Teens Read the Rainbow

The cover of When the Moon was OUrs by Anna-Marie McLemore has a deep blue cover with a water tower in black. White moons hand from tinydoted lines amd the title and two figures stand out in yellow against the black. There are roses decorating the text.

Reviews by Sarah C.

Looking for some excellent teen fiction featuring LGBTQ+ main characters and/or written by LGBTQ+ authors and illustrators? Look no further! We have you covered with different books from various genres, as well as our Rainbow Reads teen reading list from 2019. Many of the authors listed below have other titles, too. So if you find one you really like, keep reading!

The hard part is choosing which to review, but that’s a great problem to have, honestly. Each year we see so many more awesome books published, and are especially excited to see those written in our own voices because representation matters. ❤️

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy follows seventh grade Rahul as he tries to find his place in the world. He navigates the ups and downs of middle school and his supportive, but at times super embarrassing, Indian family. Clever, funny, and an anxious perfectionist at heart, Rahul slowly realizes he might have a crush on his popular neighbor, Justin. While the book is technically part of the teen collection, I would easily recommend this to late elementary readers as well.

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann features Winnie, a self-confident fat queer Black girl from a small town, who enters a cooking competition to try and save her family’s diner.  On top of that, she is also trying to figure out her many complicated relationships – romantic, friendship-based, and with her family, especially with her opinionated grandmother. 

Birthday by Meredith Russo spans six years in the lives of two best friends, Eric and Morgan, as they each grow up in different ways while facing various challenges that involve family, school, identity, and each other.  Morgan has a huge secret that he fears will destroy their friendship, but it becomes harder and harder to keep it from Eric. This story is one of destiny as well as heartbreak, so be prepared!

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim gives you an epic road trip adventure story when three close friends head to New Orleans and have new experiences along the way. They have some hilarious and adorable moments like finding your inner drag queen and celebrating your true self, and some more serious ones like dealing with Islamophobia and deadbeat dads, and, of course, lots and lots of delicious food.

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells presents an engaging rescue quest tale with all the traditional fantasy elements, especially DRAGONS! Marin journeys to the palace to save her kidnapped love, Kaia, only to find herself mixed up with an ancient prophesy, a lost prince, and a dangerous rebellion. She also might have some hidden powers of her own. Read it now, so you’ll be ready when the sequel is published in October.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi takes place in a not so distant future where evil has been totally eradicated and everyone lives safely in their utopian society…or maybe not. One day a deadly magical creature made all of teeth and claws and feathers emerges from Jam’s mother’s painting. Only it’s not the monster, it has been sent to hunt a real monster, one that is lurking nearby and hurting one of Jam’s friends. 

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore is a gorgeously written and haunting fairy tale that features a memorable, lovable cast of characters. Miel has roses growing out of her wrists and Sam hangs his painted moons all over town at night, and together they must ward off the wicked Bonner sisters who seek to steal their magic.

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee stars Jess, a Chinese-Vietnamese bisexual daughter of two famous superheroes with no powers of her own, who inadvertently interns for the local villain and her parents’ arch-nemesis. In her new job, she gets to work with her crush and maybe finally find her own powers, all while uncovering a secret plot. This is the first book in a series with three books in print and a fourth one in the works, all full of diverse queer characters.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power hits a bit too close to home, with an isolated boarding school under quarantine from a dangerous illness and no vaccine. Unlike current events, the so-called “Tox” causes all sorts of horrifying mutations and mostly affects the students and the island wildlife. Will anyone escape alive?

Proxy by Alex London is an action-packed sci-fi adventure that modernizes the fable of the Whipping Boy with added Hunger Games elements. When Syd is sentenced to death as punishment for Knox’s actions, the boys escape together but they are up against the world.

Happy Pride and happy reading! 

P.s. There are a ton of great LGBTQ+ graphic novels as well.

Sarah C. is the teen instructor at HCLS Savage Branch and she always has time to talk, about books, comics, school, or whatever you need to talk about.

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Bright color blocks frame the silhouette of girl, with her figure in red and dress in yellow. The author and title appear in large white text across the middle.

Review by Claudia J.

For the ancestors, a long long line of you bending and twisting

Bending and twisting. 

Memory has a way of blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, making it hard to decipher the truth. It is joyous, painful, and strange all at the same time. Jacqueline Woodson hits at each of those emotions in her latest novel Red at the Bone. She opens her novel at a coming-of-age party for 16-year-old Melody, taking place in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Her custom-made dress, full of symbolism and pride – fit for a blossoming woman, was originally meant for her mother, Iris, 16 years earlier. From this fact spirals a series of memories, told from the perspectives of Melody, her parents, and her grandparents at different points in their interesting lives. 

Through these memories, Woodson peels away layers of trauma and triumph of this Brooklyn family. By doing so, she relates her story to the millions of black and brown families experiencing similar burdens. The burden of love. The burden of neighborhoods changing. The burden of your goals vs. the goals set for you. Woodson weaves these characters through themes of identity, sexuality, ambition, pride, and purpose. But, most of all, it tells the story of parenthood and how expectation fights reality in bending and twisting ways.

Red at the Bone is lyrical, reflective, and insightful; a poetic tale of a family that continues to bend and twist its way through life. At a time of reflection and healing, Red at the Bone is a great read to get us through a time of significant change. I truly loved this book and I think you will too.

Available in ebook and eaudio through Libby.

Claudia J. is has worked for Howard County Library System for more than four years. She enjoys writing on rainy days and drinking iced coffee on sunny days.

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

The book cover shows a turquoise sky and ocean, with a long pier extending into the water with a lighthouse and bridge at the end, and several people walking on the pier.  A seagull with wings extended is aloft in the foreground.

Review by Alan S.

Big‌ ‌Sky‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌fifth‌ novel ‌featuring‌ ‌Jackson‌ ‌Brodie‌. ‌Brodie‌ ‌retires‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌small‌ ‌coastal‌ ‌town,‌ ‌and‌ ‌sometimes‌ ‌cares‌ ‌for‌ ‌his‌ ‌teenage‌ ‌son,‌ ‌while‌ ‌working‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌private‌ ‌investigator.‌ ‌Brodie‌ ‌will‌ ‌soon‌ ‌discover‌ ‌that‌ ‌small‌ ‌towns‌ ‌can‌ ‌hold‌ ‌big‌ ‌secrets‌ ‌after‌ ‌a‌ ‌chance‌ ‌meeting‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌beach‌ ‌draws‌ ‌him‌ ‌into‌ ‌a‌ ‌criminal‌ ‌conspiracy.‌ ‌ 

‌Big‌ ‌Sky‌ ‌starts‌ ‌with‌ ‌two‌ ‌sisters‌ ‌interviewing‌ ‌via‌ ‌Skype‌ ‌for‌ ‌jobs‌ ‌in‌ ‌London.‌ ‌It‌ ‌is‌ ‌clear‌ ‌that‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌something‌ ‌sinister‌ ‌afoot‌ ‌even‌ ‌before‌ ‌it‌ ‌is‌ ‌revealed‌ ‌after‌ ‌the‌ ‌call‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌agency‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌up‌ ‌and‌ ‌up.‌ ‌The‌ ‌story‌ ‌then‌ ‌careens‌ ‌from‌ ‌character‌ ‌to‌ ‌character,‌ ‌generally‌ ‌among‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌ ‌club‌ ‌set‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌town.‌ ‌Brodie,‌ ‌it‌ ‌seems,‌ ‌is‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌outskirts‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌action‌ ‌and‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌left‌ ‌wondering‌ ‌when‌ ‌and‌ ‌how‌ ‌he‌ ‌intertwines‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌main‌ ‌story.‌ ‌An unexpected encounter ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌beach‌ ‌with‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌characters‌ ‌and‌ ‌his‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌by‌ ‌another‌ ‌eventually‌ ‌brings‌ ‌him‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌circle.‌ ‌Even‌ ‌then,‌ ‌the‌ ‌action‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌‌propelled‌ ‌by‌ ‌Brodie‌ ‌and‌ ‌he‌ ‌doesn’t‌ ‌really‌ ‌do‌ ‌much‌ ‌detecting.‌ ‌Even‌ ‌when‌ ‌the‌ ‌police‌ ‌become‌ ‌involved‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌form‌ ‌of‌ ‌Brodie’s‌ ‌protégé (introduced‌ ‌in‌ ‌an‌ ‌earlier‌ ‌book‌ ‌I‌ ‌did‌ ‌not‌ ‌read),‌ ‌the‌ ‌story‌ ‌and‌ ‌its‌ ‌conclusion‌ ‌tend‌ ‌to‌ ‌stem‌ ‌from‌ ‌coincidence‌ ‌more‌ ‌than‌ ‌detective‌ ‌and‌ ‌police‌ ‌work.‌ ‌

Big Sky‌ ‌is‌ ‌an‌ ‌interesting‌ ‌story‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌evil‌ ‌that‌ ‌lurks‌ ‌in‌ ‌unlikely‌ ‌places.‌ ‌Go‌ ‌into‌ ‌it‌ ‌knowing‌ ‌that‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌entering‌ ‌a‌ ‌detective‌ ‌story‌ ‌without‌ ‌much‌ ‌detecting‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌main‌ ‌character‌ ‌who,‌ ‌while‌ ‌appealing,‌ ‌is‌ ‌generally‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌outer‌ ‌edges‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌main‌ ‌story.‌ ‌I‌ ‌didn’t,‌ ‌and‌ ‌it‌ ‌took‌ ‌me‌ ‌a‌ ‌while‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌past‌ ‌that‌ ‌and‌ ‌enjoy‌ ‌the‌ ‌compelling‌ ‌characters‌ ‌and‌ ‌storyline.‌ ‌ ‌

Big Sky is available in ebook and eaudio format through Libby.

Alan has worked for HCLS for just under 25 years, currently at the Savage Branch. He enjoys reading, television and most sports.

Audiobooks and Activities: Fun Ways to Multitask

A bright blue hardback book rests on a natural wood table, with a red bookmark hanging from the bottom. White over-ear headphones sit on top of the book with the cord wrapping loosely in a circle on the table.
Audiobooks are a great way to enrich your current activities.

I will admit: at first, I wasn’t a huge fan of audiobooks. I prided myself on reading novels and turning the last page always seemed like a big accomplishment. However, on a whim a few years ago, I decided to listen to Shonda Rhimes’ self-help autobiography Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. The experience of listening to Rhimes’s story from her own voice fueled my love of listening to audiobooks. 

If you’re like me, you may have started listening to audiobooks while commuting. A recent survey conducted for the Audio Publishers Association reported that 74% of consumers listen to audiobooks while driving. This makes sense, considering the number of drivers with long commutes. But what happens when work is moved online with no commute? Well, listening at home can provide a welcome addition to your daily activities during these challenging times. Here are a few ideas to help get you started: 

  • Working from Home: Transitioning to remote working and learning can be extremely difficult for anyone, from first-timers to even the most experienced. Instead of turning on the television and getting easily distracted, audiobooks help me stay engaged with my work while having something entertaining to listen to. 
    • My genre suggestion: literary fiction, humor 
  • Exercising: With many gyms closed around the country, what a great time to change up your exercise routine and add audiobooks into the mix! In order to stretch my legs, I like to listen to novels while I take walks through the neighborhood. You may even find yourself taking longer walks because your audiobook is so exciting. 
    • My genre suggestion: thrillers, inspiring non-fiction 
  • Playing Video Games: After working, I always love to unwind by playing a relaxing video game on the computer. A recent joy of mine has been listening to an audiobook during gameplay. Sometimes, the in-game sounds and music can be a bit overstimulating, so listening to an audiobook makes for great background enjoyment. 
    • My genre suggestion: science fiction
  • Puzzling: Never in my life have I seen so many people enjoying puzzles! Life at home has made many fans of puzzles and the more complicated, the better! Playing an audiobook may increase your concentration and will make finding the last piece all the more satisfying. 
    • My genre suggestion: classic mysteries
  • Gardening: What better way to enjoy an audiobook than getting hands-on in your backyard! Become one with nature and plant a garden. While you’re at it, listen to an audiobook that inspires your imagination and amplifies the colors of your plants. 
    • My genre suggestion: fantasy and romance

So go ahead, give an audiobook a try at home! Not sure where to start? Head over to hclibrary.org to check out audiobook options for your phone, tablet and computer. RB Digital now has more than 37,000 titles available for free!

Have additional questions? Contact AskHCLS and we’ll be able to help you find the best selection for your needs! 

Happy Listening! 

Claudia J. is has worked for Howard County Library System for more than four years. She enjoys writing on rainy days and drinking iced coffee on sunny days.