Tween Social Issues

The Cruisers

Walter Dean Myers

Friends Zander, Kambui, LaShonda, and Bobbi, caught in the middle of a mock Civil War at DaVinci Academy, learn the true cost of freedom of speech when they use their alternative newspaper, The Cruiser, to try to make peace.

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Clean Getaway

Nic Stone

For the life of him, William "Scoob" Lamar can't seem to stay out of trouble--and now the run-ins at school have led to lockdown at home. So when G'ma, Scoob's favorite person on Earth, asks him to go on an impromptu road trip, he's in the RV faster than he can say FREEDOM. With G'ma's old maps and a strange pamphlet called the 'Travelers' Green Book' at their side, the pair takes off on a journey down G'ma's memory lane. But adventure quickly turns to uncertainty: G'ma keeps changing the license plate, dodging Scoob's questions, and refusing to check Dad's voice mails. And the father they go, the more Scoob realizes that the world hasn't always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren't always what they seem--G'ma included.

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Black Brother, Black Brother

Jewell Parker Rhodes

Framed. Bullied. Disliked. But I know I can still be the best. Sometimes, 12-year-old Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, most of the students don't look like him. They don't like him either. Dubbing him "Black Brother," Donte's teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter-skinned brother, Trey. When he's bullied and framed by the captain of the fencing team, "King" Alan, he's suspended from school and arrested for something he didn't do. Terrified, searching for a place where he belongs, Donte joins a local youth center and meets former Olympic fencer Arden Jones. With Arden's help, he begins training as a competitive fencer, setting his sights on taking down the fencing team captain, no matter what. As Donte hones his fencing skills and grows closer to achieving his goal, he learns the fight for justice is far from over. Now Donte must confront his bullies, racism, and the corrupt systems of power that led to his arrest. Powerful and emotionally gripping, Black Brother, Black Brother is a careful examination of the school-to-prison pipeline and follows one boy's fight against racism and his empowering path to finding his voice.

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My Year in the Middle

Lila Quintero Weaver

In a racially polarized classroom in 1970 Alabama, Lu’s talent for running track makes her a new best friend — and tests her mettle as she navigates the school’s social cliques. Miss Garrett’s classroom is like every other at our school. White kids sit on one side and black kids on the other. I'm one of the few middle-rowers who split the difference. Sixth-grader Lu Olivera just wants to keep her head down and get along with everyone in her class. Trouble is, Lu’s old friends have been changing lately — acting boy crazy and making snide remarks about Lu’s newfound talent for running track. Lu’s secret hope for a new friend is fellow runner Belinda Gresham, but in 1970 Red Grove, Alabama, blacks and whites don’t mix. As segregationist ex-governor George Wallace ramps up his campaign against the current governor, Albert Brewer, growing tensions in the state — and in the classroom — mean that Lu can’t stay neutral about the racial divide at school. Will she find the gumption to stand up for what’s right and to choose friends who do the same?

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If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

Gennifer Choldenko

Kirsten's parents are barely speaking to each other, and her best friend has fallen under the spell of the school's queen bee, Brianna. It seems like only Kirsten's younger science-geek sister is on her side. Walker's goal is to survive at the new white private school his mom has sent him to because she thinks he's going to screw up like his cousin. But he's a good kid. So is his friend Matteo, though no one knows why he’ll do absolutely anything that hot blond Brianna asks of him. But all of this feels almost trivial when Kirsten and Walker discover a secret that shakes them both to the core.

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You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!

Alex Gino

Jilly thinks she's figured out how life works. But when her sister, Emma, is born deaf, she realizes how much she still has to learn. The world is going to treat Jilly, who is white and hearing, differently from Emma, just as it will treat them both differently from their Black cousins. A big fantasy reader, Jilly makes a connection online with another fantasy fan, Derek, who is a Deaf, Black ASL user. She goes to Derek for help with Emma but doesn't always know the best way or time to ask for it. As she and Derek meet in person, have some really fun conversations, and become friends, Jilly makes some mistakes . . . but comes to understand that it's up to her, not Derek to figure out how to do better next time--especially when she wants to be there for Derek the most. Within a world where kids like Derek and Emma aren't assured the same freedom or safety as kids like Jilly, Jilly is starting to learn all the things she doesn't know--and by doing that, she's also working to discover how to support her family and her friends.

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Maybe He Just Likes You

Barbara Dee

For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys (and fellow trumpet player) Callum tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long, and feels…weird. According to her friend, Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like? But the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice—the one place Mila could always escape. It doesn’t feel like flirting—so what is it? Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others—and herself.

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Amal Unbound

Aisha Saeed

In Pakistan, Amal holds onto her dream of being a teacher even after becoming an indentured servant to pay off her family's debt to the wealthy and corrupt Khan family.

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Shooting Kabul

N. H. Senzai

Escaping from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, eleven-year-old Fadi and his family immigrate to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Fadi schemes to return to the Pakistani refugee camp where his little sister was accidentally left behind.

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The Red Pencil

Andrea Davis Pinkney

"Amira, look at me," Muma insists. She collects both my hands in hers. "The Janjaweed attack without warning. If ever they come-- run." Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala-- Amira's one true dream. But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey-- on foot-- to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind-- and all kinds of possibilities.

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Refugee

Alan Gratz

This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home. Three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.

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The Darkest Corner

Mildred Barger Herschler

Her loving relationship with the black woman who works for her family and her friendship with two black neighbors in the small Mississippi town where she grows up in the 1950s and 1960s brings Teddy into conflict with her racist father, a member of the local Ku Klux Klan.

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Betty Before X

Ilyasah Shabazz, Renée Watson

The fictionalized biography of Betty Shabazz (Malcolm X's wife) as a young girl in post-WWII Detroit, as written by her daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, with Renée Watson.

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We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices

Wade Hudson, Cheryl Willis Hudson

What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak, and prejudice and racism run rampant? With 96 lavishly designed pages of original art and prose, fifty diverse creators lend voice to young activists. Featuring poems, letters, personal essays, art, and other works, this anthology empowers the nation's youth to listen, learn, and build a better tomorrow.

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The Only Black Girls in Town

Brandy Colbert

Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years. Alberta's best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can't understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her. Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living. When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie's attic, they team up to figure out exactly who's behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.

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A Good Kind of Trouble

Lisa Moore Ramée

Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends really are and what it means to be a young black woman.

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