The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas is absolutely brilliant. I bought her book after listening to her talk at the North Texas Teen Book Festival (NTTBF). She described her story and how she weaved her experiences into The Hate U Give (which is a reference to Tupac Shakur's Thug Life). (Side note: Thug Life is an acronym for "the hate you [u] give little infants f***s everyone.") (Another side note: Just think about that for a moment. We all pay the price for raising children in hate-filled environments.) (Last side note: This novel is realistic fiction, which means mature content and gritty descriptions.)
Carrying on... The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr, the daughter of a former head of a local gang, who attends a private (read: rich, white kids) school on the other side of town. She's torn between two worlds, but we've read that story a thousand times.
Thomas gives us a gut-wrenching glimpse into Starr's life. We feel the same fear, anger, and horror when she witnesses the police kill her friend. White cop. Black friend. We begin to understand the difficult neighborhood choice of gang membership or poverty and vulnerability. We watch as Starr swallows her identity and purposefully ignores the racism of her peers. Her story is truly remarkable and you won't be able to put the novel down.
Seriously, go read this. And then give it to someone else to read.
The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle
First up, I have to acknowledge the cover of this book. It isn't great and it's tempting to move past this gem because the imagery may not be very provocative. However, the adage is true in this case, so read it and then judge it.
How much do you know about the abolitionist movement in Cuba? Not much? Yeah, me neither. But it's a fascinating part of world history that's worth studying and this story is an enchanting beginning told by Margarita Engle.
"Love is ancient. A legend. Truth." Those are the last lines of the novel (#spoileralert). Engle's writing is stunning. She gives voices to Tula, the adolescent narrator, as well as several other characters in beautifully constructed verse. If you're like me, you will find yourself savoring the words and wanting to share them with fellow bibliophiles (and the teens you know who are also searching for an understanding of life, justice, and love). It won't take you long to read it, but the words will make a lasting impression on your heart.