YA Romances with Heart

book heart

Love is in the air and on the shelves in the Butler Center this winter! And while it’s not uncommon, especially nearing Valentine’s Day, to find a plethora of lovey-dovey books to be had—this year seems particularly love-struck. One of the editors over at BookPage has even declared 2020 to be “the year of the YA rom-com” (they are REALLY looking forward to Yes No Maybe So, the upcoming collaboration between Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, and so am I). They just may be right!

Lest you think it’s all carnations and conversation heart candy over here, there are some pretty fabulous and thoughtful twists on the traditional romantic tropes and quite a few delightfully complex characters and plots to be found as well. Take a look at some of our favorites.

Kissing Lessons cover artKissing Lessons by Sophie Jordan
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available June 2020
Ages 14 and up

Hayden Vargas is a reputed “bad girl.” Emmaline Martin is just the opposite but determined to break out of her “good little sister” box. What could go wrong when Emmaline hires Hayden to give her lessons on how to land a man? An authentic friendship develops between the girls, challenging Emmaline’s comfort zone and Hayden’s desperately poor and unsupportive home life, making this story as much about friendship as it is about romance.


Four Days of You and Me cover artFour Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks
Available May 2020
Ages 14 and up

The evolution and devolution of a relationship told in four class trips. Alex and Lulu go from enemies to lovers and back again as they fight, makeup, and support one another through the ups and downs of high school. The secondary plot line that follows Lulu’s art and interest in graphic novels through writing and selling one is compelling and could have played an even bigger part in these fun episodes.


19 Love Songs19 Love Songs by David Levithan
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

Joyous, awkward, tearful, raw, supportive, and lonely—19 Love Songs is a short story collection focused on love and all its many, many forms. Some are stories Levithan wrote as valentine notes to his friends, several first appeared in other short story collections, and all take a thoughtful look at the love between friends, strangers, partners, parents, families, and teammates. An appropriately varied mix-tape of emotions for Valentine’s Day.


Finding Mr. Better-Than-You cover artFinding Mr. Better-Than-You by Shani Petroff
Published by Swoon Reads
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

When Camryn Roth is dumped by her boyfriend, she turns to her other love, romantic comedies, for solace. With them comes an idea… What if she could use classic rom-com themes to make her ex jealous and salvage her senior year and her life plan—Columbia University with Marc by her side. As with any good movie in the genre, things go awry, and Camryn ends up discovering the true self she lost to her relationship. As sweet and silly as a big-screen rom-com with a side of self-actualization.


Only Love Can Break Your Heart cover artOnly Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber
Published by Scholastic Press
Available January 2020
Ages 12 and up

Reiko is good at keeping secrets, like the fact that she still sees and talks to her dead sister Mika. So when the school’s “It girl” starts dating gawky, quiet, unpopular Seth, she can keep that a secret too. But when their relationship goes public her entire life starts to spiral out of control–Seth, her grades, and her secrets. More toxic relationship drama, than rom-com, this story of grief, introspection, and self-discovery is also a love letter to its stunning desert setting.


This Train Is Being Held cover artThis Train is Being Held by Ismée Williams
Published by Amulet Books/Abrams
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

Two strangers meet on a train—Isa the dancer and Alex the baseball player. Then they meet again and again and again. Small snippets of their vastly different lives unfold between run-ins on the subway. But can they really develop a relationship while hiding so much of themselves from the other? Themes of racism, mental health struggles, gang violence, and heavy family expectations make this far more complex than your average YA romance.






Butler Bookshelf


Here at the Butler Center, we know we’re so blessed to get copies of great reads before they hit bookstore and library shelves. But there are plenty of great reads that are available right now, like Nic Stone’s Clean Getaway. Road trips? Grandmas? Count us in! Check out this week’s Butler Bookshelf, for titles to anticipate and books to read today!

Wicked As You Wish
Written by Rin Chupeco
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Available on March 3, 2020

A Castle in the Clouds
Written by Kerstin Gier
Published by Henry Holt and Company
Available now!

Real Pigeons Fight Crime
Written by Andrew McDonald and illustrated by Ben Wood
Published by Random House
Available now!

Written by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Published by Scholastic Press
Available on March 3, 2020

Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World’s First Superstar
Written by Catherine Reef
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available on June 16, 2020

Clean Getaway
Written by Nic Stone
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Reporting for Star Shepherd Duty

The Star ShepherdI’ve got my goggles and I’m ready for star gazing. At least I would be if it weren’t so cloudy in Chicago this week (I’ll spare you the pics of me wearing the goggles!). Instead, I set my sights on lunch with fellow book lovers and the team responsible for The Star Shepherd, Dan Haring and MarcyKate Connolly.

In their upcoming middle-grade fantasy, Kyro dreams of becoming a star shepherd like his father and rescuing stars that have fallen to earth. But when the stars start falling en masse, their village turns against them, and his father disappears Kyro is suddenly thrust into the job. With the help of friends new and old, big and small, he will journey to save the stars and his father.

Fortunately for us, the stars aligned to bring Dan Haring and MarcyKate Connelly together on this project. Haring initially created the story as an animated short, which his agent suggested would be a perfect novel for middle-grade readers. And Connelly’s agent knew just the star-loving writer to help develop the story into a novel format. The two collaborated through the cosmos (ok, mostly through email) to develop the story that we’ll see this fall.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks for the opportunity to meet the creative team behind the book and learn more about their partnership. You can stop by the Butler Children’s Literature Center for a sneak peek at the ARC and keep your eyes open (and goggles on) for publication in September.


Pride Month 2018 Reads

Pride Month is here, and with it new LGBTQ+ books for all audiences. This is only a sampling – visit us to see the entire selection and more!


Julian is a Mermaid – Jessica Love, Candlewick Press

When Juliàn sees three beautiful mermaids on the subway, he is both in love and encouraged to embrace his true mermaid self. Will Abuela appreciate his transformation? Filled with evocative and whimsical illustrations, Julian is a Mermaid is a delightful and thoughtful exploration of non-conforming self-expression.


doing it by hannah witton

Doing It – Hannah Witton, Sourcebooks/Fire

There is a chapter specifically devoted to LGBTQ+ sex education in this nonfiction resource. Since the author is a straight cis woman, she rightfully invites several own voice contributors to write each section. Sex and gender are defined, followed by profiles on being transgender, transsexual, genderfluid, queer, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual. Witton then discusses coming out and ways to be a good ally (starting with acknowledging privilege).


girl made of stars by ashley herring blake

Girl Made of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Owen and Mara are twins, with an unbreakable bond. It was Owen who unquestioningly accepted Mara’s coming out as bisexual to their family, and Owen who consoled Mara after she broke up with her best friend and first girlfriend, Charlie. Then Owen’s girlfriend, Hannah, accuses him of raping her and lines are drawn. Mara is torn between believing her friend or her brother, while also missing Charlie. With focus on consent, victim shaming, and the insidiousness of rape culture, Girl Made of Stars has emotional and timely relevance.


picture us in the light by kelly loy gilbert

Picture Us in the Light – Kelly Loy Gilbert, Disney/Hyperion

With a scholarship to RISD and the loving support of his family, Danny has almost everything he needs in life. Except a future with his best friend, Harry, and an explanation for his parents’ secrets of the past. Unraveling the mystery of his family along with exploring his own feelings for Harry isn’t easy for Danny, and could disrupt everything he’s worked to achieve, but he is determined to know how his past will affect his future.

A Review of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

by Hal Patnott

This week, our featured title is the first installment in a new series to watch out for. Among ALSC’s Core Values, Chupeco’s writing demonstrates excellence. Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reader copy of The Bone Witch.


The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks/Fire, 2017)

Tea grew up reading stories of the heroic and magical asha. She pretended to wield their war-ending, artistic powers. Although her sisters are witches with enough skills to make remedies and cast auguries, dark power like necromancy doesn’t flow in her bloodline. Her sister Lilac saw a marriage to a prince in her future. Instead, Tea’s life takes an unexpected turn when she raises her brother from the dead. Of all the asha, bone witches like Tea are the most feared and despised. For her own safety, Tea leaves her small town with a mysterious woman named  Mykaela who promises to train her. Among the many lessons ahead of her, Tea learns first “that the dead hide truths as well as the living.”

The chapters alternate between two first-person narrators, a man in exile seeking the truth and Tea, who tells him her story. Between the time she begins her training as an asha and when she meets the exile at the ends of the earth, almost everyone Tea loves betrays her. The book opens in the midst of action with a seventeen-year-old Tea preparing to unleash her revenge on the world. Chupeco’s bewitching prose enhances the suspenseful plot. While the social customs in Tea’s world rely heavily on a binary gender division, she and her friends question and challenge the rules. A wide variety of cultures converge in the city where Tea begins her training as an asha. The asha themselves are inspired by East Asian cultures. Prejudice and distrust of cultural differences is a central theme throughout the book. A cliff-hanger ending suggests that more awaits of Tea’s adventure. Overall, The Bone Witch is a riveting fantasy and perfect for a teen reader who loves intrigue.

A Review of The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

by Hal Patnott

As we start the new semester, we continue to look at titles that stand out for their representation of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s selection, The Pants Project demonstrates inclusiveness, and integrity and respect.


The Pants Project by Cat Clarke (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2017)

Of all the middle schools that Liv could have attended, of course, Bankridge is the last one in the district with a dress code that forces girls to wear skirts. Although Liv knows he isn’t a girl, he hasn’t found the right moment to tell Mom and Mamma that yet. After all, “It’s not really something you can just blurt out at the dinner table. ‘Please can you pass the ketchup? Oh, and by the way, I think I’m a boy, not a girl.’” When Liv’s best friend ditches him for a group of mean girls, he refuses to stop fighting to change the archaic school rules and with the help of new friends he discovers the courage to be himself.

The Pants Project is a story about identity, friendship, and social justice with a diverse cast of characters. Liv is not alone in his worries about acceptance from his peers. In the end, even his popular friend Jacob has insecurities, but they learn to support each other and overcome their fears together. Clarke maintains a lighthearted and engaging tone with plenty of humor from start to finish. Representation of transgender boys in literature for children is scarce, so this book provides a new and needed perspective. Heartwarming and full of hope, The Pants Project is a valuable addition to every tween collection.

Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reading copy of The Pants Project.

Soul-Searching Books for Sweltering Days: Middle Grade Summer Reads

By Alena Rivers

In a recent blog post, we featured picture books that speak to the summer experiences of young readers. This week’s books are summer-themed tomes fit for the elementary and middle-grade reader. These older children are embarking on a new level of self-discovery and finding their place in the world amongst their family and friends. Slow summer months can be full of opportunities for older children to do some soul-searching and to confront issues in their lives. The children in the stories featured here explore bigger themes in their lives such as adoption, death and divorce. Their experiences may be challenging but their stories are interlaced with touching, humorous and revelatory moments that lighten their moods. When given the space and the freedom that summer vacation can often provide, children can take another step into maturity by discovering that elusive balance between accepting their circumstances and doing something about them.

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds (Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2016)

Twelve-year-old Genie and his older brother Ernie are spending a month with their grandparents in North Hill, Virginia while their parents spend time together sorting out their fading marriage. Genie is distraught knowing that his parents are on the brink of divorce so his time away from them has him more anxious than usual. Shortly after they arrive at their grandparents’ home Genie learns that his grandfather is blind. This revelation, and adapting to an environment unlike his home in Brooklyn, only adds to Genie’s anxiety. Country life offers a quiet and industrious place for Genie to roam, think and get to know his grandfather. All of these experiences deepen his understanding of his family history and help him discover more about himself and his role within the family. Readers will empathize and laugh with Genie as he braves new territory learning about grits, sweet tea and family secrets. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Just Like Me by Nancy Cavanaugh (Sourcebooks, 2016)

Julia is an eleven-year-old girl who has been encouraged by her parents to attend a week-long, overnight summer camp to bond with her “Chinese sisters.” Julia, Becca and Avery are not exactly sisters, but they were adopted from the same adoption agency in China and their families get the girls together occasionally. Julia is not excited about spending more time with Becca and Avery who identify more with their Chinese heritage than Julia. To add to her frustration, within minutes of checking into their camp cabin, Julia realizes that all six cabin-mates are not going to get along well. Through narrative text and periodic journal entries, Julia shares her week-long experiences as she tries to navigate contentious relationships while still enjoying proverbial summer camp activities. Julia’s concerns about her adoption story and her periods of reflection provide readers with thoughtful examples of how taking risks can help us find answers. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Summerlost by Ally Condie (Penguin Random House/Dutton, 2016)

Nearly a year ago, twelve-year-old Cedar Lee suddenly lost her father and youngest brother in a car accident. Cedar, her mother and her remaining younger brother, still feeling the pain of their loss, move to their mother’s home town for the summer where Cedar finds an unexpected friendship, mystery and a summer job at the Summerlost theater festival to keep her busy. Despite her new distractions, the loss of her loved ones leaves a void not easily filled. Cedar’s time over the summer is spent building relationships, bravely taking on new experiences and learning how to find strength through the recovery process. A heart-felt exploration of the growth we hope to find after losing loved ones. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Publisher Preview

Please join us on Saturday, May 11 at 1:00pm for our annual Fall Publisher Preview (yes, it’s spring, but they’re previewing their fall lists). Representatives from Albert Whitman, Capstone Press, Norwood House and Sourcebooks will be on hand to show us what they have coming down the publishing pipeline, discuss trends in the industry, and answer any questions we might have. They tend to be pretty generous, and offer lovely, book-laden goody bags as well. Not to be missed!

We meet in Springer Suites, on the bottom level of the Rebecca Crown Library on Dominican’s main campus. Go here to RSVP.

We hope to see you there!

albert whitmancapstonenorwood housesourcebooks