Saint Death

by Marcus Sedgwick

Issues of class, race and power collide in this powerful and timely debut. Arturo is a teen living in the impoverished Mexican town of Anapra, struggling to make ends meet. The possibility of life in America is distant and foreign to Arturo and others like him. After years of absence, Faustino reappears with a desperate plea to his old friend -- he needs money to send his pregnant girlfriend Eva illegally across the border to create a better life for their unborn child.

Reluctantly, Arturo agrees to gamble his life, literally, in a high stakes game of Calavera with some of Mexico’s deadliest gang leaders. Filled with danger, tests of loyalty, and familial bonds, this gritty novel explores the painful realities of many immigrants south of the United States border. Powerful, fast-paced, and heartbreaking, this is a must read.

The Memory of Light

by Francisco X. Stork

This novel opens dramatically with a suicide note written to a yet-unknown woman named Juanita. Vicky Cruz’s attempt failed, and now she finds herself in a hospital’s psychiatric ward. Feeling like a failure at everything, including her suicide attempt, Vicky believes that she has nothing to contribute by being alive. Her father is a perfectionist and a workaholic, and Vicky has given up on ever being able to compete with her overachieving older sister or perform well at their elite private school. But after time spent at Lakeview Hospital, she meets other peers struggling with mental illness and learns important lessons of acceptance while summoning a strength she never knew she had. Juanita, the family’s nanny, has been a maternal figure to Vicky ever since her mother died, and had been her one lifeline. As a result of Vicky’s treatment, the family learns healthier ways to cope with their grief, and Vicky is able to get another chance at life.

X: a novel

by Ilyasah Shabazz

Winner of the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens and a 2016 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, the engaging narrative of X tells the story of a young Malcolm Little and the early years leading up to the powerful historical figure he would become -- Malcolm X. Co-authored by Malcolm’s daughter, X is authentic, gritty, and painfully real, illuminating the struggles of many African Americans during his time -- the struggle to find work, the struggle to raise a family, and the struggle to stay on the right side of the law. Though the narrative ends prior to Malcolm’s emergence as a civil rights leader, his backstory provides important historical context, establishes a timeline, and helps readers to understand the formative years of a man who would change history.