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book review

The Lines We Cross

By Randa Abdel-Fattah

Scholastic, 400 pages, $24.99

The scary thing about racism is that it doesn't always look scary. Seventeen-year-old Michael has lived in Australia his entire life. His father is the leader of Aussie Values, a fictional Islamophobic group that believes in closing borders and that "people need to fit in with the majority instead of trying to mark themselves as different." Mina is the new girl in Michael's school – and a refugee. She fled Afghanistan with her family 10 years ago; her brother did not survive the horrifying boat ride to Australia and her father was killed before he could leave. Despite initially infuriating each other, an attraction blossoms between Michael and Mina. But there is no star-crossed lover melodrama. Abdel-Fattah shows what it's like to actually grow up and fall in first love amidst a mess of competing beliefs and hate speech disguised as free speech.

The Fashion Committee

By Susan Juby

Penguin Teen, 305 pages, $21.99

Susan Juby's characters always make bold style choices, even when their outfits aren't the centre of the plot. Her eighth book for young adults is about two high-school fashion designers and their quest to win a prestigious art-school scholarship. Charlie Dean is a self-taught design savant who overcomes tough family circumstances to pursue design. John Thomas-Smith is a good-looking grump who hates fashion, but wants to get into art school to pursue metal work. Like all Juby novels, this one is sparklingly verbose and self-deprecating, but two things make it a standout. Juby briefly attended design school and and it shows. Lush, detailed descriptions of awe-inspiring designs are a treat to read. She also incorporates more substantial commentary on privilege, substance abuse and fashion stereotypes. This one is tailored to perfection for readers who love to laugh and look good doing it.

Just a Normal Tuesday

By Kim Turrisi

Kids Can Press, 256 pages, $18.95

One Tuesday afternoon, 16-year-old Kai learns that her beloved sister, Jen, has died by suicide. Debut author Kim Turrisi does an especially fine job of capturing the surreal shock inherent in the aftermath of losing a close family member; Kai has to help choose a coffin and burial outfit for her sister and search Jen's now-empty apartment for answers about her death. Kai is catapulted into a spiral of intense pain and starts self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. After a series of near-overdoses, her parents send her to a month-long grief camp for teens. The healing experience at grief camp takes a realistic amount of time and patience as Kai struggles to get to a place where she can, in the words of her grief counsellor, "not move on, move forward."

Eric and Terry Fan are two brothers who together wrote and illustrated a new children's book The Night Gardener.

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