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Reviews of the Week, with Joe Biden, Nikki Grimes, Olivia A. Cole, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online that highlights starred reviews, high-demand titles, and / or titles especially relevant to our current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from November 13 through November 17 so that you can revisit the week’s best books.


November 13A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole

 A Conspiracy of Stars, by Olivia A. Cole

In her first YA novel, Cole delivers a brilliant and suspenseful sci-fi adventure revolving around two separate worlds, N’Terra and Faloiv, that exist side by side in a tenuous peace. N’Terra is home to a renowned group of scientists known as whitecoats, and Octavia yearns to become one of the elite scientists who studies the natural wonders of Faloiv. When N’Terra’s labs suddenly change their long-standing policy of seclusion and open their doors to students, Octavia seizes the chance to discover Faloiv’s secrets. But she soon learns that the whitecoats and N’Terra’s ruling council may be hiding information about the true nature of the experiments they conduct.


November 14When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors

 When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir, by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

Khan-Cullors delineates the harsh realities she faced growing up in Los Angeles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, from her mother working three jobs and still not able to earn a living wage to the grievous harm the war on drugs did to so many young black men, including her relatives and friends. She then chronicles how she, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tomrti use social media, the arts, and civil activism to respond to the killings of two young black men, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and how that led to the founding of Black Lives Matter.


November 15The Infinite Future by Tim wirkus

 The Infinite Future, by Tim Wirkus

Wirkus’ latest novel is stupendously inventive and rewarding. It begins with a found text, a manuscript that has been handed to an aspiring writer, Danny Laszlo. In a long, detailed introduction, he explains how he received a writing grant and went to São Paulo, where he met a librarian, Sérgio Antunes, who introduced him to the work of an elusive science-fiction writer, Eduard Salgado-MacKenzie. In a Vonnegutesque shaggy-dog story, Laszlo joins forces with Antunes and a Mormon historian, Harriet Kimball, to search for Salgado-MacKenzie and his lost novel, The Infinite Future.



November 16Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

 Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, by Joe Biden 

Set against the backdrop of the final years of his vice presidency, Biden’s memoir of his son’s battle with cancer is a spare yet sturdy chronicle of how one family, one very public family, coped with the reality of a monumental health crisis as privately and seamlessly as possible. Having endured the deaths of his wife and daughter when he was 30, Biden knew the galvanizing sorrow that awaited his family and the gnawing anticipation of repeating that smothering pain was something Biden struggled to keep at bay. Written without an ounce of self-pity, it serves instead as an homage to a man Biden admired above all others and offers a passionate ray of hope to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one with the reassuring message that there is, indeed, a way through their grief.


November 17The Watcher by Nikki Grime

 The Watcher, by Nikki Grimes

Grimes mines Psalm 121 for inspiration in telling the stories of children with troubles who find strength and sustenance from God. The psalm (“I lift my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?”) begins the book. In short bursts of poetry, readers meet Jordan, who fears his tormentor, and Tanya, the bully, whose stuttering isolates her. Readers will be moved by Tanya’s fears and Jordan’s ability to reach out. Childhood concerns, some common, some not, are elevated by the infusion of God into this wholly (and holy) original mix.



About the Author:

Enobong Essien is Booklist's first international intern, coming all the way from across the pond. Her favorite 'procrastinate from studying' activities include: reading, writing, crocheting and taking note of all the ways Americans are different than Brits.

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