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Beyond THE SOUND OF STARS, is there life here? by Alechia Dow (YA book review)

book cover of The Sound of Stars, by Alechia Dow. Published by Inkyard Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Music – illegal.
Books – illegal.
Emotion – forbidden!

Two years after the alien invasion, 17-year-old Ellie’s favorite song by The Starry Eyed still motivates her, presses her to keep a secret library in their New York City apartment basement, to risk execution so a tiny bit of hope stays alive.

The Ilori believe that humans are untrustworthy because of their emotions. Books, music, and art are forbidden, as are outbursts of anger or joy.

In Ellie’s quadrant, M0Rr15 is ready to test the behavior-muting vaccine he was ordered to develop – only controllable humans will be kept alive when the planet is reconfigured as a habitation for the true Ilori by the armored lab-made Ilori on Earth now.

M0Rr15 finds Ellie with a book, but instead of neutralizing the Black teen, he borrows the book, listens to music (his favorite thing about this odd planet) with her, and tries to save her family from the vaccine.

Hiding their meetings from the all-encompassing Ilori in-brain communication network does drain M0Rr15’s electrical charge, but is vital as their friendship grows – no wonder the Ilori say feelings are so dangerous!

Ilori command sends M0Rr15 westward across America to fix a vaccine production glitch – and he smuggles Ellie with him!

Can he trust her with his secret plans to save humanity?
Will her parents be safe after she’s left?
How long until the Ilori officials catch up with them?

Told alternately by Ellie and M0Rr15 – “If I fail, what is the point of my life?” (p. 59) – this near-future story of hope versus destiny reaches for the stars and tugs at our heartstrings.

Ask for this debut novel at your local library or independent bookstore as we celebrate the work of Black creators this month and always.

If you could share only one song, what would you choose?
**kmm

Book info: The Sound of Stars / Alechia Dow. Inkyard Press, 2020 (hardcover), 2021 (paperback). [author site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

MIND GAMES, by Shana Silver – Remember forever or every memory erased? (YA book review)

book cover of Mind Games, by Shana Silver. Published by Swoon Reads/Macmillan | recommended on BooksYALove.com

If you could remember every moment,
or experience someone’s memory as if it were your own –
would you?

Her brilliant parents’ invention of HiveMind means that you never have to forget cherished memories.

Everyone at their school for extraordinary talents is connected to HiveMind, and Arden has figured out how to override security and access memories to share…for a price.

But then she wakes up with a vital chunk of her own memory gone and no backups of it on HiveMind! Even worse for Bash, who’s forgotten everything about the past several weeks of his life – with no backups – how?

The classmates’ important final tech project must be presented soon… if only they could remember what it was.

Who wants Arden and Bash to forget?
Why are just their memories gone?
Can they stop the literal brain drain before it’s too late?

It’s a race against the clock, because without HiveMind backups, when a memory is gone, it’s like it never happened at all.

What favorite memory would you like to preserve everything about – forever?
**kmm

Book info: Mind Games / Shana Silver. Swoon Reads/Macmillan, 2019. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

When tattooed boy STARLING falls from the sky.. #YALit by Isabel Strychacz (book review)

book cover of Starling, by Isabel Strychacz. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A lifetime of following the very unusual,
wanting to escape sneering neighbors,
graduation seems as far away as the stars…

Outcasts in their odd California desert town, teens Delta and Bee try to keep folks from realizing that Dad stepped into a different dimension a few weeks ago, not just off on another esoteric research trip.

Their house on the outskirts of Darling truly has a mind of its own, and the sisters won’t open the hall closet door, hoping Dad will walk back through someday soon.

When a meteor or plane or something crashes into their woods one night, Delta ventures out and finds a boy covered with moving tattoos – but who could have survived this?

Maybe Starling is a boy, but more likely not. If they can’t find the object he needs to return home, can he survive here?

If Del’s sort-of-boyfriend finds out about Starling and tells his dad the mayor…. oh no!

Recounted from Delta’s and Starling’s perspectives, this tale of disconnection, love, and loss brings the distant near.

What makes a place ‘home’ for you?
*kmm

Book Info: Starling / Isabel Strychacz. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Staying friends LONG DISTANCE is hard, #MGLit graphic novel by Whitney Gardner – book review

book cover of Long Distance, by Whitney Gardner. Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Moving to Seattle?
Leaving her best friend?
(leaving her only friend…)

Middle-schooler Vega doesn’t care that she’ll have a great window for her star-gazing telescope – leaving Portland is terrible!

Her dads try to help by sending her to Camp Very Best Friend. Their new neighbor guy Qwerty is going too, also with great reluctance. And best friend Halley doesn’t even text back as Vega endures the counselor’s off-key singing on the long ride to camp…

Tent-mate Gemma and twin Isaac both collect rocks (especially thundereggs), Qwerty is a computer whiz (talks non-stop), and George (the kid in all the camp brochure photos) seems to change personality every day.

Where are the squirrels and birds and insects?
Why won’t Qwerty’s satellite phone work at camp?
Why are the counselors are super-happy every single moment?

The multicultural campers find a pine cone with a speaker inside and a secret tunnel to the big telescope promised in the brochure.

Then weird things start happening… truly weird.

Great graphic novel in hardcover, paperback or ebook – worth your gift card!

How do you cope with friends moving away?
**kmm

Long Distance / words and art by Whitney Gardner. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Alien earth-visit with one slight problem: LEONARD (MY LIFE AS A CAT), by Carlie Sorosiak (MG book review)

book cover of Leonard (My Life as a Cat), by Carlie Sorosiak. Published by Walker Books US | recommended on BooksYALove.com

He studied all the media and video,
chose his new identity carefully –
ready for a working vacation on Earth… oops!

Getting distracted during atmospheric entry was a huge mistake, as a young 300-year-old alien appears in a coastal South Carolina town as a house cat during a storm instead of becoming a park ranger at Yellowstone!

Animal-lover Olive has a hard time making new friends and feels stranded this summer before middle school as Mom and her new boyfriend are in California for his business. After her dad died, she hadn’t been here in a long time – maybe volunteering at the aquarium with grandmother Norma will be okay.

Rescuing a scruffy cat she calls Leonard makes things better – a very unusual cat who loves being at the aquarium with them… and starts typing messages on her laptop!

Leonard has just a month to do all the things he’s dreamed of for centuries – go to a real movie theater, host a dinner party, create and enjoy a cheese sandwich – so of course Olive will help.

Learning to walk on a leash, trying to do absolutely anything without opposable thumbs, becoming fond of Olive and Norma and Q at the aquarium – these are not the experiences that Leonard planned to carry back to his all-mind society on their helium world…

Of course, that last part wouldn’t leave Earth since only data will return with Leonard, no emotions. And if he doesn’t get to Yellowstone by the end of the month, he won’t return to his galaxy – ever!

Does Q suspect that Leonard isn’t an ordinary cat?
Will Norma ever ask Olive to call her ‘grandma’?
Can Olive and Leonard convince Q and Norma to take a trip to Yellowstone very soon?

Come along on the ultimate summer road-trip for this hyper-intelligent cat and his new friends!

If you could go any place, any time, what’s your ultimate destination?
**kmm

Book Info: Leonard (My Life as a Cat) / Carlie Sorosiak. Walker Books US, 2021. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Stories of humanity & facing change – read with your ears

Time to read these explosive stories with your ears – after you download this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC!

Grab these audiobooks free during their Thursday through Wednesday run, and you have free use of them on your device as long as you keep them on Sora shelf (up to 99 years)- bookmark the FAQs here.

CD cover of audiobook Alive: Generations Trilogy, book 1,
by Scott Sigler, Read by Colleen Delaney and a Full Cast. Published by GraphicAudio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Alive: Generations Trilogy, book 1 (download free – May 20-26, 2021)
by Scott Sigler | Read by Colleen Delaney and a Full Cast
Published by GraphicAudio

Young people awaken from long-sleep in space – alone in a metallic world with dangers around every corner.

With no memories to rely on, the group must work together to survive in this sci-fi thriller.

CD cover of audiobook What Makes Us, by Rafi Mittlefehldt. Read by Graham Halstead. Published by Brilliance Audio/Candlewick | recommended on BooksYALove.com

What Makes Us (download free May 20-26, 2021)
by Rafi Mittlefehldt | Read by Graham Halstead
Published by Brilliance Audio/Candlewick

Eran’s passion for social justice leads him to protest increased police traffic stops in Houston – and brings his long-gone father’s alleged terrorist activities into the public spotlight.

How can Eran reconcile his father’s choices with the ways that society is now treating the Jewish teen?

When the future is a blank slate, how do you choose the right path?
**kmm

YOU WERE MADE FOR ME…the perfect guy, created by me! by Jenna Guillaume (YA book review)

book cover of You Were Made for Me, by Jenna Guillaume. Published in USA by Peachtree Publishing | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Writing and hoping,
sketching and sculpting –
make your own dream come true…

“The day I created a boy started like any other” (p. 1) with Katie’s sketches and stories, dreaming of her perfect first kiss, swooning over Declan at school, and constant commentary by BFF Libby. Who knew that their art + science creative project last night would bring handsome, adorable Guy into their lives today?

How?! No time for questions when she awakens to the perfect teen boy in her bedroom! Theo from next door comes to the rescue, and they discover that he’s real, he has no belly button (she forgot to sculpt it), and he loves 16-year-old Katie more than anything!

Katie helped Theo as they lost his mum to cancer, and now he lets Guy share his added-on bedroom as they all try to figure out what’s next… a guy with no last name or ID can’t go to school with them, right?

Aside from Guy being utterly delighted by Katie and sunset and the beach and every new food he tries (which means everything), the rest of her life is the same – Mikayla and the mean girls are still hateful to her and Libby, she’s still nervous about painting the big mural at school, and Declan is still cute – what??

How can she balance her part-time job and Guy and school?
Why is Theo starting to act weird around her?
Will her first kiss be perfect?

A story in two voices, as Libby interrupts often to refocus Katie’s narrative of how Guy was created and learned to live in their Australian neighborhood below parental radar (mostly).

What attributes would you give to the perfect person for you?
**kmm

Book Info: You Were Made For Me / Jenna Guillaume. Peachtree Publishing, 2021. (author link) (publisher link) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Q for a queer COMPLICATED LOVE STORY SET IN SPACE aboard Qriosity, by Shaun David Hutchinson (YA book review)

book cover of A Complicated Love Story Set in Space, by Shaun David Hutchinson. Published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A message he can trust,
new friends in this adventure,
why can’t they remember how they got here?

It’s disorienting to wake up in a spacesuit floating outside a spaceship amid flashing warnings of imminent explosion – and to have another 16 year old inside Qirosity trying to shut down the faulty reactor and help Noa get to the airlock at the same time!

Noa stumbles out of the resuscitator (first death is the hardest), meeting Jenny on his way to find DJ – who abducted them from all over the US?

Just the three teens on this spaceship… and a grown-up kid actor’s hologram with unhelpful messages, and a murdered girl, and the kid actor’s entire mystery series to watch, and more than a lifetime supply of Nutreesh bars in the galley.

DJ and Noa are falling for each other, Jenny is plotting revenge on the aliens/kidnappers, and strange events keep them hopping as one day seems to repeat itself, repeat itself.

Steered automatically to a high school on an asteroid, they find cliques and yucky PE class and teachers who stop all the fun and the murdered girl from Qriosity who doesn’t remember being on the spaceship at all…

Why is there a high school in space?
Why does Jenny prefer Nutreesh to what Noa cooks?
Is DJ and Noa’s love real?

The three teens must rely on each other to survive months in space, a monster or two, crisis after crisis, and a school dance as they keep trying hack into Qriosity’s navigation system and get back to Earth.

Another tale of strange happenings and learning to love from the author of The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza (I recommended here) and At the Edge of the Universe (more here).

Aliens – yes or no?
**kmm

Book Info: A Complicated Love Story Set in Space / Shaun David Hutchinson. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. [author site] [publisher site]

M for MILLION MILE ROAD TRIP in the purple whale, to Mappyworld and beyond? whoa… by Rudy Rucker (YA book review)

book cover of Million Mile Road Trip, by Rudy Rucker. Published by Skyhorse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Feuding alien beings,
augmented old station wagon (surfboards included),
three teens must save humanity…

Zoe just wants to get through graduation tomorrow, best friend Villy might not get to (math = yuck, guitar = yes), and his younger brother Scud excels at… being annoying.

Her dad’s in a flying saucer cult, Mom hasn’t forgiven him for walking out when Zoe was little, and her half-sister is in jazz band, too – just regular Southern California, right?

When the musical riff that Maisie just taught her opens an interdimensional portal, small yellow aliens Yampa and Pinchley call Zoe, Villy, and Scud on a mission to stop bad aliens from invading Earth!

Stretch crawdads, fleshy flying saucers (friendly vs. evil), Thudd dinosaurs – the three teens meet all sorts of aliens on their million-mile road trip through the basins and ridges of Mappyworld.

Will they make it to Szep City where rebels gather to oppose Lord Groon’s takeover of Ballyworld aka Earth?
Can they get back to Los Perros in time for Zoe to play her trumpet solo at the talent show and save the world?
Is that Maisie over there?

“Upsy downy inside out” plus a saucer-pearl can get the kids out of jams or into multi-worlds trouble!

Zoe and Villy take turns recounting their amazing sci-fi journey through Mappyworld and from friendship to love. One universal truth – chocolate is the ultimate currency.

Which of your skills would help you outsmart an alien invasion?
**kmm

Book info: Million Mile Road Trip / Rudy Rucker. Night Shade Books, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Victory over violence? Stunning stories to read with your ears!

Our final pair of free audiobooks for 2020 take us back and back in history as young women of color fight the odds to live and move on.

Have the Sora app ready on your phone or tablet, then use the download links to grab these titles for your shelf.

Thanks again to the AudioSYNC program and all the publishers for sharing 26 professionally produced audiobooks this summer so we can read with our ears all year.

CD cover of Burn, Baby, Burn, by Meg Medina. Read by Marisol Ramirez.
Published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Burn Baby Burn (download free 23-29 July 2020)

by Meg Medina.Read by Marisol Ramirez. Published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio

During the sweltering summer of 1977, a massive blackout, arson, and the Son of Sam’s murder spree put New York City on edge, especially in Nora’s neighborhood.

The Cuban-American teen wants to get away from her bullying brother, but their mother can’t navigate life without her help. As Hector’s violence grows, Nora wonders if she’ll make it to 18 or not.

CD cover of Kindred by Octavia Butler, read by Kim Staunton. Published by Recorded Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Kindred (download free 23-29 July 2020)

by Octavia E. Butler. Read by Kim Staunton. Published by Recorded Books

Transported from 1976 California to antebellum Maryland, 26 year old Dana saves a white boy from drowning and suddenly is returned to the present before being shot.

As the young Black woman gets pulled back and forth in time, always encountering the same white man, she begins to realize that she must keep him alive so the family line continues down to her!

How can you stand strong against changes that threaten your very existence?
**kmm