Helen

The Life and Medieval Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton

At a restaurant that mimics medieval times – medieval costumes, food and drinks, knights on horseback, jousting contests, etc. Kit Sweetly – a history geek - works waiting tables but she’s always wanted to be one of the knights. One evening, Kit secretly takes her brother’s place, and her friend films it. At the end – with a flourish - Kit pulls of her helmet. Her friend launches the footage on the internet and her views start climbing. Her friends start a website, sell stickers and other loot. Kit goes on local news and momentum keeps building. The problem is that the restaurant chain has a policy - only cisgender males can be knights. They support this discrimination with the argument that actual knights were men. Kit argues that they are living in the 21st century not – well – not medieval times.

This plotline of fighting discrimination is serious but not emotionally taxing, something readers might appreciate, in this COVID-19 spring season. The characters offer ethnic and gender diversity. It is a really fun, funny read and I was sad to finish the final page. I really miss Kit and her friends which suggests to me that it was skillfully written. 

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr5552491

Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King
Sometimes an author’s “acknowledgements” make for extremely valuable reading. In his acknowledgements for Sara and the Search for Normal, Wesley King talks about reasons he set out to write the book. First, kids seemed to want it. Sara was a more minor character in OCDaniel and many of his young readers asked questions about her. Also, Mr. King mentions that when he was younger, his challenges were not limited to having OCD. When he wrote OCDaniel he didn’t include content about his anxiety disorder, panic attacks or depression. Young readers' interest in Sara gave him a reason to write about those things.

Sara and the Search for Normal is an exploration of how she became the person she is in OCDaniel. Kids who are struggling the way Sara and Daniel are, will, I imagine, benefit greatly from seeing themselves in the pages of a book. I don’t really know, as I am fortunate to have not suffered those challenges. I can say that I also saw my younger self in Sara. I’m going to delete the sentence that launched into a philosophical tangent and just describe one of many of Sara’s experiences that resonated with me. Sara has two friends. One friend sees who she is – exactly – and cherishes her. Sara thinks that friend is kind of weird. The other friend tolerates Sara, but wants her to change. Sara thinks that friend is cool. Sara reaches a point where she understands that her first friend is awesome and her second friend, well, isn’t really HER friend, at all.

This book may discuss mental illness – and that will help kids’ with those challenges - but like most excellent literature, Sara’s experiences will also resonate with most readers for many reasons. 

Middle Grade Fiction Hardcover pr5577289

Unscripted by Nicole Kronzer
In this fantastic, assured, YA debut, Zelda wins a place at a two week improv camp. It's a camp where scouts from Second City come to watch the Varsity team’s performance on the final night. It's Zelda’s big chance, especially when she’s picked for said Varsity Team. But, good improv depends on back and forth and trust among team mates. The guys on her team quash her ideas and humiliate her with sexual innuendos.

Her coach constantly contradicts her ideas and acting when she is working in improv scenes, until he finally asks her to stay after class. Suddenly, he’s telling her she’s brilliant and funny. At first Zelda is flattered, though a bit uncomfortable. Soon, she’s just uncomfortable...

As heavy as this sexual harassment plotline is, Zelda and her fellow female campmates are extremely funny. As a bonus, there are many diverse & LGBTQ characters. This is one of many #MeToo books female patrons need to be able to read.

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr5384924

He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman
The bar was extremely high for this book, as far as my expectations, as detailed below. It was a delight to have those expectations met, and surpassed.

There is much to love about this book. Our imperfect protagonist Libby sincerely struggles to improve as her world, ummm... does not. Her best friend supports and shields her (online and literally with her body), while Libby’s parents – though well-intentioned – are among the most destructive aspects in her world. With a memorable, unique and charming, romance, there is so much more to this book as well. But, the author’s treatment of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape are among the most clear and useful that I have ever read – fiction and non-fiction alike.

I would have read Danielle Younge-Ullman’s next book no matter what, because I so loved her novel, Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined. Plus, she’s Canadian! Also, her dedication to her daughters is worth the price of admission.  That said, this novel is extremely engaging, never didactic, and points young women in healthy directions to protect themselves, while offering ways to seek help if they have been harmed. Bravo! This is another brilliant #MeToo title.

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr5579280

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