TOP PICK: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed.
Seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz wants to make documentary films, go to NYU and date as she pleases. Her parents want her to choose a college closer to their suburban Chicago home, study aw or medicine and marry a suitable Indian-Muslim boy. When such a boy, Kareem, materializes at a family wedding, everyone’s interests seem to dovetail. Kareem is sweet, funny and has all the right “biostats,” but Maya’s heart longs for Phil, the unreachable captain of the football team. As Maya attempts to balance her parents’ traditionalism with her won modern outlook, a terrorist attack in Chicago inspires violent anti-Muslim sentiment in Maya’s neighborhood, tying personal perspectives into a larger global picture. Maya’s best friend, Violet, and her liberal-leaning Aunt Hina encourage her to maker her own path in the world, but how can she take a leading role in her own story when she’s most comfortable observing life from behind her camera lens?
The love-triangle trope may seem slightly stale, but debut author Samira Ahmed’s treatment is anything but. Mentions of travel bans and suicide bombers are extremely timely, and the themes of immigration, family and identity broached here are always relevant.
Reminiscent of Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier, Love, Hate and Other Filters brings an authentic new voice to Muslim-American literature for young adults.
Review by Jill Ratzan
Other Honorable Mentions
Love and other Train Wrecks by Leah Konen
Teens Ammy and Noah meet on an Amtrak train headed to upstate New York. Ammy is reluctantly on her way to her father’s second wedding, and Noah is attempting to make a grand gesture and win back his ex-girlfriend. When their train breaks down in the middle of a snowstorm, the pair decides to make a bold move: leave the train and make their way through the snowstorm together.
As their simple one-mile journey to the bus station turns into a 24-hour adventure, the two start to become friends (and discover a mutual attraction)–until morning comes and a new discovery leads to disaster.
Author Leah Konen (The Romantics) has created two charming protagonists that young readers will find highly relatable. Although the pair have opposing viewpoints on the realities of love and relationships–Noah with his blind optimism and Ammy with her equally blinding cynicism–sparks quickly fly in this sweet story. However, trouble soon comes when Noah desperately tries to cling to his stale romance and Ammy attempts to close the door to her budding feelings.
Ammy and Noah’s journey from the broken-down train is outlandish, but that’s the point– both kids are taking an uncharacteristic risk. Love and Other Train Wrecks is equal parts inspiring, heartbreaking and fun to read as Ammy and Noah tackle obstacle after obstacle in dogged determination to get where they’re going. Maybe all they really need on this journey is each other.
Review by Sarah Weber
Everless by Sara Holland
Jules Ember lives in Sempera, a land where time and blood are bonded into currency. Debts are paid with blood coins, leeching actual time from the lives of the poor and making the wealthy virtually immortal. Jules wants to help pay her father’s debts, but Papa is adamant that she not sell her blood for him. Desperate to save her only parent, Jules takes a job at Everless, the estate where she and Papa lived as servants until she was 7 years old. At Everless, Jules is back in the orbit of the owners, the noble Gerling family, especially the two Gerling boys, Roan and Liam. Roan and Jules were once playmates, and Jules believes Liam is the reason she and Papa must flee Everless after a dramatic accident.
The estate bustles with preparations for Roan’s wedding to the queen’s ward, Ina Gold, an event that will bring the powerful queen of Sempera to the estate. Despite Papa’s cryptic warnings that Jules isn’t safe near the queen, inklings of a hidden past urge Jules into a tangled web of secrets among Sempera’s wealthy and powerful. As Jules discovers more about Ina Gold, the two Gerling brothers and her own past, she comes closer to a truth with far-reaching consequences for all of Sempera.
Author Sara Holland’s cliffhanger conclusion makes it clear there’s more to come in this story, which is exactly what readers will want. This fascinating world, built on the concepts of time and inequality, supports compelling characters in Holland’s intriguing–and sometimes chilling–debut novel.
Review by Annie Metcalf
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Stevie Bell is a true-crime aficionado–a hyper-focused FBI hopeful who also happens to be well-versed in the Ellingham Academy murders. In 1936, Albert Ellingham, the Vermont boarding school’s rich founder, lost his wife and daughter in a bizarre kidnapping and ransom scheme. Many books have been written about the case, and theories about the identity of the killer, Truly Devious (named for the moniker left on a strange riddle), abound, but no one has solved the crime. Seventeen-year-old Stevie thinks she can, and when she’s admitted to the prestigious Ellingham, she makes the murders her student project. But how does a teenage girl solve a case that has stumped criminologists for decades? And when Truly Devious inexplicably starts killing again, how will Stevie not only survive a burgeoning social life at school but also outsmart a murderer intent on making her the next victim?
Maureen Johnson, the bestselling author of the Shades of London series, is a lively storyteller who has crafted a page-turning puzzle filled with dynamic characters. In this first book of a new series, readers will identify with one of her well-drawn characters: Stevie who suffers from anxiety; Janelle, the exuberant engineer focused on academics and not her love life; Nate, the fantasy author with writer’s block; or Ellie, the artist comfortable in her own skin. Murder sets up the story, but Stevie and her friends make this reading experience truly delightful.
Review by Kimberly Giarratano
More Honorable Mentions
The Truth Beneath the Lies by Amanda Searcy
As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
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