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Tournament of Books, Round One: Prince in Disguise vs Want

Tournament of Books, Round One: Prince in Disguise vs Want

When I received the books for my tournament bracket, I was already in the middle of Prince in Disguise. So, Prince automatically gained a few points due to it being a book I was already reading without adding another title to my ever-growing list. Want, on the other hand, is a diverse sci-fi dystopian novel, and I’m a sucker for diverse sci-fi so they both started out with points on a pretty level playing field.


WANT by CINDY PON

want-9781481489225_hrIn future dystopian Taiwan, there are yous who live in luxury and meis who live in poverty. Pollution and illness is rampant, especially for meis without the resources to buy suits to purify the air. Zhou and his group of mei friends have a plan to take down the you infrastructure and bring environmental reform. Their plan means Zhou must infiltrate you society and live as a you to gain information.

If that paragraph was confusing, with meis and yous, nearly the first quarter of the book felt similar. I thought the use of “you” as a people group throughout the book would drive me crazy, and it did at first, but the world-building is superb, the action great and really my enjoyment of the book overtook my annoyance relatively quickly. Want reads similar to a younger, less complex Red Rising.


PRINCE IN DISGUISE by STEPHANIE KATE STROHM

25844635The premise to Prince in Disguise is just so crazy, it’s believable. Dylan has lived her whole life in her beauty queen sister Dusty’s shadow. Dusty ended up on a reality TV Bachelor-like show called Prince in Disguise (where the “Bachelor” is a prince, except Ronan isn’t a prince – he’s a lord). Dusty and Ronan are engaged and planning a wedding in Scotland, which is the focus of a special season of Prince in Disguise. The book opens with Dusty asking/informing Dylan that she will be a part of the wedding edition of the reality TV show and get to spend a few weeks in Scotland. Dylan is less than pleased (to say the least) she would rather not be on reality TV at all. When Dylan arrives in Scotland she is constantly being put into less than flattering situations, but at least there is Jamie, a cute, funny groomsman of Ronan’s.

This book is full of funny and awkward scenarios, weird twists, and family drama. I definitely expected a few of the “twists” but a couple of them surprised me as well. Though, the surprise of the twists was less “I didn’t see that coming!” and more “Of course, that’s how it would go down on reality TV, how did I NOT see this!!” It reads like a combination of The Bachelor and The Royal We, in all the best ways. Reading this book will give you all the delightful guilty pleasure of an evening spent watching The Bachelor or trolling the internet for Harry and Megan rumors (not that I have such experience 😉 ).


And the winner is…

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Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Honestly, these two books were neck and neck for nearly the whole time. I wasn’t sure how I was going to decide, and it came down to the ending. Both of these books follow pretty popular storylines and have lots of tropes. In the case of Prince the fun had with the predictable twists was the exact point of this sort of novel. In the end, Prince was able to fully embody those tropes, while adding something to the conversation – love at 16 might not be end game while still having a happy and satisfying ending. On the other hand, Want’s ending felt like a back loaded information dump. The ending of Want had twists and a lot of information to set up for a potential sequel, but it felt like too much at the end and not enough throughout. So yay mushy-crazy-royal-reality-TV-romance!



Bio: Cyndi Hamann is the Teen Librarian at Crystal Lake Public Library. She enjoys baking and binge watching while playing Tetris. Muggle.

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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Tournament of Books

 

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Tournament of Books, Round One: Allegedly vs. Wires and Nerve

Tournament of Books, Round One: Allegedly vs. Wires and Nerve

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

41Pkis9KXqL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Mary is a 16-year-old living in a group home who has been incarcerated since she was 9 years old for – allegedly – killing an infant. When she finds out that she is pregnant, she begins to revisit the details of her case in the hopes of being allowed to keep her baby. The picture you get of Mary develops through her own first-person narrative, her memories of the events of her childhood, and excerpts from books and newspaper articles. The more we hear from and about Mary, the more we wonder how reliable a narrator she really is. Likewise, through her interactions with her mother, the girls in the group home, and her boyfriend, we see how complex and tragic all their stories are. In the case of her boyfriend Ted, I think this is the first time I’ve ever felt angry at a character and for them at the same time. Aside from her mother, the adults in this book (social workers, group home staff, and therapists) are less complex — they’re just awful.


Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer

7I read Cinder a few years ago, but haven’t yet gotten to the other Lunar Chronicles novels. Wires and Nerve starts off with a recap and an introduction to the characters, which was extremely helpful, though I still felt a bit adrift at times. Iko is an android who has gone from a boxy white robot-looking body to a sleek escort body. Her status as an android puts her in a unique position to hunt down and capture wolf-hybrid soldiers on Earth while Cinder manages politics on the Luna. An android surpassing her programming and exploring her humanity is not an entirely new concept, but I love Iko’s development and how confident and badass she is.


And the winner is:

41Pkis9KXqL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

I read Allegedly first, and though it was a hard act to follow, I really did endeavor to be as objective as possible and give Wires and Nerve a chance. Wires and Nerve is a nice story, but it just doesn’t have the depth or the urgency. I’d recommend it to teens who read and enjoyed the Lunar Chronicles and are looking for something quick to read, but I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone who hasn’t — I felt adrift enough having read just the first one. I’d recommend Allegedly to any teen who is looking for a good story, and to fans of realistic fiction (I know several). I also this this would be a strong recommendation for adult readers of crime and suspense. Ultimately, Allegedly is the winner because I am still thinking about this book, and I want as many people as possible to read it so I can talk about it with them.



Jacquie Christen is the Public Services Assistant Manager at the Glenside Public Library District. She is a mom to two girls, loves running, and her newest side project is EverydayLibrarians.com

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Tournament of Books

 

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Tournament of Books, Round One: Wintersong vs Long Way Down

Tournament of Books, Round One: Wintersong vs Long Way Down

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

24763621.jpgLiesl has always been the dutiful daughter.  She gives up her dreams of being a famous composer to support her little brother’s budding career as a violinist.  While her beautiful sister Käthe primps, plain Liesl works tirelessly to keep her parents’ inn running despite her father’s alcoholism.  She has all but given up on half-remembered childhood fancies of playing music with the Goblin King.  But after Käthe is abducted by goblins, to save her sister and the world Liesl agrees to marry the Goblin King and never leave his realm, the Underground, as she fades and then dies.

Drawing on fairy tales and Romanticism, Wintersong is a sensuous and dramatic story of love, lust, and self-discovery.  Jae-Jones’ rich language and dreamy imagery set a dark and amorous tone. While the first half of the book reads as a romantic adventure, the second half gives itself over entirely to romance and internal angst.  Liesl contends with a tangle of conflicted emotions and questions about who she is and who she could be.  Magic, mystery, and multiple steamy sex scenes add intrigue, but a meandering and sometimes confusing plot may frustrate some readers.

There is certainly an audience for a book like Wintersong, and it is a strong example of its genre and style.  It’s a particular taste, though, and its meandering pace and high emotion don’t do much to invite readers outside this niche.


Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds  

22552026After his brother Shawn is murdered, Will knows The Rules: No crying.  No snitching.  Revenge.  So he takes his brother’s gun and gets on the elevator of his building at the 7th floor to go kill the man who he is convinced killed his brother.  On each floor, a new person gets on the elevator: each one a ghost from his past, killed by gang violence.  In tense and nimble verse, Reynolds recounts their stories, and Will’s struggle with whether to stick to The Rules, or take a different path that might end the cycle of violence.

This is a book that sucked me in so deeply, coming out of it was like waking from a dream.  But Long Way Down is, in truth, far too real.  In affecting verse, the book shines a light on the plight of young people caught up in gang violence.  It is both empathetic and challenging.  Beneath Will’s protestations that he is doing what he has to do is the ever-present whisper, “But do you have to, really?”  As Reynolds skillfully illustrates, this is a deceptively simple question with no easy answer.

The book’s length and relevance make it accessible to a wide swath of readers, particularly black urban youth who have been underrepresented in YA literature.  The ending packs a punch that will leave you breathless.


And the winner is…

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Winner: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down is possibly my favorite book of the year.  It grabbed me and, months after I first read it, has yet to let go, still popping into my head at random moments.  It is impossible to encounter someone else who has read this book and resist launching into a fervent discussion of its ending. It is a brutally honest and thought-provoking look at a timely subject that should be immensely valuable to readers who are in situations like Will’s, and eye-opening to readers who aren’t.

I would certainly recommend Wintersong to the right reader, but I would see many finding it boring or overdramatic.  I also have a few concerns about how closely it links self-discovery to a relationship, particularly one with major power imbalances and a conflicted sex life.

Wintersong and Long Way Down both feature skilled, imaginative writing.  But while escapist stories have an important place in literature, it is hard to compare one with something so gut-wrenching, timely, and life-or-death urgent as Long Way Down.  Jason Reynolds continues to astound with the quality and volume of hard-hitting books he gifts to young readers.



 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Tournament of Books

 

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Tournament of Books, Round One: The Hate U Give vs Loving vs Virginia

Tournament of Books, Round One: The Hate U Give vs Loving vs Virginia

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9fI read The Hate U Give a few months after it published, a story of black teen Starr Carter who sees her friend shot by a police officer for checking on her during a traffic stop. Starr reconnected with Khalil at a party and the pair were escaping the party after they hear gun shots. When pulled over by a white officer, Khalil wants to be told why he was pulled over, but the office doesn’t respond, only asking for documents, eventually pulling Khalil out of the car. While the officer goes back to his patrol car, Khalil opens the car door to check on Starr, which is when he’s shot. Starr’s already complicated world becomes more so.

Starr attends a fancy private school 45 minutes away from her home and she discusses Garden Heights Starr and Williamson Starr, how she feels she needs to present two selves in the entirely disparate worlds she lives in. Reading how Starr continually thinks about how she presents herself in her school environment is exhausting, and like most teens, she struggles with her own sense of self. She even denies knowing Khalil to her prep school friends.

Packed with a boatload of issues, The Hate U Give is emotionally engaging and speaks to current events. It’s an important discussion to have, to see teens struggle with, especially in the society we live in today. The supportive and involved family present in the novel is refreshing to see; the changing relationship between old friends is also important to acknowledge, how people some people evolve and grow and others don’t. The largest struggle for Starr is deciding whether or not to speak out whether or not to act, how to fight for justice when you’re scared.


Loving vs Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

LovingVsVirginacoverI listened to the audiobook of Loving vs Virginia as I waited for the print copy to be returned to my library. Told in verse, it follows the story of a couple in 1950s Virginia as they fall in love, get married, have children, and want to live their lives near their families. Richard is white, Mildred is black, and for the pair to be married in Virginia is illegal. They marry in Washington, DC (where it is legal) but as they begin their lives as a married couple in Virginia, the sheriff enters Mildred’s family’s home and takes the pair to jail. They move to Washington, DC after the court banishes them from going to Virginia together for 25 years. Mildred’s frustration with being unable to spend time with her family, for her children to grow up near their cousins, to be a within her family’s close circle leads her to contact the American Civil Liberties Union and so their court battles begin.

The story is rooted in interviews with family and friends of the Lovings, and relevant quotes from documents are included in the narrative, such as the extremely racist declaration of the judge who originally banished the Lovings from Virginia by saying “God put the races on separate continents and didn’t intend them to mix.” The simplicity of the verse left emotions bare and you could feel the frustration and sadness and also the joy of the pair. As the novel is based on true events, the author included notes on the couple’s lives which was appreciated, as well as the mind blowing fact that it was the year 2000 in which the last state repealed anti-interracial marriage laws.


After I listened to Loving vs Virginia, I then read the book, and then listened to The Hate U Give on audiobook to refresh me on the story. Writing from a privileged perspective (I’m white and straight), both of these books made me angry—angry that we live in a world where the government thinks it can restrict us to who we marry, angry that we live in a world where people are shot without warning, angry that we live in a world where so many people struggle, where so many people are denied opportunities because of who they are, who they love, where they live. I am an emotional reader, and I cried while listening to both of these books. Beyond the anger, there is hope—Starr learns to speak out, to disguise herself less, and the Lovings get to return to Virginia as husband and wife, living near the family and community they both cherish.

And the winner is…

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The winner is The Hate U Give.

I enjoyed Loving vs Virginia because it’s a story that needs to be told, a story I had no idea existed, but the verse format of the story left me feeling a little distant from the story and the people in it. The Hate U Give exposes Starr’s emotions as she experiences them, bringing an immediacy to the story that draws in the reader, ugly and beautiful emotions alike. More important is the currency of the story and the deeper connection teens can make with Starr and her struggles.



Steph Nielsen is the Youth Collection Librarian at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, IL; most of her career she’s worked with teen or youth materials, because reading grown-up books just doesn’t suit her. She met her husband in the library they once worked at together. She enjoys reading YA fiction to herself, and picture books and chapter books to her two sons.
 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Tournament of Books

 

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Tournament of Books, Round One: Little & Lion vs One of Us Is Lying

Tournament of Books, Round One: Little & Lion vs One of Us Is Lying

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

51hlMpLreZLLittle & Lion is the journey of Suzette and her brother Lionel. Lionel has bipolar disorder and has been struggling with recovery without Suzette. After Lionel was diagnosed, Suzette’s parents decided to send her to boarding school in New England, thousands of miles away from her home in Los Angeles. Suzette and Lionel are part of a blended family, Suzette’s mom being African American and Lionel’s dad being Jewish. Throughout the novel, Suzette is asked to keep a secret that could destroy her brother’s health but also their relationship. Additionally, she struggles with her sexuality as she forms a relationship with a boy in her neighborhood but also feels guilty about abandoning a relationship with her former roommate at boarding school. She also has a crush on a girl that her brother ends up dating.

Overall, I felt that this book had too much going on without a lot of plot development. The character development was strong, the sibling relationship was relatable and loveable, but there wasn’t too much happening.


One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

51BgoE+i2UL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_One of Us is Lying is an investigation into a death at Bayview High. Bronwyn is Yale bound and has a clean record, Addy is known for her beauty and popularity, Cooper is a jock who is being scouted by colleges, and even the minor leagues, Nate already has a criminal record for dealing drugs, and Simon is a loner who created the popular Bayview High gossip app About That. This novel follows first person perspective of each of these characters in suspect of Simon’s death. Each person was in detention that afternoon, and they were the only people who were the last to see and witness everything. When the police discover evidence that his death could not have been accidental, the students become suspects in an investigation. They all had a motive for wanting him dead, since he was planning on posting secrets about every person on his app.

One of Us is Lying was a fast and intense read. The novel follows each student and their relationships with each other and old friends  as they morphe as they go through a criminal investigation. I enjoyed the individual perspectives of each student, their family lives, and how the world moved differently through each person. Although predictable, it was a good read.


And the winner is…

51BgoE+i2UL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus will be moving forward in the tournament. It’s a nail biter that keeps you hanging on until the last page. Even throughout the actual investigation, there manages to be school drama, love stories, and maturity of characters that is all artfully written.



Bio: Caitlin is an avid techie and maker in the library industry. In her free time, she enjoys writing, snuggling with her pug Butch, and avocado toast. Follow her on Twitter: @femme_b0t

 

Bracket 5: The Upside of Unrequited vs. Strange the Dreamer

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Tournament of Books

 

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Tournament of Books, Round One: Caraval vs When Dimple Met Rishi

Tournament of Books, Round One: Caraval vs When Dimple Met Rishi

For the tournament I read Caraval by Stepanie Garber and When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. Both were titles I was eager to read and had heard great things about, so I was excited to have an excuse to dedicate the time to them.


Caraval by Stephanie Garber

27883214Caraval is the first book in a fantasy / romance series. It follows Scarlett Dragna, her sister, Tella, and a rogue companion, Julian, as they travel through the magical world of Caraval, a carnival controlled by its master, Legend. Scarlett had been mesmerized with the tales of Caraval spun by her grandmother when she was little, and after years of writing to Legend to attend, she has finally been sent tickets. Only a few days before her impending arranged marriage, Scarlett decides to leave the home of their abusive father and attend the carnival. Shortly upon arriving at Caraval with Julian, Scarlett realizes her sister has been kidnapped, and it appears her disappearance is part of the game. The world-building of Caraval is subtle, taking our own world and making it more magical and lush through descriptive language. Throughout the novel, Scarlett and Julian are met with challenges, puzzles, and magic. The story moves at a fast-pace, with action and mystery propelling the characters and reader forward. Throughout the story, Garber leaves the truth elusive. Details about Julian’s role in Caraval, Scarlett’s fiance, Scarlett and Tella’s grandmother, Legend, and many other details unravel throughout the story, always leaving the reader wondering who to trust and what to believe. As the novel comes to a close, the reader discovers the truths along with Scarlett. The ending of the novel, while tying up loose ends, also reminds the reader of a couple of open storylines in order to set up the next book in the series.

This novel was a fantasy in the vein of many current fantasies: a strong female protagonist searches through a magical world for truths while also entering into a romance with a fellow game-player. While there were a handful of possibly cliche fantasy moments, this book quickly catches its reader up in the whimsical, magical world of Caraval, and nothing else matters. The romance and mystery are sure to propel readers forward to find the truth.


When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

511bUaa-oBL.jpgWhen Dimple Met Rishi is a contemporary rom-com that follows Dimple and Rishi through the summer after their senior year of high school. Both characters are Indian American, and throughout the story we see both of them struggle to find balance between honoring their parents’ wishes, traditions, and customs and forging their own paths. Dimple is very focused on her education, but her mother seems more interested in Dimple settling down with an I.I.H. (Ideal Indian Husband). So, when Dimple’s parents agree to send her to the summer coding program at Stanford that she has been dying to attend, Dimple thinks maybe her parents have begun to understand her passion for her education and career. Shortly after Dimple arrives at the summer program she realizes why her parents agreed to send her here: Dimple and Rishi’s parents have arranged for the two to meet in hopes that they will be a suitable couple. While Dimple and Rishi’s relationship starts off rocky, as with many contemporary romances, the couple begins to find common ground and a swoon-worthy romance blossoms. Dimple helps Rishi understand the importance of breaking from family tradition to pursue what he wants (comic book design), while Rishi helps Dimple understand that her family does have her best interests at heart. The couple does come up against the formulaic struggles, but we are left with a happy ending. Throughout the novel, while we do get a rather insta-love story, we also see a good dose of healthy communication. Dimple is also a rather strong and smart female protagonist. And the exploration of the balance of family and personal desires at such a pivotal point in one’s life is very relevant.

Overall, this is a perfect choice for a teen looking for a lighthearted contemporary romance. It hits all the right marks for the genre. While it does touch on more serious issues, at its heart is is a romantic comedy that follows the formula.


It was a really hard decision between these two books, as I enjoyed them both, and I feel they would appeal to different readers, but, my winner is…

27883214

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

While I am a sucker for a contemporary romance, and I absolutely loved reading a rom-com with diverse characters, I ultimately think Caraval would be more widely appealing for current teen readers. The fast-pace, suspenseful plot, and magical world all sucked me in early on, and I think the same would be true for many readers.



Noelle Spicher is an Adult and Teen Focus Librarian at Lisle Library District in Illinois.

 

 

Bracket 2: Landscape With Invisible Hand vs. Motor Crush

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Tournament of Books

 

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Tournament of Books, Round One: Landscape with Invisible Hand vs Motor Crush

Tournament of Books, Round One: Landscape with Invisible Hand vs Motor Crush

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M T Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson is an entertaining book that slyly pokes fun at material culture with a sci-fi framing.

landscapeEarth has recently been colonized by Vuvv aliens, and at first their medical and technological advances seem like a boon, but soon it puts people out of work and society starts to collapse. Teen Adam’s parents are out of work and struggling to hold on to their home and dignity. When another family moves in to share with the bills, Adam falls in love with their daughter Chloe. Adam and Chloe broadcast their choreographed dates to the Vuvv (who enjoy retro 50’s era Earth courtship) for money, but when their romance fades in real life, Adam hopes his artwork will win an award to bring in money for his family and save them from financial ruin.

Each chapter title relates to a piece of artwork that Adam is working on, and once readers figure that out, it’s fun to imagine how it ties into a narrative about alien colonization. What Adam does at the end of the story seems counterintuitive to what people think today, but that’s what might make readers stop and think about their own choices and motivations.  

The story was refreshingly short, as I believe too many YA novels are overblown, and the satire was spot on. The narrative can be enjoyed on several levels- as a fun sci-fi romp or as a witty reminder of how much social media and how we wish to be identified can define us.


Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr

Motor Crush by Brenden FletcherCameron Stewart  and Babs Tarr is an action adventure/sci-fi graphic novel.

motor crushMain character, Domino Swift is a beautiful young woman who races motorcycles for a living as did her famous father years ago. In a world similar to ours, but set in the indeterminate future, the World Grand Prix dominates social media and the economy. Domino is one of the top racers on the circuit, but at night she participates secretly in bike races with gang members to illegally obtain a machine stimulant called Crush. There is an undercurrent of crime and addiction that run through the narrative, with an out of left field twist about Domino’s origins. Many unanswered questions start to build at the end, with story lines set up for future volumes.

An appealing romance is established between Domino and pink haired Lola, who is a star mechanic. While currently not dating, the two are still connected and their relationship is accepted by everyone around them. That their relationship is natural and easy is a plus, its part of the narrative, no more or no less than any other characters. Kudos for the representation!

The art is top notch with bold anime-inspired illustrations in Babs Tarr’s distinctive style. The team give Domino and Lola a fresh look, and the panels and splash pages have some nice variety. I was definitely crushing on Motor Crush and that the volume ends on an intriguing cliff hanger will bring me back for more!



And the winner is…

landscape

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M T Anderson

Both books were exceptionally strong and both had sci-fi underpinnings in the narrative. As a graphic novels fan, I certainly liked Motor Crush but am pushing Landscape with Invisible Hand through to the next bracket. I feel that the graphic novel might be too much of a niche book with the motorcross racing, while M.T. Anderson’s astute book would have more appeal to a larger audience. If put in teens’ hands, the political and social satire found in the book could inspire some thought provoking conversations.



Nancy McKay is the Teen Services Coordinator at Ella Johnson Library in Hampshire. A married mom of three, she also co-writes for the blog Graphic Novelty² (please add link: https://graphicnovelty2.com/)

 

Bracket 1: Caraval vs. When Dimple Met Rishi

Bracket 3: Dear Martin vs. The Librarian of Auschwitz

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2018 in Tournament of Books

 

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