Kids & YA Newsletter: October 2017


Flaming red hair marks seventeen-year-old Schen Vale as a Saa Zitah—touched by fire—people demonized out of fear and superstition. Any found are offered in ritual sacrifice, or their organs and limbs sold to the highest bidder. Schen already lost her leg, and doesn't intend to lose any other body parts—or her life. But when a temple heist leads to her exposure, she falls into the hands of a merchant captain out for revenge and redemption. Women have held absolute power on the continent of Eroshai for three hundred years, but the thronelands are broken, corrupted by a blood-soaked history of pain and misery. And though magic, the weapon of men, is gone—fear and superstition remain. But when Schen discovers a chance to restore magic and stop the killings of Saa Zitah for good, she will have to risk everything. Even if it means abandoning her dreams of a life with the girl she loves, and facing her greatest fears by becoming a weapon to kill a tyrant queen who thirsts for power and blood. Fallon DeMornay's TOUCHED BY FIRE is a stunning, epic YA Fantasy in a non-western setting, with an #ownvoices biracial, bisexual heroine. With multiple POVs that call to mind Six of Crows or Throne of Glass, DeMornay's debut YA novel is a hard-charging, deeply thrilling rush through a lushly built world full of schemers, revolutionaries, and wild cards. (Please note, Jim McCarthy is the agent on this project.) 

Lexi lives and breathes soccer, and she's willing to do anything to win. She and her co-captain, Cleo, had it all figured out: lead their high school team to victory senior year, attend Florida State on soccer scholarships, and go pro from there. Together, they were unbeatable. That is, until the moment during summer practice when Lexi and Cleo collided. Lexi got up. Cleo didn't. Now Lexi's on the field and Cleo's on the couch, taking naps and trying to recover from a severe concussion. With everything they've worked for thrown into jeopardy, Lexi makes a promise: she'll lead their team through a winning season, so when Cleo recovers they'll finish senior year strong and go on to Florida State—and the rest of their future—like planned. But Lexi's off balance without Cleo, and the season starts to fall to pieces. There's Cleo, who's not getting better. There's Bobby, the boy who sees through Lexi's carefully constructed persona. There's the team, who might just be better off without her. And there's Lexi herself, who is hiding splitting headaches and memory blackouts, whose game is suffering no matter how many drills she runs and how many hours she practices. As it becomes clear that Cleo isn't the only one who was injured in that collision, Lexi takes more and more drastic measures to hide her condition, threatening her relationships, her soccer, and possibly her life. From the author of Underneath Everything, Marcy Beller Paul's IMPACT is a raw, consuming, lyrical novel that addresses the deepening concern about concussions in sports, and asks what we're willing to risk for the chance to chase our dreams. (Please note, Michael Bourret is the agent on this project.) 

Perpetually awkward Nima Mehta-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother's unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town. Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies will move Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she'll have to learn to accept lost love to get there. KINGS AND QUEENS AND IN-BETWEENS balances flights of fancy into the colorful world of drag kings and queens with the age-old dilemmas of teenage identity and first love. Tanya Boteju's debut novel is a joyful good time with a voice that demands to be heard and delights in equal measure. A YA novel about a seventeen-year-old, mixed-race, queer girl plunged into the delirious world of drag, KINGS AND QUEENS AND IN-BETWEENS is the heart-rending and hilarious story of one teen's journey to self-acceptance that takes her through various identities to find out who she truly wants to be. (Please note, Jim McCarthy is the agent on this project.) 

When Ben DeBacker tries to come out to their parents as non-binary, they're thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister Hannah and her husband Thomas, who Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents' rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist, and try to keep a low profile in their new school. But attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic fellow student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan's friendship grows, their feelings begin to change, and what starts as a disaster looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life. I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST, BEN DE BACKER (also known as #enbylovestory) is the debut novel of Mason Deaver. At turns heartbreaking and joyous, this #ownvoices novel is honest about life's challenges, but committed to delivering queer readers the happy ending they deserve. (Please note, Lauren Abramo is the agent on this project.) 

Wallace Cole is perpetually moving against his will. His father has some deeply important job with an energy company that he refuses to explain to Wallace who is, shall we say, suspicious. Not that his father ever listens to him. Just as Wallace is getting settled into a comfortable life in Kentucky (he even has a girlfriend), his father wakes him at the crack of dawn to let him know they need to immediately depart for a new job in a small town in Upstate New York which has recently been struck by an outbreak of inexplicable panic attacks and bouts of neuroses—an outbreak which, by the way, is centered at the high school Wallace will attend. At the new town, things start off disturbing and get worse from there: trees appear to be talking to people; a school bully, the principal, and the town police force take an instant dislike to Wallace; and the student body president is either falling for him or slipping into madness. BRIGHT SHINING WORLD is a stunning debut by Josh Swiller, New York Times bestselling author of The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa. It is a novel of resistance, of young people finding hope and courage and community in a collapsing world. Timely in its diagnosis of and defiance of cultural norms, it is both a searing indictment and a radical, unpredictable adventure, rolled up in one. (Please note, Jim McCarthy is the agent on this project.) 

For a thirteen-year-old boy in the year 1513, Pablo has done pretty well for himself. He's secured the prestigious position of "cabin boy" on the Santiago, a caravel in Ponce de Leon's fleet. However, he's not content. Not in the least. You see, Pablo has big plans and even bigger dreams. And he can't wait to make 'em happen, Cap'n. So after a farewell speech on the deck of the ship, Pablo hurls himself overboard and swims for it, racing to discover Florida's riches before de Leon. But danger dwells in the Florida wilderness, and the race quickly transforms into a struggle for his very survival. In Pablo's most desperate moment, help comes from an unlikely source, but guided by his oddball savior, will Pablo uncover the truth about the New World's most storied mystery? And who exactly is telling this story, because it sounds an awful lot like a hyper-intelligent being from the future, whose purpose remains uncomfortably unclear. A bizzaro blend of historical and survival middle-grade fiction with a dash of sci-fi—think Fever 1793 meets Hatchet, then A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy officiates their wedding—Dan Berg's PABLO THE PILGRIM will have readers cheering for the intrepid Pablo, chuckling at his exploits and derring do, while getting just a little bit of knowledge about Ponce de Leon and his times. (Please note, John Rudolph is the agent on this project.) 

Magnolia Marshall has only ever had one dream: to inherit her family's horse farm, His & Hers. Maintaining her familial legacy is all Maggie cares about, especially in the wake of her grandmother's unexpected death. As far as Maggie is concerned, she doesn't need college-she just needs to spend eight hours a day mucking stalls. Well, mucking stalls and making out with the cute girl Maggie's mother hired for the summer. As a fellow farm kid, JJ Rivera is exactly the type Maggie is helpless to resist: quick with a comeback, kind to Maggie's little sister, and damn good around the barn. JJ makes it all too easy for Maggie to fall for her, even if all Maggie planned on was a summer fling. But all of Maggie's plans crumble when her mother reveals that the farm's lingering financial troubles are severe enough the only way out is to sell…to JJ's father. Faced with watching her girlfriend step into the life she always wanted, Maggie must decide if her feelings for JJ are strong enough to overcome her loss—and if her desire to keep the spirit of His & Hers alive is strong enough to fight for a future she's always taken for granted. Debut writer Casey Alane Wilson's HIS & HERS & YOURS & MINE is a YA contemporary novel about family, tradition, and finding new paths to old dreams. For fans of Emery Lord and Emma Mills but with a heart and humor all its own, this is a wildly entertaining, summery romance with a serious, thoughtful core. (Please note, Jim McCarthy is the agent on this project.) 

Allison van Diepen (Snitch, Street Pharm, On the Edge) has been involved with refugee sponsorship since she was a teenager, and for the past two years has served as a sponsor of Syrian refugees. Her experiences inspired and informed the writing of her latest YA novel, COUNTING STARS. Traitor. That's what the Syrian soldiers call Tarek's father before shooting him in the head. Tarek believes he lost everything that day, but he's wrong. A week later, his town is bombed and his house takes a direct hit. Tarek's face is burned, but he and his family manage to escape to Lebanon, where they spend eleven months in a refugee camp. Then, life-changing news—his family will be sponsored by a church group in Phoenix, Arizona, that has arranged for Tarek's medical treatment. Once in Phoenix, he meets Avery, the daughter of one of his sponsors. As Avery tutors him in English, Tarek's warmth and sense of humor brings a light into her life that's been missing since her mother's M.S. diagnosis. Forget pity—Avery finds him attractive despite the burns, but worries that their growing feelings for each other will put their friendship, and the delicate refugee/sponsor relationship, at risk. For Tarek, being with Avery is an unattainable dream in a world where he is tormented by past horrors. Told in alternating points of view, COUNTING STARS paints a nuanced portrait of love and resilience against a backdrop ripped from today's headlines. (Please note, John Rudolph is the agent on this project.) 

LUIS AND CLARK are two ten-year-olds whose parents are dating. In an effort to get the families to know each other, they've decided on a hiking trip with their two children. Clark is pretty excited—she's a big fan of maps and compasses and exploring, and she's sure that this will be an opportunity to put her skills to use. Luis is a touch more tentative—he has a host of allergies and being outdoors traipsing through nature just seems to be asking for trouble. When Luis and Clark accidentally get separated from their parents early in the day, the two must partner up for a grand expedition through an unfamiliar wilderness in order to be reunited with their parents. An extremely loose reinterpretation of the Lewis and Clark story, LUIS AND CLARK is a hugely charming chapter book debut from Joy McCullough whose YA debut, Blood Water Paint is forthcoming next March and has already garnered its first starred review from Booklist. (Please note, Jim McCarthy is the agent on this project.) 

Lexi's normal never felt quite normal. Her dad's prejudice against, well, everyone not like him, was a dark presence in her tiny world. He had something mean to say about anyone and everyone—including her only friend, Ronna, whom he had a problem with because she was Jewish. Homeschooled and without a community of her own, her tiny world is the only one Lexi knows. When her mother dies suddenly and her dad skips town, she craves her imperfect normal. Clinging to her baby brother, the pair become orphans, leaving Lexi lost and alone in a system she doesn't understand, surrounded by people who don't understand her any better. Lexi's dad always said "blood is what makes a family," and as she bounces from one foster parent to another, she starts to wonder if he was right, if only that once. The kids eventually find themselves with the Sheffield family—the first black family Lexi has ever actually met. In time, settling into the new place, she starts to feel at home with her foster parents and brother. Lexi blossoms as she experiences her new "normal." When her dad returns, outraged to find her living with a black family, he doesn't think of the blossoming Lexi, he just selfishly wants her and her little brother back. Will Lexi find her voice and hold onto her new family? Will she teach her father, raised on hate, to learn to love? It's hard for kids to stand up for what's right—especially when people they care about are filled with fear and anger. Law professor at the University of Florida, Stacey Steinberg's middle grade debut RETURN TO "NORMAL" tells the empowering story of a tween coming into her own and looking for her best normal. (Please note, Stacey Glick is the agent on this project.) 

Nick loves cars, trucks and motorcycles. But he doesn't want to drive them or race them or crash them. He wants to fix them. As Nick grows up, he gets so big that when he tries to fix a compact car in a small garage, it's a disaster. Instead, being so big, everyone thinks he should play football or basketball—except his Uncle Ronnie, who thinks Nick should be a professional wrestler. So Nick gives sports and wresting a shot, because maybe everyone is right, and he's too big to be a mechanic—or then again, maybe the car was just too small for him? In her work as a field support rep for Scholastic Book Fairs, Kim Zachman found herself wanting a picture book in the world of the "Mighty, Mighty Construction Site" series, but with a strong male character. The result is NICK, THE GIGANTIC MECHANIC, her charming picture book text that subtly encourages readers to follow their dreams and not conform to expectations. Plus it's got cars, trucks, and heavy machinery for all those kids who love that kind of thing! (Please note, John Rudolph is the agent on this project.) 

Being the new girl at school is hard enough. Being different makes it even harder. A true story based on the young aspiring country artist Jessie Chris's struggle to regain self-confidence after being severely bullied, DREAMS is her heartwarming debut picture book that everyone who has ever dealt with bullying can relate to. Jessie Chris was named TODAY Show Artist of The Month and recently performed live on TODAY. She serves as the face of Sylvania's "Be the Light Campaign" and an ambassador of Disney's "Choose Kindness" Anti-Bullying Campaign. In 2015 she was the youngest artist to perform at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville and performed at the esteemed festival again this year. In addition to her work as a country star, she is an outspoken voice for anti-bullying and speaks to thousands of kids a year in an effort to educate and inspire young people to follow their dreams despite the obstacles they might face. (Please note, Stacey Glick is the agent on this project.)