2019 Fiction Recommendations


Aceves, Fred. The Closest I’ve Come. November 2017. HarperTeen. Hardcover. $17.99. 320 pages. 9780062488534. Young Adult. Marcos has always had next to nothing, and nothing is looking like it could be his future until he is placed in an after-school program that begins to open his feelings to the world around him, new friendships, and possibilities he had not realized existed.


Ashley and JaQuavis. The Cartel 7: Illuminati: Roundtable of Bosses. July 2017. St. Martin’s Griffin. Paperback. $15.99. 304 pages. 9781250067005. Older Teen. A fast-paced read about the notorious Diamonds, featuring a new generation of the family; a generation yet to learn its lessons and left to pick up the pieces of the past.


Barnes, Derrick & Gordon C. James (Illustrator). Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. October 2017. Agate Bolden. Hardcover. $17.95. 32 pages. 9781572842243. Picture Book. The culture of the barbershop shines through in the experience of a young black boy whose fresh cut contributes to his outlook of the world around him.

Top 10

Brown, Kevin. Hard Knocks High: Darkskins and Redbones. September 2017. Jank Publishing. Paperback. $9.99. 186 pages. 9780984557219. Young Adult. In this old adage of lightskin vs. darkskin, sixteen-year-old Mahogany is not only jumped by a lighter-skinned girl, but suffers a downward spiral after being dumped by her boyfriend for another girl of a lighter hue.

51fxtzt2rnl._sx332_bo1,204,203,200_Coles, Jay. Tyler Johnson was Here. March 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Hardcover. $17.99. 304 pages. 9780316440776. Young Adult. Marvin looks out for his twin, Tyler, following him to a party, but after a police raid, he loses track of his brother. This is the moment his life begins to unravel, and in the coming days the world will find out that Tyler was killed by the police, his body abandoned, and justice will be on the line.

Top 10

Colfer, Eoin, Andrew Donkin, and Giovanni Rigano (Illustrator). Illegal. August 2018. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Hardcover. $19.99. 144 pages. 9781492662143. Young Adult Graphic Novel. The truths and frightening horrors of the risks people take to gain opportunities in other countries is given vision in this graphic account of Ebo, a young Ghanaian boy who travels through the Sahara Desert on foot and faces unbelievable adversity on a sinking raft in search of his older sister and only living relative, Hannah.

51fdwtagyrl._sx331_bo1,204,203,200_Dimaline, Cherie. The Marrow Thieves. September 2017. Dancing Cat Books. Paperback $14.95. 260 pages. 9781770864863. Young Adult. It has been a while since the dreams stopped; an unpredictable by-product of global warming. The few dreamers that remain, all of Indigenous heritage, are being hunted for the power in their bones, a fleshiness that allows them to continue dreaming and to hold madness at bay.

Foye, K’Wan. The Diamond Empire: A Novel. October 2017. St. 51c2elp6wfl._sx331_bo1,204,203,200_Martin’s Griffin. Paperback. $16.99. 272 pages. 9781250102638. Older Teen. In this sequel to Diamonds and Pearl (2016), Diamonds has lost his position as kingpin and Pearl is faced with running her father’s drug
downloadempire or risk its annihilation. With tie-in clues to
Hoodlum (2005), the cliffhanger ending ensures a book three in this compelling urban lit series.

Hill, Will. After the Fire. October 2018. Sourcebook Fire. $17.99. Hardcover. 464 pages. 9781492669791. Young Adult. Through a series of therapy sessions and flashbacks, Moonbeam struggles with the trauma caused from a fire invasion that killed 67 members of the religious cult she belonged to – a cult in which the leader routinely took child brides.

Top Fiction Title

Hobson, Brandon. Where the Dead Sit Talking. February 2018. Soho Press. Hardcover $25.00. 288 pages. 9781616958879. Older Teen. It’s hard to trust anyone when you’ve been in foster care as long as Sequoyah has, and that goes without even beginning to touch on the other parts of his life. He’s been on the edge for so long that he almost seems to know death. Will meeting Rosemary, a fellow Native youth, draw him back from the grave?

Lehr, Dick. Trell. September 2017. Candlewick Press. Hardcover. $17.99. 320 pages. 9780763692759. Young

True Crime Fiction

Adult. Trell is determined to prove that her father, who has been in prison for the murder of a twelve-year-old girl for most of Trell’s life, is innocent of the crime. Taking matters into her own hands with the help of a reclusive newspaper reporter, she uncovers clues in her investigation that incriminate a powerful gang leader as the real culprit.

beingfishkillLehrer, Ruth. Being Fishkill. Candlewick Press. November 2017. Hardcover. $17.99. 320 pages. 978-0763684426. Young Adult. Twelve-year-old Carmel Fishkill has taken onan alter-ego that bullies others to deflect from the fact that she’s hungry and has been abandoned for the umpteenth time by her unstable mother. When she meets Duck-DuckFarina and her mother Molly, she finds stability and love that help her to mend some of what’s broken inside her.


Maxwell, B. L. Better Together. May 2018. CreateSpace. Paperback. $11.99. 320 pages. 9781718842946. Older Teen. Caden was thrown out of his home after coming out to his family and Rio was the sole provider for his family of siblings because of his parents’ deportation. After a chance meeting, the two teens form a bond of support, safety, and love that their parents could not provide.


Palmer, Ingrid. All Out of Pretty. April 2018. Creston Books. Hardcover. $16.99. 350 pages. 9781939547484. Young Adult. Andrea is not just all out of pretty, she’s also all out of options after her grandmother dies from a heart attack and she has to move into the household of her mother’s boyfriend, who forces her into being a go-between for his drug business.

Parker Rhodes, Jewell. Ghost Boys. April 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Hardcover. $16.99. 224 pages. 9780316262286. Juvenile. 9780316262286_p0_v3_s550x406Jerome, a black child killed by the police, meets Emmett Till, a black child lynched by a racist mob in a tale of the afterlife that crosses the boundaries of time and space to reveal that racism continues in much the same way that it has since the 1950s

Patel, Sonia. Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story. September 2017. Cinco Puntos Press. Hardcover. $16.95. 224 pages. 9781941026861. Young Adult. Rasa and Jaya. No one who 61+-tvpvwgl._sx331_bo1,204,203,200_knew about their lives would have pictured them together, but the day they cross paths might be the day they meet their destiny. Can they move past their baggage to learn to love one another – or will they stay locked away even in the face of so much promise? A story of what is meant-to-be, featuring a depressed transgender teen and a young woman who gets pulled into working the streets.

Top 10

Ramos, Nonieqa. The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary. February 2018. Carolrhoda Lab. Hardcover. $17.99. 344 pages. 9781512439762. Young Adult. Macy uses the terms from her secretly-authored dictionary to express the neglect, abuse, and poverty she lives through while struggling with a mental illness that most likely has been brought on by her life struggles. In her own voice, she shares her most gruesome and disturbing circumstances with an honesty that is sometimes hilarious and other times fearsome.

51jds7zkc6l._sx332_bo1,204,203,200_Ribay, Randy. After the Shot Drops. March 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. Hardcover. $17.99. 336 pages. 9781328702272. Young Adult.Bunny and Nasir have always shared their lives, including the realities of their Philadelphia neighborhood. When Bunny gets a chance at51xguimekil._sx328_bo1,204,203,200_ getting out of the hood though a basketball scholarship, Nasir has to figure out what to do without his best friend at his side.

Rufener, Brenda. Where I Live. February 2018. HarperTeen. Hardcover. $17.99. 352 pages. 9780062571090. Young Adult. Linden Rose is working hard towards a college scholarship, never letting anyone know about the dark secret she must protect in order to survive. She dreams of becoming a journalist, but if her classmates and teachers discover that she is living in the school, everything she has worked for might be lost.

savinggradSpafford-Fitz, Karen. Saving Grad. August 2018. Lorimer SideStreets. Paperback. $8.99. 184 pages. 9781459412521. Young Adult. When Vienna enrolls for her senior year at a new school after she and her mother escape her abusive stepfather, her involvement with new friends and school graduation activities made her feel safe and accepted. She maintains careful contact with her grandmother, which leads to a dangerous situation that puts her new friends’ lives at risk.

ride r die

Taylor, Wanda Lauren. Ride or Die. August 2018. Lorimer SideStreets. Paperback. $8.99. 184 pages. 9781459412491. Young Adult. Kanika is thrilled with the attention an older boy, Danny, is showing her, but is trapped when he takes her far from home and she becomes the victim of human trafficking. Based on true events in Nova Scotia.


Therrien, Jessica. Carry Me Home. September 2017. Acorn Publishing. Hardcover $21.00. 358 pages. 9780998309880. Young Adult. A slow unraveling of her family leaves Lucy on the edge, with her sister Ruth trailing behind her. As Lucy becomes more and more engaged in gangs and street life, her sister and mother try to pull her back, but can they help her to see that she has options outside of that life?

Top 10
2EG. Queenpin. February 2018. CreateSpace. Paperback. $14.95. 138 pages. 9781983519185. Young Adult. Sixteen, pregnant and at the top of her game, Dresden has just become the Queenpin. She’s ride or die, but is her drug-dealer boyfriend Frost really worth dying for?  
sacred smokes
Urban & Native

Van Alst, Theodore C. Sacred Smokes. August 2018. University of New Mexico Press. Paperback. $19.95. 176 pages. 9780826359902. Young Adult. In this collection of 12 closely connected short stories, Teddy shares what it’s like to grow up urban and Native in a major inner city, while breaking all stereotypical concepts along the way.

Graphic Format

Vermette, Katherena, Donovan Yaciuk, and Scott B. Henderson (Illustrator).  Pemmican Wars: A Girl Called Echo. March 2018. HighWater Press. Paperback. $18.95. 48 pages. 9781553796787. Young Adult Graphic Novel. Echo, a Métis youth, is lonely as she tries to settle into her new home and school while missing her mother, but her life takes an unexpected turn when she is suddenly transported back in time to witness the history of her people.

competitionWolfe, Cecily. The Competition. August 2018. CreateSpace. Paperback. $11.99. 306 pages. 9781987476958. Young Adult. Four high school students’ life struggles are revealed through their participation in a high-stakes writing competition in hopes of winning a college scholarship. Of the four students featured, Maria Sofia’s profile stands out as a Latina teen living in a shelter, estranged from her family and incarcerated brother.

Perennial  Favorite

Workman, P.D. Ronnie: Between the Cracks, Book 5. January 2018. P.D. Workman. Paperback. $19.95. 424 pages. 9781988390970. Young Adult. Ronnie is the youngest in the Simpson clan. Although her older siblings suffered extreme physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their father, no one expected the same of Ronnie, because she was just too young. Ronnie’s severe memory gaps as an adult, however, imply a different story.

2019 NonfictionRecommendations



Abdurraqib, Hanif. They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. November 2017. Two Dollar Radio. Paperback $16.99. 236 pages. 9781937512651. Young Adult and Up. Abdurraqib explores American society, identity, current events, and racism through pop culture. The essays deftly connect the personal and political with humor and lyrical writing.

Bennett, Michael and Dave Zirin. Things that Make 5145vzbjhyl._sx324_bo1,204,203,200_White People Uncomfortable. April 2018. Haymarket Books. Hardcover $24.95. 256 pages. 9781608468935. Young Adult and Up. Michael Bennett draws from his time in the NFL in this raw, relevant, and real reflection of how racism continues to shape America – in and outside of the sport. Bennett brings his signature humor and his activism to the pages of this memoir/social expose.



Brooks, Jade H. The Teen Sex Trade: My Story. September 2017. Formac Publishing Company Limited. 199 pages. Paperback $22.95. 199 pages. 9781459504998. Young Adult. Jade’s world slowly slips into chaos after she’s placed in foster care. When she falls in love she thinks things are getting better for her, but Jade’s Romeo does not have her best interests in mind. Brooks candidly accounts how, at the age of 15, she found herself in the teen sex trade.



Calendino, Joe and Gary Little. To Hell and Back: A Former Hell’s Angel’s Story of Recovery and Redemption. September 2017. L & C Press. Paperback $14.95. 193 pages. 9780995940703. Young Adult and Up. Calendino wasn’t just a Hell’s Angel – he was part of an elite group that few could join. When addiction grabbed him and wouldn’t let go, the Hell’s Angels revoked his standing putting him on the streets. This is the story of Calendino’s fall and recovery, a tale that leads from notorious motorcycle gangs to founding an organization that helps youth avoid a similar fate


Tied for Top 10


Goozh, Judi and Sue Jeweler.  Tell Me About When Moms and Dads Go to Jail. Jessica Kingsley. May 2018.Paperback. $14.99. 48 pages. 9781785928079. Juvenile. Using clear language and emotionally expressive photographs, the authors use kid-friendly language to explain what jail is, why a parent would have to go there, and how the child may be affected. The authors include tips for parents and professionals on how to help children deal with the emotions and changes that attend a parent’s incarceration.

Tied for Top 10


Tell MeAbout When Moms and Dads Come Home From Jail. Jessica Kingsley. May 2018. Paperback. $14.95. 40 pages. 9781785928066. Juvenile. Using clear and direct language, the authors explain what a child can expect when a parent returns home from jail. Emotionally relevant photographs help young readers relate to the text. Photographs and the text serve as valuable tools to assist parents and professionals as they help children transition into life shared with the returned parent.


Top 10

Griffin-Wallace, Valencia. Motherless Child: A Journey of Growing Up and Forgiving. Valencia G. Wallace Publisher. January 2018. Paperback. $9.99. Paperback 170 pages. 9780692064405. Older Teens.Griffin-Wallace grew up with a drug-addicted mother incapable of parenting, but she was determined to succeed in a world that taught her she is doomed to fail – just like her mother. Can she escape the only life she knows and become the woman her mother wished she could be?



Gucci Mane with Neal Martinez-Belkin. The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. September 2017. Simon & Schuster. Hardcover $27.00, paperback $16.00. 286 pages. 9781501165320. Older Teens.The life story of the one true trap god, this book details his early life, rise into fame, and realistically portrays his time in the federal penitentiary. An engaging read for fans and haters alike.

Top 10

Hawkins, Lamont U-God. Raw: My Journey Into the Wu-Tang. March 2018. Picador. Hardcover $27.00. 304 pages. 9781250191168. Paperback $18.00. 304 pages. 9781250191175. Older Teens. Hawkin’s reflects on his life and revisits his journey from the rough streets of Brooklyn and Staten Island to a successful hip-hop career with one of the most renown and successful rap collectives of our times, the Wu-Tang Clan. Contains graphic details.

unnamedKaye, Julia. Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition. May 2018. Andrews McMeel Publishing. Paperback $14.99. 160 pages. 9781449489625. Young Adults and Up. A true-to-life portrayal of one woman’s gender transition, this graphic novel details the author’s physical transition, process of getting legal recognition for her name, and reflections on the joys and difficulties of living her true life.


Khan-Cullors, Patrisse and Asha Bandele. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir. January 2018. St. Martin’s Press. Hardback $24.99. 272 pages. 9781250171085. Adult and Older Teens. Khan-Cullors knows from first-hand experience that black people are vulnerable in America. She used these experiences and her outrage over the release of Trayvon Martin’s murderer to fuel the creation of the Black Matters Movement. Khan-Cullors and bandele use this memoir to reflect, empower, and push us all forward.


Kitchen, Ronald and Tai Jones. My Midnight Years: Surviving Jon Burge’s Police Torture Ring and Death Row. August 2018. W. W. Norton. Hardback $26.99. 256 pages. 9781613737668. Adults and Older Teens. In his moving memoir, Ronald Kitchen shares his personal story of violence, police aggression, and wrongful death row incarceration.



Lewis, Jesse-Ray. Hillbilly Drug Baby: The Poems. May 2018. WriteLife Publishing. Paperback $10.95. 83 pages. 9781608081936. Young Adult. These poems wrench open the door to a world of suffering, loss, and hope. Written as Jesse-Ray struggled to find his place in the world after aging-out of the system, his poetry grapples with hard-won truths and the kindness of strangers.


hey kiddo
Top 10

Krosoczka, Jarrett. Hey, Kiddo. October 2018. Graphix. Hardback. $24.99. 320pages. 9780545902472. Young Adult. In graphic format, author-illustrator, Jarrett Krosoczka, shares the story of his childhood. Raised by his grandparents due to his mother’s heroin addiction, Krosoczka’s art helped him survive.

Top Nonfiction

Latin American Youth Center Writers and Santiago Casares. Voces sin Fronteras: Our Stories, Our Truth. May 2018. Shout Mouse Press. Paperback $14.99. 316 pages. 9781945434686. Young Adult. Youth recount their experiences of immigration in this collection of comics created by and for youth. Their stories carry the weight of immigration, the thrills of new places, and the tolls immigration had on their families. Listen as they speak without borders. Text in English and Spanish.

the audacity


Matthews, Sean. The Audacity to Try: A Memoir. February 26, 2018. CreateSpace. Paperback. $7.98. 146 pages. 9781979858199. Young Adults Up. Matthews’ story begins in the Baltimore of the seventies where the author was a corner boy for “Bodie” Barksdale who was infamously portrayed on television’s The Wire. Matthews is imprisoned for ten years but is released with his GED and a strive to succeed. He achieves that success in technology firms and Fortune 500 companies by never letting his past decide his future.

13 ways

Medina, Tony and 13 artists. Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy. February 2018. Penny Candy Books. Hardcover $16.95. 9780998799940. Juvenile. Medina’s short, structured poems come to life alongside art by award-winning artists. Each poem and accompanying illustration offers insight into the many ways there are to see, and to be, a black young man.

Segovia-Munoz, Susan. Shine on You Crazy Junkie. November 2017. (self-published through Createspace). Paperback $12.99. 358 pages. 9781979238038. Older Teens. This is a tale of recovery from addiction and a lengthy prison ucrazysentence. Segovia-Munoz does not shy from the darkest details of incarceration or her own feelings of disappointment and dread as she waited for her release. This is the seventh book in the Sweet Melissa series.

Slater, Dashka. The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Life. October 2017. Farrar Straus & Giroux. Hardcover $17.99, 51usmr8arvlpaperback $16.05. 305 pages. 9780374303235. Young Adult. A brief but violent encounter on a bus in Oakland forever changes two disparate teen’s lives. Richard, a young, black man, ignites the skirt of Sascha, a white agender teen, in an apparent hate crime. However, Slater reveals there is more to the story as she shows the forces that push Richard and other young, black boys in to the juvenile justice system and details the journey of Sascha’s family and their forgiveness.