Featured books will be available for the public today. To place them on hold, call the Walla Walla Public Library at 527-4550 or go to wallawallapubliclibrary.org.
Young adult fiction
“All the Impossible Things,” by Lindsay Lackey
Eleven-year-old Ruby “Red” Byrd is skeptical when her kindly social worker takes her to live with new foster parents in tiny Bramble, Colo.
Jackson and Celine Groove, an older interracial couple, immediately open their hearts to Red, though, and she is drawn to their petting zoo of rescue animals, especially their 400-pound tortoise, Tuck. And gregarious Marvin, who is Hawaiian and the son of Red’s respite caregivers, determines to befriend her. But she longs for her mother, who has been in prison for three years following an episode with pill addiction that left Red to fend for herself.
Then her mother is released early, creating a literal storm for Red, whose roiling emotions can affect the wind. She longs to control this chaotic power, which infuses magic realism into Lackey’s charming, bittersweet debut. Lackey’s compassionately drawn story ponders hope, grief and found family, warming the heart while avoiding an overly neat conclusion. Ages 8-14
— Publishers Weekly
“As Many Nows as I Can Get,” by Shana Youngdahl
Grief, addiction, first loves and traveling an unplanned road are among the many themes explored in this debut novel.
After growing up in an insular town in Colorado, graduating senior Scarlett has big ambitions. Though she dabbles with alcohol and drugs, her intelligence, drive and propensity for physics pave her way into college after college.
At the same time, her close relationships prove difficult for Scarlett to leave behind: her best friend, Hannah; ex-boyfriend, Cody; and lifelong friend, David, with whom a clandestine romance, replete with a sort of magnetic sexual draw, blooms. Moving between the present and two points in the recent past, her heartfelt yet often sardonic first-person narration fills in the details of this deeply authentic story, realistically portraying how paralyzing unexpected circumstances and tragedy can be.
Scarlett herself is marvelously complex, sympathetic but difficult, grief-stricken and funny. Secondary characters are also well developed, imbued with interesting back stories that help frame this study both in how people can break one another and hold each other together. Scarlett and David are both white, Cody is Latinx, and there is some diversity in ethnicity, gender, and sexuality among the people Scarlett meets while at her fictional college in Maine.
Lovely, evocative, unadorned writing shines in this smart, poignant story that serious teen readers shouldn’t miss. Ages 14-18
— Kirkus Reviews
“Butterfly Yellow,” by Thanhha Lai
Lai (Listen, Slowly) centers her remarkable YA debut on two 18-year-old protagonists: Hang, a determined Vietnamese refugee, and LeeRoy, an aspiring cowboy.
Just after her arrival in Texas from Vietnam in 1981, Hang sneaks out of her uncle’s house to look for her younger brother, who was evacuated by American troops years before. Armed only with an address in Amarillo, she sets off on a bus, and, at a rest stop, collides with hopeful LeeRoy when strangers convince him to drive her, and their lives become intertwined after they find work on a ranch near Hang’s brother’s adopted home.
In chapters that alternately focus on the protagonists’ perspectives, the layered narrative gradually unwinds Hang’s tremendous guilt about her brother, the trauma of her journey from Vietnam, and the intensity of the pain caused by her brother’s indifference. Lai ably sketches the chemistry between Hang and LeeRoy; he interprets her English and helps her relate to her brother, she models dedication and loyalty, and the two slowly become friends and more.
Told with ample grace, Lai’s finely drawn narrative and resilient characters offer a memorable, deeply felt view of the Vietnam War’s impact. Ages 13-up
— Publishers Weekly
“The Downstairs Girl,” by Stacey Lee
Jo Kuan leads a double life: a public role as a quiet lady’s maid and a secret one as the voice behind the hottest advice column in 1890 Atlanta.
Chinese American Jo is mostly invisible except for occasional looks of disdain and derisive comments, and she doesn’t mind: Her priority is making sure she and her adoptive father, Chinese immigrant Old Gin, remain safe in their abandoned abolitionists’ hideaway beneath a print shop. But even if she lives on the margins, Jo has opinions of her own which she shares in her newspaper advice column under the byline “Miss Sweetie.”
Suddenly all of Atlanta is talking about her ideas, though they don’t know that the witty advice on relationships, millinery, and horse races comes from a Chinese girl. As curiosity about Miss Sweetie mounts, Jo may not be able to stay hidden much longer. And as she learns more about the blurred lines and the hard truths about race in her city and her own past, maybe she doesn’t want to.
In her latest work, Lee continues to demonstrate that Chinese people were present — and had a voice — in American history. She deftly weaves historical details with Jo’s personal story of finding a voice and a place for herself in order to create a single, luminous work. Ages 13-18
— Kirkus Reviews