Thwack! Just in time for your holiday shopping list, we asked our Young Adult book review team to list their top picks for 2015 offerings from small and independent presses. Here’s what they came up with:

Young Adult & Children’s Book Review Editor, Cleaver Magazine

Melissa SarnoMelissa Sarno is a writer and media producer living in Brooklyn, NY. She studied Communications at Cornell University and received an MFA in Screenwriting from Boston University. After a few years working in television production, she made the switch to children’s media. When she’s not writing elegant prose for preschool toys and games, she writes novels and short stories. She blogs for the B&N Kids blog and at http://melissasarno.com.

Melissa’s Picks:

The Walls Around UsThe Walls Around Us
by Nova Ren Suma
Algonquin Young Readers, 333 pages

“This literary hallucinogen takes place inside and outside the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, weaving together an otherworldly narrative about three girls seeking their own ideas of justice.”

One Thing StolenOne Thing Stolen
by Beth Kephart
Chronicle Books, 272 pages

“Suspenseful and gripping, One Thing Stolen is a spectacular creation about a girl losing her grip on language, chasing memories through the streets of Florence. I haven’t read anything like it.”

by Elana K. Arnold
Carolrhoda Lab, 204 pages

“Set on the gritty surf and sand of Venice Beach, Infandous twists fairytales, myths, and the cruel fates of young women into a mother and daughter story that will leave you breathless. As dark and unsettling as it is absorbing, you’ll be haunted long after you turn the final page.”

Cleaver Author & Book Reviewer

Leticia-UrietaLeticia Urieta is a Xicana writer from Austin, TX. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and is a fiction candidate in the MFA program at Texas State University. She won Agnes Scott’s Academy of American Poet’s prize and her work has appeared in Cleaver, the 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar and Blackheart Magazine. Leticia lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two dogs and works as a bilingual elementary educator. She is using her love of Texas History and passion for research to write a historical fiction novel about Mexican women in Texas’ war with Mexico.

Leticia’s Picks:

Gabi A Girl in PiecesGabi, a girl in pieces
by Isabel Quintero
Cinco Puntos Press, 290 pages

“Told in diary entries over the course of her senior year, Gabi Hernandez struggles with college applications, dating, her friend’s pregnancy, her father’s drug addiction and her own self image. Gabi’s voice is long overdue- a snarky, unflinchingly introspective and poetic sensibility that makes up her identity.”

Ink-and-ashesInk and Ashes
by Valynne E. Maetani
Tu Books, 380 Pages

“This is a novel that provokes laughs, quickens the pulse, and makes the reader feel deeply for its heroine. Maetani is definitely an author to watch for in the future.” Read the rest of Leticia’s review on Cleaver….

Cleaver Book Reviewer

Allison-RennerAllison Renner has worked as a photographer, student teacher, and graphic designer. She is currently a freelance writer. Allison is working towards a degree in Library Science to share her love of young adult literature with teens in public libraries.

Allison’s Picks:

None of the aboveNone of the Above
by I.W. Gregorio
Balzer + Bray, 357 pages

“A high school senior finds out she was born intersex–with both boy and girl parts. Before she can cope with this identity change, the whole school finds out. The medical details in this book make it an informative, much-needed diverse read.”

are-you-seeing-meAre You Seeing Me?
by Darren Groth
Orca Book Publishers, 278 pages

“Though it’s classified as a young adult book, Are You Seeing Me? will appeal to readers of all ages because of its depth of story. Groth deftly and sensitively addresses the issues of living with autism, but the book’s focus and strength is in the complex but touching relationship between siblings.” Read the rest of Allison’s review on Cleaver…


Cleaver Book reviewer

Mandy-KingMandy King works as a digital marketing strategist, spending most of her days writing and editing content that lives on the web. The best job she ever had was head of the events and marketing program at Boulder Book Store, one of the U.S.’s largest independent bookstores. To her mind, the perfect day starts with a cup of tea and ends with a bag (or two) of new books.

Mandy’s Pick:

by Ingrid Law
Dial Books, 329 pages

“This companion to Law’s Newbery Honor winner Savvy is full of delight, mischief and heart. About a young girl whose magical talent is unexpected and uncontrolled, Switch offers a unique take on what it means to mature and find your place in a family with extraordinary abilities.”

Cleaver Intern and Book Reviewer

Rachael-TagueRachael Tague 
grew up in the Indianapolis area and is currently studying English and Creative Writing at Cedarville University.


Rachael’s Pick: 

The-Devil-and-Winnie-Flynn-1The Devil and Winnie Flynn
by Micol Ostow
illustrated by David Ostow
Soho Teen, 326 pages

“Balancing somewhere between terrifying and comedic, romantic and awkward, graphic novel and epistolary tale, The Devil and Winnie Flynn lures readers into its magically haunted domain through the eyes of a girl who has experienced heart-ache and hurt, yet manages to trudge on and find the power within herself to live and thrive in a crazy world.” Read the rest of Rachael’s review on Cleaver.

Cleaver Book Reviewer

Heather-Leah-HuddlestonHeather Leah Huddleston earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. When she’s not writing her own stories, or guiding others to theirs, you can find her on a yoga mat, dancing through life barefooted, listening to music (mostly heavy metal), or cuddling a furry friend, all in the name of the wonder-filled world of story.

Heather’s pick: 

Took a ghost storyTook: A Ghost Story
by Mary Downing Hahn
Clarion Books, 272 pages

“Intrigue mixes with a touch of mystery as Mary Downing Hahn explores the power of legend and lore, as well as the love a brother has for his younger sister—and just what he will do to protect her—in her suspenseful new novel Took.”