Reviews of the Week with David Levithan, Chana Porter, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

A new year and a new decade is upon us, so let’s start it off with a spectacular group of #ReviewsOfTheWeek. After a small hiatus, we’re back with love stories, a dystopian utopia, an illustrated civil rights case, historical fiction, and YA drama. Add these titles to all of your lists and happy New Year from Booklist!

Monday, January 6

19 Love Songs, by David Levithan

Let’s start with a declaration: Levithan never disappoints, a fact skillfully evidenced in this collection of 19 stories: 16 in prose, 2 in verse, 1 in pictures, and all celebrating love. Readers will recognize some of the characters from previous Levithan novels: from Boy Meets Boy (2003), we have Infinite Darlene in one of the best stories in the collection; from Two Boys Kissing (2013), boyfriends Avery and Ryan, still sporting pink and blue hair, respectively; and from Every Day (2012), A, who, in this winsomely sweet story, exists as an eight-year-old boy celebrating Valentine’s Day with his single-parent mother. Others offer new characters for readers to befriend, some of them Levithan himself, for at least four of the stories are clearly autobiographical.

Tuesday, January 7

The Seep, by Chana Porter

Porter’s first novel opens with a young couple hosting a lavish dinner party amidst an announced alien invasion. The alien entity and its connected cosmic network are collectively called the Seep. Unlike the terror one might imagine from an extraterrestrial encroachment, the Seep creates the opposite, Utopia. When humans come into contact with the Seep—the effects of which mimic the sensation of being drugged—they experience benevolence and serenity. Many decades of this feel-good sensibility create a perfect world devoid of war, famine, illness, and even fear of death.

Wednesday, January 8

Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights, by Beth Anderson and illustrated by E. B. Lewis

In 1854, a young Black church organist named Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings boarded a horse-drawn streetcar in New York City. The conductor objected, insisting that she wait for another streetcar, one displaying a “Colored People Allowed” sign. As a crowd of pedestrians gathered, he relented, delivering a stern warning. When Jennings objected to his rudeness, he dragged her across the platform and dropped her to the curb. She boarded the car again, but the conductor hailed a police officer, who forced her off. A passenger gave Jennings his card, offering to be a witness in court.

Thursday, January 9

Red Letter Days, by Sarah-Jane Stratford

Stratford moves forward in time from Radio Girls(2016) but sticks to the theme of trailblazing women in British broadcasting. Along with the jump from the 1920s to the ’50s, and from radio to television, Stratford adds a new element: blacklisted women during the Red Scare. Phoebe Adler is thrilled to be working as a TV screenwriter in New York, but then HUAC comes calling with a subpoena. Phoebe is no Communist, but she won’t name names, so, rather than face jail, she leaves the U.S. for London, where she meets fellow American TV producer Hannah Wolfson (based on the real-life Hannah Weinstein).

Friday, January 10

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid, by Kate Hattemer

Jemima Kincaid supports women ferociously—so what if there aren’t that many actual girls that she can stand? Chawton, her private school, coeducational now but historically all-male, is filled with traditions that, for Jemima, range from annoying to downright outrageous. But as a member of the elite Senior Triumvirate (she’s the “nerd” pick), she’s involved in them whether she wants to be or not. Alongside Gennifer (popular, perfectly groomed, gets things done) and Andy (popular, athletic, universally adored even when he’s being annoying), Jemima’s responsible for putting together events like the powderpuff football game (sexist) and, worse, prom. Not content to host a traditional event where girls wait around to be asked, Jemima pitches a Last Chance Dance: everyone submits a list of their crushes, and they’re matched up with potential partners.'

About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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