In my single nod to our Summer Reading theme of “Oceans of Possibilities,” let’s dive right into these new releases.
“Batter Royale” by Leisl Adams
I adore watching cooking competition shows, so this graphic novel is right up my alley! When Rose impresses a food critic, she’s invited to participate in a baking show competition in Britain. She convinces her friend Fred to be her partner for the show, and the two are thrust into a whirlwind of drama, both onscreen and off. With $500,000 prize money on the line, the competitors are fierce and will stop at nothing. Aside from the drama, my favorite thing is the recipes that are included. When Rose makes a dessert in the story, the author includes the recipe in the text. I always find myself wanting to try recipes from the shows I watch, and this makes it easy! Oh, and of course, Rose and Fred can’t stay just friends. Graphic novel, cooking blog, romance. What’s not to love?
“Slip” by Marika McCoola and Aatmaja Pandya
Jade heads to an art camp for the summer, just after finding out that her best friend Phoebe attempted suicide and is recovering in a hospital. At the cell-phone-free camp, Jade feels guilty that she can’t be there for Phoebe, and finds it hard to concentrate on her art or the cute girl she’s getting closer with. Jade pours her emotions into ceramic sculptures of little monsters, attempting to not actually process her feelings further. But when she fires the monsters in the kiln, they come to life and make her start paying attention. This is an introspective graphic novel that uses magical realism to explore themes of mental health, guilt, transformation and art.
“The Silence That Binds Us” by Joanna Ho
May Chen always feels like she’s falling short of her parents’ expectations—unlike her perfect older brother Danny, who was just accepted into Princeton. When Danny commits suicide, the entire family is shocked. They’re further shocked when a prominent businessman blames recent teen suicides on Asian parents who pressure their kids academically. May is furious and writes a poem for the local newspaper in response, which sparks an impassioned debate in her community. May learns the consequences of staying silent, and the consequences of speaking up in this timely and complex look at racism, mental health and activism.
“This Place is Still Beautiful” by Xixi Tian
Annalie and her older sister Margaret have never been very much alike. Annalie passes for White, resembling their Irish dad who left years ago, while Margaret looks like their Chinese immigrant mom. Margaret is assertive and outspoken, while Annalie is optimistic and bubbly. Margaret has left their small Midwestern town for college in New York City, but rushes back after a racist act of vandalism on their house. Annalie and her mom would rather quietly move on, but Margaret is driven to uncover the truth. Her search uncovers not only the vandals but the simmering racial tension in their mainly White town. While this book is an examination of the difficulties of life as a mixed-race American, it’s also an exquisite look at transitional times in life.
“Blood and Moonlight” by Erin Beaty
Medieval fantasy murder mystery! Catrin is the orphaned assistant to Magister Thomas, the architect of the Holy Sanctum. She has a sense for finding flaws in a building’s construction so they can be fixed before becoming problems. One night, Cat discovers a murdered girl and sees someone fleeing the scene. She’s plunged into the investigation with the brilliant (and handsome) investigator, as they race to find the killer before more women are killed. As Cat pursues clues and red herrings, she begins to learn more about her own past and a magic that grows stronger with the moonlight. There’s a bit of romance, grisly murders to solve, and a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of mental illness. Not to mention a unique magic system that the reader discovers along with the main character! And that cover, am I right?
“The Dream Runners” by Shveta Thakrar
Tanvi was stolen away from the human world when she was ten and brought to live in Nagalok, a world populated by serpentine beings called naga. The naga need to consume human dreams to survive, and Tanvi is trained to be a dream runner, running to the mortal world at night and harvesting dreams. In exchange, the naga grant wishes and erase bad memories of her former life. Things fall apart as war threatens Nagalok, dream runners start to disappear, and Tanvi begins to remember her mortal life. I feel like everything is a duology these days, so it’s nice to see a standalone fantasy! This has lush world-building based on Hindu mythology and is an obvious pick for people that liked the Aru Shah series.