Dan Kois of Slate reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Tween and teen readers of color are living in a golden age of young adult literature telling stories of their lives and heritage. Readers like me who just love a great story benefit from living in this golden age, too. Two recent YA books explore worlds as nearby as the corner and as far away as walled cities where ancient gods do battle.
Meet Kevin Phifer. He’s in seventh grade, with a dad who’s been gone for ten years, a mom who won’t let him get a fade, and a neighborhood bully who won’t leave him alone. It’s 1994 in Richmond, Virginia, and Kevin’s the hero of Chris L. Terry’s funny, well-observed novel “Zero Fade,” out now from Curbside Splendor.
It’s the era of Biggie and British Knights, but Kevin isn’t cool enough for any of that – he’s just trying to get by. I loved “Zero Fade” for its great period detail and its honesty about its main character’s emotions – including his confusion and concern about an uncle who’s coming out to his family.
Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novels “Boxers and Saints,” out now from First Second Books, are set in the more distant past: China, 1898. These two comics tell two sides of the story of the Boxer Rebellion, a violent anti-foreigner uprising which killed thousands of Christians and led to the humiliation of the Qing Dynasty.
Yang, who was nominated for the National Book Award for his excellent American Born Chinese, is aiming higher with this historical duet. Teen readers will be rapt by the story’s fantastic twists and surprised by how seriously Yang treats the realities of history.
Find more reviews of new books in the Slate Book Review, slate.com/books.