Justyce McAllister is back in this sequel to Dear Martin, which is flat out the best and most important teen novel I've ever read. This time he's not the main character. In Dear Martin, Justyce wrote private letters to the late Martin Luther King, asking how he stayed strong under the constant judgement (and trauma) that comes solely because of skin color. In Dear Justyce, he's receiving the letters, from a childhood friend named Quan, who is not headed to the Ivy League like Justyce. Vernell LaQuan Banks Jr. is just trying to survive juvenile detention after working so hard to be a good kid, while everyone around him seemed to want him to fail. His family was a mess, a frightening mess. Then he found people who understood him well, in the wrong place, and he's in serious trouble. He's not one to make excuses for his decisions, but really what could he have done differently? He hasn't completely give up though, and Justyce isn't ready to quit on him either. Stone didn't intend to write this book, until she got texts from two kids she met because of Dear Martin. They wanted her to write their story, about "like black kids, you know... Not like Justyce. Cuz Justyce had hope." I think Stone wrote their story like nobody else could. The voices are urgent and real. Masterful writing, compelling, suspenseful, and vital reading for the urgency of now!
— Tim McCarthy
A life lost is a life saved in Shannon Takaoka’s thought provoking and sweetly romantic book about Chloe, an ambitious teen ready to make the leap from high school to the college of her dreams. When her own heart gives out during cross-country practice due to a cellular defect, she receives a new one from a donor whose family prefers to stay anonymous. After a long recovery, not only is Chloe stuck in summer school, isolated from friends who’ve graduated, but weirdly enough, she’s consumed with surfing, a sport she never once gave a thought to before her new heart. As her relationship with her instructor, Kai, deepens into something more, and college no longer feels as important as catching waves, Chloe questions her reality, wondering if receiving a new heart changed her to a new person. But we all question our dreams at some point, especially as teens, don’t we? Old interests fade, and new ones take their place. Everything I thought I Knew goes a step further with a brilliant plot twist and a gasp-out-loud ending that fits the story perfectly. Shannon Takaoka writes with such empathy for her characters, making Chloe’s journey of self-discovery impossible to put down until you turn the last page.
— Jenny Chou
Bob is a tough dog with a strong independent streak and a soft heart. He was once a stray after being thrown from a truck window with his siblings, but he and his sister survived. Now he has a home with a family. Bob made his first appearance in the Newbery Award-winning book that I loved reading aloud to my 5th graders, called The One and Only Ivan. He still has times when he can see both Ivan and his outgoing, determined young elephant friend Ruby. He also has lots of neighborhood animal connections with very interesting personalities, and they all come together in the face of a storm brewing on the horizon. The best aspect of both these books is that the animals talk to you in human voices with their own viewpoints. Applegate has a wonderful knack for showing us animal expressions that seem very familiar, and their perspectives on the confusing humans and the other animals in their world are cheeky and insightful. It has the effect of being both fun and meaningful. A worthy sequel to a great original!
— Tim McCarthy