January 03



Today marks the end of the 2022 Nerdy Book Club Awards’ announcements. What an incredible collection of titles for young readers of all ages and interests! Our final Nerdies’ post shares the second half of the Young Adult Fiction winners. Thank you to everyone who nominated books for this year’s awards and wrote announcement posts and reviews. We hope everyone found a few new books to read and share with the young people in your life.

The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Death-Cast is back, and this prequel to They Both Die at the End opens a few days before the company’s launch. The world is like Y2K all over again, so no one knows if they can trust Death-Cast. Some think it’s fake, and others think the end of the world is coming. Orion Pagan has always known death is near. He has a serious heart condition, so he signed up for Death-Cast ready to hear the worst. Valentino Prince just moved to New York City to start his modeling career, so Death-Cast has never even been on his mind. When Orion and Valentino meet at the Death-Cast launching event in Time Square, there’s an immediate attraction. But when Death-Cast makes its first call, their story takes an unexpected turn. Nerdy readers, if you fell in love with Mateo and Rufus’s story, you’ll adore Orion and Valentino’s as well. They are such unique, beautiful souls, and their connection is a special one.

Sarah Krajewski 

The Getaway by Lamar Giles

In a not-to-distant future world, Jay and his family and friends feel lucky to live and work in Karloff Country, an exclusive resort and theme park for the world’s elite. When climate change and resource hoarding lead to global unrest and famine, Karloff Country becomes a doomsday retreat for the wealthy and powerful. Jay, his parents, and the rest of the year-round staff must decide whether to escape and take their chances in the wilderness, resist their captors and die, or become slaves to the resort’s customers. This dystopian thriller will keep you reading past your bedtime as you pinball from one shocking revelation to the next. A terrifying and thought-provoking story that explores deeper topics like race, class, privilege, loyalty, and greed. Great choice for teens who love suspense and don’t mind a little gore.

–Donalyn Miller

Gleanings by Neal Schusterman

Description from Goodreads

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman—along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman—returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

Gleanings shows just how expansive, terrifying, and thrilling the world that began with the Printz Honor–winning Scythe truly is.

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

Truth: She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted (Hollow Fires)

Hollow Fires is a young adult realistic fiction, also a thriller about two Muslim teens, Safiya Mirza and Jawad Ali in Chicago, Illinois. Safiya is the editor of her school’s newspaper, The Spectator, and an aspiring journalist who is after the truth in stories. Unfortunately, she finds the body of a murdered peer, Jawad, who earlier in the year was falsely accused of bringing a bomb to school. At the same time, the school newspaper is hacked by a group that is making racist and false accusations. Soon after, Jawad is missing and later found deceased. Throughout this novel, Safiya is persistent in finding the truth, holding her audience accountable through stating truths and realities, and ultimately finding Jawad’s murderer.

This well-written lyrical prose mixed is also embedded footnotes of actual current events in the United States of xenophobia, racism, and groups with supremacist agendas against minoritized groups, specifically Muslim Americans. A five-star read that will lead readers into this mystery and much-needed discussion of racism and xenophobia in our communities.

–Dora Guzman

Man Made Monsters by Andrea L. Rogers

Description from Goodreads

Making her YA debut, Cherokee writer Andrea L. Rogers takes her place as one of the most striking voices of the horror renaissance that has swept the last decade.

Horror fans will get their thrills in this collection – from werewolves to vampires to zombies – all the time-worn horror baddies are there. But so are predators of a distinctly American variety – the horrors of empire, of intimate partner violence, of dispossession. And so too the monsters of Rogers’ imagination, that draw upon long-told Cherokee stories – of Deer Woman, fantastical sea creatures, and more.

Following one extended Cherokee family across the centuries, from the tribe’s homelands in Georgia in the 1830s to World War I, the Vietnam War, our own present, and well into the future, each story delivers a slice of a particular time period that will leave readers longing for more.

Alongside each story, Cherokee artist and language technologist Jeff Edwards delivers haunting illustrations that incorporate Cherokee syllabary.

The Red Palace by June Hur

Travel back nearly 300 years and meet inquisitive Korean nurse Hyeon as author June Hur journeys her reader through her third young adult novel The Red Palace.  Travel with Hur’s  characters through a time and land that restricts yet challenges, that molds yet  makes, and that inhibits yet encourages.

Skirting around societal restrictions for women and the lower cast into which she was born, Hyeon determines to just be more by intensely studying and rising through the ranks of a career seemingly chosen for her.  When four of her nursing peers are brutally murdered, Hyeon meets and enters a secret agreement with police investigator Eojin to help clear her mentor charged with the horrific crime.  

As Hyeon, driven by a timeline set by the cruel executor of sentencing, sneaks in and out of the palace and travels throughout the kingdom, utilizing her quick brain and her subtle set of questioning skills, she must face and conquer the disharmony within her immediate family.  Will she come to terms with being born an illegitimate daughter?  How will her nearly non-existent relationship with a mother who abandoned her be resolved?  Can she achieve status within the eyes of her higher-ranking father?

The highest praise I can give this novel is to recommend it to my own high school students, for this action-packed thriller will immediately pull them into the pages as they, too, learn about a culture foreign to them, an unknown time in history, yet a tale full of very relatable issues of work, family, peers, love…and enemies. Full of action-packed scenes and layered with so much history, the reader quickly becomes immersed, learning and appreciating, all the while challenged to face fears and still overcome.

And…do not skip the author’s note upon drawing this tale to a close.  I do not necessarily suggest your reading this endnote before reading the novel, although the info there only spiked my interest more.  So intriguing!

–Tammy Gilmore

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson

Lou’s summer after graduation looks like it’s going to be spent running the family ice cream shack with her best friend and boyfriend and practicing for water polo tryouts at college. Other than her mom being away, she didn’t figure it would be all that different from last summer. Except she has a rather sudden end to her relationship with her boyfriend and an old friend King returns. And letters from her father start appearing – the father she’s never met because he had been in prison. Lou must navigate not only how she sees herself as the summer progresses – as white passing, as Métis, as an athlete, as a woman, as a friend, as a romantic partner, as a teenager – but also how others see those identities and those of her friends and friends. Ferguson acknowledges in an author’s note at the beginning that this book may be too hard for some to read because of the heavy topics addressed in it – racism, sexism, dating violence, assaults – but that this book is ready for those ready to take them on. 

–Cindy Minnich

Talk Santa to Me by Linda Urban

I’m a sucker for a romance book. I was as a teen in the 80s, hello Scholastic’s Couples series. I was in high school, Danielle Steel’s Jewels was a favorite. And I am now, whether it is in reading romance, Kate Canterbary’s books are amazing, or in writing my own series. Romance is my jam.

That holds true for so many of my seventh grade students too. Last year they had me create a whole section of our classroom library for romance books. It is a favorite section and Linda Urban’s new book, Talk Santa to Me, fits right in. 

Francie loves working at her family’s Hollydale holiday shop, she has all of her life. She has wonderful memories of her grandpa there, though things have been different since he passed. The place doesn’t have the same magic, especially with her Aunt Carole wanting to change things at every turn, including Francie’s wardrobe at work.

School isn’t the sanctuary she needs either. Her best friend is at another school in town and the boys at school haven’t stopped teasing her about her first kiss, which was a disaster.

But the new boy who is working the tree lot next door doesn’t seem like the others. And he’s awfully cute. Maybe, just maybe, things might work out this holiday season after all. 

My students and I highly recommend this great YA romance.

–Katherine Sokolowski

This Is Why They Hate Is by Aaron H. Aceves

Navigating your first real crush is hard enough, but high school senior Enrique is trying to figure out how to get over his attraction to his best friend Saleem while he’s gone for the summer. And how best to get over him? By checking out other prospects, of course. Never mind that he’s only out as bi to his best friend Fabiola or the fact that he has no idea what to do. Enrique’s voice is both hilarious and heartfelt, suffering both the universal indignities of adolescence as well as the particular fears of homophobia and racism. 

–Cindy Minnich

The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

“Maddy Did It,” isn’t just the name of the podcast investigating the horrifying and mysterious  events of Springville High School’s 2014 prom night massacre, it’s also the unanimous refrain of the few students who managed to survive.

After a viral bullying video exposes the institutionalized racism that underpins both Springville High School and the town for which it is named,  school leaders decide to, (for the first time ever), integrate the school’s prom as a performative attempt to polish their community’s recently tarnished image. In response, a group of popular White students hatch a plan to punish the one person they see as responsible for upending the decades long tradition of holding separate/segregated proms: Maddy Washington – a shy, friendless, school outcast whose biracial identity has been kept a secret until a surprise rainstorm reveals her naturally curly hair. 

Fans of Stephen King’s Carrie will no doubt recognize similarities between storylines involving the White class president, who convinces her Black, superstar-quarterback, boyfriend to ask Maddy to the prom as a joke, and Maddy’s single parent whose abuse is at the center of her shame. However, while the horror in King’s original work rested on the idea of rage manifesting itself in violent, telekinetic powers, the scariest – and most powerful – aspects of The Weight of Blood are rooted in the very real horror of racism. In this ambitious masterwork, Jackson manages to improve upon a true classic in the genre by forcing readers to face the ways that “traditions” entrenched in racism are internalized and weaponized to subjugate, terrorize and ultimately erase people of color. The Weight of Blood isn’t just Tiffany D Jackson’s finest work to date, it’s also one of the best books of the year. 

–Jennifer LaGarde

Jennifer Ansbach (@JenAnsbach), a high school English teacher and proud member of NCTE & ALAN, loves books and can usually be found reading books or talking about reading books. She is currently finishing her American Studies dissertation on young adult literature and social justice at Rutgers University-Newark.

Emily David is a literacy coach for Orange Public Schools in Orange, NJ and a coordinator for the National Writing Project at Rutgers University. She enjoys reading whatever her third through eighth grade students are reading, and cuddling up with her beagle mix.

Avid reader and collector of books, Tammy Gillmore spends much of her time on the literacy scene, teaching English 11 and pre-educator classes and remaining involved in professional organizations, including Arkansas Literacy Association as this year’s chair. During her spare time, she enjoys participating in and hosting books clubs and sharing book titles with friends and family.

Sarah Krajewski is a 12th grade English and Journalism teacher near Buffalo, New York. She’s a forever advocate of choice in the classroom, a lifelong learner, and an instiller of joy when and wherever possible.

Donalyn Miller is a Texas educator and the author or co-author of numerous books, articles, blog posts, and speeches about engaging young people with reading and ensuring meaningful book access. Her most recent books are The Joy of Reading (2022) co-written with Teri Lesesne and The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library (2022) co-written with Colby Sharp. Donalyn lives near the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio with her spouse and his goblin dog. You can find her online on Twitter and Instagram.

Cindy Minnich is a high school English teacher and librarian in Central PA.

Katherine Sokolowski has taught for over twenty years and currently teaches seventh grade in Monticello, Illinois. She is passionate about reading both in her classroom and also with her two sons. You can find her online at http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter as @katsok.

Kelly D. Vorhis teaches 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.