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:

“Let Me Hear a Rhyme,” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Jackson (“Monday’s Not Coming”) deftly chronicles the timely story of bold young talent gone too soon and the survivors who struggle to keep it alive. 

The year is 1998 and aspiring teen rap artist Stephon Davis Jr. is dead in Brooklyn, the victim of an apparent street shooting perpetrated by persons unknown. Determined not to let his musical genius die with him, Steph’s heartbroken best friends, Quadir and Jarrell, and his grief-stricken sister, Jasmine, hatch a plan to pretend Steph is still alive to turn him into a rap superstar like his recently slain idol, Biggie Smalls. 

As Quadir and Jarrell hawk Steph’s posthumous demos and a record label rep shows interest in meeting the young artist, an increasingly haunted Jasmine delves into the suspicious circumstances surrounding her brother’s murder.

From obscure rap and hip-hop references to invocations of scalding hot combs, Jackson scores a bull’s-eye with her passionate homage to black city life in the late ’90s, yet it’s her earnest takes on creativity, love and loss that are timeless. Ages 13-up

— Publishers Weekly

“The House Children,” by Heidi Daniele

“My birth was a sin and a crime.” The opening line of this elegant, emotional novel sets the scene for a gentle coming-of-age story set in mid-20th-century Ireland. 

Born to an unwed mother, Mary Margaret Joyce is considered an “illegitimate child” and at the age of 5 is sentenced to an industrial school to live under the watchful and sometimes cruel eye of the nuns.

She looks forward to the week every summer when she is sent to stay with a kind and loving family in Galway. Mary (re-christened “Peg” by the nuns due to an overabundance of Marys) doesn’t know why the Hanleys have taken an interest in her, but she feels a connection to them she can’t shake. It isn’t until her 13th birthday that Peg learns Norah Hanley is her mother.

Betrayed and heartbroken by the rejection of being “given away,” Peg struggles with new and overwhelming feelings of anger and resentment toward the Hanley family. Peg’s experience at the industrial school and her struggle to feel worthy in a country that looks down on illegitimate children will move even the hardest of hearts. 

Daniele’s writing is clear and methodical, tracing Peg’s life year by year from age 5 until 15, evoking both the comfort and monotony of routine. The setting and mature voice of Peg make this a great crossover novel, with appeal for adults and teens alike, particularly fans of Christina Baker Kline’s “Orphan Train” and J. Courtney Sullivan’s novels. Ages 12-18

— School Library Journal

“Up for Air,” by Laurie Morrison

Debut author Morrison, a former teacher, captures the challenges of middle school — complicated family dynamics, volatile friendships and first love — in this story about a girl struggling to find where she belongs. 

Annabelle Wilner has just finished seventh grade at a prestigious academy on Gray Island in New England, where she lives with her mother and doting stepfather. Though a learning disability makes school difficult despite tutoring and extra study sessions, Annabelle finds success on her swim team, where she is bumped up to the high school level. Soon, she attracts the attention of a cute sophomore, and her desire to impress him leads her to risk losing what she holds dear: her two best friends, her relationship with her stepdad and her scholarship to the academy.

When an injury keeps Annabelle from swimming, she finds herself drowning in insecurity, culminating in a disastrous attempt to reconnect with her father. Annabelle is innocent and rebellious, creating an inconsistency that feels genuine for her age group, and her worries about doing well in school and fitting in socially are palpable. By avoiding a picture-perfect ending, Morrison stays true to the uncertain years of middle school, depicting all of its in-between-ness with spot-on accuracy. Ages 10-14

— Publishers Weekly

“Finding Orion,” by John David Anderson

The casket at a strangely festive funeral proves to contain not the deceased but a clue that leads the bereaved family on an epic scavenger hunt.

Rion Kwirk, 12, regards his grandfather with wary fascination. Papa Kwirk, a hard-living biker and Vietnam War vet, and Rion’s dad, a Ph.D. candy-factory chemist, were semi-estranged. Rion’s planetarium-director mom maintained peace on Papa Kwirk’s short, friction-filled visits. 

When news of Papa Kwirk’s death arrives via singing clown, the family drives to Greenburg, Ill., where his sister, Gertie, has organized a “funneral.” Rion’s older sister, Cass, 16, brings her pet python, Delilah; his younger sister, Lyra, 10, brings a hefty vocabulary. 

Edgy with Gertie and uncomfortable in his hometown, which carries bad memories, Dad’s unsettled by the funneral. Still, curious about the crowd showing up to laud Papa Kwirk, Dad agrees to the hunt. Reflective Rion’s an outlier among the aptronymic Kwirks. A convincing preteen when interacting with his sisters and peers, he sounds decades older when pondering life. There’s a time-warp feel to Rion’s insular, mostly white world (Tasha, Rion’s possible crush, is dark, race unspecified). A smoothly written family adventure that evokes both Willy Wonka and “The Wonder Years.” Ages 8-12

— Kirkus Reviews

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