Friday, February 3, 2017

Author Interview with Dani Hoots + Cover Reveal for Trapped In Wonderland!

Today I'm excited to host Dani Hoots, author of The Quest. Dani has published both novels and short story collections, and primarily focuses her efforts on science fiction, fantasy, and young adult. Her newest release, Trapped in Wonderland, is a young adult fantasy featuring Meredith Alice Hughes, who finds herself transported to Wonderland and must defend it from the Cirque de Rêves, a group trying to destroy and take over Wonderland. Little does she know her home world is threatened too, for every Wonderland creature embodies the dreams of her loved ones back home. And as they die at the hands of the Cirque, so do the hope of every living thing.

Dani Hoots is a science fiction, fantasy, romance, and young adult author who loves anything with a story. She has a B.S. in Anthropology, a Masters of Urban and Environmental Planning, and is currently in the Your Novel Year Program through Arizona State University.

Currently she is working on a YA urban fantasy series called Daughter of Hades, a historic fantasy vampire series called A World of Vampires, and a YA sci-fi series called Sanshlian Series.

Her hobbies include reading, watching anime, cooking, studying different languages, wire walking, tinkering with her violin and concertina, and volunteering at the library. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two cats.

1) Out of all the different stories and series you’ve penned, what makes the Quest special to you? 

The Quest is special to me because it is the first book I ever finished. I started the series in middle school with a friend. It has definitely gone through many, many rewrites, but it has been seventeen years since I started thinking of it. I keep finding old drafts in notebooks as I reorganize and get ready to move and flipping through them I can definitely say I was one weird child.

2) Where do you draw your inspiration from? 

The Quest was based off an image I remember in a dream, but for other books I get inspired by music, people, mythology, and sometimes just get an idea in my head from out of nowhere.

3) Are you more of a planner or a panster? Do you outline or prefer to let the story lead you? 

I’m a bit of both. I get an idea, figure out the beginning and end, then figure out how to connect the two. Sometimes they change depending on what is needed by the characters.

4) What are the pros and cons of writing novels vs short stories? Do you prefer one style over the other? 

Short stories are nice for when I have an idea for a lot of stories that are related and I’m able to get them all done without taking years and years, but novels are nice for developing characters more. For example, my A World of Vampires Series, all the stories are shorter since there are twelve of them, but there is still a lot of their life I could go into more detail with. But who knows, maybe I’ll come back to those and expand them.

5) What draws you so much to science fiction/fantasy? What do you think that genre offers readers?

I like sci-fi and fantasy because anything can happen. It is a good escape from real life, but characters face problems that can parallel the real world still. I also love mythology so I like exploring those ideas and applying them to my writing.

6)  What has been your greatest struggle as an author? Your greatest success? 

The greatest struggle is marketing for sure. A lot of people think that authors just write and don’t have to market, that people just come and buy their book and that they make a bunch of money. That is definitely not the case. I also really hate it when people complain about paying for a book or art, as if the author or artist didn’t work hard to create something. That is one of the most frustrating things to hear as an author or artist, and very hurtful.

The greatest success I had was being able to learn one-on-one with authors that have inspired me. They have been pushing me to keep on going and whenever I get uninspired, I just think of them rooting for me, and I keep going. I also love meeting authors and becoming friends with them as well. The community can be really great.

7) When did you decide to become an author? What influenced you to take this path?

I’ve always wanted to be an author since I was little. I was one of those kids who's mind couldn’t slow down and I had to pretty much keep myself entertained by making stories in my head. I become more serious when I got diagnosed with Sjögrens Syndrome and couldn’t walk without a cane for a very long time. That whole journey made me realize life’s short and this was my dream. And also working for myself I don’t have to put myself in any physical stress on flare-up days.

8) How much of yourself do you see in your characters? 

Depends the story really. I mean, I’m definitely never 100% my character, but I often put myself in my character’s shoes and wonder what I would do. I also take bits of myself and put them in my books. Maybe they each are a horcrux. I do find it interesting when people tell me I’m a certain character in my book. It’s never a character I see myself as.

9) What is the hardest part of publishing for you? What advice would you give others struggling with the same issue?

Back to the greatest struggle, I would say marketing. As any author, I just want to write! I also have struggles when reviewers seem to bash the author instead of just stating why they hate the book. I don’t mind negative feedback, but when it is downright rude and more aimed at the author, it can be very hurtful. For other authors struggling with the same issue, or having people say you don’t have a real job, or getting a bunch of rejection letters, anything negative really, I would advise you to just ignore them. Don’t let it get to you, and keep writing! Never give up, learn more if you need to work on a flaw, but don’t give up. Anne Rice told that to me at one of her signings, and told me how it took her a long time to get published but she never gave up, so neither should I. She is a great inspiration, along with all the mentors I’ve had in the past few years.

10) What kind of feedback have you gotten from fans? Any stories? 

Depends the book really, but my favorite is when I’m at a convention selling and signing books and a person gets tired and decides to open up my book and read while they rest, then comes running back to tell me how much they love it so far. Those moments are priceless.

Without further ado, I would like to present Dani's beautiful new book, Trapped In Wonderland!

Meredith Alice Hughes has found herself falling through a portal and into Wonderland. There, she finds some of her classmates, who are actually fictional characters from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, and they use a potion to make her forget everything. Everything would have been fine, that is, until the White Rabbit tries to murder her and she finds herself in Wonderland once more. Apparently, according to a prophecy, Alice is the only one who can save Wonderland from the Cirque de Rêves, a group that is trying to destroy and takeover the world. Little does Alice know that not only is Wonderland in danger, but her home world as well, because all the citizens in Wonderland represent the dreams of every living human in the real world, and when they start to disappear, so does the hope of every living thing. Will Alice believe in herself enough to defeat the Cirque de Rêves? Or will she fall victim to the dark thoughts that reside in her heart?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Book Review: I Am J

Book Review: I Am J by Cris Beam 

Goodreads Description: J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was; a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.

My Review: Oh, my lord. Where to start. I Am J is the coming of age tale of J, as he comes to terms with his gender identity. J uses his frustration and the prejudice he faces as justification for being a complete and total jerk. The whole plot involves J starting drama with his friends and family. Though this book is heavily about the transgender story and I can't speak to how well it reflects that, I will say there was plenty of other problematic material that turned me off.

First off, the best friend, Melissa, that up and "deserts" him does so after J kisses her while she's asleep, against her will. She kicks J out of her house and in an email tells him she needs some space afterwards. It's mentioned "If J was a real boy, it would be rape," which I have serious issue with. Just because J is biologically female-- and even if he identified that way as well-- kissing someone without their consent is still sexual assault. Women don't get excused from that behaviour simply for being women. Regardless, Melissa forgives him and they're friends again, despite J never showing remorse for what he did.

The book was also littered with homophobia, as well as some biphobia. J repeatedly stresses how being compared to a lesbian is "awful" and the "worst thing ever." I understand that he wants to be seen as a man, not a butch woman, but the way it was handled was incredibly hurtful. Moreso, during a classroom scene a biphobic comment is expressed by one of the kids: "For reals, this poet shoulda picked men or women or prostitutes. Bisexual's nasty." The other kids all agree and the teacher does nothing to challenge this. Meanwhile there is no representation of lesbian or bisexual characters. As well, we have a scene where J comes across a girl getting sexually exploited, and says he could care less about a bitch and leaves. Finally, after his parents express their love and support for what he's going through, J proceeds to run away and refuses to talk with them. When his mother sits him down to talk about his transition, she tells him that though she doesn't understand, she still loves him. Apparently that isn't good enough as J proceeds to cut contact with her for the most part. All of this and more made it incredibly difficult to find sympathy for J.

Not just in the plot elements, but in every scene J finds some way to be overly selfish, rude, or aggressive in an attempt to be more "masculine." I find this incredibly damaging, as it seemed to reduce being a man to only negative traits. Melissa is quite obnoxious and uses J throughout the book. She is a cutter and an awful representation of it. She is an attention-seeking cutter, right down to her "performance" where she cuts herself in front of an audience, yet she's somehow shocked she's sent to a psych ward afterwards. J's mom was awful for plot reasons, but those reasons could have been solved with some simple communication between J and his father. Their excuse for each other was, "Well, you didn't call either." It hardly felt realistic considering the circumstances. Meanwhile, J's father Manny is described as a complete monster by J, but that is never shown through any of his actions. If anything, he is open, communicative at times, and loving. He is ignorant, though not aggressive about it, but the fact that he calls J "Jeni" sometimes (before he even comes out) makes him some sort of monster.

The writing itself was very bland and clipped. Most sentences were short and to the point, often leaving scenes feeling abrupt. It's rare to say, but this story would have made a lot more sense told from first person point of view rather than third. J begins the book by seeing himself as a "head without a body," and after his assault on Melissa, decides to accept himself as a man. Yet the pronouns are 'he' from the beginning of the book, and though I suppose this is suppose to illustrate that J always had been a man, it just felt off with the narrative. The writing also jumps back and forth in time, often mid-scene, which can be a bit confusing. The flashbacks were incredibly prevalent and were often used to reinforce the scene currently taking place, which gave the sense of convenience. For example, we see flashbacks of Melissa and J's history right before the kiss, and we see flashbacks of why J hates swimming now mid-argument with mom, etc. etc. It's a version of telling through flashbacks instead of working that information organically into the narrative.

TL;DR: All in all, 1/5 stars. A character driven story with horribly unlikable characters.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Goodreads Description: In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

My Review: What a tremendous way to start off a reading year! Lies We Tell Ourselves is an intense read straight from page one, as it unflinchingly takes on racism, desegregation during the time period, and the institutionalized oppression systems that are still affecting our society today. Despite being a well-researched period piece and an issue book, at its core the story is a beautiful romance that puts most het romance to shame. As well as having an intense, life-or-death plot tension, the author also balanced a softer romantic tension that had my toes curling, and this balance kept the story engaging and exciting straight to the last page.

The thing that struck me first and hardest about the book was the alternative viewpoint it offered me. This story is mostly told through the eyes of a black girl, and though it's peppered with passages from Linda's very opposite point of view, they only serve to support Sarah's narrative. Secondly, the dynamic with tension was something I'd never seen before. We have a school environment, and a story of ten kids simply trying to go through an average school day, and yet it's riddled with life-and-death danger. Everywhere Sarah and her fellow black students go, they're insulted, tormented, have things thrown at them, humiliated, and downright abused at every opportunity. Normally we'd see this kind of high-stakes tension in a school environment only in something like urban fantasy, where you can support that life-or-death element with supernatural dangers. But there's nothing supernatural about the danger facing these kids. It's completely realistic and true, which helps to highlight a whole side of reality that many (including myself) can hardly imagine.

The characters themselves were beautifully crafted. They were all very real people, strong and independent but still struggling with their own insecurities and weaknesses. I especially liked the subtle approach to Sarah's character, as she in incredibly strong and courageous, but you can see the cracks that let her insecurities bleed through. Linda was a difficult character to read at times because of her blatant racism and prejudice. I was able to grit my teeth and push through her point of view passages mostly because I knew she was going to undergo a change. The change in her character was very realistic as well, occurring gradually and not without struggle, which made her transformation much more believable.

This story is a romance, and with such a bigoted character as one side of that romance, I understand why some readers might take issue with Linda. The trope of the abuser and the abused falling in love is not only all-to common, but harmful to survivors of abuse. There's no arguing that Linda is an abuser, but I also believe this book properly shows humanity's capacity for change. We are all human, we all have things in our past we regret and have learned from, and it's harmful to everyone to assume we are unable to change. The key component that makes this relationship stay healthy, is not only that Linda strives to change and shows remorse for her past, but Sarah doesn't accept any of the abuse. She calls it out and at times even rises above Linda's trolling behaviour.

This book may be difficult for some to read because of the intensity of abuse the kids undergo, but it is necessary to acknowledge it as part of our past. This book wonderfully captures the courage of kids who sacrificed their sense of safety for the promise of a more equal society. Underneath that, though, is the gentle and beautiful love story of two girls in a Romeo-and-Juliet style circumstance.  This is one of those instant classic books that belongs on every reader's shelf.

TL;DR: All in all, 5/5 stars. A beautifully balanced period piece and romance story that makes my heart happy.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book Review: How to Ruin Everything

Book Review: How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky 

Goodreads Description: Are you a sensible, universally competent individual? Are you tired of the crushing monotony of leaping gracefully from one lily pad of success to the next? Are you sick of doing everything right? 

In this brutally honest and humorous debut, musician and artist George Watsky chronicles the small triumphs over humiliation that make life bearable and how he has come to accept defeat as necessary to personal progress. The essays in How to Ruin Everything range from the absurd (how he became an international ivory smuggler) to the comical (his middle-school rap battle dominance) to the revelatory (his experiences with epilepsy), yet all are delivered with the type of linguistic dexterity and self-awareness that has won Watsky more than 765,000 YouTube subscribers. Alternately ribald and emotionally resonant, How to Ruin Everything announces a versatile writer with a promising career ahead.

My Review: "Taylor skips by the big rock arches, and a lump rises in my throat like the one Mom can't hide when she talks about her high school boyfriend-- emotion that forty short years can't dull, a tremor that makes me love my mother more because I understand her in those moments, relate to an ache that takes nothing away from our family but illuminates the million different lives each of us could have led if we'd washed up on different shores." 

How to Ruin Everything is a collection of essays written by George Watsky, who has spent over ten years as a spoken word poet and a musician. In this collection, Watsky steps into new territory with essays featuring his life and experiences, and explores how sometimes ruining things causes them to turn out for the best. I was of course drawn to the book as I am a fan of the author's spoken word and his music, and was excited to get a deeper look at his work. 

I'll admit, I haven't read too many essay collections, at least those with essays all written by the same author. The book reads largely as a memoir, as the author reminisces about his life, his experiences, and how they've helped to shape him into who he is. That said, I found the essays thematically unconnected, and were drawn together only because they focused on the same person. It would've been nice to get a bit more to each essay to help bond it back to the theme of ruining everything. Or at least some sort of timeline, as the stories came from all over his life-- and thus it was difficult to tell where in his life and thinking we were at. 

On their own, the essays were quite an enjoyable read. Especially the last several, I found them rather poignant and beautifully written. A poet at heart, Watsky really knows how to bring out the beauty in the mundane. He doesn't embellish the beauty or pain, nor does he understate it. He lays both out plainly, and lets the reader draw their own emotional conclusions. The quality of the writing helps carry the reader through the disjointed timelines and random subjects. The beautiful use of words as well as the clever observations make this book such a joy to read. The style is rambling and introspective, like a poet ran away with a keyboard, and nowhere near a "must read," but it still holds a quiet, special spot on my reading shelf. 

TL;DR: All in all, 3/5 stars. A series of disjointed essays with strength in beautiful writing and poignant observations. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Reviews in Review 2016

e-books sadly not included. 
Another year, and another stack of incredible books! I'm a little late on this post, but better late than never. I think I was a little too eager to put 2016 behind me (aren't we all), but I got the chance to read some really awesome books and work with some incredible artists this year. I can't let the year slip away without a bit of reflection. As well as being a bit of my "Best Books of 2016," this list serves as another look at my reviews. Feelings can sometimes change on books; some that impacted me greatly while reading become hardly memorable, while something about a mediocre book could stick with me for months.

I made a goal of reading 25 books this year, same as last year. I made it much closer to my goal this year with 19 books, and so I'm setting my goal against for 25 in 2017. I'm confident that I'm going to make it this year, and not just because of short books. (Though I'm having deja vu of saying this last year, hah.)

I found it really hard to narrow down a list this year, which I suppose is a great sign. Without further adieu, let's get this rock show started!

Most Class
Life of Pi by Yann Martel 

Nothing classier than a classic. I figured I should get the obvious choice out of the way first. Life of Pi rocked my summer reading in a way only excellent literature does. For months after I found myself flipping through passages and looking up quotes, still enamored with the story and its storytelling. One of the main reasons why I loved this read so much was because I learned a lot about writing from it. Not only about tension and execution, but as an incredible in-depth character study. The reader gets to know Pi as intimately as themselves, and that's something I haven't seen done so well before or since.

Delightfully Different
The Migrant Report by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

I was offered a chance to read this book in exchange for a review, and I was so glad that I did. It's one of the books that sticks out most for me this year, if only because of the rich culture and characters. Though there was a large cast of POV characters for this novel, the author balanced it well and kept each character vivid and original. I was a little turned off by the sequel baiting, but months later I'm still delighted thinking back on the characters and all their interwoven problems. It is an #ownvoices book, as it is staged in the Arabian Gulf where the author lives and writes. My only real complaint comes back to wanting more from the book, yet it's one I often end up recommending, mostly because I feel like it is an awesome story that deserves the love. 

A Bad Aftertaste
The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

I was probably a little too forgiving in my review of this book. Then again, it's probably just that the few good parts I enjoyed have faded from memory, leaving only the bad. I call this book a bad aftertaste as it perfectly describes the feeling I get when I think of it. The main character was such an unlikable jerk, the romance was highly unbelievable, the beginning fluctuated between a "telling" backstory and break-neck tension and pacing, and the end is a string of bad fantasy tropes, all disguised in a contemporary. The main character is the "chosen one," it ends on a cliffhanger of people hunting after them, along with the reveal that we've got super special powers. It almost felt like a bait and switch of a book-- painting itself to be a contemporary story about character and growth, instead turning into the epitome of urban fantasy cliches. 

Most Warm Fuzzies of the Year
Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

This book delighted me from beginning to end. Perhaps it was because I read it right after an especially dark book, but the tone and writing of Something in Between was so positive, so bubbly and fun that it really lightened my spirits. It is a bit of the quintessential love story, but focused on a Filipino family and their struggle of impending deportation. The book balanced the love story with an #ownvoices look at Unites States immigration. It tackled the issues with the seriousness they deserve, but kept the story hopeful and fun right up until the end. It was such a breath of fresh air to read. 

Best Let Down of the Year
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Ah, Night Vale. After hearing about this book, I was so excited to immerse myself in the world of weird. A couple of my friends read it and encouraged me to pick it up, so I was fairly hyped up about what I was getting into. But after diving in, I found myself quickly bored of the strangeness without direction, and a plot hastily tied together at the end. There were tiny glimmering aspects of the book that I really fell in love with, which made the book even more of a let down to me. It may simply come down to personal preference, but I really felt like this book could have been so much more. It was the first book I read of the year and that disappointment still rings as strong as the day I finished it. 

Surprise Delight
Death of a Scratching Post by Jackson Dean Chase

I'm not usually one for cute coffee table books, but I picked up this poetry collection on a whim, mostly because I love cats. I was surprised and delighted by how much I fell in love with the author's prose. Yes, every poem was about a cat, but held a lot of passion and depth that I wasn't quite expecting. I really enjoyed the author's approach and even now I find myself flipping back to the poems and reading through. It's a short but sweet read and has stuck with me for longer than I expected. 

Honorary Mention: Holy Shit Technology
Between Worlds by Skip Brittenham

I felt like I couldn't go without mentioning this book. The story itself was pretty standard and didn't actually wow me-- it was the augmented reality app that did it. This is a middle grade book, and in an attempt to engage kids who might be a little too attached to their electronics, an app was constructed as a "how to" guide for all the creatures the main characters discover in the new world they're transported to. Using the phone's camera, the app projects a 3D creature standing on the book (think Pokemon Go). As you read through the book, the reader discovers more pages that show new creatures. I was impressed because I felt like the app helped to facilitate reading and encouraged the reader to get more into the story, instead of taking away from it with too many flashy add-ons.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Book Review: How to Protect your Neighborhood from Circus Werewolves

Book Review: How to Protect Your Neightborhood from Circus Werewolves by Mick Bogerman

Goodreads Description: The circus is in town, and Mick Bogerman has a fail-proof plan to sneak inside the adults-only Macabre Pavilion. But there’s something weird about the A. Linville & Purnima Bros. Circus this year. Angry parents and crying kids exit early by the carload. Maybe it’s the clowns. Yes, they wear the standard stark-white faces and red bulbous noses, but underneath their painted smiles, there’s something not quite right. What's more, after the full moon rises . . . they howl.

When Mick and his friends rescue a caged boy from the clown’s clutches they set off a series of disasters that threaten their entire neighborhood. Can Mick become the leader his neighbors need and protect them from the pack of hungry predators infiltrating their town?

My Review: I was given a copy of How to Protect Your Neighborhood from Circus Werewolves by the publisher in exchnage for an honest review. 

Mick Bogerman, both the author’s penname and the main character in the series, brings us another installment of his middle grade series, this time featuring circus werewolves. The first thing to draw me into the writing was the fantastic voice the author maintains, mostly through a slang-like writing, attempting to imitate the speaking style of a 12-year-old. While some readers may be put off by the slang-y style, it worked really well for the book, primarily because it was used sparingly and didn’t take away from the story. Once accents become difficult to understand, it makes it difficult to even enjoy the story, but the author handled it nicely, and it helped cement that 12-year-old authenticity. 

Overall, the writing was very thin, but not lacking in any way. How To Protect Your Neighbourhood from Circus Werewolves is a middle grade book aimed at the lower age-range, and so it doesn’t waste time with long descriptions or lack of action. It is excellent for the reading level and would be a great first book for kids stepping into chapter books. It is full of adventure that keeps the reader engaged from the beginning to the end. There were a couple points where the lack of description or explanation had me a tad confused, but they were minor and didn’t take me away from the story. I especially loved that the book read as a perfect standalone; obviously adding to and a part of a larger series, but still a self-contained story that doesn’t require numerous “Last Time…” explanations. 

The story itself was rich with adventure, friendship, and tension that would be perfect for any young reader. It was fun, but also was layered in with a lot of heart. As well as tackling werewolves, Mick also tackles things like what it means to be a leader, family conflicts, as well as other meaningful moments throughout. (I was especially fond of Padraig’s issues with the insult of “Dog Boy,” in contrast to how Booger Face not only accepted his name, but owned his identity.) 

I could not recommend this book, and the rest of the series, more to anyone with young readers. I can totally see many kids falling in love with the author’s creative reimagining of creatures, as well as the heartfelt and delightful cast of characters. 

 TL; DR: All in all, 4/5 stars. A riveting adventure and a delightfully creative approach to werewolves. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Books That Fight Hate

The world can be a scary place sometimes.

No matter how loud hate shrieks, love is louder. No matter how much evil there is in the world, there is ten times the amount of goodness behind that.

Since the American election, there has been a lot of fear and anxiety. As a Canadian, the whole situation has left me feeling heartbroken and helpless. I want to march along the streets and #resist, but I know this isn't my battle to fight. Supporting those who are hurting is my duty as a human, however, and something I will gladly do. On Twitter after the election, Justina Ireland, author of Promise of Shadows and Vengeance Bound, started a hashtag on Twitter called #BooksFightHate to promote diverse books written by marginalized authors.

People have since jumped on board to tweet out their favorite books that not only promote diversity, but that fight prejudice. I absolutely love the idea, and while there are a lot of lists out there promoting #BooksFightHate, I wanted to take it one step forward to include a short bio with each title to help people find the books they really connect with.

Most of the recs below are YA, MG, and some adult in the fantasy/sci-fi range. As publishing is constantly moving towards diversity, there will be more titles to add to this list. So if you see something I've missed, make sure to comment below and I'll add it. There has never been a more important time to support and spread the love for marginalized authors.

Books That Fight Hate 

1. Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz
Jasmine is an overachiever with her whole future ahead of her- until she discovers her family's visas expired years ago. Now not only are her college prospects in jeopardy, but her family could be deported if they're discovered. Featuring a Filipino MC and deals with immigrant struggles. 

2. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 
Junior, a budding cartoonist, decides to take his destiny into his own hands as he leaves the reservation to attend school in an all-white community. Featuring a Native American MC, this book highlights the harsh reality for a lot of Natives living on reservations in North America, from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum and racism. 

3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz 
The story of friendship between Ari, who doesn't understand why he's so angry, and Dante, a quirky know-it-all. This is a coming of age story about friendship, family, and identity. Features a subtle, gay relationship between the two characters. 

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 
Starr balances life between the poor neighborhood she grew up in and the fancy prep school she attends. But when she witnesses her unarmed friend shot by police, her entire world becomes upended. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. 

5. When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds 
Ali has never been interested in the violence and drugs in his neighborhood, but his best friend, Noodles, is a ticking time bomb. Features a black MC and dealing with life in a rough neighborhood. 

6. A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott
Genna lives in a drug-infested world of poverty, but she's planning an escape to a different life. Until the night she makes a wish and is transported back to Civil-era Brooklyn, where she has to fight through a time still rife with slavery. Features a black MC, and her boyfriend from Jamaica takes time to make Genna appreciate her black skin and curly hair, which is really lovely to see. 

7. Time Keeper by Tara Sim
Danny is a mechanic that fixes not only clocks, but time. After moving to a new town, he finds himself falling in love with his assigned apprentice-- who also happens to be the spirit of the tower's clock. Gay romance here. (I'm drooling over this one, not going to lie.) 

8. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Helig 
Nix spends her days traveling everywhere on her father's ship-- if they have a map of it, real or imagined, they can go there. But the one map her father wants more than anything-- the one that will lead him to his love and Nix's mom-- could threaten to erase her existence. Plethora of diversity here, from Nix being half-Chinese, to loads of ethnic culture, as well as LGBT characters. 

9. Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
When Naila breaks her family's rule by falling in love with a boy, they take her back to Pakistan to reacquaint her with her roots-- as well as to introduce her to the husband they have picked out for her. Featuring a Pakistani main character, this book focuses a lot on arranged and forced marriages and Pakistani culture. 

10. Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis
In this fantastical Indian fairy tale, Farhad, master of disguises, sets out on a journey with his talking tiger to rescue a princess from marrying a demon king. Rich with Indian culture and myths, this is a true treasure to read. 

11. Run by Kody Keplinger 
Bo is known for being a delinquent from a delinquent family. Agnes is legally blind and has never stepped farther than the end of her parents' leash. Together, they form an unbreakable friendship. So when Bo asks her to run, Agnes doesn't even question it. Featuring a blind MC and a bisexual MC (woo disability lit!) 

12. Gabi, A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero 
Gabi's final year of high school will be epic, if she can survive her best friend coming out gay, her other best friend's pregnancy, rape, slut-shaming, and reconciling her "Mexicanness" with her "Whiteness." What can I say about this one? Mexican MC, LGBT, feminism, oh my!

13. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho 
In an alternate history of Britain, the sorcerer royal, Zacharias, ventures to the border of Fairyland to find out why the magic reserves are drying up. On his way he encounters a school for Gentlewitches, where young women have the magic stomped out of them, and meets Prunella, a young woman with a wealth of magical ability. In this book, Zacharias is a freed-slave turned sorcerer and faces a lot of issues with oppression and institutionalized racism. 

14. Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee
For Jess, the best way to spite her superhero parents was to take the internship with the local super villain. As a perk, she gets to work alongside her crush, who may just be hiding secrets of her own. Featuring a MC who is half-Chinese, half-Vietnamese, and doesn't feel accepted with either. Also: BISEXUAL REP!!

15. The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
Margot has spent years denying her culture and her family in order to fit in at her prep school. But after stealing her father's credit card, she's forced to work in her family's deli to work off the debt. Featuring a Latina MC. 

16. We Were Here by Matt de la Pena 
After it happened, Miguel was sent to juvi and then to a group home, which he was grateful for. It was better than living at home, where his mother couldn't even look at him. With a plan to head to Mexico, Miguel breaks out and runs for the border, hoping to start over. Featuring a Latino MC, and also deals with a lot of guilt, self-punishment, and hitting rock bottom. It's also nice to get a glimpse of the social services systems. 

17. When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore 
Sam and Miel are best friends and as odd as they come. Roses grow from Miel's wrists while Sam paints moons in the trees. A group of witches sets their sites on the roses growing from Miel's wrist, believing their scent can make anyone fall in love, and intend to use Sam's secrets to get them. Featuring: Latina and Italian-Pakistani MCs, also, TRANS REP! 

18. The Memory of Light by Francisco X Stork
After a suicide attempt lands her in the hospital, Vicky finds her strength through the other kids she meets in the psych ward. But when a crisis splits them up and Vicky must return back to the situation that made her suicidal, she has to find her own source of strength. This novel is all about mental health representation, and does an excellent job of shining a light down the dark hallway of depression. 

19. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Two rebels become friends during the overthrowing of a tyranny. But after the dust settles, they find themselves leaders of opposite factions with very different ideals of how the world should be run. Features a lot of Asian and Middle Eastern mythologies with a culture built on Ancient China. 

20. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera 
After coming out to her mother, who she is sure will never talk to her again, Juliet leaves the Bronx to spend a summer in Portland interning under her favorite feminist author. Featuring a Puerto Rican lesbian MC, and lots of feminist goodness. 

21. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Bride's blue-black skin was the reason her light-skinned mother denied her any love, but it doesn't stop her from finding love, success, and confidence. This novel focuses a lot on racism, but also features a survivor of child sexual abuse and shows how it affects their life. 

22. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okaparanta
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Inspired by Nigerian folktales and war, Ijeoma, a young Nigerian child, is sent away to escape the civil war where she meets a girl from another ethnic community. The pair quickly fall in love, but must hide their relationship if they hope to survive. Features a lesbian romance, feminism, African characters, as well as looks at religion and homosexuality.

23. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
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Natasha meets Daniel the day before her family was going to be deported to Jamaica. But one day is all it takes to find love. Features a Jamaican and Asian MC, as well as tackles issues of deportation and displacement.

24. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley 
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In 1959, Sarah is one of the first black students to attend an all-white Jefferson High. Linda is the daughter of the town's most vocal opponents to school integration. Lesbian couples! Mixed race relationship! Plus heavy on racism and segregation.

25. Fat Kid Rules the World by KL Going 
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Troy, an obese teenager, befriends Curt McCrae, local punk star and homeless drug addict. Together, their friendship ends up saving them both in ways they didn't know they needed. This book is definite on the fat acceptance.

26. Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older 

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After a zombie crashes her friend's party, Sierra learns she's part of a community of shadowshapers-- those that connect with spirits through paintings, music, and storytelling. Featuring an Afro-Latina MC with Caribbean-based folklore. Also features a very diverse cast including LGBT characters.

27. Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli 
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When an email falls into the wrong hands, Simon finds himself as wingman to the class clown Martin, under threat that his secret will be exposed. Or worse, the pen name of the boy he's been flirting with over email could be compromised. Featuring a gay romance, black love interest.

28. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy 
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Self-proclaimed fat girl Willow has always been comfortable with her size, until the day she starts a relationship with a handsome jock, and she begins to doubt herself. To regain her confidence, she enters the city's beauty pageant to prove she deserves to be up there as much as any other girl. Features a lot of fat positivity.

29. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
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After his father's suicide, Aaron struggles to find happiness again with the help of his girlfriend and hard-working mom. But when a new guy enters the picture, who makes Aaron feel things he never thought possible, he considers following through with a memory-altering procedure to fix himself. Features suicide, depression, mental health, and deals with homophobia. 

30. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
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Ifemelu and Obinze are teenagers living in Nigeria under a military dictatorship. While Ifemelu managed to immigrate to America, post 9/11 politics prevents Obinze from following. After years, they find themselves reunited in their homeland and their love, and come to face the toughest decisions of their lives. Featuring Nigerian MCs, written by a Nigerian author, and tackles a lot of race issues.

31. Santa Meurte by Cynthia Pelayo
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Life is quiet for Ariana until her father, a federal investigator from Mexico targeting criminal organizations, arrives on her doorstep. After he's involved in a car accident, Ariana begins seeing a veiled skeletal figure asking for her father. Featuring a Latina MC and plenty of Mexican folklore.

32. Lailah's Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi 
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The adorable story of Lailah, a 10-year-old Muslim who is very excited to join her family in her first Ramadan. She just needs to figure out how to explain it to her non-Muslim classmates. Such a cute story featuring a Muslim MC and discusses Islam and Ramadan. This is a picture book, but worth the read.

33. The Story of Maha by Sumayya Lee
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After her parents are killed during a political rally, Maha goes to live with her Indian grandparents. She learns how to wind around the strict boundaries of her Muslim community as she develops into a rebellious teenager. Book is set in a South African Indian Muslim community, and features an Indian MC.

34. Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson 
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In the Middle East, a young Arab-Indian hacker by the alias of Alif shields his clients from surveillance groups and tries to stay out of trouble. But when the woman he loves begins courting the head of the state's security, Alif's computer is compromised and he flees underground for his own, and his client's, safety. A POC MC and features Islam in a positive light, also showcasing some Islamic myths and folklore.

35. The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami
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An alternative history account of the Narvaez expedition which would leave only four survivors, one of which was Mustafa al-Zamori, a Moroccan slave and the first black explorer of America. POC MC and written by a Moroccan author.

36. The Unintentional Time Traveler by Everett Maroon
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Jack agrees to try an experimental clinical trial to cure his epilepsy, but instead finds himself in the body of a girl--Jacqueline-- from 1920s era. Disability rep, as well as tackles identity and how much our gender affects who we are.

37. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 
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Effia and Esi, sisters born in separate villages, end up leading very different lives. While Effia is married to a slaver and lives in luxury, Esi works as a slave in the palace dungeon beneath her, before being shipped off as a slave to America. This novel follows the sisters' descendants 300 years and illustrates how slavery and colonialism shaped America and Ghana. The author was born in Ghana as well.

38. Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah
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Everyone has a reaction when Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time. Dodging prejudice and fending questions from her friends and teachers, she still intends to attract the cutest boy at school. Islam rep! Also, love how it tackles stereotypes and misconceptions.
39. Girl Mans Up by M-e Girard 

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All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she wants to be, but for some reason everyone thinks the way she looks and acts means she wants to be a boy. Portuguese MC, lesbian MC, and tackles a lot about gender identity. I can't wait to read this one!

40. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo 
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Amanda transferred schools to get a new life, but when she begins to fall for Grant, she fears how he'll react when he learns of her past... and that her name used to be Andrew. Trans rep!! Also, #ownvoices

41. Songs that Sound Like Blood by Jared Thomas 
Roxy heads to the big city for a new start and to study music. Singing for her dinner is soul crushing, but her newfound crush on Ana might make it worth it. Indigenous and Maori MCs, as well as a lesbian romance.

42. On The Edge of Gone by Corrine Duyvis 
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Denise, her mother, and her sister are supposed to head for a shelter to wait out an incoming comet blast. On the way they encounter a generation ship leaving to colonize new worlds, but all passengers must have a skill to contribute, and Denise fears her autism may hold them back. Very diverse cast with half-black autistic MC, lesbian, Muslim, bisexual trans, and Jewish characters, to name a few.

43. Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson 
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Conjoined twins Abby and Makeda were separated by surgery that left Abby with a limp and Makeda cut off from the magic her sister possesses. Makeda moves on to start a new life of her own, but she must reconcile with her sister after her father disappears in order to save him. Urban fantasy with Caribbean mythology written by a Caribbean author.

44. All We Have Left by Wendy Mills
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Jesse finds herself caught up in the wrong crowd after her brother passes away in the September 11 attacks, and one momentary hate-filled decision turns her life upside down. Alia is a proud Muslim who finds herself in the Two Towers when the plane hits. Trapped inside the burning building, Alia meets a boy who changes her life. An authentic Muslim character, and presents the hatred and prejudice that Muslims have faced since 9/11.
45. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed 
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In the midst of a brewing rebellion, supernatural murders cause unrest through the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” his young assistant, and a woman with the power of the lion-shape set out to learn the truth behind the killings.  Set in the Middle East during the Islamic Golden Age.

46. George by Alex Gino  
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When people look at George, they see a boy, but she knows she's a girl. She just has to find a way to show everyone else that, too. Middle grade book featuring a trans MC! A must have!

47. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova 
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Alex is a bruja, one of the most powerful witches in her generation, and hates it. While attempting a spell to rid herself of her powers, it backfires and her family vanishes, and she must travel to Los Lagos, an in-between land, to save them. Latinx culture and folklore, cast of POC characters, and an #ownvoices book featuring a writer born in Ecuador.

48. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman 
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Frances has always been a study machine with one goal-- elite university. But when she meets Aled, the shy boy behind her favourite podcast, he reveals a side to Frances that she thought she'd locked away. Bisexual and biracial MC!

49. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
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Jende has come to America to provide a better life for his family, and can't believe his luck ending up as a chauffeur for the Lehman Brothers. But the cracks in the American dream begin to show when the company goes under. Featuring the Jonga family, who are West African, and features the immigrant struggle as they struggle to become citizens.

50. It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
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Zomorod is the new kid on the block, for the fourth time. With a new school, she plans to change her name to Cindy to fit in. But it's the mid-70s, and Iran is making headlines with protests, revolution, and hostage takings, and the anti-Iran sentiments are making it difficult to feel at home in her own country. Featuring an Iranian MC and examines prejudice through a middle grade lens.