It’s hard to get teens to read. They are glued to their smartphones. Tik Tok is just a tap away. It’s hard to compete with all the social media options at their fingertips. Luckily, there are the White Pine nominees. Part of the Forest of Reading program, there are ten titles written by Canadian authors that are specifically geared to grab the attention of teen readers. Here are my top three picks from this year’s nominees.
I am Not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki (Graphic Novel)
Starfire is everything a superhero should be – hot, blonde and charming. Mandy is everything the daughter of a superhero shouldn’t be – plain, short and awkward. While her mother soars across the galaxy shooting starbolts, Mandy is just a normal girl. Everyone adores her mother and expects Mandy to be just like her. Mandy rebels by dying her hair black and refusing to go to college. It’s hard to live in the shadow of her mother’s glory. Her only real friend is Lincoln, who dreams of going to France and doesn’t care about superheroes. Then there is her crush, Claire, who is the captain of the soccer team. Mandy isn’t sure if Claire is genuinely into her or just likes the idea of the superhero lifestyle.
Then one day, someone dangerous shows up looking for Mandy. Starfire is forced to reveal secrets that she’s been keeping from her daughter.
Mandy has the kind of life that most girls can relate to – feeling that you have to live up to an impossible standard. Whether it is having a super hot mother or just the portrayal of women in the media, it is a struggle to seen as a person rather than an image. This is a wonderful coming-of-age story that tackles issues like self-identity and relationships, all while incorporating intergalactic battles.
In 2006, Jeffrey Lake was found guilty of the murder of 14 young women. The police suspect there are more victims, but they remain unidentified. During his trial, his wife filed for divorce and disappeared along with their two-year-old daughter. He remains one of the most prolific serial killers of the century.
Fifteen years later, Scarlett receives a visit from the FBI. Jeffrey Lake is dying. He has offered to give the names of his undiscovered victims in exchange for visitation with his daughter. Scarlett doesn’t understand what this has to do with her, until her mother drops a bomb – Scarlett is indeed Jeffrey Lake’s daughter. She kept the past a secret to keep Scarlett safe. Scarlett now must decide if she can sit face-to-face with a serial killer.
This book is an absolute thrill ride. The plot keeps growing deeper and deeper as Scarlett grapples with the knowledge that she shares DNA with a monster. The history of the murders unfold and the reader gets a look into the manipulative mind of Jeffrey Lake. Scarlett is a remarkable character that shows incredible strength and resilience in the face of darkness.
Twice as Perfect by Louisa Onomé
Adanna doesn’t know why her brother left. One day there was an argument and the next day he was gone. Her parents refuse to speak his name. His pictures were removed from the walls. He might as well have never existed. Now, it’s just Adanna left to fulfill her family’s expectations.
In Adanna’s Nigerian family there are only three career options. You can either become a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. Anything else is unacceptable. Adanna’s path is clear. She will become a lawyer.
One day, Adanna sees a poster for a poetry slam. On the poster is a picture of her brother, a poet. She hasn’t heard from him in six years. Not one phone call. Not one text message. Attending the poetry slam just might give her the answers to his estrangement. Twice as Perfect focuses on family dynamics, as well as personal relationships. The book immerses the reader in Nigerian culture, as well as the issues that come with being a child of immigrant parents. Adanna is a strong character who is learning to find herself and not live for the expectations of others. Readers will find themselves happily joining Adanna on her path to self-actualization.
Make sure to check out the other White Pine nominees:
Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye
Decoding Dot Grey by Nicola Davison
A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy Lin
River Mermaid by Christy Goerzen
The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson