If the books I’ve read lately are any indication, 2023 is going to be a good year for young adult fiction. Here are three titles that have been released since the first of the year that I recommend for high school collections. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with advance copies of the books.
This Is Not A Personal Statement by Tracy Badua, Quill Tree Books, 2023.
High achieving Perlie, who skipped two grades, is getting ready to graduate from high school at the age of 16. She and her Filipino-American parents, who demand academic success, expect Perlie to get into prestigious Delmont University and then go on medical school. So when Perlie isn’t accepted at Delmont (or any of the other schools she applied to), she can’t bring herself to tell her mom and dad. Instead, she fakes a letter of acceptance and lets her parents drop her off at Delmont at the beginning of the school year. Her plan is to spend time on campus, figure out why she didn’t get in, and use that information to submit a better application for the spring semester.
Perlie is determined and resourceful. Despite numerous obstacles, she manages to move into an unused dorm room, attend a few classes, and fit in — for a while. She even makes a few friends, even though she’s determined not to get too close to anyone (too risky). But how long can her charade last? How serious will the consequences be when her deception is uncovered?
Badua compassionately tells a story featuring a young, intelligent, emotionally fragile teen who, in attempt to please her parents, has lost herself. Though the plot sounds far-fetched, Badua manages to provide plausible explanations for how Perlie gets away with her masquerade, leaving the reader to conclude the protagonist is extremely lucky. Along the way, Perlie questions all she’s ever believed as she gains important insights into herself, her parents, and the world around her. An enjoyable read that’s perfect for teens who like realistic fiction with an outlandish plot.
Royal Blood by Aimee Carter, Delacorte Press, 2023.
This book has it all: mystery, suspense, family drama, and romance. Evan Bright, an American, is the 17-year-old illegitimate daughter of the U.K.’s King Alexander. Miraculously, the king has been able to keep her existence a secret all these years. However, after being expelled from her ninth boarding school, the king’s personal secretary whisks Evan away to Windsor Castle, where she does not receive a warm welcome.
Evan wants to go home to her mother, Laura, who suffers from schizophrenia. Because of the disease, Evan hasn’t seen her mother in several years, except via video chat. Evan plans to return home on her 18th birthday, which is only twenty-five days away. In the meantime, she attends a party where a young man named Jasper Cunningham, who seems kind and friendly, drugs her and attempts to rape her. Evan manages to escape and Jasper ends up dead. When a video surfaces that makes it look as if Evan pushed Jasper to his death, Evan becomes the prime suspect in Jasper’s murder. She and Kit, her one friend and the king’s nephew by marriage, try to clear Evan’s name by identifying the real killer and discovering the origin of the video.
The author sensitively handles tough topics such as sexual assault and mental illness as she reveals family secrets and unravels the mystery of Jasper’s death and the video that makes Evan look guilty. YA readers will devour this book and look forward to the sequels.
Chaos Theory by Nic Stone, Crown Book for Young Readers, 2023.
In this issue-driven book, Shelbi and Andy’s friendship begins with a text mistakenly sent to the wrong number. Andy, the seemingly golden boy at Windward Academy, is drunk when he sends the text to classmate Shelbi, who mostly keeps to herself as she manages her bipolar disorder.
There are so many things I like about this book! First, I love the clear message that mental health is as important as physical health. Our teens cannot hear this enough. Second, I love the main characters, Shelbi and Andy. They are both kind, caring souls trying to help each other as they cope with their own issues as best they can. And third, they share a sweet romance.
Nic Stone compassionately addresses mental illness, addiction, and grief through two likable characters that readers will relate to. This book is sure to be popular with fans of the author’s other books as well as fans of romance and realistic fiction .
Author: Margaret Sullivan
Margaret Sullivan is a librarian at Rockwood Summit High School and also serves as the Lead Librarian for the Rockwood School District. A past president of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, Margaret’s professional interests include advocacy, teacher collaboration, professional development, equity, and YA literature. You can connect with her on Twitter @mm_sullivan.
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