Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins. Penguin, 2014. Currently Available.
Age Level & Genre: YA Paranormal Fiction
Face Value: The cover is what attracted me to this book. The contrasting images of a super-feminine pink pearl necklace and a shiny dagger told me that there might be some interesting gender role gender role depictions in this book. And there was. Hurrah for a cover that lives up to its promises!
Does it break the slate? Harper Price is a butt-kicking, overachieving slatebreaker. She may try too hard to be perfect, but let’s not hold that against her. Harper wants to be an excellent student. She wants to fulfill her duties as a paladin (more on that later), but worries that she can’t do it to the level of perfection she normally expects of herself. Many of the people in Harper’s life give her grief for being a perfectionist. I say: You rock, Harper!
Who would we give it to? Overachievers, obviously. I don’t know much about Southern American culture, but I think girls deeply embedded in the womanhood of the South would also appreciate Harper’s story. Continue reading
Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs. Candlewick Press, 2014. Currently available.
Age Level & Genre: YA contemporary realistic fiction
Face Value: This is a subtle, beautiful cover. The Egg Drop diner is a key location in the book, and the blue butterflies are part of the magic of this story. I like the cover, but it may be too subtle. This book is wonderful. It deserves a cover that stands out on the shelf, and this one does not quite do the trick.
Does it break the slate? Yes, it is terrifically slatebreaking! Gloria is an articulate young woman who unabashedly admits that she has a lot to discover about herself. I especially love that Gloria gets that she isn’t “finished” yet. She has a lot of growing to do, and she acknowledges that she may change her perspective as she gains life experiences. Gloria is surrounded by a cast of interesting young people who also challenge the status quo.
Who would we give it to? This book is all about smart kids who go to Geek Camp. These are the young people who thrive in their own intellect. They may not be musicians or athletes or dancers, but they can hold a debate like nobody’s business. Similarly gifted young readers will love this book and want to have a Geek Camp experience of their own. Continue reading
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Simon & Schuster, 2014. Currently available.
Age Level & Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Face Value: This is a gorgeous cover. Real girl, real setting, real anticipation for the story that is told in the pages between. I was not ashamed to read this in public.
Does it break the slate? Sadly, no. Lara Jean does not step up to take charge of her destiny until the very last page of the book. (Seriously, the final page. Not a hyperbole.) Her sisters are both more likely to be Slatebreakers, but the story is told from Lara Jean’s perspective, and it doesn’t make the cut. I still enjoyed reading the book, but it’s not a great example of a young woman speaking up and challenging the status quo.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013. Currently available.
Age level & genre: Picture book fiction with a fantastical twist
Face Value: The wacky illustrations hint at the slightly off-kilter world created by David Roberts. Rosie’s pride in her work is clear in her exuberant facial expression. I knew from the cover that this book was going to be a ton of fun.
Does it break the slate? Yes, there is no question about it: this book breaks the slate. Rosie learns to be confident in her inventive ideas and to never be afraid to fail, because failures are learning opportunities.
Who would we give it to? This book is just right for the girls who love building with Legos and constructing stuff with items out of the recycling bin. Continue reading
Dorothy Must Die byDanielle Paige. Full Fathom Five, 2014. Currently Available.
Genre: Fantasy / Retelling
Face Value: We definitely know we’re in Oz by the signifiers = blue checked dress, silver shoes. The stark writing over the image hints at the story and is engaging. I like it.
Does it Break the Slate? Yep. Danielle Paige has not only crafted a complicated, villainous and horrifying version of Dorothy Gale, she has given us a strong new hero in Amy Gumm. Plenty of terrific female characters populate this book.
Who would we give it to? Devoted fans of the Oz books will either love this for its research and attention to detail or be horrified, but my bet is the former. If you didn’t know the books outside of the first one, or if your knowledge of Oz was mostly Judy Garland-based, I don’t know if you would enjoy it as much. Continue reading
Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Currently available.
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Face Value: This cover simply does not do the story justice. Libby is extremely clever, and a girl pulling a cell phone out of her bosom does not convey the hilarity of this book. This cover makes it look like a story of secret seduction, when the book is truly more about the sweet, awkward moments that make a memorable summer.
Does it break the slate? Not quite. Libby has all of the qualities necessary to be a Slatebreaker. She is smart, resourceful, and self-sufficient. Unfortunately, she sometimes underestimates people and lets things like outward appearance win her over before she delves deeper. I did love how Libby was a female character who was full of contradictions. She loves the color pink, has an interest in fashion, and enjoys domestic pursuits. She also studies history intently and enjoys classic literature. Despite the initial impressions people may have of Libby, she consistently proves them wrong.
Who would we give it to? Girls who loved Felicity from American Girl will dig the setting (Libby works as a historical re-enactor at a 1700s living history museum). If you enjoyed reading Past Perfect by Leila Sales, this is another great book about a smart girl working in historical garb and experiencing the contrast of past and present. Continue reading
Review: Pointe by Brandy Colbert. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014. Currently Available.
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Face Value: It’s lovely. With the elegant coloring, font, and image, this cover treads a fine line between spun sugar ballerina book and Black Swan grimness. What’s inside is neither one – and the cover reflects that.
Does it Break the Slate? Without a doubt. This book layers in so much critical thinking with regard to race and gender, and balances major issues delicately and thoughtfully, all the while giving us a complicated, nuanced heroine.
Who would we give it to? If you’re a contemporary realism reader, you will fall all over this book. Colbert has created such a rich, carefully balanced world, characters and plot that I would recommend it widely. If you’re interested in diverse characters (i.e. non-white main characters in a book that is not directly about race), you’ll be pleased with this as well. Continue reading
Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014. Currently available.
Age Level & Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Face Value: Gorgeous. Even without knowing that this story was a mystery (which I can’t resist), I would have snatched this off the shelf eagerly. The cover illustrations hint at the many layers to this adventure.
Does it break the slate? So much! Theo and Bodhi are fiercely curious and rarely rely on adults to help them get to the next level of the mystery. In fact, the premise of this story is that the adults in their lives don’t have much to offer for support. They are too busy, too ill, or too judgmental of young people to give Theo and Bodhi what they need. So the two girls band together and find their own agency to get things done. It is so impressive.
Who would we give it to? Mystery lovers, inquisitive girls, and those with an interest in history will love this book. It is set during the summer in NYC, and that specific setting will also connect with certain readers. This book has wide appeal. Continue reading
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana. Chronicle Books, 2014. Currently available.
Age Level & Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Face Value: The simple cover is almost whimsical. Looking at the muddy boots made me think this was a story about playing outside, getting a little messy, and having a good time. But it goes so much further than that. Once you have read the book, you will see just how heartbreaking this cover image is. In a way, it reflects the trajectory of the story. Everything seems so normal, and then it all shatters.
Does it break the slate? Armani takes on responsibility in a time of extreme duress. Just days ago she was a happy-go-lucky nine year old, and then she suddenly becomes the head of her family unit. Armani is a Slatebreaker because she becomes fearless when she has to be and faces down anything that threatens the safety of her family. The book is full of strong women who endure unbelievable loss with grace.
Who would we give it to? Readers like Jewell Parker Rhodes’ books or enjoy stories based in New Orleans will appreciate the sense of place that Lamana weaves into this story. This isn’t exactly a feel-good book, but it does have moments of beauty among all of the loss. Continue reading
Chiggers by Hope Larson. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008.
Age Level & Genre: Middle grade realistic fiction graphic novel
Face Value: This is a solid graphic novel cover. Larson’s artwork is cheerful and conveys the summery camp setting. There is a slight disconnect between the girls on the cover, Shasta and Abby, which hints at the drama that will come from their interactions at camp.
Does it break the slate? No, it doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good book – it is still worth sharing and discussing with girl readers. Abby doesn’t stand up for herself or Shasta in the way that she could, but that’s part of her learning process. By the end of camp she knows herself better and has the potential to navigate conflicts better in the future.
Who would we give it to? The summer is coming and girls are preparing to head off to camp. Experienced campers and first time campers would enjoy this book. Although the characters are heading into high school, the book seems to skew younger than that, so I would recommend this for middle school readers. Continue reading