It’s 2035 and a comet is headed toward Earth. Preparations for the inevitable destruction have fallen along class lines – those who can afford it, or who have critical skills, are set to escape on self-sustaining generation ships. Those who can’t are staying in underground shelters with little hope of long-term survival. Biracial Denise, her drug-addicted mother, and her trans sister don’t come close to qualifying for safe passage on a generation ship but Denise is determined to get the three of them on board, even it means lying or sneaking on.
Jane Gray’s short time as Queen of England (9 days in 1553) is reimagined as lighthearted blend of alternate history and fantasy. In 16th-century England, Edians, humans with the ability to transform into animals, are held in contempt by non-magical Verities, who want to purge England of magic. The resulting suspicion, animosity, and intrigue stands in for Protestant/Catholic religious hostilities of the time.
Fifteen-year-old Lucy, whose immigrant Chinese family lives in a poor neighborhood of Melbourne, is recipient of the first Equal Access scholarship offered by Laurinda, an upscale, private girls school. The economic and racial disparity between Lucy and her Laurinda classmates, most of who are white and wealthy, is glaring.
In 13th-century western Europe, the Inquisition is control through terror, as those whose beliefs or behaviors offend Church authorities face persecution as heretics. Dolssa is a young woman in Tolosa whose says Christ is her true love. Even the threat of death cannot make her deny that he speaks to her. But it is her mother who is burned by Inquisitors as Dolssa watches. When her bonds are cut and a voice tells her to run, Dolssa flees.
Nora López is finishing high school uncertain about the future. Encouraged to apply to the New York City Community College trades program, she can’t imagine being able to go when her mom, Mima, struggles to pay the rent. When recent murders of young, dark-haired women in the city turn out to be the actions of a serial killer, who begins writing letters to the press signed “Son of Sam,” the growing tension and fear is tangible.
Anna, 15, ran away to her older sister Delia’s in Los Angeles using her stepmother’s credit card to buy a plane ticket, a cost Anna’s now expected to repay. Delia’s boyfriend, Dex, writes for a Disneyesque series called Chips Ahoy! Anna spends days with Dex while Delia goes to auditions and appears in her former boyfriend Roger’s independent movie. Meanwhile, Roger has hired Anna to research Charles Manson for his film. The inanity of Chips Ahoy! is stark contrast to the Manson murders, not to mention the uneasy life of beautiful Delia, whom Anna fears is being stalked.
The sinking of the Nazi passenger ship Wilhelm Gustloff, killing an estimated 9,000 evacuees escaping the advancing Russian army in the last days of WWII, inspired this riveting, haunting novel. Joanna and Emilia are refugees; Florian is on the run for reasons he won’t reveal. All three teens are desperate to reach the Polish port where German ships are waiting. Each is struggling with a secret and all are damaged by what they’ve experienced, unable to easily trust, but they form a makeshift family with other travelers.
Seven-year-old Anna is captivated by the tall stranger she meets on the streets of Krakow. Maybe it’s because he is kind to her; maybe it’s that he speaks many languages, like she does; maybe it’s the way he charms a small bird. On her own since the Germans took her father, Anna follows him and the two become unlikely traveling companions.
In her novel Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell referenced a Harry Potter-esque fantasy about a wizard named Simon Snow. Carry On is Simon’s story, or the last volume of it. Now 17, Simon is an orphan who’s been attending a wizarding school since he was 11. He’s considered the chosen one among wizards, and the Mage who oversees the school is a father figure to him. Sound familiar? The world of magic is threatened by the Insidious Humdrum, a force that destroys magic and manifests looking like eleven-year-old Simon. Simon’s roommate, Baz, is a privileged boy from an old, arrogant and potentially dangerous wizarding family.
Mikey, his sister Mel(inda), and their friends Henna and Jared, are about to graduate high school. Mel has anorexia and Mikey lives with severe anxiety and OCD, neither fitting the image their high-aspiring politician mother wants their family to project. Henna’s parents plan on taking her to the Central African Republic to do missionary work, despite the war there. Jared feels the weight of being an only child on the verge of leaving his single-parent father. Jared is also a god. Well, technically a quarter-god. And there is the delicious twist in this emotionally rich story about facing a time of transition and uncertainty: The otherworldly is real.