Teen E-Book Fiction

"We Are Not Free," by Traci Chee

Spanning three years, from March 1942 to March 1945, Chee's accomplished novel about America's treatment of Japanese Americans is told by 14 Nisei teenagers who have grown up together in San Francisco's Japantown. The book traces their varied trajectories, beginning with their initial deportation to a nearby incarceration camp, then a second move to the more developed compound of Topaz City, Utah, where prisoners are forced to pledge loyalty to the U.S. or to Japan through a questionnaire, and "No-Nos" - those who refuse U.S. allegiance and military service - are deported to yet another camp. Inspired by Chee's family history, the book powerfully depicts, as an author's note states, "a mere fraction of what this generation went through." Varying between first-, second-, and third-person narration; letters and verse; and even one chapter told by "all of us," each interconnected story has a distinct voice (a provided "Character Registry" is useful for keeping track of the many characters and relationships). The individual tales are well crafted and emotionally compelling, and they resolve into an elegant arc. Ambitious in scope and complexity, this is an essential contribution to the understanding of the wide-ranging experiences impacting people of Japanese ancestry in the U.S. during WWII. Ages 12-18

- Publishers Weekly

"Running," by Natalia Sylvester

The better part of Cuban American teenager Mariana (Mari) Ruiz's life has been spent in smiling service to her father Senator Anthony Ruiz's political aspirations. Mari's unwavering support of her father, however, is tested by intense scrutiny during his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Increasing unease over her role comes to a head when Mari bolts prior to an important television interview. Fallout from her disappearing act strains Mari's relationship with her parents and worsens her status at school. While seeking social refuge with student activist Jackie Velez, Mari discovers that her father does not hold the values that she thought he did. Caught between supporting her family and standing up for what is right, Mari must choose a side that she believes in. Sylvester delivers a captivating coming-of-age narrative about the power of truth and finding your voice. Initially complacent and naive, Mari's growth reads genuine as she begins to push back against her father's campaign demands and question her privilege. The struggle between familial expectations and personal identity is something that will resonate with many readers. Diverse, complex secondary characters strengthen the narrative by presenting a well-rounded representation of South Florida. Sylvester's ultimate message is simple: be an agent of change by standing up for others and calling out injustice. Ages 12-18

- School Library Journal

"Parachutes," by Kelly Yang

In her YA debut, Yang (Front Desk) draws from personal experience and the news to tell a contemporary story of class discrepancy, the pervasiveness of rape culture, and the Asian diaspora. Claire Wang, a high school junior living in Shanghai, is used to a life of luxury, while Filipina American Dani De La Cruz, a debate champ and Yale hopeful who is on a full scholarship at California's American Preparatory, is living a completely different life, cleaning homes to help make ends meet. After receiving a bad grade, Claire is appalled when her parents transfer her to an American high school: Dani's. American Prep is a magnet for parachutes, or "kids from China who come to the U.S. on our own," often scions of wealthy families. When Dani's mom rents out their spare room to an international student, the girls' lives become twined, even as they chafe at the other's socioeconomic misunderstandings. But when each girl experiences a traumatic incident, they learn about the devastating convergences of power, money, and male privilege. Despite occasionally flat side characters, this is a multifaceted read, by turns poignant, fun, and exultant in its celebration of the multitudinous experiences and strength inherent in diasporic identity. Ages 14-17

- Publishers Weekly

"Today Tonight Tomorrow," by Rachel Lynn Solomon<https://www.barnesandnoble.com

It's the last day of senior year and Rowan is awakened by a text from her nerdy nemesis, Neil. Their epic rivalry has spanned all four years of high school and both of them hope to be awarded the coveted title of valedictorian. When Rowan gets salutatorian, she vows to best Neil one last time at Howl, a senior class scavenger hunt. But they team up after overhearing their peers strategizing to take them down. As Rowan and Neil work together, their rivalry begins to give way to friendship and, to no one's surprise but their own, romance. Told from Rowan's perspective and featuring ephemera from her high school journey, this story is equal parts coming of age, tender romance, and a love letter to Seattle. Rowan and Neil's banter is sharp and their clever solutions to the scavenger hunt move the story along at breakneck speed. Featuring a racially diverse cast, the story does a great job of balancing the action with important discussions about how damaging stereotypes can be. Readers bear witness to Rowan's defense, as an aspiring writer, of the romance genre in the face of backlash from her friends, family, and her rival. Ages 12-18

- School Library Journal