We've all been there– you hear endless praise for a book and buy it, fully intending to learn what all the hype is about. But then it sits on your TBR shelf for months collecting dust.


I'm covering books I've "slept on" far too long this month. Thank goodness I finally got around to cracking them open. As my students would say, they're all "fire." 


DariusTheGreatDarius the Great is Not Okay is a brilliant debut novel by Adib Khorram.

Darius is an Iranian-American teenager from Portland, Oregon, struggling with clinical depression. He's bullied by his classmates, and the isolation he feels is exacerbated by a lack of support from his emotionally absent father.

After learning Darius' Babou (his mom's dad) has a brain tumor, his family travels to Yazd, Iran. Darius barely knows his grandparents. They've only spoken briefly over video calls, but he speaks little Farsi and has a hard time keeping up in conversations. Darius feels the familiar sting of not belonging. 

When Darius meets a neighbor boy, Sohrab, he's invited to play Football with a group of boys, and the two become fast friends. For the first time, Darius is able to confide in someone emotionally, and the two share long talks about their own struggles.  

This is a heartfelt novel about family, masculinity, identity, and mental health, as well as a fascinating window into Persian culture. 



Darius the Great Deserves Better is Adib Khorram's second novel, where we catch up with Darius after his trip to Iran. 

Darius has been getting along with his dad, he has a boyfriend, he's on the varsity soccer team, and he got an internship at his favorite tea shop. Things seem better than ever.

But his best friend Sohrab hasn't been answering his video calls, he's having feelings for another boy on the soccer team who isn't his boyfriend, and his internship isn't what he expected. 

After returning from Iran, Darius finally felt okay, but he learns he may deserve better.


SlaySlay by Brittney Morris follows Kiera, a Black high school student who developed the online game SLAY.

Within the online gaming community, Kiera experienced countless instances of racial harassment. She developed SLAY, a game specifically for Black Gamers about Black culture to combat that.

But her safe space is infiltrated when an anonymous troll claims SLAY is "anti-white discrimination" and threatens to sue Kiera.

Not only does this book explore the unique world of online gaming while weaving in very real issues and the complexities of identity. 


Attack of the Black Rectangles by A.S. King is a relevant story of a young man speaking out against censorship.BlackRectangles

When Mac first opens his classroom copy of Jane Yolen's The Devil’s Arithmetic and finds some words blacked out, he thinks it must be a mistake. But then when he and his friends discover what the missing words are, he's outraged.

Mac's father encourages him to let it go. Don't get overly emotional. But Mac's mother and grandmother have always taught him to be a fierce fighter for what's right.

Will Mac find out who's censoring books and why? Will he be able to change his school and his community's mind? 

This is an incredible book that empowers students to fight for the truth, even within the walls of their own schools. 



Exile from Eden by Andrew Smith is the sequel to Grasshopper Jungle.

Arek was born in a hole underground after his family was forced to take shelter there when an army of giant (and deadly) praying mantises threatened the earth. 

Now the praying mantises seem to be dying out. Arek and his friends must trek through the post-apocalyptic remains and figure out what happens next.

Although the threat of giant praying mantises feels impossible, Arek's thoughts and feelings feel very raw and real. Now that his world has literally become bigger, how does he navigate it?