by Sang Kromah
It’s been a while. With finishing my forthcoming YA novel, Djinn to working on some behind the scenes stuff for Project READ and Project GirlSpire, I’ve been swamped–but in a good way.
But no matter where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing, there are two things you can be certain of; #The10Spot has been on my mind and I always have a book in my bag. I’ve been mentally creating lists for the last three months, particularly about the books I’ve come across on my travels. I love stumbling upon books that people haven’t heard of yet. You know, the books that may not have all the publicity, but tend to be the stories and characters that stick with you after you’re done. The ones that spark change or maybe even encourage you to put pen to paper.
This edition of #The10Spot consists of books from a diverse group of female authors, who are boldly straying from genre norms and daring to be unique.
1.) Going Green by Heather Ransom– This timely and relevant dystopian novel hooks you instantly. The novel takes place in a future, where the human population has almost died out because of a virus that has destroyed all of the Earth’s plant life.
Because of this, scientists have come up with a way to save the planet by enhancing humans into hybrids. The process is called Going Green due to the physical changes involved and is considered to be the ultimate goal – to go green, join the upper echelons of Sci-City, and devote your life to technology and development. For those who cannot afford to have the enhancement procedure, a tougher future lies ahead, where they are ridiculed and deemed as drones, or worse they may join the rebel forces who fight against Sci-City and all that it stands for.
2.) When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (May 30, 2017 release date)– I am super excited about Sandhya Menon’s forthcoming release. I stumbled upon the book’s blurb by chance and pre-ordered it immediately because I have a feeling I’ll fall in love with the characters. It’s about two Indian-American teens, whose parents have arranged for them to be married. The novel is told in alternating point of views, so it’ll be objective.
Blurb from Amazon: “Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.”
Pre-order from Amazon.
3.) The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz– I’m so excited about this one that I’m not quite sure if I can wait until its July 27, 2017 release date (Hint, hint HarperTeen). It’s uber diverse with the protagonist being a Latina teen artist, who’s in love with her female best friend. I just know it’s going to be one of those books to throw my sleep schedule off, because I’ll be up until four, trying to finish it.
From Goodreads: “Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.
Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.
Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.
At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.”
Pre-order from Amazon.
4.) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas– It took me less than 24 hours to read this book. Yeah, it was that amazing! There are very few works of fiction today that I can say will, one day, be required reading, but I can almost guarantee this will be one of them. Thomas was inspired to write the book when a white police officer, fatally shot Oscar Grant, an unarmed African-American man, on a train platform.
I was originally intrigued by the book because the title comes from a Tupac Shakur phrase, but the more I read about Thomas and the book, the more I knew this book would be phenomenal, and it is. The book follows, 16-year-old, Starr Carter, who lives in a poor neighborhood, but matriculates at a fancy schmancy prep school. She witnesses the murder of her unarmed, childhood friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer.
After his death, the usual narrative ensued, “he was a thug”, “he was a drug dealer” or “he was resisting”. Everyone wants to know what really went wrong. This leads to protests and to Starr being targeted by people on both sides of the law. She has to decide the right thing to do and who she should fear most. It was released in February and in my opinion, it’s already a classic.
5.) You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner– This book is probably one of the most diverse YA books I’ve come across in some time. Julia, a deaf, Indian-American teen with two moms, finds a slur about her best friend on her school building and decides to cover it up with a beautiful mural. Her so-called BFF–you know, the one she defended via graffiti–tells on her, leading to her being suspended from Kingston School for the Deaf. She ends up having to go to a mainstream school, where she’s treated like a pariah.
While attending a new school in the suburbs, she clings to her art as she doesn’t have much else. She begins to tagging around the suburban town, but another artist begins to elaborating on her work, making them better and irritating Julia. The book includes beautiful illustrations of Julia’s work as well as some ASL. Fans going through withdrawal from FreeForms’ Switched at Birth will love this book.
6.) City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson– This is a YA murder mystery, set in Kenya. Let me just say, WOW! This book is an enigma, wrapped inside a mystery. Tina is a teenage refugee, who flees a war in her native Conga to start a new life with her mother in Kenya. This story felt so tangible that I felt like these characters were people I knew personally.
The protagonist is strong, intelligent, and resilient. Throughout the book, she’s put in situations where she has to think on her feet in order to survive after she abruptly becomes an orphan. But she is not perfect. The story accurately depicts the realities of war-torn Africa.
I was a little skeptical about the book when I read that it was written by an American expat, who spent some time, living and working in Africa. Mainly because an expat’s experience of living in Africa is extremely different from the experiences of the people of Africa, but I was pleasantly surprised at how real it was. I think it’s worth a read to gain insight of the hardships many girls face in war-torn parts of Africa.
7.) The Big Life: Embrace the Mess, Work Your Side Hustle, Find a Monumental Relationship, and Become the BADASS BABE You Were Meant to Be by Ann Shoket– Many people may not know this, but I moved to New York during my last year of college to intern at Seventeen Magazine. Seventeen had a new Editor-in-Chief, who was shaking things up and I wanted to be a part of that. So, I took the train to Manhattan from Baltimore and pretended to be a New Yorker, just to get the job, and I did. So I transferred schools, found an expensive studio apartment on the Upper Westside and the rest is history.
Ann Shoket is inspiring. Being in the same room with her and hearing her speak, ignites something within that makes you want to try harder. She poured that inspiration into a book and it couldn’t be any greater.
It takes a lot to get me to read non-fiction, but I will say that The Big Life is a how to succeed guide for the millennial woman. It’s empowering and positive while being realistic. Her stories are quite relatable and gave me a sense of belonging because it was clear that some of my setbacks aren’t unique to me. It is satisfying and practical and a book that all young women should read because it gives great advice from someone who’s been there and made it.
8.) Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones– Frighteningly seductive. That’s the best way I can describe this ingenious novel. Wintersong is supposed to be a re-telling of The Labyrinth. Now, when one of my friends told me this, I honestly gave a side-eye glance and literally sipped my green tea, but upon reading it, I was sucked into this vortex of magic, enchantment, and writing so beautiful, I almost swore it was from the Golden Age of American Literature (i.e. Brontë sisters). To me, this novel is nothing like The Labyrinth, which I love ever-so-dearly. The only similarity is the description of the Goblin King.
The story follows Liesl, a plain girl, who runs her family’s inn, and lives in the shadow of her musically talented brother and her beautiful sister. Her sister is taken by the Goblin King, forcing Liesl to become the heroine she never knew she could be. The world-building is phenomenal. You feel like you’re a part of this underground world and you fear and love the mischievous Goblin King simultaneously.
9.) A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena- A Girl Like That won’t be published until next year, but I’m itching to get my hands on a copy. It’s told from various perspectives and from those who’ve had the pleasure of receiving ARCs, it will definitely make you cry.
From Goodreads: “Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.
This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.”
10.) American Street by Ibi Zoboi– I read American Street over a month ago and I’m still talking about it and its characters. The story follows Haitian immigrants, living in Detroit. The story effortlessly weaves an American tale with voodoo beliefs, offering a story about what the American dream was initially meant to be–an immigrant’s tale of making it in America.
Fabiola, the story’s protagonist was born in America but spent most of her life in Haiti with her mother. When Fabiola, her mother, aunt and cousins attempt to return to Detroit, her mother is detained by immigration at JFK International Airport. Fabiola is instantaneously forced to grow up and you’re immediately sucked in. This character-driven story takes you on an emotional roller coaster.
Most of the book is told from Fabiola’s point of view with occasional chapters from other characters and I wanted more. You will too.
Interested in #The10Spot or want to write for Project GirlSpire? Contact Sang at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tina at email@example.com.