Welcome to Parker's staff recommendations page.
Ryka Aoki's Light from Uncommon Stars is an absolute gem of a novel: rare, gorgeous, and unique. This novel defies classification as it seamlessly mixes genres to tell a heartfelt story of acceptance, aliens, deals with demons, antique violins, and yes, donuts. The story follows a group of vastly different characters as their fates intersect in unexpected ways. Katrina Nguyen is a young homeless trans girl who has escaped an abusive situation and found herself unsure of where life will take her next. Shizuka Satomi, a.k.a. The Queen of Hell made a deal with the devil, and now she must deliver the souls of seven violin prodigies or face eternal damnation. And then there is Lan Tran, owner of Starrgate Donut and interstellar escapee of the galactic empire. The ways in which these three's fates intertwine will make readers laugh, swoon, and bite their nails in anticipation of discovering how this story wraps up. Unputdownable and gorgeously written, Light from Uncommon Stars is a page turning masterpiece and my personal favorite 2021 release.
When Liza Rodman was a child, she and her family summered in Cape Cod. Her mother worked as a maid in a local motel and partied the night away, leaving Liza and her younger sister to be watched by anyone who was willing to take them on, and I mean anyone. Enter Tony Costa, handyman at the same motel as Liza's mother. He would take the young girls for trips in his truck, buying them popsicles and taking them deep into the woods to show them his "secret garden." Liza loved spending time with Tony; she felt that he was the only adult in her life who truly saw her and treated her like she mattered. Then one day in the late 60s, he disappeared. It would take her into adulthood to discover the truth behind Tony's sudden absence - he was a brutal serial killer. The Babysitter is a unique true crime read as we get to examine the serial killer through the eyes of his family but also the eyes of young child who idolized him. I've never read a true crime book quite like this. I will never forget the chills I got while reading the scenes of Tony taking Liza to his "secret garden," a place in which he buried his victims, all young women. Half memoir and half true crime, The Babysitter is a truly chilling read, one that will stick with me for years to come.
John Paul Brammer's voice is everything I've been looking for in the many essay collections I've picked up in the last couple of years. Simply put, Brammer's voice is fantastic. He is self-aware in a rare way that allows for the wittiest and most truthful of observations on life, relationships, one's own history, and the world, without crossing into the self-indulgent or self-deprecating. Although, I think he'd say I was giving him too much credit (but I'd wholeheartedly disagree). The essays in ¡Hola Papi! come together to compose a glimpse into the many different phases of Brammer's life, stitching together his coming of age as a gay Mexican boy growing up in rural Oklahoma to the many triumphs and tribulations of life as a gay man across the country and world. As a reader I felt like I was growing up alongside Brammer as he came to reckon with his self, his identities, his past, and his own actions. His own acceptance of the many parts of himself, the many experiences that culminate to make him who he is today, gives me hope and faith. I had to keep sticky notes next to me while I was reading, something I rarely do, to make sure I was saving passages to come back to. Passages that so concisely put into words things I've felt and thought, but so much more beautifully than I could have imagined saying myself. And passages that will stick with me and encourage me to grow. And what marks a better read that something that fundamentally changes the way you think, makes you want to grow, and excites you to see how you too will change and develop in the years to come?
After Daniel Sutherland is found brutally murdered on his boat, the lives of several seemingly unconnected women will collide in unimaginable ways. Laura has been struggling to stay afloat and keep her head down ever since an accident as a child left her with scars she wishes she could forget. Miriam knows an outsider when she sees one - it takes one to know one. So, when she discovers Daniel's body and realizes Laura was the last known person so see him alive, she takes it upon herself to help Laura, while possibly getting the revenge she has been longing for all these years. Meanwhile, Carla is spiraling - it was only a few months ago that her sister died suddenly and tragically. Now her nephew has been murdered. But with even more tragedy littering her past, she might do anything to find peace. All three women are harboring painful memories and secrets that threaten to pull them apart. What would they do to finally be able to move on? Not for the faintest of heart, Paula Hawkins’s latest is a dark and brutal story that kept me in my favorite chair reading from the first page to the very last.
Stakes is High is comprised of four essays that touch effectively on many of the important issues that are facing our communities today. From police brutality to MeToo to Transgender rights and so on, Mychal Denzel Smith is able to dissect these issues and show readers that the inequalities we see in our community are rooted in bigoted policy and systems set in place to maintain power for the few. Smith draws on readers to examine what and who we blame for the issues and their persistence in our country. Smith uses Donald Trump for example, explaining that yes, Trump is a racist, and yes, he is perpetuating racism and giving racists a voice. But, according to Smith and his analysis, Trump and his like were also an inevitable answer to a racist system and a racist country with a racist history. We cannot place blame on only the loudest in the room or we will forget that it is the systems, policy, and years of abuse that we must work to fight against. It is from this perspective that we can begin truly dismantling inequality. It is also from this perspective that we can begin to acknowledge that we must all actively work towards a better and equal future.
The DC universe might be filled with a wide variety of amazing heroes and villains, but it is also the home to ordinary citizens like Jake Hyde, who just wants to study marine biology, figure out his sexuality, and go on desert hikes with his best friend. Jake is conflicted between sticking to the life plan his mom and friends have planned out for him and the plans he dreams up for himself. But things get even more complicated for Jake when he starts getting to know Kenny Liu, the only openly gay kid at their school, and when the markings on his arm, that his mother always said were birthmarks, start allowing him to control water. Jake finds himself questioning every part of his identity and his place in the universe. He might just find that the DC universe and its amazing heroes are closer to home than he imagined.
This short but sweet little book explores what it means to be non-binary or gender nonconforming in contemporary times. Drawing from their own experiences, Alok Vaid-Menon delivers a poignant image of what it is like to grow up outside of the gender binary and looks at the kinds of abuse those who are non-white and nonconforming face. Part memoir, part informative guide, and part weapon, this book fights back against those who wish to erase or deny the existence of those who are outside of the binary. As Vaid-Menon says, it is all about "power and control," and we have the power to erase the binary once and for all, to the benefit of everyone, not just those who fall outside of it. This book is essential and should fall into the hands of everyone no matter if they are a woman, a man, cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, or nonconforming (and if you don't know what that all means, well, pick this book up).
Rani Kelkar never intended to fall in love. In fact, she was forbidden from doing so by her parents and her best friend. But then she met Oliver at their senior art show, and one thing led to another, and before she knew it, Rani had fallen in love and was doing everything in her power to keep it a secret! But her first relationship might turn out to not exactly be all that she expected or hoped for. American Betiya is a stunning and complex story that kept me hooked and invested. I was astounded by the ways in which Anuradha Rajurkar was able to layer so much so seamlessly into this story. But the shining star of this book is our protagonist Rani. Torn between expectations and desires, Rani is a character I will not soon forget, nor will I forget the lessons she learned on her journey into young adulthood. This book is significant for its portrayal of a young girl trying to figure out where to center herself in the world, and I cannot wait to thrust it into the hands of everyone and anyone looking for their next favorite thing.
Banned Book Club tells the true story of Kim Hyun Sook's first year at university in 1983 South Korea. Hyun Sook is excited to start classes and begin her educational career, but she soon finds out that university is not quite what she imagined. Campus protests, police retaliation, and hostility between students is all in a day's work. But all Hyun Sook wants is to read the books she is assigned for class, make good grades, and stay out of trouble! Hyun Sook quickly finds herself enticed to join a book club that, just like university, might not be exactly what she is expecting. This graphic memoir is highly entertaining while also extremely educational. I felt like I was learning right alongside Hyun Sook as she became enlightened to her nation's history and political turmoil. This book stands out as not only an examination on history but also an important critique of our current political climate. Banned Book Club is a must-read!
- Liv's older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself while fooling around with a gun, owned by his best friend Clay's dad. Now Jonah needs 24-hour care to stay alive, and their mom is suing Clay's dad. Liv is torn between being loyal to her struggling mom and figuring out how Jonah would want things solved. Should she really turn her back against Clay and his family? And what about what she wants... and needs?
- The characters in this gorgeously written book are incredible. I was immediately struck by how complex every single one of them was. It only takes a few pages to become invested in every single one of their stories. I haven't seen so much character growth in a single character, as I have with Liv, in a long time. I couldn't help but root for her and love her.
- Betty Culley is truly a talent to watch. I was so shocked that this was a debut! The plotting was expertly crafted, the characters were fully developed, and the writing itself was spot on! I cannot wait to read whatever she does next.
Aster is not happy when her family decides to relocate to the middle of nowhere. But no matter how much whining, begging, and pleading she does, her family's decision is final. The great migration (of bloodthirsty birds who terrorize the country side!) is just around the corner, and her mom must finish her solution to the problem (a gigantic robotic bird!) before it is too late! But this is just the beginning of Aster's magical adventures. She will soon encounter old ladies with herds of magical dogs, trickster spirits, and the Gods of each season. Somehow it will fall upon her shoulders to keep the balance of the mountainside intact. This little graphic novel was such a delight; I fell absolutely in love with these characters and their wacky adventures. Not to mention the adorable art! This series is perfect for fans of Adventure Time and Hilda.
Bayview High School is no stranger to murder, mystery, and mayhem. 18 months ago, 4 students were framed for the murder of a classmate who ran a popular gossip blog. Now copycat blogs have been popping up and causing a stir, but they have been harmless... until now. Truth or Dare? Students are receiving texts containing this ominous message, and they will quickly discover you should ALWAYS chose dare! Or should you? This companion to McManus's One of Us Is Lying is a great read for old fans and new readers alike. Fans of the previous novel will love seeing where the old cast of characters have gone since the shocking conclusion of book one, while also getting to know all the lovely new characters.
Pepper's family started Big League Burger as a mom-and-pop shop when she was a little girl. Now they have gone corporate and, possibly soon, international. Now Pepper is in at an elite private school for the children of business moguls, where she is expected to make high grades, all while her mother asks her to write snarky tweets for the company. Enter Jack, a classmate of Pepper's whose family has owned the local deli, Girl Cheesing, since his Grandma started it. Soon Big League Burger announces a new line of grilled cheeses, one of them using the exact same (secret) recipe as Girl Cheesing's most popular sandwich. Jack takes this attack against his beloved Grandma to Twitter, sending a tweet at Big League Burger’s account. Twitter war commence! Pepper and Jack find themselves going head-to-head and tweet-to-tweet to defend their families’ businesses. Little do they know that they have also been talking to each other anonymously via Weazel, a messaging app Jack developed for the students at their school. I knew I was going to love Tweet Cute as soon as I hit page two. Emma Lord's debut is fantastic! I was incredibly invested in Pepper and Jack's stories, from their family and school dramas to their romance, I haven't wanted two characters to get together as badly as I did with them. Emma Lord's writing is extremely witty, which led to perfect banter and hijinks between the characters. I loved this book with every fiber of my being, I can't recommend this one enough!
After the death of both of his parents, seventeen-year-old Riggle finds himself being uprooted from his comfortable life on the Texas-Mexico border and sent to live with his Uncle and his girlfriend in rural Indiana. Riggle finds himself confronted by confederate flags, the rising opioid crisis, and Trump voters. But of course, things only go from bad to worse, and it’s not long until his opioid addicted uncle disappears with all $800 of their rent money. It’s Monday, and rent is due Friday. Lucky for Riggle he has a week of suspension from school to try and track down his uncle and the money. Told in the span of one week, this unique novel takes the best qualities of Grit-lit and gives readers a heartfelt look at small town America. I truly felt this book had the most genuine examination of the changing landscapes of American culture and politics that I've read in a while. Carr was amazingly able to capture the way many young Americans feel about race, pop culture, and politics. The dialogue and internal monologues of Riggle blew me away due to the accuracy and authenticity they held when it comes to the minds and opinions of Gen-Zers. This book is one to check out for both Adult and YA readers alike.
In the third installment of Telgemeier's graphic memoirs she explores the manifestation of her anxiety and the impacts it had on her childhood. After having a bad food (and bathroom) experience, a young Raina Telgemeier develops a fear of food and sickness. These worries only grow as she goes back to school and must deal with changing relationships and difficult classmates. Telgemeier excels in writing authentic stories that children, and adults, will love. I have truly loved every book Telgemeier has put out, but Guts may be her most important work yet. Throughout the book she explores therapy, healthy coping mechanisms, and support systems for those dealing with anxiety. This is the kind of book I wish I had in my hands as an anxious youngster myself. I'm thrilled to know a story containing this subject matter, and one so beautifully crafted, will fall into the hands of so many kiddos. What a wonderful book this is to open up the conversation for children, parents, and teachers. This book and its messages may mean a lot for the young ones who pick it up, and maybe some of us older folks as well. Kudos Telgemeier!
BJ Hollars explores creatures, aliens, and bizarre happenings across flyover country, from mothmen and giant turtles to pancake delivering flying saucers, and even Wisconsin's own Beast of Bray Road, Hodag, Project Elf, and those space pancakes. Hollars does not intend to debunk the existence of these enigmas. Rather, he wants to explore and understand the mysteries and how they inform and impact us all. Using historical documents, first person accounts, and expert information, Hollars digs deep to understand the riveting and surprisingly long-lasting impacts these legends have on our communities. They have transformed worldviews, created economies, and brought us closer together. Hollars is able to do this all while blurring the lines between journalism and memoir. Midwestern Strange is a nice combination of academic writing and readability. I was amazed at the precision in the writing; every case is handled with care and intrigue, which leads to an engrossing and fascinating read. Midwestern Strange is the perfect read for anyone who is interested in the otherworldly or simply understanding the ways in which we understand and make sense of the world around us.
Lisa Hanawalt (producer of BoJack Horseman) prseents a hog-killin' good time with her delightfully bizarre graphic novel. Stuffed full of humor and rad art, Coyotoe Doggirl should not be passed by!
Gail and Jon Durbin have been trying to have a child for the last four years, only to suffer 3 miscarriages and multiple adoptions that fell through, leading Gail to become desperate to be a mother. 18-year-old Carli got pregnant, and with the father becoming a runaway, her dreams of going to college, and her bad home life, she has made the difficult choice to give the child up for adoption. The two parties become connected and soon the Durbins are on the way to completing their family and reassembling their declining marriage. But things quickly go awry when Marla, Carli's mother, is determined to make sure the Durbins never get her grandchild. Other People's Children is an expertly handled examination of family and what one will do to protect their own. Told in alternating perspectives, readers will find themselves rooting for every character and flipping alliances as they dig into their minds and explore their motives and the familial history that has led them to make the choices that they do. R.J. Hoffmann is able to blend the mundane and the melodramatic into the perfect mix, one that makes for an extremely compelling, shocking but believable read.