Below are the 2019 books, each with a short review, or download the list in PDF format.
Beartown - Fredrik Backman
In rural Sweden, a team of junior hockey players are on the cusp of changing everything for Beartown. If the players can win the championship, the small town may attract new businesses, improve its ailing economy, and recover its dignity. Everyone, from the local bar owner to the mother who cleans the rink, is linked to the boys and has a stake in whether they win or lose, making the teammates demigods within the community. After a night of celebrating a memorable semifinals win, the star player is accused of raping the general manager's daughter. The community must decide between holding the alleged rapist accountable, and thereby forfeiting their chances at success, and overlooking the crime. - School Library Journal
Jonah: A Novel of Men and the Sea - Howard Butcher
Jonah, an apprentice oil field diver, is partnered with Seed, a parolee from Angola, Louisiana’s notorious maximum security prison. The two strangers work in the brutal and exotic offshore world of the Gulf of Mexico. An accident enrages Seed, and his shocking retaliation starts a blood feud. Roughnecks and Riggers across the Gulf want retribution against Jonah's dive team. Every assignment sends Jonah farther out to deeper and more dangerous jobs. Topside, he must fight to survive the worst that men can do, while undersea he works in a surreal world where every breath can bring death, the night ocean lights up with bioluminescence, and giant predators hunt.- Amazon
Vox - Christina Dalcher
"On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her. This is just the beginning . . . Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words each day, but now women have only one hundred to make themselves heard. For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice". -Amazon
I Have Lost My Way - Gayle Forman
Freya sacrificed family for her music career, and now, just as she’s poised to make it big, she loses her singing voice completely. Harun, caught between the boy he loves and the family he doesn’t want to disappoint, prepares for a trip that could force him into a life he doesn’t want. And Nathaniel, self-contained and used to having only his father in his life, arrives in New York with almost nothing. When a chance encounter throws the three together, none of them will leave unchanged. Forman’s (If I Stay, 2009) latest is a mature, quiet examination of loss. The bulk of the narrative takes place over the course of just one day, with intermittent flashbacks giving depth to the characters. During that day, the three, who come from varying, diverse backgrounds and families, face their individual demons and try to find the paths they’ve lost. -Booklist
The Librarian of Auschwitz - Antonio Iturbe
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezin ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz. Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope. -From the publisher
Joyland - Stephen King
In the summer of 1973, 21-year-old Devin stumbles into a job at a North Carolina amusement park called Joyland, where he operates rides, mops up vomit, and “wears the fur” (dressing up as park mascot Howie the Happy Hound to amuse the kiddies). Bittersweet interjections from an older Devin lend the story an aching nostalgia, and between the chummy carny-chatter (terms like gazoonies, fump, and donniker fly fast and furious) and meaningful first times (losing his virginity, a crushing breakup, etc.), a fantastical mystery gradually emerges. Devin befriends a dying 10-year-old whose psychic hunches help hunt down the murderer of the ghost girl who haunts the park’s Horror House. -Booklist
Hey Kiddo - Jarrett Krosoczka
In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka's teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett's family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett's life. His father is a mystery -- Jarrett doesn't know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents -- two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along.
Jarrett goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what's going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father.
Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive. -Amazon
Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta
There have been lots of changes for Francesca as she starts Year Eleven at St. Sebastian's, a formerly all-boys school that has grudgingly admitted 30 coeds. She misses her old friends, but mostly she misses her mother, a strong vocal communications lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, who has slipped into a severe depression and can't get out of bed. Francesca is also facing challenges at school. Suddenly, she's hanging out with new friends, girls who were so uncool at St. Stella's, and it's impossible to talk things over with her mother as she once did. Life gets more complicated when she develops a crush on Will Trombal, who can't seem to make up his mind whether he wants to be with her or his current girlfriend. The trials continue throughout the year, and a conflict with her father brings everything to a head. At that point Francesca begins to understand what really matters, who her friends are, and, most importantly, who she is. -Amazon
Sold - Patricia McCormick
Lakshmi, 13, knows nothing about the world beyond her village shack in the Himalayas of Nepal, and when her family loses the little it has in a monsoon, she grabs a chance to work as a maid in the city so she can send money back home. What she doesn't know is that her stepfather has sold her into prostitution. She ends up in a brothel far across the border in the slums of Calcutta, locked up, beaten, starved, drugged, raped, "torn and bleeding," until she submits. In beautiful clear prose and free verse that remains true to the child's viewpoint, first-person, present-tense vignettes fill in Lakshmi's story. The brutality and cruelty are ever present ("I have been beaten here, / locked away, / violated a hundred times / and a hundred times more"), but not sensationalized. An unexpected act of kindness is heartbreaking ("I do not know a word / big enough to hold my sadness"). One haunting chapter brings home the truth of "Two Worlds." -Kirkus
A Place for Us - Fatima Farheen Mirza
"As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister's footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?
A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family's life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart. All the joy and struggle of family life is here, from Rafiq and Layla's own arrival in America from India, to the years in which their children--each in their own way--tread between two cultures, seeking to find their place in the world, as well as a path home.
A Place for Us is a book for our times: an astonishingly tender-hearted novel of identity and belonging, and a resonant portrait of what it means to be an American family today. It announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent." -BetterWorldBooks.com
Born a Crime - Trevor Noah
"Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. .... Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man's relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother-his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life." -Amazon
We Set the Dark on Fire - Tehlor Kay Mejia
Medio, an island nation divided by a wall, is literally in between extremes: “On one side there was the might of a nation. On the other, desperation.” Clear parallels to Mexico in imagery and themes abound. Born on the wrong side of the wall without legal papers, 17-year-old brown-skinned Daniela “Dani” Vargas graduates after 5 years of diligent training at an elite finishing school to join the powerful Garcia family as their son’s Primera. In this well-constructed world, an ancient mythology forms the basis for a practice in which husbands have two wives each: Primeras are quick-witted and emotionally restrained while Segundas are brave and passionate. When Dani’s Primera training falters in the face of her ruthless, power-hungry husband, her past overwhelms her present, and she is recruited to spy for the resistance. Excerpts from the Medio School for Girls rulebook precede each chapter, a juxtaposition that effectively reveals Dani’s conflicted self-awakening. An action-packed third-person narrative, smart dialogue, and lush descriptions offer readers a fresh and steely heroine in a contemporary coming-of-age story. This well-crafted fantasy offers a mirror that reflects themes in our own difficult world, namely privilege, immigration, and individualism versus the common good. A queer subplot with sensual tenderness adds rich complexity to the story. -Kirkus
Belichick: The Making of a Coach - Ian O'Connor
Having led the Patriots to five more Super Bowls and two more championships, Belichick is the subject of another biography-but this one is unauthorized. Sportswriter O'Connor (Arnie & Jack) did not have access to the coach himself but -interviewed 350 people for this detailed look at Belichick's successful and controversial life. O'Connor offers a fair-minded assessment of the obsessive coach whose triumphant career has been tainted by notorious episodes such as Spygate and Deflategate that have damaged his reputation among fans and league officials. The author, aided by his extensive interviews, follows Belichick from his boyhood in Annapolis as the son of an unheralded but highly respected college assistant coach through every step of his coaching career. His emphasis is on the long-standing relationship between Belichick, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and quarterback Tom Brady, and how that fueled the team's remarkable run of success. -Amazon
Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens
A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder. “The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. -Kirkus
Between the Lines - Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
Fifteen-year-old Delilah likes nothing better than to escape into a book when high school life gets too depressing. But after the hero of her favorite fairy tale comes to life before her eyes, she starts to wonder if she's been spending too much time with books and not enough time with real people. Oliver, a 16-year-old prince, feels trapped in his story, reliving the same scenes over and over. He longs to leave his book, and he is attracted to Delilah, the reader he sees most often hovering above the pages. Delilah and Oliver may be from two different worlds, but they have an emotional connection. Will it be strong enough to bridge the gap that separates fantasy and reality? -School Library Journal
Long Way Down - Jason Reynolds
Spanning a mere one minute and seven seconds, Reynolds’ new free-verse novel is an intense snapshot of the chain reaction caused by pulling a trigger. First, 15-year-old Will Holloman sets the scene by relating his brother Shawn’s murder two days prior—gunned down while buying soap for their mother. Next, he lays out The Rules: don’t cry, don’t snitch, always get revenge. Now that the reader is up to speed, Will tucks Shawn’s gun into his waistband and steps into an elevator, steeled to execute rule number three and shoot his brother’s killer. Yet, the simple seven-floor descent becomes a revelatory trip. At each floor, the doors open to admit someone killed by the same cycle of violence that Will’s about to enter. He’s properly freaked out, but as the seconds tick by and floors count down, each new occupant drops some knowledge and pushes Will to examine his plans for that gun. Reynolds’ concise verses echo like shots against the white space of the page, their impact resounding. He peels back the individual stories that led to this moment in the elevator and exposes a culture inured to violence because poverty, gang life, or injustice has left them with no other option. In this all-too-real portrait of survival, Reynolds goes toe-to-toe with where, or even if, love and choice are allowed to exist. -Kirkus
My Life Among the Underdogs - Tia Torres
The star of Animal Planet’s popular Pit Bulls & Parolees and founder of the Villalobos Rescue Center, Torres shares stories from the lives of several of the pit bulls nearest and dearest to her. After her brother dropped a wolf hybrid named Cujo on her doorstep, Torres fell in love with the breed, opening the Villalobos Rescue Center in Agua Dulce, California, in hopes of helping other abandoned wolves after their owners found them to be unsuitable as pets. But when Torres met Tatanka, a lovable pit bull who immediately took to Torres’ young daughters, Torres shifted the focus of her rescue to the much misunderstood and maligned breed. Among the other pit bulls she adopted are L.A., who became the constant companion of her daughter, Mariah; Duke, who turned into a movie star alongside Mickey Rourke, Justin Timberlake, and Jake Gyllenhaal; and Junkyard Joe, whose bloodhound instincts got him work as a drug sniffer. Torres does vital, admirable work, and fans of her show as well as animal lovers in general will enjoy these warm-hearted recollections. -Follet
The Program - Suzanne Young
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane's parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they'll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who's been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone--but so are their memories.
Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He's promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it's getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them. -Amazon
Goodbye Days - Jeff Zenter
Where are you guys? Text me back. That's the last message Carver Briggs will ever send his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. He never thought that it would lead to their death.
Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, a powerful judge is pressuring the district attorney to open up a criminal investigation.
Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a “goodbye day” together to share their memories and say a proper farewell.
Soon the other families are asking for their own goodbye day with Carver—but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these goodbye days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison? -Amazon
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin
The story is about AJ, a disgruntled bookshop owner who doesn’t care for anyone, including his customers. AJ gradually brings the love of books into the lives of the people on the island where he lives. He develops into a nicer and more dependable person over the years because of the love of a child. The author sets out to show the joy that books can bring into one's life and the importance of a thriving bookshop and literary culture in a community.