January 03


The 2020 Nerdies: Young Adult Fiction (Day Two) Announced by a Chapter of Nerds

Today is the second day of the 2020 Nerdy Book Club Awards announcements for Young Adult Fiction. You can read Day One here. Congratulations to the authors and publishers of these outstanding books. The variety of voices, genres, and topics on this list will engage young readers’ minds and hearts through the power of story.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

This is not what I was expecting! Elatsoe, Ellie, can bring back the dead. It’s an old family secret, handed down matrilineally. She would never bring back a human being though. There is no telling the destruction that would bring.  Ghost pets, though? Yes, that is allowed and encouraged! Ellie’s dog Kirby goes everywhere with her.  He is also her early warning system that someone is in danger. When Ellie dreams of her cousin, Trevor in trouble and Kirby does his ghost bark – she knows something bad has happened.  She promises to keep Trevor’s family safe while she figures out what went wrong.  

I love the way Darcie Little Badger integrates Lipan Apache history and their connection to the earth.  Each story Ellie tells about Six-Great (her great great great great great great grandmother) helps her with her case while giving us a glimpse into oral mythology of the Lipan Apache. Ellie’s best friend Jay is part fae while his sister’s boyfriend is a vampire. I love how these supernatural characters all live a “normal” life and just happen to have powers. These powers aren’t hidden and are accepted by almost everyone. Badger also weaves in the history of genocide of Native Americans and the US’s continuation of teaching as if they do not exist. She doesn’t shy away from the microaggressions Ellie faces. I really enjoyed the history lessons wrapped in this ghost story. 

The closer Ellie gets to fnding out what really happened to Trevor, the more sinister secrets she uncovers. How will she keep his family safe if she can’t keep herself safe? This one had just the right amount of scary for me. I found myself leaning forward eager to see what was around the corner!—Kathy Burnette

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

I was completely drawn in by the cover. It’s beautiful. The color combinations of the orange background, the flowers, and Felix’s beautiful skin color and then the scars piqued my curiosity. Felix has always felt uncomfortable and unlovable. His mom left to start a new family. He never felt like himself in the clothes he was forced to wear or the body he inhabited. His dad has been mostly supportive, not only working extra so Felix could have top surgery and get his hormone shots.  He also let Felix transfer to St Catherine’s where he could get a fresh start and go deeper with his art. Now all Felix needs is his HEA. Hanging with his friends, Ezra, Leah, and Marisol, he’s starting to feel like he belongs. He gets to spend 1/2 his time at Ezra’s where he can mostly be himself. He dated Marisol for a time. Almost all of his friends are queer or questiong just like he is! Surely he will find someone that loves him unconditionally. Surely he will find someone to kiss! He has found his people.

Until he walks into school and sees a gallery with old pictures of him as a girl and listing his deadname. Who hates him so much that they would do that? As he tries to unravel the mystery, Felix is questioning everything. I loved following Felix’s journey as he learns to love himself and realize no one has all the answers.  He learns to recognize love and the different ways it can look. And yes, Felix gets his Happily Ever After!—Kathy Burnette

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

People, young and old alike, spend a great deal of time trying to find their purpose in life, but what if getting what you truly wanted and finding your soul mate also meant committing unspeakable crimes and hurting those closest to you? 

Tarisai has lived a life devoid of human contact and relationships.  Her mother, The Lady, made sure she trained all eleven years of her life to fulfill her destiny: be selected into the Crown Prince’s Circle of Eleven.  Just before meeting the Crown Prince she learns what The Lady has really been training her for–to kill the Crown Prince.  

The Circle of Eleven provides Tarisai with everything she was missing: a real family, a sense of belonging, a purpose, but can she find a way to not fulfill her destiny? Can it still be her destiny if it’s not what she wants?

Jordan Ifueko builds a spectacular world. One in which each character comes to life and the reader finds themselves fully invested in the decisions of the characters make. Tarisai will discover her true strength while causing the readers to question what their future’s hold and if they have the strength to fight against whatever isn’t in their best interest.-–Morgan Jackson

Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

“It’s not that we need more wolf hunters,” you say. “It’s that we need men to stop becoming wolves.”

To describe Elana K. Arnold’s Red Hood as a feminist retelling of Little Red Riding Hood is like describing the Grand Canyon as a geologic feature. While these descriptions are technically accurate, they also fail to capture either’s signficance or deeply moving beauty. Red Hood is a stunning achievement. Written almost entirely in 2nd person, this modern day fairy tale doesn’t simply roll out Bisou Martel’s journey, from high school student to wolf hunter, for us to ponder, it swallows us whole. We become Bisou, as she discovers what it means to be gifted the power of hunting wolves: men who exploit, abuse and even murder women. As each new moon rises, our questions and power grow. And just as Bisou begins to understand her family’s history and destiny as wolf hunters, we are challenged as readers to create a world in which wolves no longer exist. In the spirit of what made the very first, grim(m) and gruesome fairy tales so compelling, Red Hood is as bloody, dark and deeply captivating as it is important and timely.—Jennifer LaGarde

The Assignment by Lisa Wiemer

Many books focus on the events of the Holocaust, especially in YA novels.  This, is not one of those books.

Logan is dismayed and shocked when her favorite teacher assigns her history class a project requiring half the class to defend the Final Solution, the Nazi plan for genocide of Jewish people.  This story is less about the horrors of the Holocaust and more about two high school seniors willing to stand up and do what is right, even if it puts everything at risk.  

As Logan, and her best friend Cade, fight against their history teacher, the school principal, emboldened racist students, and internet trolls they learn who they are, what they stand for, and what is truly important.  

Based on real instances of incredulous and insensitive assignments, Liza Wiemer brings together a story that highlights the insidious nature of hate, anti-Semitism, and racism, but centers the importance of doing what is right regardless of who or what may be against you/—Morgan Jackson

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert  

Marva Sheridan spent over two years getting people registered and informed before the upcoming presidential election. Now that Election Day is here, she is excited to vote for the first time now that she is 18. Duke Crenshaw, also 18, plans to vote for the first time on his way to school in the morning. Yet, when Duke’s name is not on the voter list, Marva steps in and works to be sure that his vote is counted. The day does not exactly go how Marva thought it would, but she meets new people and has a new appreciation of democracy. The story chapters go back and forth between Marva and Duke, so readers get different perspectives on what is happening. It is a fun, fast-paced story.—Julia Reynolds

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour

Milais ready for a new beginning, a new life, and a new home since she’s graduated from high school and aged out of the foster care system.  She thinks she’s found it at a secluded farm located along the rugged Northern California Coast, except that memories begin resurfacing not long after she arrives. Mila encounters ghosts, and she thought that she’d left those behind, too. 

This novel asks the reader to suspend their belief in reality while immersing them in the beauty, danger, and wildness of nature.  Nina LaCour’s newest title provides readers with a story about grief and loss, mixed with a bit of magic, a lot of forgiveness, and enough strength and resilience for every one of us to step into the light of home.—Kelly Vorhis 

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña live in Guatemala. Pulga and Chico are family- Chico was adopted by Pulga’s mother when Chico’s mother was murdered. Violence is a part of life in their town, but when Chico and Pulgo witness the murder of a local shop owner, they are forced to run to protect themselves and their family. Their friend, Pequeña, who was raped by a local drug lord, needs to escape, too. The three teens make the heartbreaking decision to run north, hoping to reach the United States.  They know the journey will be dangerous, but theydon’t know what they will face on the way or if they reach the US. A heart-wrenching tale based on all-too-real-and-current events, this novel is a must-read for teens and adults.  The story is told from all three perspectives and will help readers see just how dangerous and grueling the journey is.  As one of my students said after reading We Are Not From Here, readers will gain insight into how desperate some refugees are and how heartbreaking it is to have to run from your home and family, This is a book that will stay with you long after turning the last page.—Sarah Mulhern Gross

You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty thinks she has it all figured out: acceptance to the college she wants, an audition for the music program at that college, and a scholarship to attend that college. Yet, when she learns that the audition did not earn her a position in the music program and the scholarship money is not there, she has to act quickly to figure out another way to get funding to attend this college. Prom is a HUGE deal at her high school, so Liz decides to submit her name to be a candidate for prom queen. What happens next are many different volunteer events, parties, and time meeting the other candidates. Liz learns about herself, her family, her friends, and what it really means to go after what you really want.—Julia Reynolds

This post concludes the 2020 Nerdy Book Club Awards announcements! Congratulations to the authors, illustrators, photographers, and publishers of these incredible books. Thank you to all of the folks who nominated titles for the awards. Special thanks to everyone who volunteered to write announcement posts. I hope you all discovered some new titles to read and share with the young people in your life. Let’s spend 2021 doing everything we can to get these amazing books (and many more) into kids’ hands!

If you are interested in more Nerdy events and celebrations, consider joining us in January for our first Nerdy Book Club, the book club event. More details in this post. Look for book club announcements on social media through Twitter and Facebook.

Kathy Burnette is a teacher, librarian, and owns Brain Lair Books in South Bend.  She founded the nonprofit, Our Stories, Our Future. Both institutions are dedicated to uplifting marginalized communities. Brain Lair Books was nominated for the 2020 WNBA Pannell Award for excellence in children’s bookselling and appears on Oprah Magazine’s list of 125 Black-owned Bookstores. 

Sarah Mulhern Gross is a National Board Certified English teacher who lives in New Jersey with her husband and two Australian Shepherds. She was born a member of the Nerdy Book Club. She has been teaching Freshman World Literature and English IV at a STEM high school in NJ since 2010. Find her on Twitter @thereadingzone tweeting about books, science, and nature. 

Morgan Jackson is a high school English teacher in Las Vegas, NV. She is an active member of NCTE and ALAN serving on the Amelia E Walden book committee and as a member of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee. She believes YA Literature when used correctly can change the life of readers, young and old alike. 

ennifer LaGarde is a lifelong teacher and learner with over 20 years in public education. Her educational passions include leveraging technology to help students develop authentic reading lives, meeting the unique needs of students living in poverty and helping learners (of all ages) discern fact from fiction in the information they consume. Jennifer teaches courses on Emerging Literacies, School Library Management, Information Literacy in the Digital Age and Young Adult Literature for Antioch and Rutgers Universities. She currently lives, works, reads and drinks lots of coffee in Olympia, Washington.

Donalyn Miller has taught upper elementary and middle school English and Social Studies in Northeast Texas for almost two decades, and currently works as an independent literacy coach, consultant, and teacher & reader advocate. She is the author or co-author of several books about encouraging students to read, including The Book Whisperer, Reading in the Wild, and Game Changer!: Book Access for All Kids (co-written with Colby Sharp). Donalyn launched the annual Twitter summer reading initiative #bookaday and co-founded The Nerdy Book Club. You can find her on Twitter at @donalynbooks or under a pile of books somewhere, happily reading.

Julia Reynolds is an educator in Michigan who loves all things books. She is an advocate for supporting students, loving teachers, and taking care of ourselves. She can be found on Twitter @jmrliteracy.

Kelly D. Vorhis teaches high school English in Nappanee, Indiana, and loves learning alongside her students every day. She can be found on twitter and Instagram @kelvorhis. Most days she is never far from a cup of coffee, her journal, and a book.