Modern Magic: 12 Tantalizing Tales for Teens

I know you’ve been waiting anxiously, dear readers, for this third list in my series of teen fantasy and science fiction lists. This was made in collaboration with our teen librarian, Barb Dinan, and the graphic and the blurbs are by our amazing intern Nick Rapson.  That means every book on this list (except for A Song Below Water, which I’m expecting to read very soon) comes recommended by one or both of us.  There is a lot of good reading here!

Modern Magic

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova “Rose Mortiz has brand new powers that she doesn’t understand, and her family is still trying to figure out how to function after her amnesiac father’s return home. Then, on the night of her Death Day party, Rose discovers her father’s memory loss has been a lie.”

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness “What if you aren’t the Chosen One? What if you’re like Mikey, who just wants to graduate and go to prom before someone goes and blows up the high school? Because sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.”

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black “Jude was seven when she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the High Court of Faerie. But Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King, despises humans. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.”

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno “Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea – at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?”

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee “The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered.”

Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal “If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping through Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends.”

Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse “If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters of Navajo legend Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be . . .”

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older “Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep….something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.”

Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow “In a society determined to keep her under lock and key, Tavia must hide her siren powers. Meanwhile, Effie is fighting her own family struggles, pitted against literal demons from her past. Together, these best friends must navigate through the perils of high school’s junior year.”

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno “Georgina Fernweh waits with growing impatience for the tingle of magic in her fingers—magic that has been passed down through every woman in her family. But with her eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.”

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson “When best friend Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.”

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho “Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret – she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.”

Also consider Slay by Brittney Morris, which is realistic to sci-fi with a fantasy feel and Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, which definitely fits and is coming out in September.  

What books would you add to this list? 


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Aftermath: Children of Virtue and Vengeance and Wayward Son

Here are two more sequels, these teen books where characters must deal with the consequences of the magical cataclysm of the first books.

childrenofvirtueandvengeanceChildren of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi. Henry Holt, 2019. ISBN 978-1250170995. Read from purchased copy.
There is really no way to write about the plot of this second book in the Orïsha series (following Children of Blood and Bonewithout spoiling large amounts.  Here, in brief, is what is going on with our main characters: Zélie is hurting from having sacrificed her father and been betrayed by Prince Inan, whom she then killed.  Amari believes that as princess, her duty is to take over the kingdom and try to work for harmony between her traditional overlord class and the oppressed magical minority, the maji.  Once as close as sisters, so close I wanted them to be the book’s romantic pairing, Zélie and Amari are now at odds with each other.   Continue reading

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Sequels: The Jumbie God’s Revenge and Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe

The next round of the Generations Book Club from the Brown Bookshelf is live!  I had already read the middle grade title and realized that I’d never reviewed it, so here you go!  With bonus, the next Sal and Gabi adventure from Carlos Hernandez.  I’m hoping for my order of the teen book from the Generations Book Club, A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow to come in soon, too. 

The Jumbie God's Revenge by Tracey BaptisteThe Jumbie God’s Revenge by Tracey Baptiste. Algonquin, 2019. 9781616208912. Read from library copy. 

Corrine is still trying to make peace with her life on the island after the tumultuous events of the last few books – revealing that one is part jumbie is pretty much guaranteed not to improve one’s social life.  Then, storms come.  Bad storms that threaten to tear apart the entire island.  They turn out to be the actions of a jumbie that both Mama D’Leau and Papa Bois fear: Huracan.  It seems that some of Corrine’s past actions have angered him – can she find a way to calm him down and fix his past mistakes?  

This is another exciting adventure based on the legends of the author’s native Trinidad.  Though I’ve read and enjoyed the first two books in this series, The Jumbies and Rise of the Jumbies, I think I could have benefitted from a reread – while the adventure parts were appropriately exciting, I had trouble keeping her friends and their various personalities straight.  I’d definitely suggest reading or rereading the first two as necessary!  Though the stakes never seemed low in those books, they are definitely raised here – Corrine is pushed to discover depths of herself she never had to before. This is a fitting end to the trilogy, and one I’d definitely recommend to especially to kids looking for scary fantasy adventures.  

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe
by Carlos Hernandez. Read by Anthony Rey Perez. Disney/Rick Riordan Presents and Listening Library 2020. ISBN  978-1368022835 ASIN B085T8FBD7. Listened on Libby. 

Sal and Gabi are back!  Sal’s father is worried about the holes in the universe that Sal made in the first book, accidentally and on purpose pulling things like his mother from other universes.  Now his machine to repair the tears is almost ready.  But when he turns it on for the first time, Sal feels a brief but sharp pain.  Shortly thereafter, he meets a Gabi who is clearly not his Gabi, and this strange Gabi claims that Papi is evil and his machine will destroy the universe.  What’s a kid to do?  

This is as always a madcap journey featuring strong characters (including here multiple Gabis!), lots of snarky AIs including a new, intelligent toilet, delicious Cuban-American food and culture, and a kid trying to fix the universe while keeping his blood sugar stable.  There’s even more exploration into Gabi’s many dads and the life of former bully Yazmany.  Throw in an arts school throwing themselves into a full-scale Alice in Wonderland production and you have – well, one fun, crazy adventure.  Again, you’ll want to read Sal and Gabi Break the Universe first, but this is highly recommended.

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Desk Tales: Front Desk and From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Two kids deal with friendships and take stands for social justice in these stories that draw from real-life problems.  

Front Desk by Kelly YangFront Desk by Kelly Yang. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018. ISBN 978-1338157796. Read ebook on Libby.
In a story based on the author’s own experiences growing up in the 1990s, Mia Tang is a young Chinese immigrant who hopes that they’ll finally be able to stop travelling and make a home at the hotel where her parents have found a job as manager.  But even though the owner is Chinese-American, he makes the Tangs sign an exploitative contract – only paying them for occupied rooms, and saying they’re responsible for cleaning and anything that breaks in the hotel.   Continue reading

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Future Worlds: 13 Riveting Speculative Fiction Books for Teens

Whether the future is scientific or magical, on our planet or in space, there are so many options for good storytelling!  This week’s list for is once again in collaboration with our teen librarian Ms. D – she read and suggested some of the ones I have not, though I’ve also included some I want to read.  Thanks also to our intern Nick for his help with covers and copy (which is here adapted from official copy rather than purely my own as usual, though links still go to my own reviews where available.)  And as always, if I missed your favorite book that would fit this list, please let me know!

Future Worlds

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Ebook and audiobook on Libby.
Told in separate voices, eighteen-year-old Tyler Jones, top graduate of Aurora Academy, and a group of misfits and troublemakers embark on their first mission with Auri, a stowaway from the distant past.

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney. Ebook and audiobook on Libby, audiobook on Hoopla. 
The first time a Nightmare came, Alice nearly lost her life. Now, with magic weapons and hard-core fighting skills, she battles these monstrous creatures in the dream realm known as Wonderland.

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante. Ebook and audiobook on Libby.
Seventeen-year-old Marisol never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States by participating in an experimental study.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marisa Meyer. First book Cinder. Ebook and audiobook on Libby, audiobook on Hoopla.
In the first of this series of futuristic fairy tale retellings, a teenage cyborg named Cinder deals with her wicked stepmother, learns secrets about herself, and starts a rebellion against the evil Queen Levana.  

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. Ebook and audiobook on Libby.
 In a world ravaged by global warming, white people have lost the ability to dream, which has led to widespread madness. Only 16-year Frenchie and Indigenous people like him are still able to dream – and they are being hunted for their marrow as the cure for the rest of the world. 

Mirage by Somaiya Daud. Ebook and audiobook on Libby, audiobook on Hoopla.
In a world dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani dreams of having an adventure and traveling beyond her isolated home. But when adventure comes, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken to become a body double for the cruel and hated half-Vathek Princess Maram.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman. Ebook on Libby, audiobook on Hoopla.
In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (‘gleaned’) by professional reapers (‘scythes’). Two teens must compete with each other to become a scythe–a position neither of them wants. The one who becomes a scythe must kill the one who doesn’t.

Shuri: A Black Panther Novel by Nic Stone. Ebook could be on Libby, audiobook on Hoopla.
An original series starring the break-out character from the Black Panther comics and films: T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri! Shuri is a skilled martial artist, a genius, and a master of science and technology. But, she’s also a teenager. And a princess. This story follows Shuri as she sets out on a quest to save her homeland of Wakanda.

Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith. Ebook could be on Libby, audiobook on Hoopla. 
Generations after an unknown Change eliminated electricity and gave people unusual powers, the Southern Californian town of Las Anclas must deal with the consequences when a teenage prospector comes to stay

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi – Ebook and audiobook on Libby.
In a near-future society that claims to have gotten rid of all monstrous people, a creature emerges from a painting seventeen-year-old Jam’s mother created, a hunter from another world seeking a real-life monster.

Want by Cindy Pon. Ebook and audiobook on Libby.
Jason Zhou is trying to survive in Taipei, a city plagued by pollution and viruses, but when he discovers the elite are using their wealth to evade the deadly effects, he knows he must do whatever is necessary to fight the corruption and save his city.

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi.  Ebook and audiobook on Libby.
In 2172, when much of the world is unlivable, sisters Onyii and Ify dream of escaping war-torn Nigeria and finding a better future together but are, instead, torn apart.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power. Ebook on Libby.
Friends Hetty, Byatt, and Reece go to extremes trying to uncover the dark truth about the mysterious disease that has had them quarantined at their boarding school on a Maine island.


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In the Dakotas: Apple in the Middle and Prairie Lotus

Here are two stories of girls growing up in the Dakotas – one modern and one in the past.
Apple in the Middle by Dawn QuigleyApple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley. NDSU, 2018. 9781946163073. Read from library copy.

Dawn Quigley would have been one of our keynote speakers at KidLitCon, and I am finally reviewing her book that I read in the midst of planning for it.  

Apple is a lonely rich girl with designer clothes but no friends who tries to stay out of the sun to keep her skin pale so that she doesn’t stick out so much at her mostly white school.  She dislikes her stepbrother and is afraid to go to cemeteries, blaming herself for her mother’s death at her birth. And she talks way too much, in the way of a kid who hasn’t been listened to enough.  (I found this immensely appealing, probably because it reminded me of myself at that age.)   Continue reading

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Magical Quests in YA Books

Buckle up, friends – my teen librarian Ms. D. asked for help coming up with more specific lists for teen speculative fiction.  We’ve been brainstorming book titles together and came up with four lists worth.  This one has a fair amount of overlap with my last list, which is why it’s coming first.  Meanwhile, if you have any ideas of books to fit the themes “Modern Magic” or “Magical History” where I want books set in real earth history but with magic by own voices authors, please let me know!

Magical Quests

Magical Quests

Avatar: the Last Airbender: the Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee – ebook on Hoopla and Libby

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi. Ebook and audiobook on Libby.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco. Ebook and audiobook on Libby; ebook on Hoopla, audiobook also for later books in the series. 

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Read by Euan Morton. 2 book series. Ebook and audiobook on Libby; audiobook on Hoopla. 

Ember in the Ashes by Saaba Tahir. Ebook and audiobook on Libby.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore.  Ebook and audiobook on Libby and Hoopla; later books in trilogy only on Libby. 

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron. Ebook and audiobook on Hoopla; can recommend for Libby. 

Legacy of Orïsha by Tomi Adeyemi. First book Children of Blood and Bone. Ebook and audiobook on Libby, audiobook on Hoopla. 

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko (out in August)

Serpentine by Cindy Pon. Ebook on Hoopla.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Ebook on Libby. Audiobook in German on Hoopla (really??)  

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. Ebook on Libby.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal.  Ebook and audiobook on Libby; audiobook on Hoopla.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Adieh. Ebook and audiobook on Libby.

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3 for Teens: American Road Trip, You’d Be Mine, and Finding Yvonne

Three realistic teen books today, all with musical characters – two from authors who would have been on the YA panel at KidLitCon, as well as the teen book from the Black Music Month section of the Generations Book Club from the Brown Bookshelf.  (They’ve now announced the new theme, Community and Culture.

I often encounter parents at the library who don’t want their teens reading books with sex or drinking in them.  All of these books have drinking and talk of sex to sex.  These behaviors have consequences that the characters have to deal with. I’ll stand by my opinion that I’d rather have my teen learn from books like this than learn from his peers.  But, if it’s something you and/or your teen are uncomfortable with, be aware. 

American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-ScottAmerican Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott. Christy Ottaviani/Henry Holt, 2018. 978-1627797412. Read from library copy. 

It’s 2008. High school junior Teodoro “T” Avila and his best friend Caleb Ta’amu have been living in video games and coasting through the rest of life.  T’s parents haven’t gotten along so well since his older brother, Manny joined the military.  Their finances suffered during the Great Recession, and they’re now living in a tiny dump of a house.  The only bright spot is his older sister Xochitl and her beautiful voice.  T hopes that when Manny comes home, everything wrong with his family will be right again. 

Then multiple events pull T back into the real world, with a vengeance.  Not so good: Manny comes home, and the military has changed his once-happy brother into a sullen, hard-drinking wreck of a person.  Running an errand with his mother, he meets a childhood friend, Wendy Martinez, whose college dreams make him want to go to college, too, just to be with her.  But he’s never believed college was meant for people like him, and he’s got a long way to go to earn grades that could get him into any kind of college, let alone the best state university where Wendy wants to go. He’s in the middle of a frantic effort to turn his grades around when Xochitl decides that what Manny needs is a road trip with just his siblings.   Continue reading

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Quarantine Book Buys and State of the TBR


The #CybilsReadDown is done!  I have a few more books to review, but I read a lot.

Here are the books that have come into my life since my initial post – mostly purchased from local bookstores, but a couple sent from authors.  The stack on the lower left is the one of books I haven’t read yet. Continue reading

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Graphic Novels: This Place, Guts, Best Friends

Today is the last day of the #CybilsReadDown!  I will have to wait until tomorrow to post my current TBR pile – but I did pretty well over all, reviewing 11 of the 13 books I had read but not reviewed when this started, reading and reviewing 11 out of 12 books from my primary TBR pile. I read and reviewed 4 and read without reviewing 3 of the 9 books that were on my Libby hold list.  (I still have several months on my hold for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison.)  And I read and reviewed the only book by a POC on my back-up list, as well as purchasing several new books… but we’ll talk about those tomorrow.  All told, I reviewed 27 books from my original list, not counting a few that got added to my pile and reviewed also.  I think this was the right challenge for me! 

This Place: 150 Years Retold by Alicia ElliottThis Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm,  Sonny Assu, and Brandon Mitchell et al. Highwater, 2019. ISBN 978-1553797586. Read from library copy.
I first heard of this book because it was a Cybils teen graphic novel  finalist, and then bought a copy for my library.  Ten stories – all with different authors and illustrators follow the history of Indigenous people in Canada, beginning with Annie of Red River, set in 1850. The stories range from uplifting to heartbreaking to horror, and the art from very realistic to sketchy and stylized.   In the final story, an Plains Cree girl from the far future is sent back in time through ritual to see the past history of Indigenous Canada in hopes that she will be able to help the Returners, who fled a broken Earth three centuries earlier, to be able to live gently with the planet, as she and the other Indigenous people who stayed do.  Too often, if we think about Native or Indigenous cultures at all, we view them as monolithic and dead.  This range of voices show it to be the lie it is. I read and enjoyed all of this, while my son (15) read up to the last story, though he wasn’t able  to articulate why he’d lost interest.  There is a lot of violence and some sexual references, so it may be better for teens and up.  Still highly recommended.  Continue reading

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