With schools across Washington state closed through April 24, kids are likely to grow increasingly stir-crazy as their parents long for peace and quiet while they telecommute; getting lost in a good book has never seemed so desirable. Here are six outstanding recent young-adult titles certain to captivate readers looking for a cure for cabin fever.
In Anna-Marie McLemore’s “Dark and Deepest Red,” Rosella Oliva’s red shoes are the vector for a fresh outbreak of la fièvre de la danse, or dancing sickness. Five hundred years ago, the strange plague spread through the streets of Strasbourg, twirling women into an uncontrollable and ultimately fatal dancing spell. Now it draws Rosella together with Emil, whose Romani ancestors were blamed for the madness all those years ago. McLemore’s lush, evocative prose weaves together past and present in a story that contrasts the healing power of love with the virulence of hatred when it is fed by fear of the Other.
In Rin Chupeco’s “Wicked As You Wish,” magic is real in the Royal States of America but illegal, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents spare no efforts in rounding up mythical heroes to ship them back to their fairy-tale homelands. For Alex Smith, aka Prince Alexei of Avalon, deportation would mean almost certain death at the hands of the wicked Ice Queen Beira. Hiding out in Arizona under the spell-breaking protection of his best friend Tara, Alex must finally face his destiny on his 18th birthday. This is an addictive series debut that immerses readers in a wildly original world where mythic traditions from around the world blend seamlessly with the diverse concerns and realities of contemporary American teens.
Although it is set in Washington state and wolves prowl the woods looking for girls, Elana Arnold’s visceral and impassioned “Red Hood” is anything but “Twilight.” On the night of Bisou’s homecoming dance, she fends off the groping of a drunken classmate, only to flee in humiliation from her own boyfriend after unexpectedly getting her period. Then the wolf attacked. Arnold pulls no punches in this gritty adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood” for the #MeToo era, laying bear the cost of toxic masculinity while affirming the elemental feminine power of her young heroine — and the painful legacy of victimization she is now forced to confront.
Teenage sexual politics also fuel the much more humorous drama of Lamar Giles’ “Not So Pure and Simple.” Addled by his romantic fixation on Kiera Westing, Del Rainey accidentally joins her in a pledge of abstinence with her church’s youth group. Soon he becomes these Purity Pledgers’ main source of reliable information about sex, not because he has personal experience — he doesn’t — but as the only member whose parents allow him to take sex ed. Meanwhile, a pregnant teen decides she’s fed up with the town’s sanctimonious shaming and turns the social-media spotlight on the irresponsible boys involved. Giles’ captivating and eye-opening novel boldly and charmingly engages topics of teen sex roles and societal double standards.
In Sarah Watson’s “Most Likely,” lifelong friends CJ, Ava, Martha and Jordan join together in an attempt to save a park in Cleveland, their childhood hangout, before graduation tears them apart. One other thing they share is their fondness for a boy named Diffenderfer. Only the reader knows that years hence, one of these four will be sworn in — under that same last name — as the president of the United States. Who will it be? That question adds a delicious savor of suspense to Watson’s witty and diverting novel, in which four women face their own coming-of-age challenges to emerge triumphant and, just possibly, as the leader of the free world.
Working as a teacher at a Catholic high school in Oakland, California, graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang decided to chronicle the school basketball team’s ninth attempt to take the state title. The result: “Dragon Hoops.” Yang immerses himself in the experiences of the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons and their coach, capturing the personal and historical struggles bound up in the sport of basketball, and his own struggle to do justice to their lives with his art. The graphic novel conveys the suspenseful story of these diverse players’ hoop dreams with irresistible empathy.