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YA Summer Reading

By 49th Teachers
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Teachers, this one's for you! Get caught up on your reading this summer with a selection of fabulous and diverse YA novels that will be just as fun for you to read over the break as it will be to share with your students in the fall.
Center of the Universe, The

Center of the Universe, The


Grace Carter's mother --- the celebrity news anchor GG Carter --- is everything Grace is not. GG is a star, with a flawless wardrobe and a following of thousands, while Grace --- an aspiring astrophysicist --- is into stars of another kind. She and her mother have always been in different orbits.
Then one day GG is just ... gone. Cameras descend on their house, news shows speculate about what might have happened and Grace's family struggles to find a new rhythm as they wait for answers.
While …

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The Big Dig

The Big Dig

also available: eBook
tagged : friendship

Just as fourteen-year-old Lucy is starting to figure out life after her mom's death, her dad ships her off to Cape John, her mom's hometown, for the summer. Worse, she has to live with her nutty great-aunt Josie, who doesn't cook edible food or suffer fools. Soon Lucy meets Colin, freshly moved from the West Coast, who's digging an enormous hole in his new yard. He spends every day digging deeper in protest of his family's unilateral decision to move to this tiny oceanside community. As Colin di …

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Black Beach

Black Beach

also available: eBook Audiobook

Included on Black Children's Books and Authors' 2020 list of '10 YA Fiction Books by Black Authors for BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month'

Sixteen-year-old Tamera lives in La Cresta, a rural fishing community on a Caribbean island. Despite having the support of relatives, including her dad, Earl, her elder sister, Mary and her best friend and first cousin, Jan, she struggles to deal with her mom's mental health issues and the absence of her boyfriend, Dalton who moves out of the village to work. …

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Tamera's cell phone rang as she and Jan crossed the street in front of Edgar's half-finished wall. Even before checking the caller id, Tamera knew the call was from Dalton. That Saturday, because of his work commitments, Dalton wasn't able to return to the village to attend the school carnival celebrations. At eighteen, he was one and a half years older than Tamera, having graduated from secondary school the previous June. He'd never missed the school carnival show during the five years he was enrolled as a student, and during his final year he participated in the King of Carnival competition for the first time, placing third.

He usually phoned Tamera at about eight o'clock almost every evening, but he had told her ahead of time that he was going to contact her earlier so she could share the results of the various carnival competitions at her school.

"It's good to know that everything went well," he said. "Sorry I had to miss it this year."

"Yeah, it was really good, except that LaToya's still on everybody's minds," Tamera said. "It's horrible that we don't know what happened to her, and a lot of people are still thinking that she ran away with somebody. Her mother's at home worried sick, and I'm feeling guilty that we were at school celebrating."

"You can't stop living because someone's missing," Dalton said. "The reality is that over half a dozen missing people are still unaccounted for in Juniper and Toledo this year alone, so if we stop enjoying life because a person vanishes, then we will be miserable all the time."

"But it's different when you know the person," Tamera sighed. "Me and LaToya aren't best friends, but she is a decent person, and it's real scary that someone disappeared from a tiny place like this and nobody don't know nothing."

"I know what you mean," he said. LaToya's mother lives next door to my family, and I'm sorry about what happened to her, but I have to live my life, and you have to live yours too."

Tamera waved Jan goodbye as she turned to toward her home, the phone still glued to her ear. Tamera remained on the porch and chatted with her long-distance boyfriend for another ten or fifteen minutes. When she entered the house, her father was sprawled on the recliner that he'd purchased for his wife's fortieth birthday the previous year. Earl, with a drink in hand, looked up at Tamera and gave her a crooked smile. A half-filled bottle of rum was on the floor next to the recliner, and a bottle of cola was next to it. "Your mother eyes were so full of fire when we met," he slurred, emptying the glass in his mouth.

"Ma's okay?" she asked as he poured another drink.

"She had big dreams," he sputtered, then choked as he slugged back the drink. When he stopped coughing, he started to cry.

Tamera had only seen her father cry once before, and that was on the day his mother died.

"Life can give you roses or thorns, and you have to deal with whatever comes your way. You have to make the best of the cards that you draw," he sputtered, and after gulping back another shot of rum, he placed the empty glass at his feet.

"I'm going to take a shower, Pa." Tamera didn't want to discuss her mother and needed to escape her father's presence.

"You can't spare your old man a few minutes?" he whined.

"Sure, Pa, but just let me wash off this gunk first." She returned moments later with a bare face and some clean clothes, and reluctantly settled on the sofa facing him.

"When I asked your mother to marry me, she said no thefirst time, but I didn't give up that easily, and she agreed to be my wife when I proposed the second time." Earl had shared this tale many times before, but Tamera remained silent. She nodded and let him continue with his story.

After listening to her dad ramble for over fifteen minutes, she couldn't get her mother out of her mind. She thought of the previous November when Alison had been discharged from the hospital and how quickly after returning home her mood had begun to fluctuate. Some days she was on a high and on other days she sank really low. At times, she had more energy than a two-year-old and she and her sister couldn't keep up with her. During those times, she acted all- powerful and invincible, operating on less than three hours sleep a day. She painted watercolours for hours as if she had a pressing deadline. Her paintings were mediocre at best, yet she tried to convince her husband and kids that they'd sell for millions. It was during those times that Tamera almost wished her mother would get back to being down; it was so much easier to be with her when her mood was low. They could at least keep her still in one place. When she was high, there was no stopping her, and the whole family would have to be on high alert. Anything could happen.

The following Saturday, Mary and Tamera accompanied their father to the hospital to visit their mother. Children under twelve weren't allowed to set foot in the institution, so Renwick stayed at home with Emma. Uneasy, Tamera stepped through the door, spotting her mother among the inpatients, many of whom had an empty, spaced-out look. Compared to the sparkling sunshine they'd left outside moments earlier, the dull and dim space inside the hospital felt stuffy and stale. Alison sat quietly on a chair, rubbing her lower arm mechanically. Several women in the gloomy room were making large, jerky movements and chattering incessantly under their breaths. Alison must have noticed her family members as they came through the door, because that very moment she slid out of her seat and came forward to greet them with short laboured steps. They met in the middle of the large room and she pawed at their sleeves as they encircled her.

"Hi, Ma." Mary hugged her. "How are you?"

"Good," she said.

"We brought you this." Tamera held up a basket full of ripe fruit.

"You have more than enough to last the entire week," Earl said with a gentle smile.

"Any Julie mangoes in there?" she said, peeking.

"Of course, Ma," Mary said, hugging her. "We know they're your favourite."

"Thanks for coming." Alison said, but she wasn't smiling and her tone lacked inflection.

The mangoes, sapodillas, and bananas in the fruit basket had been harvested from Pa's garden that morning; the apples and pears were purchased from a vendor in the vicinity of the hospital.

When the bell rang, signalling the end of visiting hours, a sudden gloominess appeared in Earl's eyes, and Tamera felt tightness in her stomach. She needed to take one last look at her mother before stepping out of the enclosed area, so she spun around at the door, keeping her eyes on her mom as she torturously stepped away, widening the space between them. She tottered like an elderly person and then sluggishly sank in a low-slung chair that faced the window. Tamera waved, but her mother didn't notice.

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The Golden Slate
tagged : contemporary

Life constantly seems to be wavering between really good and really bad for Owen, a lonely sixteen-year-old still reeling from the unexpected death of his mother and a fresh move to Toronto. After ducking into an old bookstore to escape high school bullies, Owen discovers that he can travel to a parallel, twisted version of the city using a magical tablet called a Battledoor. He encounters new allies, bizarre creatures, and the ultimate antagonist who will stop at nothing to procure the magical …

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Body Swap

Body Swap

also available: eBook

2019 Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction — Winner
A fatal collision — who’s to blame? Two bodies, two souls switch in search of justice.

When fifteen-year-old Hallie gets knocked flying by a Hurricane SUV, her life ends without her ever having kissed a boy. At an otherworldly carnival, she meets and argues with the eighty-two-year-old driver, Susan. Both return to life, only with one catch — they’ve swapped bodies.

Now Hallie has wrinkled skin and achy joints while Susan deals with a for …

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“That cellphone will kill you!” a raspy voice warns. It comes from someone standing in front of me on the bus. Someone who smells like dirty socks and stale coffee. A male voice that sounds very definite about phone fatalities.

I ignore him. What’s happening on my little screen is way more important.

Megan is texting me about Chael Caruso, the boy whose name is written in big loops all over the inside cover of my journal, together with mine, of course. Chael loves Hallie. Mrs. Chael Prince-Caruso, Hallie and Chael forever. That one’s in a heart with an arrow through it.

And today, we’re finally going to begin our forever.

A cane knocks hard into my knee. “Ow!” Does the old guy plan to beat me to death with that thing? He coughs a loud fake ahem, ahem.

Seniors’ day at the mall. Why do they have to have it during our Christmas break? The stuffy warm bus heats up all the body odours into a boiled-broccoli-and-wet-dog potpourri. Makes me hot and irritable. I ignore him and lean toward my best friend, Abby, who is sitting on a window seat facing forward.

On the right side of her face, Abby’s hair angles to a pale blue arrow; the left is shaved close, making her look like a techno angel. She alone understands the importance of what’s happening on my phone right now and raises one blond eyebrow in a question mark.

I continue typing.

Did you ask Chael if he likes me? I press send. The answer to that text could potentially cheer me back up. Chael (pronounced Kale, yet nothing like the vegetable) has coffee-coloured eyes and smooth maple skin. A smile that’s as wide as a soccer field. He’s centre forward for our junior team, same position I play on the girls’ team. Our babies could be soccer stars. I sigh.

When I finally lift my eyes from the screen, I see the crepey blue-veined hand that grips the hook of the cane that hit me. Above the knuckles, blue, loopy letters spell Carpe Diem. My eyes raise higher to his face. Watery, grey eyes stare back at me, expecting something. What? With the light from the window, his hair glows a bright silver.

Abby gives me a hard stare, too. “Hallie!” She punches my shoulder.


“Give him your seat!”

I don’t get it. There are thirty other places available; I don’t know why he wants this particular one on the front bench facing the centre aisle. Giving it up will mean I can’t talk to Abby as easily because she’s wedged in beside a lady with a walker. That woman smells like Lily of the Valley; the sweetness of it squeezes at my throat. Dirty socks and lilies, what a combo. Gahh!

“If only I had a car,” I grumble to Abby as I rise from the bench and try to shuffle around the old guy.

“And could drive.” Abby grins, a braces-dazzling grin.

“I drive the truck on Uncle Bill’s farm.”

“And your licence then.”

“My birthday’s in April. Fast as I can get it, we will be out of here.” My phone interrupts with a belch, which is how it signals incoming texts and calls. Megan! I check to see what she’s answered. Her words will be crucial to who the father of my babies will be, and I want seven, just like the Von Trapps in The Sound of Music. Strange maybe, but that’s our family’s favourite Christmas movie.

This could be the best Christmas present ever. A cool boyfriend. Holding hands, kissing at our lockers. Smiling, happy. High school sweethearts, we’ll tell our seven kids later.

I sigh again. The bus lurches forward and I tumble against the man who stabs my foot with his cane this time.

“Ow!” I call out and glare.

“See what I mean …” he says, the tiniest bit of a smile lifting up his thin lips, “about cellphones?”

“It’s your cane that’s a lethal weapon!” I grumble and read the screen as I scootch into the seat behind Abby. “Oh, yay! Yesss! ” Leaning forward, I tell Abby, “Megan says Chael likes me!”

“Told ya!”

“But he called me thunder thighs at indoor soccer the other day.” I shake my head at the message on the tiny screen.

“You’re such a great kicker. He’s probably talking about the power in your thigh muscles ...”

“Nah, I think he means I’m fat.”

“You may have fat but you are not fat,” Abby continues, “just pleasantly round.”

I grab my face with my free hand. It’s shaped like a soccer ball, no cheekbones poking through at all. And I’ve conditioned my hair into gentle curls, but they soften my jawline, make me look pudgy. And I’m short — if my legs were longer, they’d look leaner.

Like Abby’s. I glance over at her skinny-jeaned legs. No thunder happening there. She has great bones anyway, a strong chin and cheekbones. I grip my forehead. “Oh no!”

“What’s wrong?”

Just above my eyebrows, my fingers find one of those hard bumps. I push down on it and it hurts. “A zit!”

“Never mind. We’re here.”

The bus begins to pull into the right lane.

Suddenly, the driver leans on her horn and brakes.

One of those new Hurricane SUVs shoots around the bus. It’s as red and shiny as a polished apple. I smile at it. Such a cool car! “Someday, I’m going to drive one of those,” I tell Abby.

“Me too. We’ll race them.”

I grin and shrug. “Probably need to save till we’re a hundred.”

The bus slows to the stop. I stand up before Lily of the Valley can move her walker, but not fast enough to beat the guy with the cane. He blocks me and takes forever to shuffle forward.

Another belch comes from my cellphone. I look at the screen: Chael and Hardeep are hanging out at the food court. “Oh my gosh. What am I going to do? He’s here too!” I touch the zit on my forehead. It seems to have doubled in size.

“Leave it alone! You’re making it worse.” Abby motions as if to slap my hand down, but the woman with the walker stands between us.

Down the stairs I go behind the guy with silver hair moving ever so s-l-o-w-l-y. I text as my feet go down. What exactly did Chael say about me?

In the middle of the steps, the old dude stops to pull on a red woollen hat, but I don’t notice till I bump into him.

He turns and frowns at me. “You are going to miss out on so much of life if you don’t put that thing away.”

“Sorr-eeee.” If only he would move. Quicker. Come on! I want to push him out of the way. I’m missing out on so much of life ’cause of him! Could have texted a Harry Potter novel by now. I finally press send. I need to catch up with Chael.

Or do I? Do I want him to see me like this? With this pumpkin in the middle of my forehead? Another belch and the old man turns to give me a look.

“It’s not me, it’s my phone,” I tell him and read the latest text.

Chael says you’re funny.

Finally, we’re off the bus. As I stumble forward, I key into my phone: Funny ha ha or funny weird?

Abby follows close behind and bumps against me. “Move it, Hallie, if you want to see Chael before he leaves.”

But maybe I don’t. I’m funny. Is he just messing with me? His eyes do always look at me like they’re laughing.

We climb through the snowbank edging the parking lot, and my sneakers get buried instantly. This will be the first white Christmas we’ve had in a long time, but it’s still fairly warm and I’m in winter-boot denial. I lift my feet out of the sticky white and we continue toward the mall.

Squish, squish, my sneakers slog along. “Can we stop at the drug mart? I wouldn’t mind picking up some concealer for this.” I point to my forehead.

Abby rolls her eyes. “Then we’ll miss them for sure.”

A burp sounds again.

“Look at it later.” Abby keeps going.

But my fingers itch; I can’t help myself, I have to see what Megan has to say. Dropping back, I lift the phone closer to my face.

“Hallie!” Abby calls.

I start to run as I read. Chael’s leaving Doughnut Time. Where are you?

“Hallie! Hallie!” Abby calls.

I run without looking up. We can still make it. We’ll skip the cosmetics department.

Abby’s voice turns strangely high-pitched. “Watch out!”

Whomp! A hard force explodes into me.

Time slows down as I get hurled into the air. My cellphone flies from my hand, and I watch it cartwheel through the air, then crash on the ice and shatter into pieces right next to the red Hurricane that hit me.

Then I slam onto the iced pavement headfirst. A coconut cracks and pain splinters into a million scalding-white lights somewhere behind my eyes.

Hot, hot, my head feels like it’s on fire with white pain. Then cooler, cooler, shivering … I’m cold. I lie still as, bit by bit, my body and mind shake loose of each other.

I hear Abby crying, loud at first. “Hallie, no! Hallie! Someone call 911.” But her voice becomes more and more distant.

I can hear myself breathing. In … out … in. Something warm drips from my head, and it feels like the last drops of syrup letting go from the bottom of a bottle.

I see Abby’s black-and-yellow shoes near my face; behind her legs, the dented red bumper. My breathing slows to a last gasp; it doesn’t seem necessary anymore. Instead, I feel myself lifting, floating, a helium balloon suddenly dancing and free. Below me I see my body sprawled on the snow, a white boxy ER truck, and a woman on a stretcher. Faded yellowy hair and a pale, white wrinkled face with a blue tinge. She was the driver? A hot bitter thought scalds me. She’s too old to be driving. My vision fills with a liquid black.


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The Story of My Face

The Story of My Face

also available: eBook

After being attacked by a grizzly bear in the Rocky Mountains, seventeen-year-old Abby Hughes' facial scars are all she can think about, and all that she thinks anyone else can see when they look at her. After months of hiding out at home, returning to high school feels as daunting to Abby as enduring seven plastic surgeries.

She knows it will be hard to show her new face to the world, but Abby doesn’t expect the level of rejection and hurt she receives, especially from people she thinks are he …

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This Place

This Place

150 Years Retold
also available: Paperback

Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact.

This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter initiative. With this $35M initiative, the Council …

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I have never liked the phrase, “History is written by the victors.” I understand the idea behind it – that those in power will tell and retell stories in whatever ways flatter them best, until those stories harden into something called “history.” But just because stories are unwritten for a time, doesn’t mean they’ll be unwritten forever. And just because stories don’t get written down, doesn’t mean they’re ever lost. We carry them in our minds, our hearts, our very bones. We honour them by passing them on, letting them live on in others, too.

That’s exactly what this anthology does. It takes stories our people have been forced to pass on quietly, to whisper behind hands like secrets, and retells them loudly and unapologetically for our people today. It finally puts our people front and centre on our own lands. Inside these pages are the incredible, hilarious heroics of Annie Bannatyne, who refused to let settlers disrespect Metis women in Red River. There’s the heartbreaking, necessary tale of Nimkii and Teddy, heroic youth in care who fight trauma and colonialism as hard as they possibly can in impossible circumstances. And there are many more—all important, all enlightening. All of these stories deserve to be retold, remembered and held close.

As I was reading, I thought a lot about the idea of apocalypse, or the end of the world as we know it. Indigenous writers have pointed out that, as Indigenous people, we all live in a post-apocalyptic world. The world as we knew it ended the moment colonialism started to creep across these lands. But we have continued to tell our stories, we have continued to adapt. Despite everything, we have survived.

Every Indigenous person’s story is, in a way, a tale of overcoming apocalypse. The Canadian laws and policies outlined at the beginning of each story have tried their hardest to beat us down, to force us to assimilate and give up our culture, yet here we are. We have survived the apocalypse. When you think about it that way, every Indigenous person is a hero simply for existing. The people named in these stories are all heroes, inspired by love of their people and culture to do amazing, brave things—but so are the unnamed people who raised them, who taught them, who supported them and stood with them. Our communities are full of heroes.

That’s why this anthology is so beautiful and so important. It tells tales of resistance, of leadership, of wonder and pain, of pasts we must remember and futures we must keep striving towards, planting each story like a seed deep inside of us. It’s our responsibility as readers to carry and nourish those seeds, letting them grow inside as we go on to create our own stories, live our own lives, and become our own heroes. As you read, consider: how are you a hero already? And what will your story be?

—Alicia Elliott

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This Book Betrays My Brother

This Book Betrays My Brother

also available: eBook

Winner of the Ottawa Book Award, English Fiction, 2019 Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2018 Named to the Globe 100, 2018 CBC Books, Top YA Pick for 2018 Named to Best Books for Kids and Teens, Fall 2018 Named to Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best Books, 2018

What does a teenage girl do when she sees her beloved older brother commit a horrific crime? Should she report to her parents, or should she keep quiet? Should she confront him? All her life, Naledi has been in awe of Basi, her …

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