The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016)
Only David Piper’s two best friends know his secret: the fourteen-year-old identifies as a girl and desperately checks his body for signs of the impending changes that will make him look increasingly masculine rather than feminine. His path crosses with a recent transfer student, Leo Denton, when Leo reluctantly comes to David’s defense during an incident of school bullying. Originally published in Great Britain, this book’s alternating perspectives from Leo and David make it clear that secrets rarely stay secret, and as painful as it might be to reveal the truth about our own identity, it is necessary if we wish to remain true to ourselves. – Barbara A. Ward
Going Geek by Charlotte Huang (Delacorte Press, 2016)
Skylar Hoffman’s senior year at Winthrop Academy, an exclusive boarding school, is a disaster after the revelation of how she spent her summer and her family’s recent economic woes. Her best friend, Whitney, no longer has time for her, and her boyfriend no longer trusts her. After reluctantly being moved to a residence hall whose residents seem socially clueless, Skylar ceases her sulking and puts her unique skills at organizing and publicizing to work. A slacker no more, Skylar realizes that everything she once thought mattered no longer has much importance as she finds acceptance in other places, even among the school’s geeks. – – Barbara A. Ward
The Last Full Measure by Trent Reedy (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2016)
The concluding title in the speculative Divided We Fall series is impressive and packed with emotional scenes as the Second American War, started accidentally by Danny Wright in Boise, Idaho, finally comes to an end. While Danny and others from Freedom Lake seek refuge in the mountains, the various factions responsible for the loss of thousands of American lives finally reach an agreement. The author’s use of lists of casualties and posts and broadcasts describing nuclear war’s devastation highlights shifting priorities as unlikely heroes and villains emerge from the chaos while reminding readers that all of this could happen.
– Barbara A. Ward
Watched by Marina Budhos (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2016)
Naeem, the son of immigrant parents from Bangladesh, finds it hard to be confined by the expectations of those living in his Queens, New York neighborhood. When his trust in one friend turns out to be unfounded, he lands on the wrong side of the law and begins spying on others in his Muslim community. But as the charming but misguided teen comes to realize, the line between heroism and betrayal is quite slippery.
– Barbara A. Ward
Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler (Simon Pulse, 2016)
Harper never expected to land a summer internship as dating blogger for the trendy teen magazine Shift, especially since her application had been cribbed from the experiences of her best friend Kristina. But she finds herself in the Big Apple with a scary-ruthless boss who lives for clickbait, Aunt Vee, her chubby pug, and a cute dogwalker, plus a sexy hipster who seems to welcome her brave attempts to put dating theory into practice. Smart, funny, and poignant, LBD,LWL offers cutting social satire along with meditations on the responsibilities of friendship after Harper inadvertently betrays Kristina’s most awful secret.