Submitted by Bella Crysler –
There are lots of exciting events going on at the Carlingwood branch of the Ottawa Public Library this summer and one of those events is Battle of the Books. Eight books written about various social justice issues are going head to head! Readers are allowed to cast a vote (as many times as they can) to help their favourite book advance to the next round and each week one book will be eliminated. The battle began on Tuesday, July 3 and on Monday, August 20 only one book will remain… woah.
Here are the eight contenders, along with some information about the social issues they tackle.
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
This non-fiction book actually covers more than one current social issue. The 57 Bus tells the story of an incident taking place between two teens, one an African-American boy named Richard and the other an agender teen named Sasha, on their bus ride home from school in November 2013. When Sasha dozes off to the familiar rock of the bus, Richard plays a prank that goes horribly wrong. The result sends Richard tumbling headfirst into a deeply flawed justice system and creates a wave of LGBTQ rights awareness and long overdue discussions of gender identity and pronoun use. A beautifully told story of empathy and the power of forgiveness, you won’t regret adding this book to your hold list!
Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
This book radiates girl power. This is the story of how Vivian Carter, a teenage girl growing up in a small town in America finds her own unique voice in the fight for gender equality. The way Vivian decides to stand up to sexism in her high school may not be the loud and in-your-face 90’s “riot grrrl” approach her own mother took, but it is sneaky, creative, and brilliant in its own way. This shot of pure feminism should definitely be added to your shelf.
I am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
This is the only graphic novel in this year’s Battle of the Books, but it holds its own. Young Alfonso Jones was out shopping for his first suit when an off-duty police officer mistook the clothes hanger he was holding for a gun. Readers follow Alfonso’s journey to the spirit world as he watches the family and friends he left behind fight tirelessly for justice in the Black Lives Matter movement. This book is a quick read but an emotional one. I highly recommend this book even if you don’t usually like graphic novels.
Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
This book doesn’t just tackle an incredibly important social issue, it also covers the struggles that many teens face as they grow up and fight to stay true to themselves while trying to live up to their family’s expectations. Maya Aziz knows what her parents want her to do after high school: pre-law at the local university and marry the cute Indian boy she just met who goes to Princeton. Maya, however, has a secret. She’s been accepted to NYU for film studies and is hopelessly in love with her school’s football-playing prom king. Then, just when Maya thinks that she’s convinced her family to let her move to New York, a horrible attack in the city and islamophobic assaults from her peers send her spiraling straight back to square one.
If I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo
Amanda Hardy is a trans teen struggling to find her place in a new town and high school after moving away from the big city. All Amanda wants is to fit in but when she starts falling for a boy named Grant, secrets begin to unravel and threaten to send her world back into the chaos she was trying to escape.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
No crying. No snitching. Revenge. These are the three rules Will repeats to himself as he steps into the elevator and away from the scene of his brother’s murder. As the floor number flashes number seven and the doors start to close, Will knows exactly what he will do next. But when an unexpected person from the afterlife boards the elevator as it stops at the sixth floor. It opens again for another deceased person from Will’s past (and on each of the following floors) his resolve starts to slip slowly into doubt.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
This book is written entirely in verse and is about how a fiery and strong-willed girl living in Harlem finds her voice. Her family’s stifling devotion to religion is holding her back from being the women she wants to grow into and she has nowhere to turn but to the poetry she writes each day. This is the story of how a teen smashes her cage into a million pieces using slam poetry and how she learns the real power religion and family can wield when she is set free.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
Last but not least, this book is a futuristic dystopia in which almost all of humanity has lost its ability to dream after destroying the environment through global warming. All, that is, but the Indigenous people of North America. In their bones lies the key to recovering the dreams the rest of the world has lost, and they are being hunted tirelessly for it. At first, all they can do is run and try their best to stay hidden but as the clock starts to run out it is clear that they need to unlock the powers they have beneath their skin to overcome the marrow thieves. Drawing parallels and reflecting the state of our world and how we treat our First Nations people currently, this is a must-read.
To learn more about the Ottawa Public Library’s Battle of the Books visit biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/BOTB.
Bella Crysler a member of the Carlingwood Library’s Teen Advisory Group and student at Nepean High School.