unRequired Reading Blog

This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

This One Summer is a gorgeously-crafted coming-of-age graphic novel centering around a young girl named Rose. Her family has been visiting Awago Beach for years, but this summer is different.

Rose's parents have been fighting since they arrived at the beach. Something happened there last year that neither parent wishes to address, but it looms over their heads like a cloud of unspoken malaise.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Gemma Doyle is furious with her mother. They may have the same untamed red hair and deep green eyes, but in Libba Bray’s historical novel A Great and Terrible Beauty they are completely at odds with each other. It’s Gemma’s 16th birthday, and try as she may, she is making no headway whatsoever with getting what she really wants for a present—a ticket back to Merrie Olde England where she can make her debut in society and meet some nice, eligible young men.  But her mother won’t budge. Gemma’s to stay with her parents in India. And then something terrible happens. She gets her wish… at a horrifying cost.

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

“She’s perfect now.”

Nicole Castro is the most popular girl in school—a brain, a jock, a great friend—but what everyone is struck by is her beauty. Her perfect, perfect face. Or, they were until somebody attacked her, erasing half of her. Or, did they? In Paul Griffin’s Burning Blue, the mysteries of who did this to Nic and who she really is are slowly revealed to everyone, including herself.

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

When I Was the Greatest is Jason Reynolds' first novel, but his voice is already fully-formed. He guides us through the life of Ali, a teenager living in Brooklyn, the non-Cosby part. Ali's mom complains about white gentrification raising the price of rent, but Ali does not fully follow.

I don't really get that. I mean, if I'm in a restaurant, and I order some food, and a white person walks in, all of a sudden I have to pay more for my meal? Makes no sense, but that's what she says.

Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker

Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker

Many novels with animal protagonists go to great lengths to anthropomorphize them, giving them names, extensive language, and culture that strongly resemble those of humans. Paleontologist Robert Bakker goes the opposite route with his novel Raptor Red. He creates a primeval world viewed through the eyes of dinosaurs and other creatures of the Early Cretaceous epoch.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

Level Up's title is a video game reference, but it is also a metaphor for accepting responsibility and gaining maturity as one ages, which are qualities that Dennis Ouyang needs serious help with.

From the first time Dennis ever saw a Pac Man console as a child, he was mesmerized by the power that video games had. The idea of endless entertainment, based on skill and incredibly interactive, transfixes him.

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin by L. Jagi Lamplighter

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin by L. Jagi Lamplighter

At home in England, she’s Lady Rachel and waited on by servants whilst living at the ancient family manor. She loves nearly everything about Gryphon Park—except being alone. But all of that is about to change. As the youngest child in a family of powerful magicians, Rachel is about to embark on a great adventure as she enters Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts. Invisible to the Unwary, the campus holds glorious wonders, age-old treasures, and is a gateway to secrets beyond Rachel’s imagining.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

Troy Billings is about to kill himself. At 296 pounds, he's tired of being a joke. Every aspect of his life, the way he looks, moves, even the way he breathes, has become a punchline for his peers. If Troy had his way, Fat Kid Rules the World would be a pretty short read. Thank goodness Curt MacCrea enters the picture.

Star Wars Classic Comics: The Rebel Storm by Archie Goodwin

Star Wars Classic Comics: The Rebel Storm by Archie Goodwin

There was a considerable gap between the releases of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the early 1980s.  During that time, the expanding Star Wars fan base began to wonder what was happening to the characters in the meantime.  What worlds did Luke, Leia, and Han visit?  What schemes did Darth Vader plot to destroy the rebellion?  Did Chewie ever get a decent flea bath? Two of these three questions are answered in Archie Goodwin’s The Rebel Storm (Classic Star Wars Volume Two), an anthology of comics originally published between 1981 and 1984.  Although sometimes marred by a sense of discontinuity with Lucas’ universe, the best stories in this anthology deserve a place in Lucas’ galaxy far, far away.

King Dork by Frank Portman

King Dork by Frank Portman

If King Dork's cover seems vaguely familiar, that's because it looks like a defaced copy of The Catcher in the Rye. The title and its author Frank Portman are scrawled in ballpoint pen with a blatant disregard for the granddaddy of all coming-of-age novels.

This sums up how Tom Henderson feels about Salinger's classic novel. He notices a Catcher cult amongst most adults, who sing the praises of the book changing their lives. Tom thinks all of this is, to borrow a phrase from Holden Caulfield, "phony," but a particular copy of the book is about to turn his world upside down and inside out.