2015 Fiction and Nonfiction Recommended List

*  * Denotes In the Margins Fiction and Non-Fiction Award

*  Denotes Top Ten


Beaty, Daniel. Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. December 2013. 40p. HC $18.00. ISBN 9780316209175. Every morning, a father knock, knocks on the door and a young boy pretends to be asleep until he jumps up into his father’s arms. “I love you,” his father says. But one morning there’s no knock. A picture book based on Beaty’s experiences as a young boy when his father was incarcerated.

Booth, Coe. Kinda Like Brothers. Scholastic. August 2014. 256p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9780545224963. Jarrett’s growing up in a household filled with one foster baby after another.  Then one day a baby arrives – and her brother too.  Kevon is a year older, inches taller, a better basketball player, and is now SLEEPING IN Jarrett’s ROOM! A realistic fiction story that brings life to the issues of how hard it is to grow up and get along with others when you’re thrown into life altering situations over which you have no control.

Burgess, Melvin. The Hit. Chicken House. February 2014. 304p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9780545556996. Take the hit. Live the most intense week of your life. Then die. Is life during these hard times so bad that this sounds like a great idea?  A thought-provoking mystery/dystopia that tackles the meaning of society, life, redemption, love, and death.

De Vries, Maggie. Rabbit Ears. HarperCollins. September 2014. 288p. PB $8.99. ISBN 9780062332905. Kaya and Beth live in a middle class family. Kaya is beautiful, adopted and multiracial – addicted to drugs and prostitution. Kaya’s sister Beth grapples with her own demons, including what happened to Kaya that lead her to the streets. Based on a true story, this narrative unfolds slowly until the family secrets are revealed and everything makes crushing sense.

Ewing, Lynne. The Lure. Balzer + Bray. February 2014. 288p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9780062206886. Brutally initiated into the gang, Blaise is expected to do increasingly dangerous activities including being a “lure” to entice rival gang members.  A fast paced contemporary drama that asks, what are the right decisions when all the options are wrong?

Giles, Gail. Girls Like Us. Candlewick. May 2014. 224p. HC $16.99. ISBN 9780763662677. Quincy and Biddy rely on their sense of survival to make it in the real world after a lifetime of abuse and abandonment. As the girls graduate from their Special Ed class they find themselves roommates in their first apartment. When one of the girls is brutally raped, their problems with each other seem insignificant and they find ways to support each other for the future.  A coming of age novel written in first person that redefines family.

Hillman, Bill. The Old Neighborhood. Curbside Splendor. April 2014. 500p. PB $15.95. 9781940430003. Life on the streets of Chicago come alive through the eyes and heart of young Joe Walsh. After witnessing his older brother kill someone, Joe struggles with his dark side, making choices of which he is unsure. This gritty and honest portrayal depicts how one young man fights to keep his sense of self as drug addiction and violence threaten to destroy him, his family and his friends.

Kowalski, William. The Innocence Device. Raven Books. September 2014. 128p. PB $9.95. ISBN 9781459807488. In a world made up of only prisoners and guards, Chago and his fellow prisoners are faced with a machine that determines innocence and then immediate death or freedom. Does the device really work? A high interest low read portraying a world where even the most minor offense is treated with a major consequences.

K’Wan. Black Lotus. Akashic. May 2014. 128p. HC $19.95. ISBN 9781617752650. PB $11.95. ISBN 9781617752667. When it comes to patrolling the mean violent streets, no one does it like Detective James Wolf. Highly respected and feared by the criminals in the street as well as his fellow officers, Detective Wolf plays by his own rules. But this time around a psychotic serial killer’s trail of dead bodies has Wolf confused and frightened. Yet another heart thumping thriller by this Hip Hop author who delivers.

Little, Ashley. Anatomy of a Girl Gang. Arsenal Pulp. May 2014. 254p. PB $16.95. ISBN 9781551525297. Five multicultural girls join together to form the Black Roses, determined to create an organization that is theirs and that will work for them – where all of them are taken care of, belong, protected, and benefit. But dreams don’t always come true, especially in the real world.

Mac, Carrie. The Way Back. Orca Soundings. September 2014. 168p. PB $9.95. ISBN 9781459807150. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about Colby outside of the fact that she’s technically an orphan, homeless, pregnant, and addicted to meth. After losing her close friend, Colby finally realizes that it’s time to get her life together.

** Magoon, Kekla. How It Went Down. Henry Holt. October 2014. 336 p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9780805098693. 16-year-old Tariq Johnson is dead: a young black boy shot by a white man. Witnessed by many in the neighborhood, and told in multiple points of view, everyone has an opinion and explanation of “how it went down.”  This timely story depicts the confusion, challenge and politics of perception and racial stereotyping.

Reynolds, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. Atheneum. January 2014. 240p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9781442459472. Friends + bad choices = deadly circumstances.  When Ali and his friends land an invite to an off-limits party that is so under the radar you can’t even hear the music from the street, it’s just too good to be true. An innocent misstep leads to total chaos and causes the dangers from the streets to almost destroy friendship and family. A fresh debut that captures the heart and soul of life for an urban teen who is trying to make the right choices.

Robert, Na’ima B. Black Sheep. Frances Lincoln. March 2014. 272p. PB $8.99. ISBN 9781847802354. Dwayne walks the line between gang life, his relationship with Misha, whose mother disapproves of him, and his new Muslim religion. One night decides the future.

Scarrow, KristineThrowaway Girl. Dundurn. November 2014. 176p. PB $12.99. ISBN 9781459714076. When Bernice is taken into foster care after her drug-addicted mother beats her, her life becomes a roller coaster ride of abuse and tragedy as she strives to meet her goal of independence. She consistently chooses the high road and eventually is able to turn her life around. With a moralistic undercurrent, the book is less realistic, but perfect for a clean read and for younger YA readers.

Shiraz, Yasmin. Accused. Still Eye Rise. May 2014. 256p. PB $11.95. ISBN 9780971817487. There is a date rapist on campus. Can Tashera stop him? Can Ahmed prove it’s not him? When Ahmed is accused of a crime he did not commit, he’s tried in the media before he can be heard in court. He’s afraid of losing his friends, his self-esteem, and his dreams of playing college basketball, but Tashera is ready to find out the truth. This high drama read is a sequel to Retaliation, and also stands alone.

Thomas, Lex. The Saints: Quarantine #2. Egmont. July 2013. 416p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9781606843369. PB $9.99. ISBN 9781606845400. How deadly can high school be? When the doors are locked due to a virus outbreak the situation becomes increasingly bleak. Book two of the series is a game changer with the main characters forced to switch up their survival skills; what worked before doesn’t work now. An action-packed dystopia that flies off the shelves, The Saints follows the characters further into moral and societal “Lord of the Flies” decline.

Sitomer, Alan Lawrence. Caged Warrior. Disney Hyperion. May 2014. 224p. HC $15.99. ISBN 9781423171249. McCutcheon is a champion of the illegal Mixed Martial Arts scene in Detroit. His father forces him to fight, but McCutcheon would rather care for his sister and seek out his absent mother. A perceptive teacher recognizes McCutcheon’s academic talent and drive, but is that enough to rescue him from his father and local gang, the Priests?

Van Diepen, Allison. On the Edge. HarperTeen. November 2014. 304p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9780062303448. Maddie stumbles upon members of the Reyes gang beating a homeless man to death.  She is the only witness and the members know where she lives.  Lobos, the mysterious leader of the rival Destinos, decides to protect Maddie. Will their romance survive the streets?

Workman, P.D. Ruby: Between the Cracks (Volume 1). PD Workman. February 2014. 486p. PB $16.90. ISBN 9780992153953.  At 13, Ruby’s dramatic life is out of control. She’s been out on the streets for several years and rotates sleeping with her social worker, a friend, and the boy she likes above everyone. Things get worse when she gets pregnant by the rival gang member who killed her favorite boyfriend. Sometimes she is the victim, sometimes she is the user – who will Ruby choose to be?



Butler, Pacc. From God’s Monster to the Devil’s Angel. CreateSpace. January 2014. 170p. PB $14.95. ISBN 9781494771669. Gang life seems like Butler’s only choice when he becomes homeless in Chicago at 16. Abandoned by his drug-addict mother and viciously abused by his father, he played football as a child to escape the horror of his home life, but as a young man he learns to dull his pain by hurting others. How can a man raised by fear and violence grow into a loving husband, father, and mentor to others?

** Canion, Ebony. Left for Dead. Life Changing Books. February 2014. 228p. PB $15.99. ISBN 9781934230596. Canion survives financial hardship, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and young widowhood, but nothing prepares her for the vicious hit and run that nearly takes her life.  When everyone expects her to die, she not only survives but becomes dedicated to helping others find the courage to overcome difficulties in their own lives. Even when the woman who tried to kill her shows no remorse and is given no jail time, Canion refuses to allow bitterness to rule her life.

Friedman, Amy and Kalliope Panatiotakos, Eds. Runaway Thoughts: The First Annual Pain of the Prison System Anthology. P.O.P.S. the Club Publishing. 2014. 160p. PB $14.00. ISBN 9780692290613. A rookie teacher in LA discovered that his students knew about 50 words for marijuana, at least 36 for money and 12 each for good looking girls and guys. He also discovered a majority had a parent, friend or relative incarcerated. Now a 20 year veteran teacher, he began a club that created this fresh anthology featuring stories, poems, and full color art by such students, highlighting their pain, loneliness, and hope.

Hall, Shyima. Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave. Simon & Schuster. January 2014. 240p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9781442481688. PB $11.99. ISBN 9781442481695. Hall was only 8 when her parents sold her into slavery to a wealthy family in Cairo. At 10,  when the family moved to California, they took her with them. How easy is it to have a child slave in the United States? It was 2 more years before she was rescued. Hall recalls the lengths to which the family went to conceal her, even in plain sight, and how her stolen childhood left her unable to trust others.

Jiang-Stein, Deborah. Prison Baby. Beacon. March 2014. 176p. PB $14.00. ISBN 9780807098103.  Adopted with no information on her racial heritage, Jiang-Stein finds the secret of her birth in her adoptive mom’s underwear drawer: she was born in prison to a heroin-addicted mother. Her fear of abandonment keeps her from connecting with others, using drugs and crime to manage her emotional turmoil, until she finds her true calling.

Knight, Michelle. Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: a Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings. Weinstein. May 2014. 280p. HC $24.99. ISBN 9781602862562.  Kidnapped and tortured for 11 years, Knight survived the horrors of captivity under the control of psychopath Ariel Castro. A life lived in the margins, she details her life before, during and after her kidnapping. She shares her story and the power of resilience and determination to endure and prevail.

Martinez, DavidHustle. Sarabande. May 2014. 84p. PB $14.95. ISBN 9781936747771. Martinez brings to life the raw and disturbing experiences of his childhood growing up in the housing projects of San Diego. Gangs, poverty, drive-by shootings and drugs are transformed through Martinez’s powerful, lyrical and haunting free verse poetry.

Miles, Michelle. The High Price I Had to Pay 2: Sentenced to 30 Years as a Nonviolent, First Time Offender. Voices International. November 2013. 66p. PB $7.99.  ISBN9780991104109. How does a young woman find herself serving 30 years for a nonviolent crime? This all-too-common story manifests itself in the life of Michelle Miles who followed her boyfriend into a life of drug dealing. When it all falls apart, Miles finds herself facing a seemingly endless sentence. Voices International publishes other titles by inmates.

Moore, Allison. Shards: A Young Vice Cop Investigates Her Darkest Case of Meth Addiction – Her Own. Touchstone. April 2014. 288p. HC $24.99. ISBN9781451696356. PB $15.00. ISBN 9781451696363. A dedicated and ambitious vice cop descends into the quagmire of meth addiction. Moore spirals out of control, manipulating and betraying her friends, family and other police officers, finding herself at the mercy of a ruthless drug dealer who controls her every move. Despite the horrors Moore faces she eventually finds redemption and recovery while her life is forever changed.

Ross, Anthony. Homeless at 13 to a College Graduate: An Autobiography. Step One. April 2014. 96p. PB $9.99. ISBN 9780991322435. After his grandmother dies, Ross quickly becomes a homeless teen bouncing between living on the streets, couch-surfing with strangers, and seeking refuge with anyone who will take him in. Despite his overwhelming challenges, Ross never gives up on his goal of going to college and eventually graduating with honors. A short and super clean read.

Save the Children. Let Me Live: Voices of Youth Incarcerated. Arissa Media Group. December 2013. 138p. PB $12.00. ISBN 9781936900220. Poems and drawings by incarcerated youth across the country illustrate their struggles to be heard and respected as individuals with feelings, hopes, and dreams as well as potential for positive futures. Nationally and internationally incarcerated youth can submit their work for future editions.

Swan, BillReal Justice: Jailed for Life for Being Black: The Story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Lorimer. October 2014. 144p. PB $12.95. ISBN 9781459406650. Legendary boxer Hurricane Carter finds himself wrongly accused and convicted of the murder of 3 people. After spending 9 years in prison, he gets a second trial, only to be found guilty again. Years later he faces a third trial – will he ever get out of prison?

Wilson, Rayshawn. Lionheart: Coming from Where I’m From. Legendary Publishing. August 2014. 196p. PB $15.00. ISBN 9780982786321. Growing up on the streets of Columbus, Ohio, Wilson learns that survival means knowing how to lie and steal. At the age of 6, he is traumatized as he watches the police arrest his crack-addicted mother. Foster care, sexual abuse, and life on the streets lead Wilson to prison, ironically for a felony he did not commit. His resilience, hard work and determination earn him his graduation from college and other accomplishments.

Zusman, Angela Beth. The Griots of Oakland: Voices from the African American Oral History Project. Story for All. October 2013. 206p. HC $59.99. ISBN 9780988763111. PB $14.99. ISBN 978-0988763104. Got stereotypes? Get Griots. How do African American young men from Oakland, California define themselves? What’s important? What wisdom do they have to share? It’s all here in striking photographs, visually appealing graphics and short narratives. The hardback is of higher photographic quality, but the paperback makes the book accessible to everyone. The Oral History project that created this book can be replicated in other communities.

Article Announcing List and Top Ten  

Back to Home

2015 Committee: 

Chair: Amy Cheney, Librarian, Juvenile Justice Center, Alameda County, CA

Administrative Assistant: Dr. Kerry Sutherland, Youth Services Librarian, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

Project Assistant: Mackenzie Magee, English teacher, Passages Academy, NY

Sabrina Carnesi, Librarian, Crittenden Middle School, VA

Dale Clark, Teacher-Librarian, Fraser Park Secondary, Burnaby Youth Custody Services, Burnaby, BC Canada

Joe Coyle, Project Coordinator, Mix IT Up!, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL

Marvin DeBose Sr., Library Supervisor, Free Library of Philadelphia, PA

Maggie Novario, Teen Librarian, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, WA

Amy Wander, Youth Services Manager, Lafayette Public Library, LA