Black Bird Blue Road by Sofiya Pasternack is a beautifully written book about a young woman who escapes with her brother from a family steeped in traditional fear. Ziva is that “that” age where her family is beginning to find her a suitable husband. The only thing is Ziva wants to be a judge, just like her father. Although an arranged marriage is reason enough for fleeing her family, Zita also has a twin brother Pesha whom she is compelled to take to the Byzantine Empire to be healed. You see, Pesha has leprosy, and the entire family has basically accepted the idea that Pesha will die, except for Ziva. So, one night Ziva takes Pesha, and they flee their home only to be attacked by highwaymen who attempt to steal everything they have, kill Pesha and hold Ziva for ransome…that is until Ziva accidentally (on purpose?) frees a half-demon in exchange for escape, which is fine. Still, she and Pesha have a half-demon bound to them until they repay their debt. Will they make it to the Byzantine Empire safely? Will Pesha be cured? Will their ties to the underworld compromise not only their physical well-being but also their moral well-being?
A very well-written, captivating story about family love, perseverance and living with the consequences of choice.
Each of Us a Universe by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo with Ndengo Gladys Mwilelo
Calliope Scott is fascinated by Meteorite Mountain. In fact, she’s making it her mission to reach the top to find out the answers to the secrets it holds, especially the mystery of the meteorite, “the one that people say landed on the top of that spire…just because no one’s found it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, right? If it is, how do we know it isn’t magical?” ( page 45). You see, Cal is in need of magic, her mother has cancer, and her father is in prison, and although most of the community is supportive towards her and her mother, Cal still sneaks clothing from the lost and found at school, and steals cans of food from the grocery store. Then one day, a small change occurs in her world; a new girl named Rosine becomes an ally and a friend at school. Rosine, having lost her parents to war in another country, has arrived with her sister. Rosine, too, wants to find magic in the mountain to help her sister, who is “sick with sadness and making bad decisions” (page 77). Bound by this common quest, the two girls find strength in each other to succeed in their quest and forge a true friendship that strengthens both during a difficult time in their lives.
This is a lovely book about friendship, overcoming adversity and perseverance. It also has a wonderful interview at the back with an actual “stardust hunter” that explains how you can collect “stardust” (micrometeorites) yourself. A perfect novel for a cross-curricular study linked to science.
Gabe in the After by Shannon Doleski
This is a story about a pandemic and survival…like so many other books, TV shows, and movies that have popped up since Covid. However, this story reads a bit differently. Gabe Sweeney is one of 20 survivors (primarily children and young adults) who lives on a small island off the coast of Maine. Gabe and his group were evacuated there during the start of a deadly outbreak that they assumed killed most of the country’s population. The novel starts with Gabe scouting for survivors. For two years, Gabe has taken a small boat to the dock on the mainland to see if anyone is waiting, and so far, there has been no one. But today, Gabe finds (or rather his dog Mud) finds a young woman named Relle in the forest nearby. Relle has been on her own for most of the two years and had been making her home in a library until the roof caved in, making it uninhabitable. Since then, she has been wandering, hoping to find a community, a family of her own. From this initial incident, the novel follows Gabe in his tasks and responsibilities, one of which takes him days away from the island in search of medicine and ultimately to see what the outbreak’s status is in the world. During this time, Gabe has to deal with his feelings for Relle, with whom he falls in love. Let’s say dealing with these newfound feelings is a whole other story in survival.
I really liked this book. Even though it was a story about a deadly pandemic, the narrative didn’t focus on that tragedy; instead, I found it a charming love story, growing up, responsibility, and finding joy and comfort in the little things in life. Suppose you’re looking for a story about zombies and murderous raiders. In that case, this is not the story for you, but if you’re looking for a wholesome story about first love and growing up, then definitely pick this one up.