realizing the impacts they were having on wildlife that relied on these trails as secure travel corridors that allowed them to avoid coming into conflict with people. We were able to show that even low levels of human use (a few people a day) was enough




to displace wildlife off these trails, forcing them onto more energy demanding routes higher up on the side slopes of the mountains surrounding the town of Jasper. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW THAT HAS INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING GM: I worked as a national park warden

and biologist in Canadian national parks for more than three decades, working in six national parks from the East coast to the West including the North and the Canadian Rockies. My stories are set in those parks and totally influenced by my experiences working in each of these very unique parts of our country. My passion for parks is what I hope to pass on to readers in a way that is both entertaining and educational, using fiction to hopefully influence and inspire people who might not otherwise read non-fiction or more technical and scientific writing. I do have other writing interests including: Dystopian fiction – Repeater is as story about a world where people have disconnected from nature and isolated themselves inside bubbled cities, enacting laws to protect their physical space and banishing repeat offenders of those laws to the wilderness outside the cities.



Humour – The Beaver and The Dick is a somewhat autobiographical story about a young park warden’s evolution in the national park service as he tries to avoid the dictates of the outfit’s politically appointed CEO (auspiciously nicknamed The Beaver) while also trying to decide if he wants to break with tradition and join a newly formed special investigation unit of the recently-armed Park Warden Service (The Dicks). Westerns - Kid Gloves is about a slightly effeminate, somewhat sophisticated and worldly bank robber with an all-female gang dedicated to exposing an unscrupulous US banking system selling worthless bank notes to unwary citizens, and returning lost money to those people sucked into the scheme. Throughout the story Kids Gloves encounters historically famous characters including Billy The Kid, Sitting Bull, and Sam Steele, a revered Canadian Mountie based along the Canada-US border whose sole purpose is to bring law and order to the newly expanding dominion of Canada. I have many other writing ideas I hope to pursue, but for now, my interest lies in getting stories out that relate to wildlife and wild places and how we can coexist with them.




have also helped define my attitudes towards both humans and wildlife and how we might be able to better coexist.


divorce and ultimately loses her father in an avalanche, which she partially blames herself for. Harking is also emotionally connected to the family of grizzly bears she tries to save and will do everything in her power not to lose them from the national park. Harking deals with her father’s death and overcomes her grief by trying to follow in his footsteps, using the cryptic notes left behind in his journals to unravel some of the clues both to her family’s past and her own future. Just as she fights to honor her father’s legacy she also fights for the lives of the grizzly bears by speaking up for them to those who make the decisions regarding the bears’ survival. In order to get inside her head, I would often reflect on how I dealt with some of the losses I’ve experienced in my own life including the loss of parents as well as the loss of a good friend in an avalanche. Like many park wardens and park rangers throughout the world, I’ve also had to deal with many wildlife deaths over the years and those experiences

And you don’t win every battle … so I’ve used our own victories and losses in some of the battles we waged as park wardens, (for example, our fight against a proposed slaughter of the park’s entire bison population in Wood Buffalo National Park in the late 1980’s … which we won, … as well as a battle to prevent an open-pit coalmine on the border of Jasper National Park … which we lost) to portray the range of emotions Harking and my other characters experience throughout the story. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MESSAGES READERS WILL TAKE AWAY FROM HARKING? GM: I hope Harking will inspire young-

adult and adult readers alike to be more conscientious about their actions when it comes to wildlife and wild places, not only within our parks and protected areas but everywhere. I want readers to realize that just as we all face challenges, so do species such as grizzly bears as they try to survive in an increasingly humandominated world, where our actions, even some of our more subtle actions like where and when we recreate, directly and indirectly impact the very things all species need … secure habitat especially.



I also hope readers, especially young-adult readers will come away with the message that speaking out for the things you believe in can be challenging, but saying nothing does nothing. If we want to improve conditions for the wildlife we share this planet with as well as for ourselves, we need to engage and take action. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART WRITING HARKING? GM: My favourite part writing Harking was

reliving my many experiences working and living in and around Jasper National Park and trying to portray those experiences in a way that would ring true to my readers. I also enjoyed trying to portray the lives of species such as grizzly bears without trying to anthropomorphize the bears. I want readers to appreciate bears as bears and not some human-construct such as they might see in a Disney movie. I also enjoyed the challenges of getting inside the head of my 17-year-old female protagonist, using what I think I see in our own two daughters as fodder for creating Harking’s character. Another part of this was getting the kids of some our Parks Canada friends to review and provide feedback on an early draft of Harking, which led to pretty





substantial changes to the original story, I think improving it immensely. WHAT IS NEXT? ANYTHING IN THE WORKS NOW THAT YOU CAN GIVE A SNEAK PEEK? GM: I'm at a bit of a crossroads with my

writing since I sent the main character in my Dyed In The Green fiction series about Canada’s national parks to Tanzania, and I have to get him back! The COVID-19 pandemic prevented me from connecting with African rangers and travelling there to research The Rhino’s Horn, the next book in the series, so I pivoted my writing to complete Harking’s story. I’ve toyed with turning Harking into The Harking Trilogy and based on early response from readers, I think they’d like to see the next two books, which I’ve tentatively titled First, Nature and Second Nature. The titles reflect the need to first protect nature if we really have any hope of enduring as a species and the need to have our consideration of nature and the environment become second nature in everything we do. I know it probably sounds a little corny but I think we have the intelligence and ability to do both. At the end of Harking I leave my main character considering whether or not working



for national parks is the best way for her to achieve what she wants for bears and other species, and I haven’t quite decided where to go with that line of thinking. Harking’s bottom line is the survival of wildlife and wild places and her instincts are evolving as to the best ways to achieve her goals.

Harking also shares some of the same characters as Dyed In The Green, which opens the door to using Harking’s story as a steppingstone for readers to get into the adult series. Completing the trilogy presents opportunities to build on those connections so I need to think about the best way to do that. 


HARKING 2020 Shelf Unbound Indie Best Award: Long-Listed After her parents’ divorce and the discovery of a series of cryptic notes left behind after her father is killed in an avalanche, Harking Thompson struggles to come to her own understanding of love, loss and what really matters. Caught up in a battle to save a mother grizzly bear and her cubs, Harking’s fight to protect the wildlife and wild places she loves teaches her a brutal truth: sometimes saving a life might mean losing another you love even more.


From the award-winning and critically acclaimed author, William D. McEachern, comes his new novel, The Life of Levi When an itinerant preacher arrives in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, the lives of the tax collector, Levi, his wife, Miriam, and his brother, James, completely unravel. Will Miriam run off with Levi’s best friend, a Greek merchant? Will James leave his fishing business and follow the preacher? Will Levi lose everything? And why is Pontius Pilate coming to Capernaum? Read the second Book in the Casting Lots series.



New Caledonia: A Song of America, Finalist for the Book Excellence Historical Fiction Award by Author, William D. McEachern…

Some novels are filled with descriptive language that pours off the page and into the reader’s visual experience as they journey with the author during the unfolding narrative… This book engages the reader in a time of relationships and events much different than our modern era. I would heartily recommend the reading of McEachern’s novel…” -Laure McCourt Lopez, The King’s Calendar New Caledonia: A Song of America James, who assisted Bonnie Prince Charles escape the British after the Battle of Culloden, flees Scotland with the Duke of Cumberland’s assassin on his heels. He travels to Colonial America, walks the Great Wagon Road, fights in the French and Indian War, settles in South Carolina, and is drawn into the American Revolution, only to finally confront his nemesis on the battlefield of Cowpens.



Young Adult: A Conversation. BY GABRIELLE GUERRA

Young Adult literature can be one of the most transformative reading experiences for young people, and really people of any age. To get lost in a world that is not your own and where everything makes sense to you as you’re discovering yourself is something someone does not easily forget. Authors Helene Dunbar and Nicole Kilpatrick spoke on the importance, evolution, and their personal experience with Young Adult literature. Helene Dunbar is the author We Are Lost and Found, a coming-of-age story based around a gay teenager in the 1980s amidst the AIDS crisis. Nicole Kilpatrick is the author of Clover, a fantasy love story centered around an evil spell and leprechauns.







HD: I honestly don’t remember ever not reading.

My mom always had books laying around and my dad always read newspapers and magazines. I do remember being in first grade and we had reading tests where they moved a little piece representing each student around a Velcro board to determine what reading group you’d be in. You got prizes at various points on the board. Anyhow, I remember moving up three groups in one day. It was obviously a significant memory because it’s stuck in my head but I think that changed everything. NK: When I picked up a copy of The Godfather

at age twelve, I became an avid bookworm. Since then, I’ve discovered a love and appreciation for many different genres—not just novels, but poetry as well. When Frost espoused the road less travelled, I was henceforth a convert, making a commitment at an early age to dance to the beat of my own drum and follow my bliss. While poets like Frost and Campbell fed my soul, I found that J.K. Rowling fed my imagination. Fantasy books for a younger audience soon became my favorite type of guilty pleasure, so it came as no surprise that when the time came for me to try my hand at writing. My first novel was a young adult fantasy called Clover, a magical story that reimagines the leprechaun trope and touches on the themes of luck, coming of age, and crossing worlds.

HD: Aside from Judy Bloom, there was no

YA when I was a teen. But I was very much a science fiction/fantasy reader. Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny and Elizabeth A. Lynn were my favorites. I am a much less patient reader now and rarely revisit those books although I always mean to. But I think I would have absolutely gotten into YA as a teen. NK: Ironically, I started concentrating on

YA books in earnest when I was already an adult. When I was younger, apart from the occasional Nancy Drew book, I was more drawn to mysteries, crime novels, and the classics, like The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice, etc. HOW DID YOU COME TO LIKING YA? WHAT BOOK GOT YOU INTO YA? HD: I didn’t read a lot after college, to be

honest. I think I burned out on being an English/theatre major. Somewhere, when I was living in the UK, I picked up a copy of Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, which I liked enough to read book two in that series, Ink Exchange. That one blew my mind. The depth of the characters, the darkness, and the fact that people were writing books for teens with gay and bisexual characters just stunned me in the best of all possible ways. 25



NK: While the first Harry Potter book was

technically a middle-grade novel, I think this was the book that got me interested in books for a younger audience, and more specifically, fantasy books. There’s something about the dichotomy of innocence and a sense of adventure that makes YA books so relatable and exhilarating to read. Other books like Twilight, the Hunger Games, and the Cassandra Clare novels soon became YA favorites as well. DO YOU FEEL AS IF YA HAS BECOME A MORE LEGITIMATE GENRE OVER THE YEARS, INSTEAD OF BEING PERCEIVED

and sometimes difficult topics like the civil rights movement, teen suicide, bullying. YA authors are stepping up and delivering not only entertaining, but relevant and meaningful content. HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE GENRE CHANGE OVER THE YEARS? WHERE DO YOU SEE IT GOING? HD: Obviously, the biggest change has been

in diversification. We certainly aren’t where we need to be yet, but when you walk into a bookstore and you see that the MG and YA sections are filled with covers featuring diverse races, genders, sexualities, it’s a wonderful thing.

AS JUST LIGHTHEARTED STORIES BEING TOLD? HD: Well, you’re really talking about two

things there. I think that YA has always been “legitimate”. Public perception just sometimes lags behind reality. Easily 90% of the fiction I read is YA because what I’m looking for as a reader is connection. I want to feel something. I want to miss the characters when I close the book. I truly don’t care what the wallpaper looks like, so I often find myself skipping a lot of such things when I read a book marketed to adults. NK: Absolutely. Some of the great YA books

being published right now tackle important 26


As a Jewish kid I remember finding very few books that were about Jewish characters but that weren’t about the Holocaust. It was frustrating because I wanted to connect in that way. Hopefully publishing will continue to expand as an industry and continue to put out books that allow all kids to find a connection. NK: I feel that nowadays, in light of

significant advancements in technology and the way young people consume media and view the world, your typical teen reader is perhaps more mature, worldly, and discerning than kids of earlier generations. In the same way, YA books are evolving to fit the market, and we’re discovering that young readers have



an appetite for books that cover a wider range of topics and issues.


those published only ten years ago, you’ll see a stark difference in the level of diversity and representation, with more much LGBTQ and Own Voices stories being published now more than ever.

HD: I think that the outside idea is that


writers are on the road doing events all the time, but that’s not really true. I don’t get to interact with my readers as much as I’d like and certainly not enough to answer that question in a meaningful way.



NK: The most significant change I’ve noticed

is the ever-growing number of YA readers who aren’t necessarily young and I’m one of them. As a YA author, I think it’s important to recognize that a large demographic of your target audience is going to be adult females. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION IN YA? HD: Very. If, as an industry, our goal is to

provide kids and teens with stories that they can relate to and also that expand their horizons, then we have a responsibility to diversify. NK: As in any genre, I feel that representation

is crucial, and I’m very happy with the recent strides being taken by YA authors toward that direction. If you compare current YA books to

BEING TOO OVERWHELMING OR HARD TO GRASP FOR YOUNGER READERS? HD: I write for high schoolers, so I don’t ever

really find myself censoring myself or leaving much out based on the age of my readers. My first book, These Gentle Wounds, came out in 2014 and dealt with childhood PTSD. It was so important to me to capture, in a very direct way, the experience of a traumatized teen in terms of the ways in which that trauma changed him, and trauma can actually change a kid’s brain chemistry. So it’s a very real thing. But I also felt a responsibility to focus on the hope for healing that exists. Not that it is easy, but that it is possible. More recently, I wrote my 2019 book, We Are Lost and Found, precisely because I wanted to remind and educate teens about the early days of the AIDS crisis. I set it in 1983, which was my senior year of high school, because I wanted to capture the fear and confusion that 27


my friends and I were struggling with. I’m a strong believer in the adage “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” We have some amazingly effective medications now, and far more knowledge about HIV/AIDS than we had at that time. But that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down. Far too many kids approached me after We Are Lost and Found came out to tell me that no one had ever talked to them about HIV before. That terrifies me. I also believe that anyone who thinks that teens will be “overwhelmed” by difficult topics is deluding themselves about the world that most teens inhabit. Most of these topics are very much a part of most kids' lives. ABOUT THE BOOKS NK: My debut novel is a YA fantasy, so I

haven’t really had that much experience in dealing with heavier topics, but I do feel that we, as writers, shouldn’t make the mistake of underestimating our teen readers. They’re more receptive and astute than we may give them credit for. If you look back to the time when you were say, fourteen, I feel you’ll discover that although you still had much to learn about the world around you, the basic and intrinsic themes of love, death, loss, justice, honor, dignity, and faith were already relevant and ingrained in us, even at a very early age. WHY IS YA SUCH AN IMPORTANT 28




GENRE IN THE BOOK WORLD? HD: First, YA is an age range, not a genre

in the way that science fiction or romance is. It denotes a very transformative time in someone’s life: their teen years. I think that most adults can look back to that time in their lives and trace the formation of their personality, their loves, their fears. Most people I know are still attached to the movies they watched and the music they listened to as a teen. It’s an amazing intense time of change and growth for most people and when a book captures that, it’s a very powerful thing. For teens, YA can offer a sense of comradery and community. For adults, particularly those of us who didn’t grow up with literature that reflected our experiences, it can be a way to look back and make sense of it all. NK: YA books are important because our teenage years are some of the most significant in our lifetimes, and I think it’s important to celebrate and document these years as best we can. They’re perhaps the most insightful years of our lives--full of growth, pain, loss, adventure and self-exploration. Also, YA is a genre that has crossover appeal for both young and more mature audiences, which is quite noteworthy from a publishing standpoint. 

ABOUT THE BOOKS HELEN DUNBAR, called the "queen of heartbreaking prose" by Paste Magazine, is the author of WE ARE LOST AND FOUND (Sourcebooks, September 2019), which has been optioned for film by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's production company, Ill Kippers, and PRELUDE FOR LOST SOULS (August 2020) as well as BOOMERANG, THESE GENTLE WOUNDS, and WHAT REMAINS. Over the years, she's worked as a drama critic, journalist, and marketing manager, and has written on topics as diverse as traditional Irish music, court cases, and theater. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter. WE ARE LOST AND FOUND Michael is content to live in the shadow of his best friends, James, an enigmatic teen performance artist who everyone wants and no one can have and Becky, who calls things as she sees them, while doing all she can to protect those she loves. His brother, Connor, has already been kicked out of the house for being gay and laying low seems to be his only chance to avoid the same fate. To pass the time before graduation, Michael hangs out at The Echo where he can dance and forget about his father’s angry words, the pressures of school, and the looming threat of AIDS, a disease that everyone is talking about, but no one understands. Then he meets Gabriel, a boy who actually sees him. A boy who, unlike seemingly everyone else in New York, is interested in him and not James. And Michael has to decide what he's willing to risk to be himself. A poignant, heartbreaking, uplifting, and compelling story about three friends coming-of-age in the early 1980's as they struggle to forge their own paths in the face of fear of the unknown.

NICOLE KILPATRICK was born and raised in the sun-kissed Philippines islands, but now works and lives in the asphalt jungle that is New York City. A lifelong lover of books, she read the Godfather when she was twelve and instantly fell in love. While she still enjoys the occasional gangster novel, she has since discovered her true passion in young adult fantasy. Mario Puzzo was quickly replaced by J.K. Rowling in this author’s heart. When not writing, she can be found lounging in a cabin by a river, curled up at home reading a book, or concocting recipes in her cozy kitchen in Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband. Clover is her debut novel. CLOVER So much for the Luck of the Irish. When a handsome leprechaun reveals himself to Clover on her eighteenth birthday, she is faced with three hard facts. One: he is the reason for her remarkably charmed life; Two: her luck has now taken a turn for the worse. Three: her name is a curse; a malicious gift from the fairy who named her while she was still in the womb. In order to get her life back and undo the evil spell, she must travel to Ireland to seek the only creature who may be able to help: the Seelie Queen. With her intriguing leprechaun in tow, Clover crosses into the Faerie Realm, where fairies and mythical creatures abound and where finding her luck may ultimately lead to finding her love.











@maryhadalittlenook TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU.

@maryhadalittlenook: Hi, I’m Mary! I’m 25 years old and live in Dallas, Texas (which is where I’m from!). I’m currently studying to get my master’s in health administration, though reading is (and has always been) my biggest passion. I’ve had my head stuck in a book for as long as I can remember, and it’s been a struggle to get it out ever since (as my mom would say, haha!).




BOOKSTAGRAM Each issue we feature a new bookstagrammer highlighting some of their amazing work.

@maryhadalittlenook: When traveling around with my friends, I’ve always enjoyed discovering and pointing out cozy nooks where I’d love to enjoy reading a good book. One day my friend suggested I create an Instagram account dedicated to finding book nooks, and thus @ maryhadalittlenook was born! Though my account was originally intended for that purpose, the pandemic this past year found me with a surplus of time to read and explore the bookstagram world, and so I soon then began branching out to include book reviews and other bookish-themed posts. It has become so much more than I could have ever imagined! I love being part of a community in which I can nerd-out with other book lovers and expand my never-ending to-beread list (even if my wallet doesn’t quite love that aspect of it, haha).




@maryhadalittlenook: Recently, a new favorite indie author of mine has been Aimee Nezhukumatathil. I was greatly inspired by her ability to appreciate and draw meaningful lessons from the nature and wildlife around her through her collection of essays titled, “World of Wonder.” This especially resonated with me, as I am often inspired by the nature surrounding me and have enjoyed reflecting that by incorporating it throughout my account. 
















Available at


P U S W.






M O .C 5s e ag r o F


Here is the book that so many early readers are going crazy over. It is the TRUE story of the REAL American hero who risked his life in 1947 to fly the X-1 rocket plane through the sound barrier and take the world of aviation into the modern age. The risks were great with some scary ups and downs, but Chuck Yeager was steady and determined and he did it. What is the sound barrier? This book gives a careful explanation. You and your children will never forget this story. See the movie at

a g cowbo n i m o c y e B can’t be that hard,

can it?

It certainly looks easy to Franklyn “Frank” Ellington Seton IV. Smothered by both his overbearing mother and stuffy Maryland Society, Frank escapes to the vistas of his childhood. He will soon learn, however, that the one thing the movies left out was the smell. And the dirt. And the horses. As Frank makes his way through mid-twentieth century America, he searches for a place he truly belongs. And if being an actual cowboy is too difficult, why not try Hollywood?

“With a mixture of nostalgia, melancholy, and heaps of humor, The True Life of a Singing Cowboy will lasso you from the first note.”





COMPETITION Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best selfpublished or independently published book, receiving entries from May 1 to October 1 each year. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.



Call For Entries. Shelf Unbound book review magazine announces the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best SelfPublished Book. Any self-published book in any genre is eligible for entry. Entry fee is $100 per book. The winning entry will be selected by the editors of Shelf Unbound magazine. To submit an entry, Apply Online. All entries received (and entry fee paid) will be considered. THE TOP FIVE BOOKS, as determined by the editors of Shelf Media Group, will receive editorial coverage in the December / January issue of Shelf Unbound. The author of the book named as the Best Self-Published book will receive editorial coverage as well as a year’s worth of fullpage ads in the magazine.

Deadline for entry is October 31, 2021.


Dark. Gritty. Thrilling. Twisted. HOLD YOUR BREATH! Thought-Provoking Paranormal.






SHELF UNBOUND’S RECOMMENDED READING Take a bite from your next favorite book.



One Stupid Thing. BY STEWART LEWIS

Young Adult | Turner Publishing | March 2021

The beacon from the looming lighthouse at the end of Baxter Road broke through the fog in slow bright arcs, illuminating the two of them in brief flashes. During one, Jamie and Sophia locked eyes, and the ladder creaked. Trevor reappeared, presenting a carton of eggs and placing them on the railing.“What are you doing, Trev, making us omelets?” Jamie asked. “I’ll have mine poached,” Sophia said, taking her phone back out. “No, we’re going to play a little game.” He handed them each an egg. “Moving cars. Windshields are twenty points. Roofs are ten. First one to fifty wins.” “Wins what?” Sophia wanted to know, still scrolling.Trevor took out an Amazon gift card. Jamie looked away toward 38


the hidden ocean. “Fine,” Jamie said. “But you guys already have credit cards.” Sophia just shrugged. Trevor spun around and whooped. “How do we fall for his crap so easily?” Jamie whispered to Sophia. “Dunno. Always been that way.” The first car that went by was a vintage Land Rover. All three of them launched an egg toward the street, but the SUV was long gone before the eggs smashed onto the pavement, each yolk a yellow blob glowing in the dark. Trevor howled like a sick dog. “At least we’re doing something! You feel it? That’s blood running through your veins.” As he distributed the second round of eggs, he took on the role of a commentator, as if it was a major sporting event. “Showing promise from

Greenwich, Connecticut, is Sophia Long Arms, and right on her tail is Shorty J, who is not ‘yolking’ around . . .” They heard another vehicle coming. It was a pickup truck. Trevor and Sophia hurled their eggs, but Jamie just dropped his onto the roof. “WTF, Jamestown. You got a limp wrist?” Trevor spat his nickname for Jamie with contempt, a bad taste in his mouth. “I dropped it by accident,” Jamie lied.


“Fine, ten points for me.” Trevor downed the rest of his second beer and let out a sharp burp. “Gross,” Sophia said. Jamie gave her a look of agreement, as if he’d never do such a thing. The street below was quiet. Vapors rose off the pavement. Jamie looked across the shuttered, vaulted rooftops of the homes around them, some whose spires stuck out through the fog. “This could be an English village,” he said to no one in particular. “Maybe that’s why they call it New England,” Sophia said. “Due to the resemblance.” Trevor passed out the eggs again, and Sophia said, “One more and I’m out.”

“C’mon, Long Arms!” “Yeah, me too. This is dumb,” Jamie added. Trevor looked at both of them, slowly shaking his head. But then his eyes widened at the sound of another car coming. An old Mustang. The three of them got into position, like it was an actual sport. The sound of the car got louder as it approached, and Trevor yelled, “Now!” They all released the eggs at the same time, which sailed perfectly, like a trio of arced missiles programmed to attack a target. There was something beautiful about that moment, like time slowing down, until another sound came that made Sophia scream—a piercing screech of tires. The car jerked to the right,

swerving into a tree with a deafening crunch on impact. Jamie jumped back, repeating the word “no” softly, under his breath, over and over. Trevor lurched forward, holding the railing. Sophia hugged herself, her jaw slack. Then, a bone-chilling silence. There was no more laughter from downstairs—just the tick and hiss of the Mustang’s engine dying, the windshield crumpled inward, as if punched by a giant. The body of the car hugged the tree, and smoke from the engine ascended through the leaves. The three of them stood there, frozen, waiting. 

ABOUT THE BOOK ONE STUPID THING It was just one stupid thing that happened...

When a group of high school students spend a summer night drinking warm beer on the beach and playing pranks on passing cars they get a lot more than they bargained for when a seemingly innocent game takes a sinister turn. From award-winning author Stewart Lewis, comes an island mystery told from the perspective of four teens who get involved in a tragic accident that may be a murder. 39


Watch Her Vanish. BY ELLERY A. KANE

Thrillers & Suspense | Bookouture | Oct 2020

Olivia ran in the direction of the screaming. Though it had stopped now, the absence of it chilled her. Down the steps of Grateful Heart, up the stone path that wound around the back and into the grove of ancient redwoods. Here, the path turned to dirt and led to the Earl River that flowed into the bay. “Doctor Rockwell!” Olivia heard one of the Murdock twins calling her name before she saw her, bone-white and trembling, near the large drainpipe at the river’s edge. A dog whined and circled her, its leash trailing behind, forgotten. Olivia knew then, it was Maryann and her poodle, Luna. Just behind Maryann, plain as day, Olivia saw the feet. The soles, booted and unmoving. The legs, still as driftwood. They protruded from the pipe and rested on the mossy rocks below. Whatever else remained lay inside the tunnel, shrouded in the endless dark. “It’s her,” Maryann said, her voice one-note. Hollow as a dead piano key. Olivia hurried down the embankment to the river, 40


careful not to slip, and past Maryann toward the pipe’s entrance. In the summer, the river beneath the bridge slowed to a trickle here, and kids smoked cigarettes and weed, and immortalized their names in spray paint under the shelter of the drainpipe. Other things happened too. Bad things. Like the rape of the Simmons girl a few summers back. But now, the water hit Olivia, ice-cold, at mid-calf. She sloshed across the river and toward that pair of feet, extending her arms to keep her balance on the shifting rocks. “It’s her,” Maryann said again. “It’s her.” Olivia heard voices behind her. A panicked jumble of them. One, in particular, rose above the others, announcing himself as an officer of the law, telling her to get back. To wait. She ignored them all. All her life she’d run toward trouble. How else could she explain her chosen profession? Em called it her savior complex. But in truth, Olivia had only ever wanted to save one person. But her dad didn’t want saving. So, she had to settle for saving

somebody else. A whole lot of somebodies. Bonnie, though, was beyond saving. Olivia had known it from the moment she’d heard Luna whimpering, seen her wandering free, her fur slick with river water. Luna, the kind of dog who had outfits for every holiday and rode around town in a baby carriage and had her hair groomed more often than Olivia. Luna, who Maryann loved so much she had a lifesized stuffed replica in her office at the library. Maybe, in some dark crevice of Olivia’s heart, she’d known all along. Mothers don’t


go missing voluntarily. Not mothers like Bonnie. When Olivia reached the drainpipe and could finally see inside, it hit her like pounding waves breaking against the sheer cliffs that bordered Fog Harbor. First, the hands, partially submerged and bloated as oven mitts. Olivia braced herself against the tunnel’s rim. Then, the blouse strewn open; the jeans undone. Olivia’s legs anchored her to the spot like the roots of the centuries-old trees that watched, unaffected by it all. The eyes open but opaque and unseeing; the lips slightly parted. Olivia intended to scream, but the sound got stuck, and she only managed a shallow gasp. Finally, the ligature around the neck. The head, oddly angled. Olivia bent over, dry-heaving, and felt her knees buckle beneath her, just as a hand

cleaved to her elbow to hold her upright. She knew that hand. It belonged to the smartass detective. “What the hell are you thinking?” he asked. “You can’t just go charging into a crime scene.” Olivia couldn’t tell him she blamed herself for this; it sounded ridiculous. But she’d knowingly gone into Grateful Heart, and now Maryann and Bonnie had to suffer the consequences of her curse. She also couldn’t tell him the other thing: that it wasn’t her first dead body. Not even Em knew that. Only her father knew, and he’d made her swear to take it to the grave. She couldn’t explain any of that, so she simply nodded, her head bobbing like a child’s balloon as he guided her to the rocks nearby. With his help, she lowered herself onto a dry spot next to Maryann. She focused on her breathing and Luna’s

lolling pink tongue until she felt halfway human again. At the top of the embankment, James pushed his way through the crowd, but he didn’t make it far. His face twisted. Animal sounds escaped his mouth. Someone grabbed him, and he collapsed to the ground, sobbing. Olivia knew it was a moment she’d live again and again in the worst of her nightmares. “It’s her, right?” Maryann sounded better now. Less like the undead and more like the Maryann who worked as the prison librarian, her nose stuck in a book and everybody else’s business. There was no one else but Olivia to answer. “Yes.” 


Shutting the car door against the rain, Bonnie instantly feels safe with her husband’s favorite baseball cap on the seat beside her and the two empty booster seats in the backseat littered with loose Cheerios. She smiles to herself, feeling lucky to be going back to her boys. But she never makes it home… An addictive and unputdownable crime thriller that will keep you up all night. Perfect for fans of Melinda Leigh, Kendra Elliot and Mary Burton. 41



Fantasy | Self-Published | November 2020

No!! Please!! Please, don’t leave me!!

maybe he and everyone else will-”

A princess, unfortunate enough to be constrained with two curses, held her dying friend in her arms. Another figure laid dead just a few feet away from them with shards of glass covering the grassy ground of the castle. The two victims had fought each other then fell out of one of the higher windows. All of which the future monarch blamed herself for. Next to the disaster, with the moon’s luminous reflection upon the calming water, was the pond where the young royal would spend time with her dear friend who taught her what it meant to be a better human being.

“No,” he interrupted while trying to push her hand out of the way. “By the time your magic fully returns… I’ll be gone…You cannot… change what happened…or what will occur.” He started coughing and wheezing. The princess tried to dispute, “But-”

The princess’ hand now had a purple glow around it. “My power is nearly back.” She turned to her friend, “I’ll use my magic to heal you and even bring that man back to life! Once he sees that I’m not dangerous,



However, her friend wouldn’t let her, “I…won’t let you lose yourself…like so many others had.” The young woman looked to her glowing hand. She recalled the many stories that had surfaced indicating how others lost themselves and went completely mad with power when they attempted to reach far enough into strong magic. In her case, if she went too far in order to break the laws of which God and nature set before the mortals of their world, she would never be able to return. Her soul and heart would be shrouded within

darkness for all time. She quickly whipped her hand and the glow went away. She was struck with fear at realizing what she planned to do; what she was capable of doing. “I’m so frightened,” her voice shook as she revealed the truth. The elderly man then bestowed unto the princess his final lesson to her, “Piccola Luna…even the smallest of stars cannot be so easily covered by the night sky…Don’t let the magic you now possess cover you…Instead…shine


your light over it.” He began coughing and wheezing again. He shakingly held onto her hand and was finally able to say, “Promise me…you’ll keep the light within your heart and use your newfound power only for good.” She knew that last part also meant never breaking the laws of the natural world, no matter how badly she wanted to help someone. Still, it tore her apart on the inside knowing that in order to save herself from being consumed by the power of which she obtained, she had to let him go. And so, while engraving the vow within her heart, the princess said with saddened tears streaming down her cheeks, “I promise.”

After giving one last tender little smile, the elderly man passed away. Five days later, the princess was taken to a darkened cave on the farthest side of a mountain that contained a lake whose waters had never seen the light of day nor felt the glow of the moonlight. She was forced to stand prisoner in front of this very lake with the king, his queen, and their royal guard; some of the men were holding torches while four of them gripped the chains that bound the convict. The young woman had hair as white as the fallen snow, eyes that were the color amber, olive skin, ruby red lips, and she wore a regal dress that all were claiming was as black as her soul.

Was this to be her execution? Normally, such an act would be done in the kingdom with an audience to witness justice being done. To bring a prisoner far from the prying eyes of the people, something else was decided to be her fate. Unfortunately, the king and queen, along with the members of their royal court, thought of a punishment much more painful, cruel even. The queen was disheartened at what was happening while the king, though appearing dominant, was internally infuriated. The guards showed no remorse as they were guarding the chained woman. 

ABOUT THE BOOK LUNA OF TENEBRE Luna, the enchantress, was unfortunate enough to be constrained with two curses. After two hundred years of isolation within the mountain containing the legendary Lake Tenebre, she and her friendly crow Gianluca are discovered by the handsome Prince Piero of Redenzione. Things then take an interesting turn resulting in all three of them going on a life changing quest together. Luna had been in darkness for so long. Will she be able to allow light and love back into her heart . . . or . . . will the darkness finally consume her completely?




Fiction | Self-Published | January 2021

The black silhouette of a vulture circles overhead, its large dark shape contrasting with the bright afternoon sky. It flaps its outstretched wings a few times before returning to its casual drift, hovering in circles far above the city as if weightless. Its flight looks almost effortless. What a sweet freedom that would be. “Come on!” Victor shouts, shoving a large sack into my arms. The light stubble that covers his square jaw makes his expression even more pronounced. He’s not messing around. His voice is loud and forceful. Time seems to slow down. I am too lost in thought to really process what’s happening. Instead of running, I freeze. It’s stupid. Here I am standing around awkwardly, twiddling my thumbs, holding a bag of stolen goods. Seems like a good time to move. Instead, I am acting like a lawn ornament. 44


Despite his forceful shove, I remain frozen, holding tightly to the sack he’d just handed me. I look down at it and then back up at him. I can hear the sounds of angry voices and the thumping of boots against pavement getting closer. Victor may have gotten away with the prize, but he brought some unwanted guests. I can see it now. No, officer. I don’t know where this bag came from. I was just doing my famous statue impersonation, and it showed up. Oh, I’m going to the Justice Block? Awesome. “Jett! Come on!” Victor pulls at my arm. My legs spring to motion. Nothing like a little adrenaline to ruin a perfectly good daydream. My cargo makes running awkward. Victor shouts for me to run faster, and I look over my shoulder. Three men in black uniforms with red accents on the shoulders and collar are

charging after us, their heads covered with the traditional red beret of the city guard. “Stop! Thief!” they shout. The sound of their approach encourages me to speed up. Victor slides to a stop in front of me, nearly causing me to crash into him. At the end of the alley, I see two more guards with their bright red berets. We are boxed in. The guards in front of us turn to face us, blocking our escape. There’s no time to think. The shadows of the guards


behind us are looming closer with every moment. “We’re heaped,” Victor mutters. “There.” I point, my brain finally joining the party. About thirty yards before the end of the street is an intersection. I dig my feet into the ground and launch my body forward as hard as I can, propelling myself toward the side-alley, our only means of escape. There’s no choice, no talking our way out. Either we escape or we become the newest residents of the Outlands. The guards, who we call Red Caps, stare for a moment, apparently stunned to see thieves rushing toward them instead of away. That provides just enough of a distraction to keep them from

noticing the side-alley. By the time they do, it’s too late. We are halfway there when they move to intercept us. I reach the turn first, but I need to buy some time. I scan the area. An empty crate lies at the corner of the building. I kick it as hard as I can in the direction of the approaching Red Caps. The crate flies right between both of them, striking the one on the left in his shoulder and ricocheting off him with a cracking sound. The crate then smashes into the Red Cap on the right, hitting him squarely in the stomach. I tell myself that’s what I was going for, but I couldn’t have planned that kind of luck. I just hope it slows them down long enough. Victor passes me and takes the lead.

A hand grasps my shoulder; one of the Red Caps caught up. His approach is too quick to control, so now it’s time to fight back. I roll my shoulder, loosening his grip, and drop my body down. The Red Cap’s momentum carries him forward. I trip him up with my foot and shove him in the back as he stumbles past me, sending his off-balance body into the two Red Caps approaching from the front. That should buy us some time. Not risking a glance back, I sprint off down the street after Victor. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE OUTLANDS In the ruins of the world that was lies the city of Dios, a haven protected from the hostile environment known as The Outlands. Ruled by an oppressive Patriarch, the people of Dios are conditioned in fear. The smallest infraction could result in banishment to the Outlands, a fate worse than death. With his make-shift family of “Undesirables”, Jett Lasting struggles to find his place in a world where drawing attention to yourself can get you killed. His very existence is considered a crime. To survive, he must avoid guards, beggar gangs, and an ever-growing tension that could drag the whole city into chaos.



A Road to Redemption. BY MARK F. GEATCHES

Young Adult | World Castle Publishing | Sep 2020

My kid sister Sydney was just about the sweetest thing on the whole earth. She found the good in everything. Syd and me had been on our own for just over eight years, ever since she was six, and I was seven. Not too many people had normal family relationships in those days, but families disintegrated for different reasons. Sometimes parents didn’t give a crap; some spent more time blacked out than free, some died at work, and in the old days, Stoner made orphans out of way too many. That’s what he did to me and Sis. Our parents died in one of the last big riots. I’ll never forget it. What made it special was it was the last uprising before the one in Dallas where the sabbath was created. (I’ll explain what the sabbath was a little later. You won’t believe it.) What made it personal for me and Syd, 46


though, was that we got the privilege of watching our parents die that day. Anyways, there were pockets of unrest throughout the country. Philly, being the capital city, was particularly known for it. It was a Saturday, and neither Mom or Dad owed SS, so we were walking the vacant streets, eating and drinking and enjoying a beautiful day. We heard it and saw it a long way off— the uprising, I mean. Me and Dad wanted to creep up on it and see what it was about. Mom wanted to scram. I’ll never forget what she said to Dad. “Stop, Zach. We have no business getting involved.” “Who said anythin’ about gettin’ involved? We’ll just take a quick look see.” “Yeah, Mom,” I said. “I never saw so many people in one place before. Let’s check it out.”

It was a man’s culture, so we snuck up to the edge of the crowd, all of us holding hands, trying to figure out what all the commotion was about. We weren’t there a tick before we heard the tanks and personnel carriers and such coming up behind us. When I turned around, my eyelids tried to cover my eyebrows. There must have been a thousand stoners stomping up that street with their cutter rifles raised for action, all wearing those intimidating black suits that covered


every inch of their bodies except their eyes. I didn’t know about the others, but I felt like throwing up. Dad said, “Stay calm. We’ll explain we ain’t involved, and they’ll let us go.” When they got close, Dad did just that, but the response wasn’t what he hoped it would be. This one stoner kept yelling back, “Don’t move. Nobody moves or ya die.” I can still hear his voice in my dreams. I swear he sounded twelve years old. “We ain’t part of this,” Dad pleaded as they came within several feet of us. “Please, let us go. I have my whole family here.” “Take one more step, you’re done.”

As you can imagine, we froze like peanuts in brittle, but sometimes shit happens, and shit happened to us. The crowd behind us started pushing, and that one step we were told not to take happened, and those cutter rifles lit up like Jiffy Pop popcorn when the little pan gets to the exact right temperature. At first, I thought our parents threw themselves on top of us to protect us, but they hadn’t done it purposely. They were dead before they hit the ground. Poor babies. I still have all of our bloody clothes buried deep in my closet. I can’t bring myself to throw them away, to burn them, or to frame them.

found out what that riot was about and why he and Mom died that day. He’d be sick if he knew. The people were protesting sanitation pickup. They wanted it moved to Friday so their cubicles would be all spiffy for the weekend. Is that disgusting or what? Poor Sis didn’t speak a syllable for almost a whole year after that. I’m not sure she ever really got over it. Who am I kidding? Neither of us ever got over it, and we never will. A common saying in Stoner’s New Society was, Dead is dead. Well, Stoner made sure of that. 

Anyways, my dad never

ABOUT THE BOOK Two decades after the Wave of Destruction that nearly destroyed America, the United States is no longer recognizable. Dictator Joseph Stoner has transformed it into a socialist utopia. A society where, even though there is no freedom, there is also no opposition to his tyrannical rule. The weekend sabbaths where food, beer, and weed are handed out freely, have replaced self-will, disapproval, and even a sense of ambition in the soul of the people. When three kids, Zammi, his sister Sydney, and their best friend Straz sneak into the forbidden structure that was once Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Library, they realize how much has been lost. Not just gadgets and other possessions of a once wealthy nation, but a sense of community, truth, and freedom as well. Determined to make things right, they create a clandestine organization called The Liberation, and embark on a risky plan to overthrow the President.



Burn Girl.


Young Adult | Albert Whitman & Company | Nov 2016

Two Weeks Ago—Found and Lost I’m positive Mom wanted me to find her body. I’d been taking care of us both for so many years that she trusted I’d know how to handle things. She’d say, “Arlie, if something ever happens to me, don’t let the police or ambulance boys find me in a compromising position.” Translation: Flush any remaining drugs down the toilet, make sure she had on clean panties, and tidy up the motel room. By the time I had to carry out her wishes, I knew exactly what to do. What she hadn’t prepared me for was life without her. I wasn’t afraid to be alone. Mom had a way of making me feel lonely even when she was right by my side. The scariest thing was that I was no longer invisible. Her death cast a spotlight on us both, and hiding wasn’t an option. I was numb when I dialed 9-1-1. “I’d like to report a death,” I said. “My mother’s.”



Two police cars arrived within minutes. The Animas View Motel could have been on their speed dial. Assaults and drug busts were frequent, deaths not so much. Sticky, sleety rain cloaked the cruiser where they told me to sit and wait. Its heater, turned on high, was as suffocating as their questions. “Are you all right?” “Do you have any idea what happened to your mom?” “Is there anyone we can call?” No, no, and no, I could’ve answered, but I stayed mostly silent while two officers poked around the room and Mom’s body. They’d left the motel-room door open, but I couldn’t make out their movements from the squad car. The cop babysitting me was chatty without asking too much. I was a minor. We both knew an adult had to be present. “I could get you some cocoa or juice from the

motel lobby if you like.” She turned sideways in the driver’s seat. “It’s not that kind of motel and you know it.” I pressed my cheek against the icecold window, fogging it with my breath. “My name is Reagan,” she said. I didn’t need to know her name. She wasn’t my friend. I wasn’t hers. I closed my eyes and wished for sleep— the feverish, flu-like kind where the world drifts away. “What time did you say you found your mom’s body?” Her good-cop tone


was chipper, like she’d just asked what flavor ice cream I preferred. I’d already lied and told them I’d stayed at my best friend Mo’s house last night and only found Mom early this morning. The truth was that I’d spent the entire night in a chair in the corner of the motel room, too exhausted to run and too afraid to ask for help, even from Mo. Her parents would have just judged me more than they already did. But when I woke at dawn, a strange and unsettling thought picked at my brain: what if I just let someone else make the decisions now? “There will be a counselor available when we get to the station,” the officer said. “I can imagine this is all very hard on you.” This. Is. All. Very. Hard. I

picked apart each word as if she was speaking a foreign language. She had no clue. The two investigating officers were now outside on the balcony. One laughed at something the other had said. “What are they laughing about?” I shouted at the female officer. “And why are they done? They’ve been in there less than fifteen minutes.” “They’re not finished, Arlie,” she said. “An investigative team will be here soon. And I’m sure they’re not laughing about your mom. I’m sorry they’re being insensitive.” She opened her door and shouted to the other officers that she was taking me to the police station. “We can’t go yet.” I slapped my hand against the passenger-side window. I had just realized that when I

flushed the drugs, I’d probably destroyed the very evidence that could prove whether she’d left me on purpose. “What about the coroner? Will there be an autopsy?” “The funeral home will pick up the body,” Reagan said. “In the case of suicide or overdose, the coroner doesn’t usually come to the scene.” Suicide. Overdose. “Social services will find you somewhere safe to stay tonight,” she continued. Somewhere safe. Whatever they’d gleaned in a few minutes led them to believe I hadn’t been safe before. “So I’m going to a foster home?”

ABOUT THE BOOK BURN GIRL Arlie's face was disfigured by burns when her stepfather's meth lab exploded. After that, Arlie discovered the street smarts and survival skills she needed to shelter her addict mother, since the law and Lloyd, her deranged stepfather, are both looking for them. People died in the explosion and everyone wants answers. But Arlie's carefully constructed world is ripped apart when her mother overdoses shortly after Arlie's 16th birthday. Now she can no longer remain hidden. Social Services steps in and before Arlie can make sense of anything, she is following the rules, going to school, and living in a 31-foot Airstream trailer with an eccentric 49



Young Adult | Self-Published | Feb 2021

"Good Hannah! Use your head! Quicker spot, quicker spot!" Ms. Parker shouts over the music. I jump higher, trying to whip my head around even faster to keep from getting dizzy. I manage to make it across the room before I lose my balance completely. I hold the last pose for a half a second. Two weeks until auditions. Three weeks until competition. The mantra running through my mind is the only thing keeping me from collapsing. "Olivia! Do not touch your leotard!" Ms. Parker yells to someone behind me. I can picture Olivia giving a quick tug on her leotard just before her turn, like always. I grab my water bottle off the floor and take a quick sip as I watch the rest of my classmates. Olivia finishes with an extra flourish of her arms, grinning at herself in the mirror. I smile, not surprised, then move down to make space for her on this side of the studio.



“My legs are so dead,” Olivia complains under her breath as Lisa loses her balance on the quick turns, almost crashing into the wall. I nod in silent agreement, pushing my water bottle back against the wall and grabbing Lisa’s while I’m at it. Lisa’s annoyed face relaxes as I hand it to her and we all do our best to catch our breath as Katy and the rest of the class take their turns. From the minute she started class, Ms. Parker hasn't given us a break for longer than the time it took to put on our pointe shoes. I wasn't the only dancer who glanced at the clock when we started jumping, dismayed at how much time we still had left. I wasn't sure if my legs were going to hold up until the end of the hour and a half class. But I only have two weeks to be ready, no time to rest now. Twenty minutes later, we stumble out the door of the studio, legs quivering. The studio lobby is crowded

and loud, dancers trying to get into class crashing against those of us exiting. Parents are standing around waiting, having their own conversations while bored siblings noisily complain about wanting to go home. A couple of little girls dressed in pink weave through the crowd to hug us quickly before heading into the studio we just left for their own class. I follow Katy into the narrow dressing room that is the unofficial domain of the senior dancers, and breathe a sigh of relief when Olivia slips in, closing the door


behind her. The dressing room is hot and crowded with all of us in it, but at least it’s a place to relax before our next class. I hunt through my dance bag, nose wrinkling at the smell of old sweaty feet clinging to the inside of the bag, searching for the granola bar I tossed in there this morning, grabbing my phone as I search. I lay down, putting my feet up against the wall as someone plops down next to me. I turn my head to see Olivia laying there with a bag of M&M’s on her chest, already scrolling through the phone in her hand. “Is anyone else sore?” Katy asks as she sits in the corner. “I’m dying.” “I foam-rolled my legs while I was doing my homework last night.” I was prepared to be sore yesterday after my first

class back after Winter break and two weeks of no dance. Foam rolling last night was painful, but worth it so I felt better today. I don’t have time to waste getting ready for the next few weeks. Ignoring our conversation, Olivia butts in from her spot on the floor. “Hey, Banana, can I sleep over next Saturday? My dad and Martha are going to Santa Barbara for the weekend and won’t let me stay home by myself.” She turns to me with pleading eyes. “Please?” “I don’t know, Livvy, the Pacific Sound Ballet audition is the next day. I need to be ready.” Olivia pops an M&M in her mouth, the pleading look gone from her eyes. “It’s okay, I’m sure Megan or Allyson will let me stay.” My chest tightens a little at

the mention of her squadmates. “No, it’s fine. I’ll just text my mom and make sure. You could come to the audition with us the next day. You are auditioning right?” I tap a quick message to my mom while I wait for Olivia to answer. “I don’t know. I mean the summer intensives are just so… intense. I kinda want a normal summer, you know?” “Come on, Livvy. It’ll be fun. Besides, we haven’t had a sleepover in ages.” Honestly, I can’t remember the last time Olivia slept over.

ABOUT THE BOOK TOE TO TOE 16 year-old Hannah O’Brian knows 3 things for certain: - One day she’s going to move to NYC to become a professional ballerina. - Olivia Beck is her best friend. - Tyler Stanley is the boy of her dreams. To make her dreams come true she’s going to have to stay focused, work hard and get rid of that pesky voice in her head that says she’s not good enough. But with a best friend like Olivia it can’t be that hard, right? Olivia Beck can’t stand Hannah’s perfectly charmed life. When the hottest guy in school, one Tyler Stanley, asks her out, Olivia just can’t say no. So what if her supposed best friend called dibs in 6th grade?



Keep Your Friends Close. BY ELSIE VANDEVERE

Young Adult | Billingsley Books | Dec 2020

The day was almost over when the storm hit. It became hard to hear the teacher in history class over the pounding rain, crackling thunder, and wind. The wind was the worst bit. She had never heard wind sound like that. Then, the intercom said to go in the hallway, away from the windows. Maggie had done that before, but it was always as a drill, and the howls and screams of the wind outside were unreal, like a tornado or something. But that’s where they were, right? Tornado Alley? Sitting on the cold floor in the hall she could hear, even over echoing chatter, boards and structure beams moaning. The yell of the wind was so loud it was almost like a train barreling towards them. It seemed later than it was too, everything dark even in the fluorescent-lit world 52


of the hallway. Eerily, the lights flickered. “She’s pissed.” One of the kids with black fingernails said to her friends, her back resting against the cement block wall. They ducked their heads as they nodded. Another girl in a cheerleader uniform glared at them. “Who’s pissed?” Maggie asked, always a sucker for local folklore or an urban legend. She collected them, basically. You’d be surprised how many high schools were “haunted.” “The dead girl.” Maggie didn’t know Amanda, but now she knew people who did know her, and she didn’t like her being referred to as “the dead girl” anymore. “You mean Amanda? Why would you say that?”

“You don’t know what happened?” Black Nail Polish asked, incredulous. Maggie hated that tone: disbelief mixed with arrogance and glee. “If I’m asking, I don’t know.” She wanted to say, Stop gloating and feigning surprise, and just explain it. Her look must have said what she was thinking; she never had any idea what her face was saying. “She was killed,” Black Nail Polish said, retreating back


into her hoodie. “Yeah, I heard,” Maggie said solemnly. “No.” The girl’s friend shook his head, but mostly it just looked like a shaking hood with a pale center. “She was killed,” he emphasized. Just as the cheerleader, a particularly skinny brunette, opened her mouth to say something, the sound of glass smashing could be heard all the way down the hall. Everyone fell silent as the tinkling of shattered pieces hitting the floor echoed and the roar from outside grew louder, closer. A soaking wet Mr. Garrett entered the double doors at the end of the hall and

pulled them closed with great effort, struggling to hold them while others chained it shut. The doors shook like someone was jokingly pulling on the other side. Someone strong. Then, that unnatural wail that instantly sparked chills down her arms rang across the town: the emergency siren. Everyone was quiet, worried about other things now. There was nothing to do but wait for it. Finally, over Mr. Garrett’s grunts and panting, over the siren in the distance, there was a horrendous screech of metal, a loud crunching. Then, a low groan vibrated through everything in the hall. It shook the glass of the display cases. They felt it in

their bodies like a drumline. This part at least must have been out of the ordinary even for Masonville because people gasped. She had learned that in different places different kinds of dangerous weather were commonplace. The key was to not look alarmed so long as the natives don’t get antsy. If someone who has always lived there slowly widens their eyes to saucer size, something is seriously amiss. Something was seriously amiss. 

ABOUT THE BOOK KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE Maggie Brennan cannot stop thinking about the dead girl. The small, midwestern town of Masonville is Maggie's thirteenth home, but nothing in it is really hers. Her friends, her locker, even the guy she likes all seem to belong to someone Maggie can never know. Gradually, she tries so hard to fit in that she accidentally becomes more and more like the girl everyone is missing, while who Maggie really is and where she comes from remains a mystery, partially even to Maggie. She has only ever known life traveling with her mom, a PI; no dad, no baby pictures, no social media. Almost a ghost herself, Maggie gets caught up in trying to solve the mystery of this girl's death. 53


Lemon Lavender Is Not Fine. BY ELLE PALLMORE

Young Adult | Self-Published | June 2019

When I dare to glance at him, his hazel eyes smirk with amusement, unsure what to make of the girl who nearly bellyflopped into the room. I blink several times, bringing everything into sharp focus. Sound returns, and I suddenly hear the ping! of a text message. A snort follows. I realize I’m standing there like a weirdo—a weirdo who wants to slink to her desk but can’t, because she’s totally frozen by him. Someone at the back of the class wolf-whistles. My face gets hot as I remember the short-lived yet soul-killing nickname I endured throughout middle school: Lemon Laugh-at-her. It faded by high school, but I’ve suffered through years of pointing and random, obnoxious hilarity at my expense—just in case I somehow forgot the joke. Hence my fear of entering classrooms alone . . . and moments like this. I try to say “I have a late



pass,” but it comes out as “Schwa . . .” Beautiful teacher guy makes a face because, obviously, he doesn’t speak crazy. “Are you okay?” he asks. Please, no. An accent. He has a Scottish accent—a slight one, but it’s there. What is it about different speech pronunciation that turns American girls into puddles? The heat centralized on my face blasts outward, down my neck, everywhere, turning me into a walking inferno. I command my body to cooperate, but it’s like my eyes are stuck on him and I have to peel them off one by one. Lemon! Walk! Now! “Sorry I’m late,” I mumble. I throw the crumpled pass on the desk, praying he won’t ask my name, but knowing it’s inevitable. As I throw myself into my seat, I prickle with mortification. I position my book bag to create a blockade between us, but

when I peek around, he smiles, still watching me. There’s another obvious laugh from the side of the room, along with fragments of “Squeeze her lemon” and “So embarrassing.” I also catch a whiff of “shecreeper.” My bad Monday swan-dives into a full parachute-failing plummet. Beautiful guy leans off the edge of Parsons’ desk, looking as if he’s a model for khaki pants. A sandcolored curl flops onto his forehead, taunting me. “Your name is Lemon?”


At that moment, I’m convinced roll call was invented by demons. “Yes,” I whisper. “Lemon Lavender.” His mouth opens to reveal teeth that could star in a toothpaste commercial. He dips his head in disbelief and continues to study me. “Seriously? That’s your name?” I don’t get a chance to respond, or die in my chair, which is preferable. Mr. Parsons appears in the doorway of the storage closet at the front of the room, carrying a yellowed paperback novel. He flips through it, fanning the pages with his thumb, and says, “This copy isn’t in the best condition, but at least you’ll be able to catch up. We’re only a few chapters into The Great Gatsby.” He

hands the book to the guy and points. “You can take an open seat in the back.” Beautiful guy gathers up a bag I didn’t see and grins as he passes my desk. I think I might audibly whimper, because Marisol, the Brazilian expat who usually sucks up most of the room’s attention, pops a red lollipop out of her mouth and leans over to me. “He’s not a teacher, querida; he’s the new guy.” She dazzles me with a highly glossed, sympathetic smile before turning toward the back of the room. “Yum,” she says, arranging her shining black hair so it frames the cleavage climbing out of her glittery tank top. I drop my head so my own dull, lank hair forms a privacy shield around my face. With the absence

of magic that will dissolve me into a puff of smoke, it’s the best I can do to hide. I’m undeniably blushing from head to toe, but not in a pretty, dusty-rose, Jane Austen kind of way. Instead, boiledlobster red comes to mind. As Mr. Parsons starts the lesson, I wonder if modern science has any leads on time travel. Like, if I really concentrate, I’ll be able to go backwards so Monday never started. A do-over. But then again, why go back only one day? I want an entire life reboot, starting with the moment my parents named me. 

ABOUT THE BOOK LEMON LAVENDER IS NOT FINE An unforgettable name… A longing to be invisible… And a viral video… = NOT fine. Life isn’t all that great for Lemon Lavender. Ever since her perfect sister dropped out of college and fled to Europe, she’s saddled with taking care of her zombified mother while dodging her father’s angry tirades about responsibility. Hiding is her first choice, but there’s nowhere to escape at home, and at school, invisibility isn’t an option when your name is a flashing neon sign. Despite her attempts to lay low, the worst happens, catapulting Lemon—and her notorious name—into a spotlight that shreds her reputation and damages her relationships. With relentless mean girls out to get her and a family on the brink of disaster, Lemon has to find her voice and fight back—if she’s ready to step out of the shadows.




Young Adult | Self-Published | Oct 2020

She grips the metal futon frame, as if clutching everything she holds dear—her former self, this shed, the freedom she once had, for fear that it might be ripped away from her. I lower my hand onto hers, clasping it. My eyes remain trained on the portion of her face I can see, and when her hair falls over it, I find myself sweeping it aside, pressing it behind her ear. A moment later, she twists to look at me with wet lashes. She squeezes my hand once before letting go. “Sorry. Everyone here probably cries in private too.” I try to recall if I’ve ever seen Poppy this distraught but can’t locate a memory. She’s been disappointed, frustrated, and angry, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen her shed a single tear. Olive swipes her face, clearing it before gathering her hair and twisting it up against the back of her head. “I don’t know which self I am



anymore. If I’m still me or if I’ve completely lost myself, pretending to be a version I know will satisfy everyone.” She looks at me with pink-rimmed eyes. “I think I’m only going to be able to do this if I forget everything I know. Because nobody wants the truth. No one wants to see me—they only want me to be perfect or disappear altogether. There’s no place in between, to make mistakes and figure things out.” She drops her hair; it waterfalls over her shoulders. “You’re right. It is lonely when you don’t know who you are anymore.” I want to find the exact words to help her, but my search turns up nothing. I feel bolted inside myself, completely opposite to how she’s thrown herself wide open, revealing what’s beneath her skin. All I can do is remain with her, at least out of respect for that. “I don’t know what to say,” I admit. “Or how to make

it better.” She considers me with sincerity and a wavering smile, and I suddenly understand that she’s relieving me of needing to say anything at all. It only matters that I’m here, listening. She looks away, passing a hand through a sunray, disturbing the motes. We sit like that for a minute more, saying nothing. Silence typically brings anxiety for me, a reminder that I’m being idle, but it’s comfortable with her. Welcome, even. While I might have


previously thought it was unlikely for two people as different as us to forge a connection, I’m suddenly convinced that it’s not only possible, but that we might be more similar than I thought. Or maybe it’s that she’s able to pull me out of my familiar world, giving me a chance to view it from a different angle, where everything that seemed so big and important is instantly trivial. A chime across the room breaks the moment, and we both slide away, as if we were in a bubble that just broke. Neither of us moves when the interruption blares again, bouncing around the small shed. Part of me is glad when she finally goes to her bag on the door hook. The offensive chirp shouts a third time as she

fishes inside a pocket for her phone. She reads the messages as I wait, hands dangling uselessly between my knees. I want to know who is texting her, but I’m not going to ask. Without a word, she tears a red sheet from its tack on her photo wall. A flyer for a show, I remember, with a drawing of a pinup girl seductively snaked around the stem of a martini glass. Olive’s thumbs whirl across her screen, which pings again with an immediate response. I stand, sensing that I’m no longer needed. Lingering would only draw this out further, and I’m abruptly determined to get back to Manhattan—to get anywhere but here. She drops the phone to her side when she notices I’m

leaving. “I’ve kept you too long, but I’m glad we talked today. Thank you, Ash.” At my expression, the sly grin from earlier returns. “No one calls you that, do they?” I cross the room; my hand hovers on the rickety door handle. “You’re the first. The only, really.” With that, I leave, quickly closing the latch behind me. Before I take too many steps down the flagstones, I turn to look through the shed window. Inside, Olive’s eyes are downturned to her phone once again. She moves slowly through my range of vision, then she’s gone.. 

ABOUT THE BOOK ASH & OLIVE Seventeen-year-old Ashford Whitman is following a blueprint for success. He’ll graduate from a prestigious prep school, attend an Ivy League college, and eventually run his family’s global business. With the equally ambitious Poppy Barnes by his side, everything he wants is falling exactly into place. Except for one complication. Olive Randall, Poppy’s unpredictable cousin, takes refuge on the Upper East Side after running away from her European boarding school. Their growing attraction is dangerous—discovery would result in complete rejection by their families—but being apart is unbearable. Torn between true love and obligation, they must decide to follow their hearts, or walk away from each other forever.



We Burn Too Bright. BY ELLE PALLMORE

Young Adult | Self-Published | Aug 2020

My temple pulses like a jackhammer. I inhale a clarifying breath and sink down on the step to rest my head against the railing. “What are you even saving me from?” He lowers his eyes to mine. “Yourself.” “I already told Dr. Ellen about the knife. Does that make you feel better? Will you leave me alone now?” He rolls back on his heels. “You told her?” “I thought you did, so I had to, and then she got all interested, like it was a big deal or something.” I flick a raindrop off my hand. “What was I supposed to think when you ran right to her?” “I wouldn’t sell you out like that.” “I sold myself out because of you, which still makes you responsible.” He laughs and its low like thunder. “Well, shit . . . you’ve got a point, and I’m willing to 58


acknowledge you’re aces at arguing.” He leans in closer. “But I’m relentless when I have a mission, so while you duck and weave, tiring yourself out, I’ll be there, waiting for any opportunity to prove you need my help.” As much as I loathe him in this instant, I have to admit he’s right about one thing—I’m exhausted. “Think of it this way,” he continues. “You have your job at Lola’s, and I have mine—saving you.” I consider his words, feeling around them for cracks. “Like, I’m supposed to be your employer?” He cracks a grin, the first time I’ve seen it. It’s a shame he’s totally nuts, because he could rule nations with that smile. “It doesn't exactly work like that,” he replies. “You said your job is to save me”—I gesture to myself—“so that makes me the boss. But I never

hired you. I didn’t even get to do an interview.” He rubs the back of his neck and leaves it there, stretching. “So interview me.” “If I do, will you promise to go?” “Agreed.” “Then I have one question. Why me? What makes me so special that I need saving?” He looks at me, from my battered sweats with torn hems to the faded Metallica T-shirt I stole from Dad. I fold my arms, then force them


down, lest he think he’s making me uncomfortable with a stare that’s just a little too intense and lasts a little too long. “Because something’s wrong. You’re trying to convince everyone you’re fine, that you don’t need help, but I know you don’t really believe it. People like Dr. Ellen, they only try to change you and say all this fake shit about you being sick, shuffling you from solo therapy to group therapy, and when that doesn’t work, they’ll send you someplace else, but it’s a waste of time because people like them never really see you. They only see something to fix, so they’ll keep hacking at you until they take away who you are, until everything

that used to be good feels wrong. After all that, you won’t be fine. You’ll be as far from fine as you can possibly get—except they’ll think you’re cured because you’re this compliant zombie.” He pauses for a breath. “And I don’t want that to happen to you. I’m the exit door. I’m the way out.” In the following silence, insects drone; I hear them sliding their legs together, burrowing, eating, using the night as camouflage. My mouth dries out, and I want to fold myself up, crumple and surrender, because all I can see is Finn and the bitterness in his eyes as he steps forward with a blade shoved at me. The memories are chopped up, but unwilling to

disappear. They’ve sunk their curved roots into the stem of my brain. “Wella?” Tusk says, eyeing me. At his voice, I’m able to clamp the trapdoor down again. I focus on the taut laces of his boot straining against the eyeholes. “I don’t think you’re Wella Scotland, Incorporated material.” I stand too fast and grab the railing to steady myself before crossing the porch planks. I promise myself I won’t turn back, no matter what he says, which is, “I’m not giving up on you.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK WE BURN BRIGHT Seventeen-year-old Wella Scotland doesn't remember much from the night her best friend disappeared, but a full moon glinting off the knife in his hand is the one thing she can't forget. The argument started when she found out Finn planned to move away; her next memory is running from him. Everything in between is a deep, black hole. Almost a year later, Finn is nowhere to be found and Wella still doesn't understand how this perfect boy—the one who was her whole world—could ever want to hurt her. She buries her sorrow under mind-numbing pizza deliveries and denial, but when signs that Finn has returned appear around her small town, she can no longer ignore the more complicated story hiding underneath her missing memories.



12 Indie YA Books to Bring with You into Spring. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

As we get settled into the new year, a lot of us probably already have an ever-growing “to be read” list – I know I do, since I have a tendency to buy books faster than I can read them. And I figured, Hey, I’ve got no impulse control, why not drag you all down with me? So, let’s tempt fate together and take a look at twelve independently published YA books that you should definitely add to your TBR pile.




Self-published and released on December 18, 2020, Daughter of Darkness is a wellblended mix of romantic fantasy, gods, demon-slayers, and paranormal worldbuilding. “After 300 years spent in the underworld as a punishment, warrior Devon is called on by the gods for a chance to fix his mistake—and to win his redemption. But there’s a catch: the gods won’t tell him details about his mission. He’s supposed to suffer while trying to figure out what he did wrong in the past, and fix it in the present. All Kenna ever wanted was to be the owner of her own life and destiny. But for now all she can do is run away from the evil wanting to claim her powers. When Devon becomes unintentionally entangled in his new neighbor’s life, he can’t help but feel he’s closer to his purpose. Every moment he spends with Kenna makes him confused, and every time he touches her, glimpses of the past, of his failed mission, come back to haunt him.

Darkness is closing in, and with Kenna’s help, Devon needs to put the pieces of the puzzle together before he fails his mission again and evil consumes the world. Only this time, he’s sure he won’t be the only one damned.” EDGE OF LIGHT BY JAY ANTANI

Published by Bandwagon Press and released on August 27, 2020, Edge of Light is a refreshing sci-fi adventure that pulls from both apocalyptic and alien-invasion themes. “On October 23, 2030, a meteor explodes over Los Angeles, triggering chaos and panic. For seventeen-year-old Dev Harrison, the event coincides with a strange, recurring dream in which his long-disappeared physicist-father reveals to him a location high on a Tahoe peak where he’s hidden the world’s most coveted scientific secret. Eager to see if there’s any truth to the dream, Dev hits the road with his best friends Abby and Conner. But their journey across a bleak California is far more dangerous than they imagined as they encounter fanatic separatists, mysterious 61



drones, and a ruthless federal agent. Worst of all are the “crawlers”—not human, not animal, terrifying creatures whose appearance in the wake of the meteor is no coincidence. Courage, loyalty, wits: The friends want for none of these, but their adventure will demand much more. Especially after a conspiracy comes to light, and Dev realizes he’s all that stands between protecting his father’s legacy and global forces hell-bent on altering the fate of the universe.”

letter from one of the transplant recipients. Inspiration strikes, and he decides to try and put his sister back together, in spirit. He’s going to track down each organ recipient and film them to show his parents the results of Minnie’s selfless act and help them move on. But when each recipient falls short of his expectations and the star of his film, the girl who received his sister’s heart, refuses to meet him, Emmitt has to turn to extreme measures to find her. What he doesn’t know is that his ‘heart sister’ is hiding an agonizing secret, one that could push Emmitt to the breaking point.”


Published by Orca Books Publishing and released on September 22, 2020, Heart Sister is both a heartbreaking and hopeful contemporary tale about grief, death, familial love, and healing. “After his twin sister, Minnie, dies in an accident, Emmitt's world goes sideways. He’s lost his best friend and it feels like the family is falling apart without her. But Minnie was an organ donor and Emmitt soon receives an anonymous thank you 62



Self-published and released on November 13, 2020, With Shield and Ink and Bone is an enthralling historical fantasy that pulls inspiration from the culture and lore of the Vikings. “Days before she is to take her place as a shield maiden, like her mother before her, two deaths alter the course of Liv’s future. One belonged to a witch who called her by name, the other a chieftain from the



north. Vengeance for the chieftain’s death comes in a wild fury that burns her village and slaughters her family. Left for dead, Liv pleads to Skuld – norn and weaver of the future – to spare her. A deal is struck that will endow her with the dark magic needed to claim her vengeance. But this power comes at an unfathomable price... After his home is attacked, Calder races to warn neighboring villages. Little does he know he’s traveling the path of fate that will lead him straight to Liv. Despite being broken, angry, and overwhelmed by power she cannot contain, it’s her willingness to defend others that draws Calder to her. Together, Liv and Calder discover they are two sides of the same sharpened blade. Rising from the heartache and fury in their pasts, they see a future together worth fighting for. With their strengths and hearts combined, can they become a force powerful enough to defeat the fleet of darkness coming for them? Or will the thread of fate that binds them unravel?” OF THORNS AND BEAUTY BY ROBIN D. MAHLE & ELLE MADISON

Published by Whiskey & Willow Publishing and released on September 14, 2020, Of Thorns and Beauty is a wickedly dark retelling of a tale as old as time, where the protagonist is both the beauty and the beast. “Zaina will never be free. She's forced into an arranged marriage to a Viking King in a castle full of secrets. But she carries secrets of her own, and the scars of her haunted past. Handed off from one monster to another, she has no choice but to do her best to survive and protect her sisters. Even if it costs her everything.”


Self-published as a two-part series near the beginning of 2020, The Verity duology is a unique blend of dystopian and monster fiction (with a dash of forbidden love). “Fifty years ago, a series of catastrophic disasters ended modern civilization as we knew it. When the world was on the brink of starvation, a pill made to save us instead 63



turned most of the human population into blood-thirsty monsters. Now, what's left of humanity lives behind a fifty-foot-high wall, in a town dubbed The Haven. On the day I was born, I was donated as a sacrificial soldier to the last human army. Every waking moment of my life is dedicated to learning how to kill the millions of monsters now occupying England. The Haven, as well as its residents, are governed by an order known as 'The Verity' . They rule with cruelty, violence and threats of banishment if ever disobeyed. We are told when to eat. When to sleep. When to kill and when to die. But when I'm ordered to give up the man I love and instead marry the cruelest and most tyrannical man I have ever known, I make an impossible choice. A choice that leads me to a terrible truth. That the Verity has a far darker agenda for humanity than any human-eating monster could ever have.”




Published by Blue Ink Press and released on January 12, 2021, The Wolf Queen is an epic Nordic fantasy with religious themes. “Ylva was raised by wolves. That is the story the villagers tell of their Wolf Queen. The truth is far more miraculous. Her Gift, bestowed by the Light, enables her to see deep inside the hearts of men. Prince Rohan considers the Light mere superstition and only believes in what he can see with his own eyes. But a great evil is infecting the Four Realms. The battle between the Light and the Darkness is no longer bound to human hearts, and words Ylva and Rohan thought were just legend are being whispered again. The dragon is rising.”




In a race to separate fact from fiction, can she uncover the truth before it’s too late?”


Published by Crystal Moon Press and released on January 31, 2020, Twisting Minds is simultaneously a futuristic thriller and a dystopian romance, taking a wonderfully uncomfortable look into the human mind. “A glitch in her reality. A threat that’s either real or imagined. Can she save the guy she loves when she can’t even trust her mind? Seventeen-year-old Claire Harper lives in a future where poverty makes her expendable. After the death of her mother traps her in an endless cycle of work, insomnia, and courtordered-visits with a psychiatrist, she’s on the brink of mental collapse. But when she meets a handsome young stranger named Darren, life takes on new hope…and new dangers. Although love is a liberty rarely allowed to those in her caste, she can’t help falling for Darren. But as an unsettling shift alters the fabric of her reality, it’s impossible to trust anyone—least of all herself. Now Darren’s life is on the line, and the only way to save him is to prove she hasn’t lost her mind…but has she?


Published by SheaButter Publishing and released on November 10, 2020, Twentysomethings is a collection of poems that are based on the turbulence of young adulthood. “Whether you are beyond your twenties, currently experiencing, or anticipating these young adult years, you will enjoy this collection of provocative and transparent poetry and prose. Twentysomethings expresses the range of discovery, emotions and growth that influence who we become. Janae J shares a variety of experiences, including unrequited and all-consuming love, daddy issues, being true to yourself, 65



sisterhood and self-validation.” CHASING THE SUN BY MELANIE HOOYENGA

Published by Indy Pub and released on August 11, 2020, Chasing the Sun is an endearing and light-hearted romance, and I’ll be honest, the fact that it has space puns is a selling point for me. “The new boy. The quiet girl. Will they find love during the solar eclipse? Neb Connelly has looked forward to the solar eclipse for as long as he can remember. When his only friend in his new town invites him on a school camping trip to watch it, he's there. And only 67% of his wanting to go is because of the quiet girl on the group text his friend started. She gets his jokes, doesn't mind when he geeks out about the eclipse, and for the first time in months, he's ready to chase more than the sun. Recently single Sage Winters fears she's too damaged for love, but her self-help-loving best friend drags her on a ‘path of selfhealing’ – which apparently includes going 66


camping with twenty classmates to see the solar eclipse. And Neb, who she's never met but whose silly space jokes turn her insides to mush, will be there. But when they finally meet in person, another girl stakes her claim on him. Does Sage run the other way to save her heart, or risk it all for a chance at happiness with this space boy?”


Published by Lamprey Publishing and released on September 1, 2020, By the Sea is a comingof-age fantasy that pulls inspiration from Greek Mythology. “A little medieval fishing village that worships Poseidon, a young girl with a dark memory, a mysterious young nobleman who comes riding into town on a white stallion. What brings these three things together? Llyr is unknown to the villagers of Chelle by the sea and unknown to Annabelle. What does he want with her? Why is he coming into town from the Duke's castle on the cliffs over the village?



The village is abuzz with the need to know. When the real reason Llyr is there, and the truth about who he is, comes out, the answers will forever change this simple little town under the gray cliffs. By the Sea follows Annabelle as her life is changed in ways she never could have imagined.”


the very role she abhors…no thanks to her mentor, Ari Westergaard, who alternates between ignoring her and challenging her to impossible tests. Ari’s indifference conceals a dangerous secret: He’s loved Eva since they were children. When Eva falls for Ari too, she knows they should do anything to avoid each other. Love is forbidden. Lust is a death sentence. But as mentor and apprentice, they’re bound by the blood oath they swore the day of Eva’s Choosing.


Published by Blue Crow Books and released on July 13, 2020, Sword of Seven Sins is an engaging romantic fantasy set in a society where love is the ultimate sin. “Eva Marteinn never wanted to be a killer. Raised in the Commonwealth, where citizens live and die by the code of the Seven Sins, Eva is sickened by the barbaric punishments the High Priests inflict. She sees the Bellators of Light, the Commonwealth’s executioners, as no more than conscienceless killers. When she’s Chosen as the first female bellator—and can’t refuse, on threat of exile or disgrace—Eva is devastated. But she turns out to be inordinately gifted at

Balanced on a razor’s edge of desire and betrayal, the two uncover a secret that could overturn the Commonwealth itself. Now Eva must make an impossible choice: Turn her back on Ari, and remain loyal to the only home she’s ever known—or risk everything on the slim hope of freedom, and stake her life on the boy she’s come to love.” ___ If I’m being completely honest, With Shield and Ink and Bone, Twisting Minds, and By the Sea have all found themselves in my online shopping cart since I began writing this column. I hope that one of these books has piqued your interest as well! 



Interview: Amanda Dennis. Author of Her Here. BY V. JOLENE MILLER





In Amanda Dennis’ novel, Her Here, readers can cloak themselves in the concepts of self and desire while exploring Thai villages, a monastery, and Paris, allowing readers to enjoy a journey they might not otherwise have taken. Spend time with the characters, Ella and Elena, and perhaps, in the process, reflect on your own sense of self and desire. A story about mothers and daughters, loss and trauma, Her Here is a mystery with a unique writing style. Amanda Dennis is an explorer, writer, and professor. Her Here is her debut novel set to release on March 9, 2021. I’D LIKE TO START THE INTERVIEW WITH A QUESTION ABOUT STYLE. I CAME ACROSS A REVIEW OF HER HERE THAT MENTIONED QUOTATION MARKS WEREN’T USED. TELL US WHAT DREW YOU TO THAT APPROACH.

AD: I’ve encountered a lot of resistance to this choice. There’s a tendency to associate dialogue dashes with authorial hubris, maybe because James Joyce used them. (He called quotation marks “perverted commas.”) Why dispense with more than four hundred years of perfectly good typographical tradition? But dashes, like other nontraditional ways

of marking (or not marking) dialogue, ask something of a reader. They demand attention and engagement. Cormac McCarthy spoke of how unpunctuated dialogue asks more of writers too, who guide the reader using language alone. Voice is an obsession in Her Here, which moves between three voices, blending the first two to make the third. The novel plays with the labile quality of voice, and quotation marks were invented precisely to distinguish clearly between different voices. Even though it felt right to me to mark dialogue more subtly, using dashes wasn’t this deliberate. When I began the project, I was reading a lot of modernist novels which, even if they didn't use dashes, experimented with non-punctuated dialogue and different ways of rendering voice on the page. I was also just beginning to live in France, and reading French novels, with their guillemets and dashes, to acquaint myself with the language. When I began work on this project, this is the way the dialogue came out. Aesthetically, I like the dash. It kept me tuned to the tenor of each voice and how and where they overlapped. FOR THOSE OF US WHO HAVEN’T (YET) DELVED INTO THE METAPHYSICAL NARRATIVE OF





AD: It’s easy to forget that subjectivity is literary. We fashion ourselves on stories. Elena lost her desire and found it again by living another life through Ella’s journals. As she moves more deeply into Ella’s world, Elena starts to resemble Ella in fundamental and trivial ways. For example, she follows a stranger in the street because he resembles a man Ella loved. There’s as much exhilaration in this as there is terror. The journals— all Elena really knows of Ella—show increasing signs of disturbance. They’re the writings of a young woman who can’t seem to keep herself separate from things, who can’t manage to craft herself as a story. If the self is desire, then the book is also about making peace with desire. We have varying abilities to control desire. But the regulation of desire can be too much. It can lead to repression and depression. Through Ella, Elena learns how to access this desire in herself, just enough of it.



I’m also eager to hear how readers engage with the novel’s sense of place. This part was especially enjoyable to write—the book’s movement between Ella’s Thai villages, forest monastery and house by the rice fields and Elena’s Paris with its stone streets and cold sun. In Paris, things are subdued at first, cast in gray. The characters also react differently to their environments, and their different sensibilities filter descriptions of place. Ella is fascinated by everything, taken over and changed by what she encounters, whereas it’s harder for Elena to open herself up to others and to the place she inhabits (as a foreigner, like Ella). YOU’VE STUDIED LANGUAGES, LIVED ABROAD, AND ARE NOW CONDUCTING RESEARCH ON THE WORK OF SAMUEL BECKETT. HOW DID YOU FIND TIME TO WRITE HER HERE? WHAT TIPS CAN YOU SHARE WITH OTHER WRITERS TRYING TO CARVE OUT TIME TO GET TO THE END?

AD: You sometimes meet mentors in curious places. I met one of my early writing mentors—whose advice I’ll pass along here—in a philosophy reading group. She’s a poet, and I remember the



way she would respond to philosophical language in a way that felt vital, really alive (in her words, abstractions became scents, sounds and emotions). One day I told her that I was working on a novel but couldn’t find enough time for it. I was frustrated. Give it two hours a day, she said. Anyone can find two hours a day. Think about how long it can take to do dishes. I put this into practice, balancing my other work and teaching preparation around two hours every morning, inviolable and set aside for writing. A year later, I had a draft. Over the years, responsibilities became more numerous—but I’ve kept to this strategy. Different people have different habits and rhythms, but for me, it’s two hours every morning—more if I can manage it. YOUR INTERESTS ARE BOTH NARROW, IN THAT THEY ALL HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH WRITING, AND WIDE-RANGING. DID THEY ALL PLAY A ROLE IN THE WRITING OF HER HERE? IF SO, HOW?

AD: I used to insist on a firm separation: No, no, my academic writing has nothing to do with my fiction, but I’ve come to think that both tracks are set in motion by my same obsessions, just working

themselves out in different ways. These obsessions are questions like, What does it mean to have a self ? What separates us from other people? The slipperiness of selfhood is at the heart of Her Here, and writing about embodiment in Beckett also challenges the idea that subjectivity is somehow immutable and independent of bodily experience (that old Cartesian legacy). I’ve just pressed send on an academic book about Beckett and embodiment that draws heavily on French phenomenology—a “philosophy of the senses.” I’m pretty sure this particular fascination (phenomenology) was my brain (or body) saying, I want to write more fiction. Lately I’ve been thinking more about the body in relation to the environment, and about how a different relationship to our bodies might affect environmental and ecological ethics. Thoughts like these, predictably, are spinning around in a draft of my next novel. ALREADY YOU’VE ACCOMPLISHED SO MUCH IN THE WRITING WORLD. WHAT’S NEXT?

AD: I’m deep into a messy draft of a novel about a community devoted to clean energy. The group settles on an island in Denmark. A few years ago, I 71



got a grant spend a few months doing research (including a lot of permaculture farming) on the island of Samsø, which achieved energy independence in 2008 and will wean itself from fossil fuels by 2030. It struck me as a good microcosm and model for how other communities might follow. My fictional island is based on Samsø, but more remote. I’m developing an obsession with utopias— and it’s a time-consuming obsession. I’m writing slowly but learning a lot.

stories that span decades if not centuries—stories in which there is, again, a lot of perspective. I loved Regina Porter’s The Travelers for this reason and Hala Alyan’s Salt Houses (and all of her poetry).  ABOUT THE BOOK


AD: This is a wonderful question for our moment. I take comfort in a long view, a lot of perspective and wise, gentle humor. I discovered The Epic of Gilgamesh during France’s first lockdown last spring. Afraid of death and devastated by the loss of his friend, Gilgamesh goes to see a man who lives in the garden of the sun, to whom the gods have granted eternal life. Encountering grief as such an ancient, all-too-human affliction made me feel connected to something larger. I also find comfort in multigenerational



HER HERE Elena, struggling with memory loss due to a trauma that has unmoored her sense of self, deserts graduate school and a long-term relationship to accept a bizarre proposition from an estranged family friend in Paris: she will search for a young woman, Ella, who went missing six years earlier in Thailand, by rewriting her journals. As she delves deeper into Ella’s story, Elena begins to lose sight of her own identity and drift dangerously toward self-annihilation. Her Here is an existential detective story with a shocking denouement that plumbs the creative and destructive powers of narrative itself.




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“All my life, I had wanted to go to college in the United States, because there I could play futbal while I got an education. But school in the States was irrationally expensive… But the Sudamericano would be a window of opportunity for a team to discover me. I could put college on hold and keep playing futbal. I’d start small on a Buenos Aires team like Urquiza… Maybe in a few years, I’d climb my way up to the North American national league, the best women’s league in the world.”

All of the YES! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Definitely a highlightable YA book of 2020. This book had it all. A strong female lead, friendship highs and lows, love and romance, family struggles – and I mean the real-life kind, and all the emotions and things that come with figuring out your future while a teenager. Now take all those things and add a taste of what life is like for a female living in Argentina (still to this very day) – and trust me this book is a heart strings pulling, get you hooked and keep you hooked gem. Yamile Saied Mendez (author) does a wonderful job immersing you in the Argentinian culture and language with Spanish trickled throughout the story in a way that you don’t have to know Spanish to understand. She really transports the reader into the main characters world. She gives eye opening experiences and really shows what life looks like in Argentina. As a 32 year old American woman, this book really gave me some reality checks more than once about what life looks like in different parts of the world.


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Furia is the nickname Camila, the leading lady, gets on the field due to her speed and skill. She has big dreams to make it in the soccer world – but her verbally abusive and very traditional father has very clear OTHER plans for her and her future. Diego – the love interest, and the most amazing love interest with a BIG story himself I must say, could provide an escape from her family struggles and her difficult father, but that choice would mean giving up her soccer dreams. What’s a girl to do? Especially when BOTH options would be following her heart. I highly recommend this book. It’ll be one of the ones I keep on my bookshelf long term for my daughter to read one day. I had the pleasure of interviewing the author and I hope you’ll check it out!







In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life. At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her risingsoccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father. On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university. But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her. 76



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Moustache & Macintosh BY D.L. GRASER

Three Nails: Adventures of Moustache and Macintosh

The night was calm as we floated across the ocean. “Land's not too far away,” I heard the captain tell Short Leg Louie after dinner. I had not heard anymore cries from the princess in the last couple of nights. I wondered why. I just have a gut feeling that tonight is the night I take her off this ship with me. I have to leave because Short Leg Louie said he will make sure there are no witnesses and I am the only witness aboard this vessel.

As Princess Yahaloma slept, I made my way through the wall of butterflies that surrounded us and out into the night. I noticed the heaviness of the air, it was thick and had an odd smell to it. My feet seemed to slip a little as I walked because of the mist that covered the ground. Nothing moved out here. There was no moon, no wind, no sound, no nothing. In the middle stood a very tall man. I crouched down in the tall grass. Who and what was this? I should have never left her. What was I thinking? Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

How The Deer Moon Hungers


MACKENZIE FRASER witnesses a drunk driver mow down her seven-yearold sister and her mother blames her. Then she ends up in juvie on a trumpedup drug charge. Now she’s in the fight of her life…on the inside! And she’s losing. "From the ashes rises the phoenix. As a family descends into an abyss of pain, so Mackenzie fights to discover her own way out of the overwhelming circumstances of her sibling's death."Susan Wingate is gifted at capturing these shifting nuances as events continue to pull characters apart and put them back together like puzzles, albeit in a different way.

Seventeen-year-old Molly needs to figure out how to get her brilliant plan to save polar bears into action while dealing with a few . . . challenges: Phobias + self-doubt; Anxiety + more anxiety;Loss of BFF

Available at Amazon and

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.





Hope arrives in the form of Sig, the last-available lab partner, who has an audacious idea for saving the polar bears and--a secret. He accepts Molly as she is, problems and all, and challenges her to follow through on her polar bear rescue plan. She accepts his challenge, putting her well outside her comfort zone. But as Molly and Sig set off to raise funds for the cause, complications threaten to melt the thin ice that keeps Molly from drowning in her own problems.



Two Tickets to Dubrovnik BY ANGUS KENNEDY

A View From The Languedoc BY ANGUS KENNEDY

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, goes to Dubrovnik to prepare an article for his editor on the wines and wineries of southern Rhône. He meets up with an old Bordelaise wine making acquaintance, Lucien Delasalles, and his step-sister, Niki Menčetić. He becomes embroiled in the murky affairs of Niki and her family and the local police, which leads to his sad departure from the ancient city.

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is again staying in Europe, this time with his brother, Adrian, for both work and a holiday. During an extensive new wine project from his publisher, he meets up again with a number of his old acquaintances from both France and Dubrovnik, including Niki Menčetić. Whether he can resolve his difficulties with Niki’s life is uncertain. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

To The East

The Final Programme

The book gives a composite picture of what heaven is like based on the eyewitness testimony of nineteen separate accounts. As a result it gives a more complete picture than any other single book does. All of Scripture’s testimony about heaven is confirmed and many more details God never revealed in His Word. Many readers say it’s a great blessing and have bought extra copies to give away.

In this final novel of the Out of Solitude tetralogy, Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is comatose in a hospital in Sydney, Australia after the events of Međjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His Croatian lover, Niki Menčetić, believes him gone, the victim of a cruel deception by Andrew’s brother, Adrian, and has returned to Dubrovnik. Andrew now has to try to re-establish the rest of his life. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.






Whisperwood: A Confederate Soldier's Struggle BY VAN TEMPLE

A story of one man's struggle of conscience through the bewildering, brutal, and terrifying experience of the American Civil War. Anderson Flowers, a poor, twenty-year-old farmer, leaves his home and sweetheart in the summer of 1861 and walks the twentyfive miles to Kosciusko with his best friend, Dallas, to enlist as a soldier in Company K of the 20th Regiment of the Army of Mississippi. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Feast of Fates


Arnold Falls


Spend time in the funny, oddball village of Arnold Falls, where larger-thanlife characters deal with the smallest of problems. Somehow, it all comes out right in the end. Arnold Falls is a novel that tips its hat to Armistead Maupin and P. G. Wodehouse, creating a world in which food, music, friendship, love, and tending your own garden are connected in surprising ways. Winner of the 2020 IPPY from the Independent Publisher Book Awards Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Journey Into Darkness: A Story In Four Parts, 3rd Edition BY J. ARTHUR MOORE

Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her—visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.

Duane Kinkade was ten years old in the summer of 1861 when raiders struck his farm after his pa had gone to the war; eleven the following spring when he left in search of his father and became a part of the war himself; thirteen the summer he returned home, a veteran soldier after two and a half years of army life and battlefield experience. An intricate blend of fact and fiction, the thread of experience of the fictitious boy soldier runs through the fabric of a very real war and its historic violence as it actually happened. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.





The World Looks Different Now

The Talking Drum

On a glorious, if blisteringly hot, Saturday in August 2010, Margaret Thomson’s world is suddenly shattered by the incomprehensible news that her twenty-two-yearold son, a medic in the army, has taken his life. In a deep state of shock, Thomson and her husband immediately travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where their son Kieran was stationed, in an effort to assist their daughter-in-law. Upon their arrival, though, the couple find themselves plunged into a labyrinthine and, at times, seemingly bizarre world of military rules and regulations.

The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging.

Britfield & the Lost Crown

I Don’t Belong Here

Tom has spent the majority of his life locked behind the cruel walls of Weatherly Orphanage, but when he learns that his parents might actually be alive, Tom is determined to find them. Together, with his best friend Sarah and armed with only the word “Britfield” as a clue to Tom’s mysterious past, the two make a daring escape. Now, they are on the run from a famous Scotland Yard detective and what appears to be half of the police officers in England!

What does it mean to belong? In a place? With a person? To a family? Where do our senses of security and survival lie? I Don't Belong Here ruthlessly investigates alienation during moments of transit and dislocation and their impact on women’s identity. These twenty essays—ranging from conventional to lyrical to experimental in form and structure—delve into the root causes of personal uncertainty and the aftershock effects of being a woman in an unsafe world.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.






Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait.


I live in remote Alaska where I work 40+ hours a week at my day job, write novels, and own a pop-up book shop. In my spare time, I chase after grandbabies and go running with my giant puppy, Omar. Always, I carry a book in my purse. I never know when I’ll get a few minutes to indulge in a good read. Fifteen minutes before dawn, at lunch, bundled up in my car by the river, or right before falling into bed. Reading is my resting place.



Since September my life has picked up speed. Odd how that happened since I was already rather busy. Frustrating since I had come across a book I was dying to read. The title, the blurb, even the cover were tantalizing and I was ready. Ready to pack that new hardcover book into my carry-on bag. Ready to crack open the spine and settle into a comfy chair on a porch overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. A little sun, a cold drink, and a book I’d learned about in some random social media group that I’m part of but not really involved in. Of course, chaos ensued. A tropical storm casually creeped up on shore and devastated one of my favorite vacation destinations. I started another project that had (has?) me anxiety-ridden to the point my eyes were doing the chacha with all that nervous twitching going on. But, I pressed on. In a mere 11 hours I found a new beach destination, reworked the rental situation, and packed that beautiful book for my trip. It was going to be all good...until it wasn’t. And I don’t just mean that the new rental was farther from the beach than I’d hoped for or that another tropical storm meandered into my vacation remake resulting in two days and nights of rain, wind, and one harrowing tornado warning experience while I was miles in the air crossing a bridge. (It’s 2020 and I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.) All of that happened before I even sat down to read. Know My Name is a memoir written by Chanel Miller. She’s a young adult who spent four years navigating the California court system following a single night out with her younger sister and their friend. It was a heart-

wrenching read. My mind was so bogged down by the events Miller experienced and her writing style that I couldn’t read more than a chapter (and oftentimes less) at a time. I had to follow up each reading session with mindless comedic reruns to reset my emotional barometer. I had to slow down. When I’m reading a great book, I can easily let the real world slip away. The dishes can wait, texts can go unanswered, and unless food is put right in front of me, my need for sustenance is satiated with whatever is going on between the pages of said great book. And Know My Name is a great book - the horrific trauma Miller experienced notwithstanding. Yet I couldn’t disappear into the pages. Correction. I couldn’t allow myself to disappear into the pages. I was afraid that if I did let go of the mundane tasks of reality, I wouldn’t be able to reconnect later. For a young adult, Miller is not a young writer. Her prose and passages are eloquent; they speak of one who has spent many a decade honing her skill. Her ability to delve into her experience and touch the raw tendons and muscles of it that most writers (myself included) shy away from was a true act of courage. I, on the other hand, was a coward who

needed several reprieves to get through the ordeal. And I hated that. A good friend of mine knew I was traveling and had set aside Know My Name to read during my trip. When I returned to the office, four weeks later, he asked me if I’d finished my book. He looked shocked when I admitted I had only gotten about halfway through it. Granted, he didn’t/doesn’t know about my new, secret project that took up some of my time, but I should have been able to read a few hundred pages in a month’s time. Young adults don’t often get the credit they deserve. We use the term “millennials” with a sneer and chalk that generation up to being a group of children taking their sweet time in growing up. Miller’s book tells a different story. It tells of a young adult woman who suffered, searched, and protected. It tells of a young adult woman who fought for herself and for others. She lost some battles and won others. And when the wounds were still healing, she relived it all again, and in the process, mastered her craft. Books like Know My Name are not a dime a dozen. They have earned their place on the bookshelf and deserve readers who will slow down and savor the bravery that formed every word. It’s a book that’s worth slowing down for.  85

Rivendell Bookstore. ABILENE, KS


WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO OPEN A BOOKSTORE? AND BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT RIVENDELL. RB: Marilyn and her previous business partner opened a picture framing shop in Junction City about 15 years ago. Next door to them there was a small used bookstore. When the owner of the bookstore decided to sell, they thought it would be fun to have a bookstore and bought the business from her. Thus, Rivendell Bookstore was born. The name Rivendell comes from The Lord of the Rings series by Tolkien. Both Marilyn and her former partner are big fantasy fans, and thought that Rivendell would be the perfect name for a bookstore. Our bookstore is in a wonderful 100+ year old building that has a long history here in Abilene. For many years it housed Hamburg’s Clothing store, and prior to it being the bookstore it was home to the Fashion Museum. WAS A BOOKSTORE A MAJOR NEED IN YOUR AREA? RB: I have heard from many customers 86


over the years that they are very happy that we are here, so I would say that the public definitely feels like the bookstore was a major need in our area. There had been a used bookstore here years ago, but from my understanding it had been closed for quite a few years before Rivendell opened here. I think the author Neil Gaiman says it best though. He says “What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore, it knows it's not foolin' a soul.” There is a major need for any town that doesn’t have a bookstore, and if it’s an independent bookstore, that is even better! WHAT KIND OF READING TRENDS DO YOU SEE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS? RB: Reading trends vary greatly depending on where a store is located. In the 10+ years that I have been here, I have seen trends come and go. In general, Abilene readers don’t often go after what is a “hot book” in other areas. Not surprisingly, Westerns are some of our best sellers, as well as Western


themed romance books. We sell a lot of books about Eisenhower and World War II from our Non-Fiction section. Romance books from all genres definitely pay the bills around here! There are a lot of bookstores, independent and otherwise, that seem to kind of look down on romance books, but you won’t find that in our store! WHAT OTHER SERVICES/ PRODUCTS DO YOU PROVIDE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS? RB: I can’t stress enough that we are more than just books! We have a very wide range of gift items for people of all ages. We do very well selling puzzles. I can hardly keep them in stock, especially since covid started! We sell children’s toys and games, a variety of craft and hobby items, journals, greetings cards, and so much more!A couple of years ago we finally got an e-commerce website set up so that people can order books through our website and have them shipped straight to their home. That has also been a big hit since covid started, and helped to keep the bookstore going while we were shut down.

books, digital books, paper books…they are ALL books and however you take in the book IS reading. Nothing makes me happier than recommending a book to someone and having them come back to me and tell me they enjoyed it. That is my favorite part of being here. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF INDIE BOOKSTORES WILL LOOK LIKE? RB: I honestly have no idea what the future of indie bookstores will look like, but I’m certain that there WILL be a future. I think the future will look different for each and every indie out there, because it is their individuality that helps them succeed and thrive. What’s in the future for our store will absolutely NOT be the future of another indie bookstore. I think that as it has been for the last decade or so, the future of each indie will be changing and adapting to its communities needs, so that it can continue to serve its community in the best way possible.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT RUNNING AN INDIE BOOKSTORE? RB: My favorite thing about running this store has always been putting the right book into the right reader’s hands. I firmly believe that anyone who says they don’t like to read just hasn’t found the right book yet. And I think that “reading” is more than just picking up a paper book and reading its pages. I often recommend audio books to people that say they don’t like to read or have difficulties reading, and they quickly discover how much they DO “love reading.” Audio 87


BOOK MOM A little bit of everything from a scatter-brained, book-loving Mom.


I am the mother of an adventurous and exhausting but amazing toddler boy that runs my life. I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading mind numbing children’s books over and over again because he has his select favorites… But when I do get time to read (or listen) I love reading and listening to a variety of genres. I get the most time to indulge in books of my choice during what I like to call “wind-down baths” once a week.



It’s in my title, you know my column and my story – I’m a 32-year-old mother of 2 little ones – and I LOVE YA BOOKS. I can honestly say Young Adult novels are the majority of what I choose to read. So, what gives? Why do so many adult women love these books that are labeled for young readers, “recommended for teens”? It’s the connection to real-life, relatable situations. It’s the connection to a stage in life EVERYONE has gone through. It’s the emotions, the drama, the love triangles, the characters searching to find their selves, their purpose, their loves, their dreams, their aspirations. We can all find some part of us in the stories. We love the puppy love romances. We love the character and relationship building aspects. We love the “What If ” mind game of the dystopian themes, and the fantasy escape of the vampire, werewolf, faeries while we read about things we can still relate to in the real world. We love how light and easy of a read even the heaviest of stories can be. I’ve noticed, people love to tell high school kids how miniscule that period of their life is in the grand scheme of things. But I’ve got an unpopular opinion on that – it is NOT miniscule. Of course, the drama of it is. You recover from your first heartbreak; you survive your first friend fall out. It’s not actually the end of the world when you’re grounded and miss that football game or activity all your other friends are going to. Those things, yeah I guess you can call those seemingly small parts of it “miniscule in the grand scheme”. But the teenage years as a whole piece in your life are actually pretty formative and big. Many experience their first jobs, their first vehicle (and with that financial obligation). It’s when you start thinking about the

future, college or no college, career options, where are you going to live? It’s when you truly start to become an independent person – you can choose your own likes and dislikes, explore new options on your own. Your world exposure isn’t just limited to what your parents and other adults in your support circle have knowledge in or have given you the opportunity to try… you are at an age where you can seek out things that interest you on your own. It’s a lot of little steps towards adulthood all in a short period of time, and when added all together are a pretty big step in your life collectively.

love the romance, the love triangles, the best friendships, the raw pain, all of it – all those pieces. You love reading and feeling, really feeling, at the same time.  My 2021 YA Book Recommendation: The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy This is a YA novel that has it all – and will forever come to the forefront of my mind when people are looking for recommendations on a good book to read and like or are open to the YA category.

And on top of all the firsts, and responsibilities, and new experiences and opportunities – you have emotions, so many emotions. You’re figuring out relationships, goals, family, government, etc. You're figuring out where you fit in this world. And these things, and these emotions seem so intense at the time. So many people like to say this time isn’t or wasn’t important. But how often when you’re talking or thinking about memories do high school memories come up? Pretty often I bet. So yeah – when a writer can really hit home and tell the stories, and make you feel those intense emotions again, can bring you back to those uncertain and fast-paced days of growth, you fall into it and you feel it just the same as you did when you were a teen – and you love it! You love the intensity. You 89

Trickster is an Inspiring, Messy Tale of Resilience and Love. BY CHRISTIAN ADRIAN BROWN

FIT LIT Body, Mind and Quill


Quadragenarian fitness model, lifestyle coach and bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genrechanging Four Feasts till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes and speaks about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media.



Most of us would agree that 2020 was a miserable year, for reasons too numerous to mention. Globally, we suffered through periods of stress, isolation and separation from social and emotional connectivity. Indeed, reading became a sanctuary and escape for multitudes of us. While I so rarely escape into the realm of young adult fiction, there was one cross-media series this summer that captured my imagination: Trickster. Trickster is a television show produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (and subsequently picked up by WB), which is based on the first book of the literary series: Son of a Trickster, by Eden Robinson. I’m going to talk primarily about the adaptation here, as it was handled so well, and I’ll refer to the collective print and screen works as Trickster, for simplicity’s sake. I’d first read the book years ago when it was in the running for the Giller Prize and found it a rapturous, powderkeg of a tale. I suppose some context regarding my draw to the series and its subject matter is warranted, too: I’m married to an indigenous person so the issues of residential schools, reservations, drug and alcohol abuse, and all the other indignities indigenous people suffer are all very close to my partner and I. Without spoiling too much of the plot, Trickster brashly confronts these issues with a degree of visceral tact you’d expect from an HBO drama. The best, YA, I find, is the stuff that isn’t for teenagers or those with their mindsets. It’s the gritty stuff

that some of us endured, survived and drew strength from as adults. This brings me to today’s topic, one heavily explored and featured in the aforementioned work: resilience—as this is a health and wellness column, after all! Trickster is a stark reminder to those of us who have conquered trauma that life always gets better, always improves so long as we persevere, seek strength and truth, and maintain integrity with ourselves. Jared is a noteworthy protagonist given his general wellmeaning if ill-executed intent, and his devotion to his mother. A mother, mostly broken, who inspires us to greatness with her battle against the voices and vices that assail her. The entire cast is stellar and fleshed out on both screen and page. You honestly can’t go wrong with either form of the story, depending on your tastes. Most stories are too clean, too formulaic for my palate, since life tends toward messy, toward reining in chaos rather than living in homeostatic bliss. Trickster certainly captures life’s whirlwind energy, though it’s a tale that’s guided by the chaos rather than consumed or derailed by it. We’re brought along on an escalating and off-the-track rollercoaster ride that somehow ends up only in moderate ruin instead of total disaster.

The story behind the story is one of resilience and dedication, too. After perusing this issue of Shelf, I’d suggest you take a web-foray into the life of the author and into the passion that went into this book, which took no less than eight years and a lifetime of painful recognition to create. I certainly sympathize with that process—the creation of art through sorrow or struggle—as the impetus for writing my first novel was the death of my mother. Strife can be the perfect catalyst for creative exploration. Fiction makes an extraordinary vehicle for navigating the complexities of grief, loss or hardship. And so it is that Trickster, which is marketed as young adult fiction, takes us through some definitively adult experiences. Although I’d argue again that the best stories in this genre do not write to their market level, but instead to the young adult we were or wished to be. That is why Trickster resonates with such a wide audience, why it is one of my most recommended reads (and views) of the last decade, and why it is an essential fiction read for lessons on resilience, among the other themes and views of the novel that are likewise contemporary. —C 


Everything That Makes Us Feel. Review Written by Shannon Ishizaki, Owner of TEN16 Press a division of Orange Hat Publishing


TEN16 PRESS TEN16 Press, a division of Orange Hat Publishing, housing fiction, non-fiction, YA and poetry books. WWW.ORANGEHATPUBLISHING.COM

Everything That Makes Us Feel is the story that parents and teens alike have been looking for to work through this global pandemic. In his debut young adult novel, author Chuck Murphree tackles the universally tough topics of depression, anxiety, suicide, and the challenging relationships adolescents often have with their friends and family. Everything That Makes Us Feel follows fifteen-yearold Neil, who has felt lost since his brother committed suicide a year ago. As he begins his freshman year of high school, he struggles with his mental health and feelings of isolation until his high school counselor gets him involved in the Polar Bear Club, a student organization in which members support each other throughout their different problems and circumstances. The friendships that Neil forms with these classmates change his life in ways he doesn’t expect. For any reader grappling with mental illness, Neil’s journey is one that is familiar and that fulfills the innate need we all have to feel seen. Murphree captures the highs and the lows of living with mental illness without stigmatizing the struggles of his characters. In doing so, he encourages his audience not only to seek help, but also to identify with his characters in order to feel less alone. For those readers who don’t contend with mental illness, especially parents and teachers looking to help their struggling children and students,Everything That Makes Us Feel illuminates mental illness, helps increase empathy, and provides characters that



can be used as models as we try to better understand and help those around us. With a powerful and compelling writing style, Murphree wrote this book to, in his own words “bring awareness to suicide and mental illness and stop the stigma.” Due to his own experiences with depression, anxiety, and the loss of loved ones to suicide, Murphree’s novel rings with an authenticity immediately identifiable to readers. Through his own vulnerability, he encourages readers to open up about the issues they’re facing,

for “The risks of not bringing awareness are far greater than accepting the vulnerability and working through being uncomfortable.” In the end, Everything That Makes Us Feel is everything that the modern YA novel should be: it’s real, it’s raw, and it helps young adults come into their own as they grow up in this ever-changing, oftenfrightening world. 


EVERYTHING THAT MAKES US FEEL Fifteen-year-old Neil lost his brother to suicide one year ago, and in the process, he lost his voice. Now, with his parents drifting apart and another first day at a new school, his life feels like it's spiraling out of control. That is, until Neil meets a high school counselor who gets him involved in the Polar Bear Club, where he connects with a group of classmates he can finally relate to. As their friendship grows, so do their adventures. Life throws out many challenges, and death forces us to ask "why" far too many times. In Everything That Makes Us Feel, Neil tries to navigate a world in search of the answers to those questions.



Interview: Teal Swan.

Author of Hunger Pine. BY SARAH KLOTH






TS: Hunger of the Pine is my first fiction novel, and is a poetic novel about life on the streets in America. The book centers on Aria Abbott, a teen in the foster care system. She has been placed in a Christian foster home where the father is molesting her and her delinquency problems have turned her into the 'scapegoat' of the family. When the tension between her and her foster parents rises, she runs away and begins her life on the streets of Chicago. She soon meets Taylor, another homeless youth who is dreaming of fame, fortune and the sunshine of L.A. Together they board a Greyhound bus and never look back. In this bright new world, Aria will discover a whole community of people living in the shadows, in the margins of society. As Taylor follows his dreams, Aria follows her heart. But she will discover that it isn’t always clear who you can trust, that strangers can be kind, or treacherous, or sometimes as familiar as your own reflection, if you’re willing to look hard enough. WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION BEHIND THE WRITING THE BOOK?

TS: As far as I know, no one has ever written a poetic novel about life on the streets of America. I wanted to highlight homelessness through descriptive writing and used a main character as a lens through which to see a snapshot. I also wrote it because I feel that we as a society -- especially in America -- need to look in the mirror at homelessness and see that it is a problem caused by many systemic failures within society. For this reason, there are many 'reasons' someone ends up on the street. And we aren't really solving those reasons. People are complex, and it we need to see them with more compassion and understanding. And, it is with this 'understanding,' rather than labeling people good or bad, that we may see the root cause of behaviors and accurately resolve that root cause. YOU HAVE WRITTEN A LOT OF WONDERFUL NON-FICTION BOOKS. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO TAKE THE LEAP INTO FICTION?

TS: I want people to feel the raw reality of a side of life that they might never have experienced themselves by using descriptive writing to emotionally put them there. I am a descriptive writer first and foremost. My other books are 95



informational, which I love, but they were not an opportunity to exercise my skills as a writer. Descriptive writing is a whole other beast than writing nonfiction that is engaging yet informative. It is to convey an emotion or sensory experience with words instead of to convey a concept for the purpose of comprehension. I want people to love the writing in and of itself, and remember it for the writing, and for their experience learning about homelessness as well as. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO TACKLE THE TOPIC OF YOUTH HOMELESSNESS?

TS: A Great many people don't relate to homelessness or the issues surrounding it. But a great many do and those people are drowning in the feeling that they were just born to suffer. I wanted to show the reality of homelessness and make it relatable to those who don't understand it. But I also wanted to insert some answers and hope into this novel for those who do. To be 'real' it had to be a mixture of "this is too much to surmount" and "you can surmount it". It needed to be tragic but also inspirational. And people who relate to these characters, especially the main character will not have thought of themselves as a protagonist.. as significant...As someone



capable of love and triumph and of finding belonging and love... until now! WHAT DO YOU THINK SOCIETY CAN DO TO HELP THE HOMELESS POPULATION?

TS: The issue of homelessness is not an easy one because so many systemic factors within society contribute to it. This means there is not a one size fits all solution. For example, the failures within parenting and beyond that the foster care system cause youth homelessness. Society's complete lack of care for the mentally ill and the fact that there is literally nowhere for them to get help if they don't have money, contributes to homelessness in the mentally ill and veterans. The fact that a person on social security is not getting enough money to afford both food and housing and often medications causes senior citizen homelessness. The lack of prioritization within society when it comes to understanding and finding solutions for the needs of those who are in need, create this multivariable factor scenario where suddenly a great many people are on the street. It's time to see the broken-ness of our system and stop thinking things are being taken care of by 'someone else' when they are not.




TS: I want people to feel the raw reality of a side of life that they might never have experienced themselves by using descriptive writing to emotionally put them there. Also, a better and more empathetic view of the homeless population. We tend to be so uncomfortable with homelessness that we compartmentalize it and tell ourselves that we could never be in the same position... That homeless are like a 'breed' of people or another species unto themselves. Understanding this why behind homelessness actually makes it impossible for us to keep this 'separation' alive. To keep them marginalized. When we stop seeing people as "other", when we relate to them, we suddenly have the motive to do something because we identify with them instead. I wrote this book to create this identification, understanding and relatability so as to close this perceptual gap. 


TEAL SWAN is an international speaker, best-selling author, and a survivor of severe childhood abuse. Today, having integrated her own harrowing life experience, she inspires millions of people around the world towards truth, authenticity, freedom, and joy. Swan is also the author of six internationally published books, the creator of hundreds of frequency paintings, as well as the popular "Ask Teal" YouTube series, which currently has more than 80 million views and almost one million subscribers. She is also the owner and founder of Teal Eye LLC, a company focused on bringing self-empowerment and healing back to the individual. In conjunction with her vision of creating positive world change, Swan founded HEADWAY FOUNDATION, a nonprofit company that enables ideas, goals and ventures that are aimed at positive world change by ending suffering. In the years to come, Headway Foundation will encompass programs, centers, scholarships and products that better our world; such as in the areas of justice reform, education, environmental endeavors, end of life care, health, parenting, integrative medicine and food industry reform. Headway Foundation seeks to create the changes within our society that will create a better life for all beings who call this earth their home. 97



Books In Review Self-Published & Small Press Book Reviews




The Iron Labyrinth.

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Set in 1947 England, Merrilee Beckman’s debut novel, the first book in a trilogy, is a thought-provoking work of speculative fiction that revolves around a mild-mannered editor who finds himself inexplicably transported underground, where he becomes one of countless slaves forced to exist in a nightmarish iron labyrinth. The last memory Brian Renwick has of his previous life was standing in his kitchen opening a window. Now he’s a slave named Colum whose sadistic master (“call me Uncle”) uses mental and physical manipulation to break the editor down and recreate him for his own nefarious purposes.


Surrounded by a strange blue fog and unfathomably deep waters, the subterranean labyrinth is seemingly impossible to escape. Time ceases to exist. Renwick is locked in an endless cycle of back-breaking labor extending the tunnels with huge iron blocks, eating gruel, and sleeping in an iron prison cell. With his identity slipping away, he attempts to escape his

prison and regain his freedom. Meanwhile, back in England, Renwick’s friend Roche investigates his coworker’s strange disappearance. As Renwick’s bizarre journey unfolds, the author plants intriguing speculative plot seeds, including time travel and alien worlds, and questions the very nature of reality. “Reality, at its heart, is ephemeral,” she writes. These hooks open the story to limitless possibilities, and readers will find themselves furiously turning pages to fit the various puzzle pieces together to reveal the ultimate purpose of Uncle and the iron labyrinth. Additionally, Beckman does an exceptional job making Renwick a threedimensional and endearing character, one that readers are emotionally connected to and invested in. The conclusion, however, is somewhat underwhelming, and may leave readers who were hoping for a more thematically impactful resolution less than satisfied. However, while the story’s ending is disappointing, the rest of the novel is gripping. Readers will find the journey through Beckman’s narrative labyrinth nothing short of thrilling. 


The Other Side of the Ocean.

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When war comes to a young man’s Sierra Leone town, his life is brutally changed in Beverley Bell’s The Other Side of the Ocean. Saah is a happy teenager living in Freetown with his family. He is aware of the war —known as the blood diamond war— raging in his country, but so far life has proceeded fairly normally. Then one day, while Saah is at his sister’s, the rebel soldiers come to Freetown, setting fire to homes, and killing most anyone who gets in their way. Saah and his brother-inlaw, Musa, manage to escape, though not unscathed.


After a treacherous trip at sea, the pair arrive in a country where they believe they will be safe, but the border patrol agents seem almost as dangerous as the rebel soldiers. As they travel, seeking safety and care, they discover that not everyone welcomes refugees. They must also adapt to a new way of living as they transition from a life where a meal

might be gathered from nearby fruit trees, to one involving microwaves and TV dinners. This is an authentic, unflinching look at violence, racism and their victims. Bell writes that she worked many years as a “counsellor” and was inspired to write this novel by the refugees she met during the course of her career. Her experience makes for a tale that is at times heartbreaking and gruesome, but also speaks of endurance and hope, even in the face of the unimaginable. The author’s style is confident, straightforward and early on skillfully captures the innocence of childhood, such as when Saah and his friends say goodbye to a friend: “Life went on, and Saah and his friends allocated Haniah a place in the back of their minds with other people they used to know.” One plot thread involves a brutal injury that at times seems to go unacknowledged, but that is a minor flaw in this well-paced, absorbing account of survival. 



They Will Be Coming for Us.

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Kim Catanzarite’s They Will Be Coming for Us holds readers spellbound as it straddles several genres. First and foremost, it’s a love story. But it’s set in a science fiction narrative and reads like a thriller, even though there’s no violence. The love story introduces the book. It begins with a young woman, Svetlana, or “Sveta,” a Russian adoptee who works in an ice cream shop in a small Pennsylvania town. The town has been overrun by UFO enthusiasts during an annual summer festival that celebrates a supposed 1960s landing of a spacecraft near the town. During this crazy festival that boasts thousands of people dressed as aliens and sci-fi characters, Sveta meets Andrew Jovian. He helps her when she becomes overwhelmed at the ice cream shop, and the two – somewhat improbably – fall in love at first sight. They immediately become inseparable, PUBLISHER: FORSTER PUBLISHING and before you know it, she’s introduced to the wealthy Jovian family. Andrew’s father founded an aerospace company that works with NASA, and they’re the town’s “royalty.” The suspense starts building when Sveta senses something odd about members of the Jovian clan and feels uncomfortable around them, but within months, Sveta and Andrew are married. The novel’s sci-fi element runs throughout the story with the entire Jovian family’s obsession with stars, space and the night sky, and becomes much more shocking as the chapters fly by. The twists are too good for spoilers, but there’s a tip for astute readers: the family’s name. The excellent writing draws readers in with its quick clip and snappy dialogue. Catanzarite offers terrific turns of phrase, such as “Her dark eyes have something strong like black coffee brewing in them,” or “I am a fish out of water in frantic search of a pool or puddle I can leap into.” As it skillfully blends genres, They Will Be Coming for Us offers both quality writing and an irresistible story—a winning combination all around.  101

Not My Ruckus.

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Not My Ruckus is a disturbing and compelling novel told from an unusual perspective. While not labeled “Young Adult,” it seems geared for this audience. It’s 1980 in Texas, where 14-year-old Clare lives with Frank, her big but cowardly older brother; her “ample” mother and her secretive father. There are bars on the windows, locks on the refrigerator and secrets lurking in a crawl space, but Clare attributes all this to her family’s religiosity.


Clare’s only friend, Esther, lives across the street, and when the novel opens, their mothers have gone shopping together, even though Clare’s mother has long insisted that Esther’s family “wasn’t our kind of people.” The outing ends tragically, when what Clare’s mother describes as a Mexicanlooking man in a “big yellow sombrero,” jumps into the car and shoots the other woman. Clare knows her mother is lying, but can’t figure out why.

Esther is savvier, but her circumstances are more dire; she’s left with her drunken father, who abuses her by day and takes her out at night dressed in unusual outfits. As the novel unspools, unsavory secrets and dramatic events haunt both Esther and Clare’s lives. Readers see this twisted world strictly through Clare’s eyes. While the consistency is a strength, it can also be frustrating. Clare fails to pick up on subtle clues from others. She’s also impetuous and often acts rashly. She believes her parents when they say her frequent seizures are caused by the devil. In an Author’s Note at book’s end Musick offers an explanation. He writes that he’s autistic and epileptic and aimed to create a protagonist with similar problems. It would have helped to know this before the story started. Still, readers will likely sympathize with Clare’s depiction. The action is fast-paced and the ending utterly satisfying. Readers who enjoy stories about plucky teens in peril will find Musick’s novel well written. And because Clare’s viewpoint is so literal, the crimes are more horrific—and the redemption even sweeter.  102


Summer of the Cicadas.

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A Slow Burn Everything about Jessica “Jess” is a slow burn. From the way she yearns for Natasha to the lingering scent of death that she can’t escape. Jess smolders in the fire pit of life where she encounters a chorus of cicadas that threatens to overtake her small hometown. Her character arc is so subtle, I wondered every few pages how the author would tie up the loose ends in such a short book. In less than 150 pages Jess has to save the town, PUBLISHER: find love, and overcome the past that haunts her. RED HEN PRESS The question isn’t can she as much as it is will she. The townspeople haven’t been kind to her so it’s not like she owes them. It’s possible she owes it to herself, but I admit, I had a hard time deciphering that. Written in first person, present tense POV everything about Jess is passive. I couldn’t tell if it was the author’s style or Jess’ character trait. I wanted to see Jess take her crummy life and douse it with lighter fluid to induce some kind of change. Instead, I kept turning pages as Jess described changes in everyone else. I had hoped for a raging inferno, but I think someone filled her gas can with water. It’s a shame. Jess deserved more. Maybe the Summer of Jess will come later. 


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Unseen City. BY AMY SHEARN

The Past Meets the Present Shearn’s book, Unseen City, is an unexpected entry into an historical home and the contrast between life and death. Or, perhaps more fitting, the contrast between living and death. Told in 3rd person omniscient POV, Unseen City takes readers on a journey into the afterlife by way of Meg’s (the MC) everyday activities.


The narrator is reason alone to pick up this book and settle into it. The voice is distinct. It opens itself up to readers as if they’re in the middle of a conversation and the

narrator has this amazing story that has to be told. And the narrator is believable and reliable and so witty and honest, that I believed her. I wanted to hear all about this story she had to tell. Meg is a lovely character whose quirks and thoughts dance across the page. The historical context that Shearn proffers her readers is fascinating and had me googling details toward the latter third of the book. The only frustration I experienced, that I’m willing to overlook, was how she ended the story. It was abrupt and left me with unanswered questions. Another 100 pages and some cuts in the superfluous word count would have done it justice. An excellent read. You won’t be disappointed. 



The Man Who Loved His Wife.

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Character Voices and The Secrets They Tell Jennifer Anne Moses’ has mastered the art of

character voice. Everyone in her anthology The Man Who Loved His Wife is distinctly his or her own person. And the characters speak to you as you read, as if you’re in the middle of this interesting conversation about careers or food or relationships, and you can hear them. You can hear their nasally voices, their hiccuping cries, their disdainful mutters.


Trust me when I say you’ll love Esther. You will.

As I read this collection, I looked for the themes and the golden thread throughout. There is a strong sense of Jewish family culture and forgiveness. Some of the families have secrets and the author immerses readers in them until you feel like you’re on stage with them. You’re there in the building in the city wondering who else knows your business. You’re one of the students hearing rumors about the teacher. You’re consoling your mother who just wants you to be happy and find love. Moses is a storyteller and conversationalist combined. Her collection is theatrical and bold. She has a way of taking ordinary life events and transforming them into these peculiar moments that readers will remember long after they’ve closed the book.  105

To The Top Of Greenfield Street.

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Take Me to Greenfield Street. Other books have made me laugh and cry, and To the Top of Greenfield Street did that for me. One thing I’ve never done is stop in the middle of reading and email the author to tell him how great the book is - until I read Ryan Standley’s book.


Standley is quoted as saying “I tried to make the book as honest as possible.” Goal accomplished, in my opinion. Eric, Nate, Matt, Jen, Eric’s parents - all of them are vivid and unique with distinct voices and personalities. Greenfield Street comes to life

in Standley’s imagination and it was so great to travel back in time with his characters to the summer of 1993. The characters’ struggles are commonplace, but it’s Standley’s willingness to sit with them and hear them out that made me experience the characters’ journeys with them. Their situations are raw and relatable. And despite the struggles, I think To the Top of Greenfield Street is a comfort read for youth and adults, because reading this story is like coming home. It’s summer bike rides and pool parties, neighborhood block parties, fighting and making up with your best bud, hating your parents and loving them too. It’s dreaming big in a small town - the kind of hope that makes you believe in yourself. 



We Are Lost and Found.

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We Are Lost and Found follows Michael, a junior in high school, in 1983. He is navigating his life as a “yet-to-come-out” gay teen in New York City amidst the AIDS crisis. Michael is terrified to come out to his parents because his older brother, Connor, was disowned by their father for coming out. Michael is desperately trying to figure out who he is as a person and where he belongs along with his friends who are going through their own struggles. It’s not until he meets Gabriel is when everything comes head on - love, AIDS, family, fear, safety.


Helen Dunbar did a wonderful job of telling a story that I think a lot of the LGBTQ community in the 80s and 90s lived through and can relate to. Dunbar showed how one wanted to live the life they wanted, but always have a cloud of fear over them. Michael wanted to be able to freely discover himself in the LGBTQ world, but was scared of the danger and possibility of contracting a deadly virus. In We Are Lost and Found, she showcased how taboo it was to talk about people dying from AIDS. It wasn’t always spoken of, even to your closest friends if you knew someone who died from AIDS.

“At that moment, a gun would cause less panic in New York City than a gay boy bleeding.” Dunbar has a great style of writing. Each paragraph flowed effortlessly. When the characters spoke, she didn’t use quotations, so it was almost like a stream of consciousness. In a way, it felt like a journal; made it feel more intimate. There were many intimate moments in We Are Lost and Found - being sexual, confiding in people, or just being your free true self for a moment. The great thing about this book is you don’t have to identify as LGBQT to relate to Michael and the other characters. A lot of the story revolves around Michael and his wanting of love and acceptance from his parents, but he knows he’ll never fully get that from them. “She lives in a strange kind of world where Conner is straight...anything instead of what he is, a gay shop clerk with more friends than she’ll ever have, a taste of free will.” He also wants to find someone to love and love him back. He experiences many firsts and the anxiety and all the questions that go along with those choices. We never know if we are doing the right thing in the moment, and Michael shows that. Everyone has dealt with uncertainty of some kind in their lives. Dunbar does a great job of showing the facts about AIDS at this time. Giving out numbers of how many cases, deaths, and so on about it. She also has two afterwards in the book discussing New York City and the AIDS crisis. This part of the United States’ history doesn’t get spoken of much anymore.. AIDS has not vanished. People are still being affected by it today. We Are Lost and Found can be a really important book to help keep that history alive for us.  107

Not the Usual Season.

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Nancy May’s new young adult novel (a sequel to Dogs Don’t Talk) follows high school senior Ben as he navigates a challenging wrestling season and a new relationship, among other growing pains. Going into the school year, Ben’s biggest goals are to win the state wrestling championship and to get accepted to the Naval Academy. Ben also begins dating his crush, Talia, encouraged by his popular teammate and best friend, J.T. When new student Jordan becomes the first-ever girl to join the wrestling team, Ben and his friends are forced to reexamine their preconceptions. This minor upheaval foreshadows what will be a year of loss and growth for Ben.


May’s characters are complex, and she doesn’t shy away from their rough edges. For instance, Talia is sometimes petty and insecure due to an unhappy home life, and Ben blithely admits that his sister will be the one caring for their

autistic brother in the future. May is also compassionate in her portrayals of adults and their problems, such as the wrestling coach’s increasing burnout and Ben’s mother’s grief at the death of one of the family dogs. There is room, however, for even better character development. For instance, Ben refers a few times to his bookishness, but readers only learn about his reading tastes late in the novel. And Jordan refers to wrestling as her God-given calling; a deeper exploration of her faith would make her a stronger character. Readers should be aware that a transgender minor character (a wrestler competing against Jordan) is portrayed as a cheat and a poor sport. Introducing a minority so briefly in such a negative light may rub some readers the wrong way. Overall, greater depth would help the story better stand out in the crowded YA field. Still, Not the Usual Season combines humor, romance, sports action and emotional turmoil in a way that will appeal to teens.  108


Somewhere in the Bronx.

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PJ Entwistle’s young adult novel Somewhere in the Bronx follows a young girl coming of age against the tumultuous background of 1968. Toddy Bethany shares a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx with her divorced mother, Polly; younger brother, Kevin; and Kevin’s dog, Buck. Like most teenagers, the 13-year-old chafes at the bonds of childhood without truly being ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. Polly won’t allow Toddy a longed-for weekly “late night,” so Toddy often sneaks out to bars when her mother works the night shift at her nursing job.


Toddy bites off more than she can chew one night when a man from whom she accepts a ride tries to rape her. She flees and hops into a cab driven by handsome Norman Easter. Smitten, she lies to him about her age, going to outrageous lengths to get a fake birth certificate from the class troublemaker. Norman’s demons, however, may be too strong for Toddy’s love to transcend.

Entwistle excels at depicting the overwhelming nature of young love, as well as the more mundane aspects of Toddy’s daily life and family relationships. Polly, in particular, is a complex, formidable character. Her loving but turbulent relationship with Toddy is almost painfully realistic. The family members’ various relationships to the Wayans, a strict Christian sect reminiscent of Jehovah’s Witnesses, also deepen the story. Entwistle offers nuanced portrayals of religious faith, from Toddy’s older brother Butch’s devotion, to Polly’s efforts to please the church hierarchy while remaining true to herself, to a church elder’s malevolent hypocrisy. Entwistle also uses the 1968 backdrop to good effect. Without being heavy-handed, she conveys how the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy add to the chaos of Toddy’s adolescence. By turns funny and heartbreaking, Somewhere in the Bronx is a masterly portrait of a girl losing and finding herself. Though aimed at a young adult audience, the novel should have significant crossover appeal for adults.  109


The Highest and Lowest Performing YA Genres of 2020. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN





Books are, arguably, one of the most effective means of escaping from our day-to-day lives. Whether we’re whisked away to another world or engrossed in a well-researched biography, stories, both real and fictional, have the power to carry us through turbulent times. And if we are to call 2020 anything, turbulent is perhaps the best description, because all the other words I’m thinking of right now would have to get censored. As far as sales go, the book industry thrived last year – the world needed an escape, and a lot of people found themselves sitting at home with an uncomfortable amount of free time. Young adult novels were no exception to this, so let’s recap the YA genres that performed well in 2020, as well as the genres that did not get as much traction. A note before continuing – the information provided below does not indicate one genre being objectively better than the other, and it’s important to acknowledge that a good story often has overlapping genres (e.g., sci-fi thriller, romantic comedy, dark fantasy, etc.). Additionally, genre performance in this case will be measured by which

books received the most recognition and traction in the public eye. In other words, this list is very much based on trends rather than numbers, since I am not in a position to access numerical data on how well each individual genre sold. So, with these things in mind, let’s take a look at how the different YA genres performed last year. ... First, there are the genres that did quite well. This slot goes first to fantasy. With books like Legendborn (Tracy Deonn), A Song of Wraiths & Ruin (Roseanne A. Brown), Cemetery Boys (Aiden Thomas), and many more, fantasy got its time in the spotlight in 2020. The YA industry consistently pumped out quality publications in the genre, and fantasy was arguably the most heavily advertised genre of the year. While fantasy is an escape from reality, the mystery / thriller genre reels readers in by making them ask a simple question: What happens next? With powerhouse publications 111



such as All Eyes on Her (L.E. Flynn), These Violent Delights (Chloe Gong), and One of Us is Next (Karen M. McManus), 2020 was a good year for the genre. Thrillers and mysteries, arguably, are the types of books that most effectively distract you from your own issues by engrossing you in someone else’s, which might explain its success in last year’s market. The final genre to make it into one of the top spots is romance. There is never a shortage of romance books, nor is there ever a shortage of readership – 2020 was a year of heartbreak, and books like The Gravity of Us (Phil Stamper), Yes No Maybe So (Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed), and What I Like about You (Marisa Kanter) provided the feel-good energy that people desperately needed. ... There are then the genres that, for whatever reason, did not perform as well. YA horror fits into this slot. While 2020 saw some solid publications such as Horrid (Katrina Leno), Harrow Lake (Kat Ellis), and The Ghost Tree (Christina Henry), there wasn’t as 112


much hype around horror as there was around fantasy, mystery / thriller, and romance. Additionally, there weren’t nearly as many publications in the YA horror genre as there were in the higher-performing genres, as it seems that horror was not what YA publishers were focused on curating last year. Additionally, while adult sci-fi performed quite well in 2020, YA sci-fi cannot say the same. Sci-fi is presented, in this case, as separate from fantasy, with sci-fi referring to subgenres such as hard science, space opera, dystopian, cyberpunk, etc. With publications like Crownchasers (Rebecca Coffindaffer), Half Life (Lillian Clark), The Sound of the Stars (Alechia Dow), and more, it is quite clear that YA sci-fi is far from dead, and can in fact produce incredibly original and engaging stories. However, like with horror, sci-fi suffered in 2020 from a lack of marketing and hype. So, what might 2021 hold for the different YA genres? ... Due to their heightened popularity in



2020, I believe that fantasy, mystery / thriller, and romance will hold their reputation throughout 2021. However, I also believe that horror will be joining their ranks this year, given the increasing popularization of gritty, chilling stories in the YA ABOUT THE BOOKS although industry. Additionally, sci-fi probably won’t make enough progress in the market to land a “Top Genre” spot, I fully trust that it will perform better this year than in previous years, and I am hopeful for its continued progression in the future. And again, the fact that horror and sci-fi did not perform as well as the other YA genres last year in no way denotes inferiority – all it shows is that the market demand for these genres was lower in 2020 than in previous years. And it’s important to keep in mind that the demands change. Remember when any YA dystopian was labelled as a copycat because of the mass success of books like The Hunger Games? (Extra points if the protagonist is a strongwilled heroine fighting a corrupt government while being caught in the middle of a love triangle.) Or do you

remember when, after Twilight took over America, people would roll their eyes whenever another vampire book came out? Genre popularity fizzles out due to oversaturation in the marketplace, but in time “overdone” genres make their way back into the public eye – after all, books like War Girls (Tochi Onyebuchi) and The Fell of Dark (Caleb Roehrig) prove that dystopian heroines and vampire novels have made a comeback, and can in fact be done in new and innovative ways. So, if you are a writer, take heart! If you’re truly passionate about the story you’re telling (and if you edit, of course), then there will be an audience for your book, whether they be found through mainstream success or through a small but loyal following. Remember, your stories have the power to encourage, entertain, and educate, and they’re valuable regardless of what’s in style at the moment. 




What's On Our Shelf Nobody loves books more than us. We're a team of readers with broad interests and strong feelings about the books on our shelves.




THE HOUSE ON VESPER SANDS by Paraic O'Donnell It is the winter of 1893, and in London the snow is falling. It is falling as Gideon Bliss seeks shelter in a Soho church, where he finds Angie Tatton lying before the altar. His onetime love is at death's door, murmuring about brightness and black air, and about those she calls the Spiriters. In the morning she is gone. The snow is falling as a seamstress climbs onto a ledge above Mayfair, a mysterious message stitched into her own skin. It is falling as she steadies herself and closes her eyes. It is falling, too, as her employer, Lord Strythe, vanishes into the night, watched by Octavia Hillingdon, a restless society columnist who longs to uncover a story of real importance.


THE INLAND SEA: A NOVEL by Madeleine Watts


For Polly, the small town of Livingston, Montana, is a land charmed by raw, natural beauty and a close network of family that extends back generations. But the summer of 2002 finds Polly at a crossroads: a recent head injury has scattered her perception of the present, bringing to the surface longforgotten events. As Polly’s many relatives arrive for a family reunion during the Fourth of July holiday, a beloved friend goes missing on the Yellowstone River. Search parties comb the river as carefully as Polly combs her mind, and over the course of one fateful week, Polly arrives at a deeper understanding of herself and her larger-than-life relatives.

Drifting after her final year in college, a young writer begins working part-time as an emergency dispatch operator in Sydney. Over the course of an eight-hour shift, she is dropped into hundreds of crises, hearing only pieces of each. Callers report car accidents and violent spouses and homes caught up in flame. The work becomes monotonous: answer, transfer, repeat. And yet the stress of listening to far-off disasters seeps into her personal life, and she begins walking home with keys in hand, ready to fight off men disappointed by what they find in neighboring bars. During her free time, she gets black-out drunk, hooks up with strangers, and navigates an affair with an ex-lover whose girlfriend is in their circle of friends.



CELADON by Raymond



Avery Bartlett

Joseph Phillip Natoli


In the late 1960s, in the shadow of the Vietnam War, Neil Chase, a young man yearning to travel, risks everything to take a journey by freighter and see the world. He arrives at a rural Japanese village famous for its pottery, but he soon realizes that things are not perfect in this seemingly idyllic spot. The town and its residents hold secrets hidden for centuries, each with their own different cross to bear. Chase falls in love with a beautiful potter's daughter who lives across the river; she too has a secret she's determined to hide. As Chase learns the ceramic craft and becomes ever closer to the potter family, he discovers that even good intentions can be as destructive as bad ones, that it is easier to make mistakes than undo them, and that no voyage allows you to return unchanged.

Cecily Darden, called “Alice” by her shrink, is drawn into the dangerous world of a husband, Thomas Limone, who suddenly disappeared a decade earlier. Somehow an unexpected inheritance from Thomas’ father brings her to a Brooklyn neighborhood facing gentrification. She finds herself a target for everyone with a claim on a certainly illegal treasure trove that the IRS is also looking for. Whether or not she is or isn’t a shill in a long con, an involvement that begins with her relationship with Thomas, known as “Trip” in the New Utrecht Avenue neighborhood is something that Angelo Bari, the “Prince” of the neighborhood and fascinated by Alice, cannot decide.

In the wilds of 19th century Ontario, Maang-ikwe, a young Ojibwe woman, falls into a forbidden love, breaks her father’s honor, and surrenders her trust to someone who betrays it. The abuse she suffers divides her from her tribe and causes her to give up what she holds most dear.



Niin-mawin must come to grips with his culture being ripped away from him. Brought up in a “white man’s” school, he suffers through an enforced “civilized” education and separation from his family. When a man he respects reveals a secret about Niin-mawin’s past, he embarks on a search for the person he hopes can mend the part of his heart that’s always been missing.


THE SIXTH OF SEPTEMBER by Callista Bowright

As Olivia grows up within a simple Lancashire background, her traumatic childhood experiences propel her on a painful path that eventually molds her into a tough, beautiful fighter. Sophie could not be more different. Although she is raised in wealth and comfort, she lacks confidence and struggles, in her hippy way, through similar life experiences and losses with nervous bravery. Both are sensual, raunchy, strong, and loving women who defy society's hypocrisy. Then one September day, their worlds collide. Olivia and Sophie could be bitter rivals, but they are intelligent women who combine their strengths to face and cope with the past and present. The Sixth of September is the story of two scarred yet strong women whose lives intertwine and lead them into new beginnings where they must each uncover what truly makes them happy.

BEWARE THE VIOLET by Maria Vermisoglou

Discovering supernatural creatures are real is one thing but learning I have powers and learning to use them is quite a feat. My name is Violet Webb. I live in a small town that nearly worships Halloween but I hate it. I can't wait until I graduate and get as far as I can from that silliness. Everything changed when I followed the white rabbit. I ended up in a Realm full of vampires, fairies, witches and every creature possible. Oh, Did I mention Jacques? The hot shapeshifter with the French accent that makes me see rabbits everywhere? Now what? Some bloody lady of Fate gave me a prophecy to get home. The only problem is that I must defeat the darkness before it swallows both of our worlds.

THE CURSE OF OAK ISLAND by Randall Sullivan In The Curse of Oak Island, longtime Rolling Stone contributing editor and journalist Randall Sullivan explored the curious history of Oak Island and the generations of people who tried and failed to unlock its secrets. Drawing on his exclusive access to Marty and Rick Lagina, stars of the History Channel's television show The Curse of Oak Island, Sullivan delivers an up to the minute chronicle of their ongoing search for the truth. In 1795, a teenager discovered a mysterious circular depression in the ground on Oak Island, in Nova Scotia, Canada, and ignited rumors of buried treasure. Early excavators uncovered a claylined shaft containing layers of soil interspersed with wooden platforms, but when they reached a depth of ninety feet, water poured into the shaft and made further digging impossible.





by Sayaka Murata

Ruth Coker Burks

As a child, Natsuki doesn't fit in with her family. Her parents favor her sister, and her best friend is a plush toy hedgehog named Piyyut, who talks to her. He tells her that he has come from the planet Popinpobopia on a special quest to help her save the Earth. One summer, on vacation with her family and her cousin Yuu in her grandparents' ramshackle wooden house in the mountains of Nagano, Natsuki decides that she must be an alien, which would explain why she can't seem to fit in like everyone else. Later, as a grown woman, living a quiet life with her asexual husband, Natsuki is still pursued by dark shadows from her childhood, and decides to flee the "baby factory" of society for good, searching for answers about the vast and frightening mysteries of the universe--answers only Natsuki has the power to uncover.

In 1986, 26-year old Ruth visits a friend at the hospital when she notices that the door to one of the hospital rooms is painted red. She witnesses nurses drawing straws to see who would tend to the patient inside, all of them reluctant to enter the room. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and immediately begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life. Before she can even process what she's done, word spreads in the community that Ruth is the only person willing to help these young men afflicted by AIDS, and is called upon to nurse them. As she forges deep friendships with the men she helps, she works tirelessly to find them housing and jobs, even searching for funeral homes willing to take their bodies - often in the middle of the night.



THE HARPY by Megan Hunter Lucy and Jake live in a house by a field where the sun burns like a ball of fire. Lucy has set her career aside in order to devote her life to the children, to their finely tuned routine, and to the house itself, which comforts her like an old, sly friend. But then a man calls one afternoon with a shattering message: his wife has been having an affair with Lucy's husband, Jake. The revelation marks a turning point: Lucy and Jake decide to stay together, but make a special arrangement designed to even the score and save their marriage--she will hurt him three times. As the couple submit to a delicate game of crime and punishment, Lucy herself begins to change, surrendering to a transformation of both mind and body from which there is no return.




by Jakob Guanzon


Evicted from their trailer on New Year’s Eve, Henry and his son, Junior, have been reduced to living out of a pickup truck. Six months later, things are even more desperate. Henry, barely a year out of prison for pushing opioids, is down to his last pocketful of dollars, and little remains between him and the street. But hope is on the horizon: Today is Junior’s birthday, and Henry has a job interview tomorrow.

A heady, inventive, fantastical novel about the nature of memory and the difficulty of confronting trauma

To celebrate, Henry treats Junior to dinner at McDonald’s, followed by a night in a real bed at a discount motel. For a moment, as Junior watches TV and Henry practices for his interview in the bathtub, all seems well. But after Henry has a disastrous altercation in the parking lot and Junior succumbs to a fever, father and son are sent into the night, struggling to hold things together and make it through tomorrow.

An unnamed woman checks into a guesthouse in a mysterious district known only as the Subdivision. The guesthouse’s owners, Clara and the Judge, are welcoming and helpful, if oddly preoccupied by the perpetually baffling jigsaw puzzle in the living room. With little more than a hand-drawn map and vague memories of her troubled past, the narrator ventures out in search of a job, an apartment, and a fresh start in life. Accompanied by an unusually assertive digital assistant named Cylvia, the narrator is drawn deeper into an increasingly strange, surreal, and threatening world, which reveals itself to her through a series of darkly comic encounters reminiscent of Gulliver’s Travels.


In fourteen effervescent stories, Dorthe Nors plumbs the depths of the human heart, from desire to melancholy and everything in between. Just as she did in her English-language debut, Karate Chop, Nors slices straight to the core of the conflict in only a few pages. But Wild Swims expands the borders of her gaze, following people as they travel through Copenhagen, London, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and elsewhere. Here are portraits of men and women full of restless longing, people who are often seeking a home but rarely finding it. A lie told during a fraught ferry ride on the North Sea becomes a wound that festers between school friends. A writer at a remote cabin befriends the mother of an ex-lover. Two friends knock doors to solicit fraudulent donations for the cancer society. A woman taken with the idea of wild swims ventures as far as the local swimming pool.




All around the world, girls are going to school, working, dreaming up big futures—they are soccer players and surfers, ballerinas and chess champions. Yet we know so little about their daily lives. We often hear about challenges and catastrophes in the news, and about exceptional girls who make headlines. But even though the health, education, and success of girls so often determines the future of a community, we don’t know more about what life is like for the ordinary girls, the ones living outside the headlines. From the Americas to Europe to Africa to Asia to the South Pacific, the thirty teens from twenty-seven countries in Girlhood share their own stories of growing up through diary entries and photographs, and the girls’ stories are put in context with reporting and research that helps us understand the circumstances and communities they live in. 120



The girl’s body is curled up like a shell and almost completely buried in sand. Only her fingertips can be seen, reaching helplessly up towards an escape she will never find… Seventeen-year-old Shelby Mayfield sits alone on a bus to Fog Harbor, California. Aside from a few items of clothing, all she has with her is twenty-two dollars, the ragdoll she’s kept since kindergarten, and the devastating secret she’s been hiding. How long will it be before her family realizes she’s gone? Can anyone see the fresh bruise on her cheek beneath the makeup? Perhaps she was a fool to believe the person she is meeting in this remote little town could help her…


Thirteen Short Stories from Bold New YA Voices & Writing Advice from YA Icons Created by New York Times bestselling authors Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma, Foreshadow is so much more than a short story collection. A trove of unforgettable fiction makes up the beating heart of this book, and the accompanying essays offer an ode to young adult literature, as well as practical advice to writers. This unique compilation reveals and celebrates the magic of reading and writing for young adults.




FOOL'S ERRAND by Jeffrey S.

by Erin McDermott

by H. L. Macfarlane


Simplicity was all that mattered to Claire, until an Ancient Greek god wreaked havoc on her life.

A troubled mind, a creeping obsession, and a sea that’s full of secrets.

Years after the death of his gangster father, a young man discovers a letter that sends him reluctantly defying the mob as he races to locate a hidden treasure.

Claire Wild’s life is perfectly ordinary. Until she loses her only living parent, finds herself on the run from Hades, and is taken to an island of immortal beings all in one day. While living on the island, Claire learns she is special. So special that the immortals of the island are determined to keep her safe from Hades’ wrath. But she doesn’t understand why. Apparently, neither does Jason. When Claire falls for the sexy but tortured immortal she doesn’t know how to react. Until she realizes he is the only one on the island that doesn’t want to help her. In fact, he insists the immortals of the island shouldn't help her either.

When Grace Ferguson encounters a strange boy during her marine biology lab she soon becomes entranced by his odd nature, beautiful drawings, and love of the sea. But as Grace grows closer to Lir she discovers his love is more of an obsession. Disappearing to the coast every weekend with no explanation of what he’s doing, she senses something far more sinister beneath his infatuation. When a series of brutal murders ravage the country, Grace begins to unravel the dark past behind Lir’s troubling behaviour…and realises that her very life may be on the line.

It’s been six years since the untimely death of Blackie—a charming rogue who endlessly pursued “The Big Deal”—when his son discovers an enigmatic letter telling of a cache of stolen money. Feeling no choice but to pursue his father’s dream, he embarks on a search that leads from New York, to the Strip in Las Vegas, and ultimately to the south of France. Along this life-altering journey, he is confronted by the dangers of his father’s past as he unravels a decadesold mystery, while revealing other long-buried secrets as well. Poignant and entertaining, humorous and exciting, romantic and mysterious, Fool’s Errand leads him to discover both the treasure and himself.





Sometimes a thing doesn’t seem real until we say it out loud.” —





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