Dec 11, 2023

Maggie's Favorite 2023 Children and Teen Reads

 Since this was my first year of not being in school after graduating with my MLIS in December 2022, I set a reading goal for myself of 60 books; I have surpassed that by reading 120 books! This includes physical books, audiobooks, graphic novels, etc. 

To me, five star reads are books that:

  • Made me cry

  • Made me comprehensively or critically think

  • Had great dialogue

  • Informed me of a social justice issue I was not aware of

  • Had memorable and engaging characters

  • Basically anything that, 0.2 seconds after finishing the book, had me searching Amazon or my local independent bookstore to purchase it and add it to my collection. 


If You’ll Have Me by Eunnie

Recommended ages: 14+

There are so many things to love about this book! About 0.2 seconds after I finished this book, I started following the author, Eunnie, on Instagram. This led to me buying a signed copy of this graphic novel and a piece of artwork from her; I also discovered that she created Spotify playlists for the two main characters, Momo and PG which, of course, I listened to. 

The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich 

Recommmended Ages: 14+

Such a CHEESY romance… Sorry, you know I had to. But seriously! If you like graphic novels, romance, positive female friendships, AND/OR CHEESE, you will love The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich! First of all, everything from the characters (Gorgonzola, Feta, Princess Brie, Camembert, etc) and the kingdom of Fromage have cheese names. There is also such a beautiful relationship between “Count” Camembert and her ladies’ maid, Feta; even though Cam can kind of be a handful. The artwork throughout was so vivid and bold, but my favorite illustrations were any that dealt with fashion (No spoilers but the ENDING DRESSES… iykyk). 

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Recommended Ages: 11+

I had several months this year where I was dealing with some pretty debilitating health problems which were also affecting my mental health. Several of my friends had told me about the show and after seeing the heartwarming clip of Nick (depicted by Kit Connor) coming out to his mom (Olivia Colman) as bisexual, I knew that I had to give the show a go. Like the rest of the world, I fell in love with the absolute joy, audible “awww” moments and all of the quintessential angst that follows any sort of teen romance show. 

Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy by Faith Erin Hicks

Again, another super adorable graphic novel! You might recognize the artwork of Faith Erin Hicks from her collaborative graphic novel Pumpkinheads with author Rainbow Rowell.

In Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy, Alix is a high school hockey player with dreams of being invited to join the summer camp of Canada’s National Team. But when she gets into a physical altercation with her teammate and rival, Alix knows she has to get her anger under control so her invitational spot is in jeopardy. So, she enlists the help of Ezra, a popular theatre teen at her high school, who never seems to let anything get to him. Through this, they begin to learn and engage with each others’ interests which, in turn, increases their interest in each other. 

The progression in Alix and Exra’s relationship is so sweet, and will definitely have you rooting for the love story of hockey girl and drama boy! 

Recommended Ages: 14-18

Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

Iris Winnow’s main focus right now is to beat her arch rival, Roman Kitt, for the position of columnist at the Oath Gazette. But there are more pressing issues outside of the Oath Gazette doors which Iris knows all too well. The gods, Enva and Dacre, have woken from their centuries long sleep and have begun warring; Iris’ own brother is on the front lines, fighting for Enva. Though she does not know where he is, she writes him letters on a typewriter inherited from her grandmother and places them in her wardrobe. Unbeknownst to Iris, the letters appear in the wardrobe of Roman Kitt. Their letters forge a powerful connection and love between Iris and Kitt. However, in the midst of a war, there is no safe road to turn down.

Such a great story! The second book is actually coming out this month, December 2023, and I cannot wait to see how this series continues! 

Recommended Ages: 13-18

Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide

Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, have been selected as Niveus prefects! While this is initially an accomplishment ful of excitement, it does not take long before an anonymous texter called Aces begins to reveal secrets about each of the new prefects to the entire school. Devon and Chiamaka decide to work together to find out who Aces is and bring them down. What is initially thought to be a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game. 

When I say the TWIST in this book is one that literally threw me for a loop! I usually have this uncann ability to tell who the bad guy is before the story is over but this one truly threw me! Such a great thriller, but also a fantastic social commentary regarding racism. 

Recommended ages: 14-18

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

I picked this book up after reading a blog post of books that the character, Toby, reads in the Heartstopper television series and this title was on it (same with Ace of Spades now that I think about it). Reasons to love this book: 1) It is such a quick read. 2) Not only does it address queer people of color, but also those who are striving on how to become better allies. 3) George’s grandmother, Nan! She is seriously the epitome of a classic Southern grandmother; sweet, loving, supportive, but also will give you the what-for when you need it. 4) This book details the LGBTQIA+ community and perception, brotherhood, sexual assault, gender identity, and many other important topics that need to be addressed. 

Recommended Ages: 16+

Curlfriends: New in Town by Sharee Miller

Charlie is used to her family’s near constant moving due to her father being in the military. However, their family has decided to settle for good which means that Charlie has to make the ultimate first impression. When Charlie meets a group of Black girls who call themselves Curlfriends, Charlie learns that maybe her true character and personality is not something to hide from, but something to embrace! 

As you can see, I have been loving so many of the 2023 graphic novels that our Youth Services Department has received! This one just felt so laughably relatable to when I was a girl in middle and high school. I am sure that all of us wish we could go back and tell our younger selves that all of the opinions and judgement from our peers that we were so worried about literally means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Now that I am grown up and have reflected on who I am, I am so excited to dress how I want to and not be worried about what other people might think of me. The Curlfriends are all so different but also remind me of my close friends now; you always have to have the super smart friend, the golden retriever friend, and the friend who tells us the hard things we need to hear. 

Recommended ages: 8-12 

I hope that all of you are going to strive to read more in 2024!