Out of This World

smallangryplanetJuly 2nd was World UFO Day, so how about some aliens for your summer reading? Some are literary, some are campy, some are scary, and some are pure fun. This list is a mix of adult, YA, middle grade, and picture books, but don’t limit yourself—adults and older teens would enjoy all of these!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers — For those who love character-driven stories and rich, detailed worldbuilding. Follow Rosemary Harper as she joins the crew of the Wayfarer, an ailing ship with an eccentric and diverse crew that makes a living tunneling wormholes. Winner of many awards and “Best Book of 2016” lists.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex — The inspiration for the absolutely wonderful animated movie Home. 11-year-old Tip goes on a quest to rescue her mother, who was abducted by the Boov, and save the planet from disaster with the help of an alien mechanic friend.

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson — Aliens abduct Henry Denton and give him an ultimatum: Push the button, or the world ends. Seems like a simple choice, but Henry has had a rough life and is dealing with a lot: his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, his overworked mother, his boyfriend’s suicide, and his occasional hook-up’s bullying. The end of the world doesn’t seem so bad.

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis — Yelfred and Omek have been best frints since they were little blobbies, but when Omek borrows Yelfred’s spaceship without asking and crashes it, they get in their biggest fight ever. A fun lesson in understanding made-up language via context clues.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin — A literary science fiction classic. A lone human ambassador is sent to a world where the people can change gender at will. The goal is to foster an alliance, but our two cultures have very different beliefs. It’s been optioned for a mini-series a la The Handmaid’s Tale.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi — Retirement-age folks have the option to be made young again in exchange for a short commitment to the Colonial Defense Force. Too bad most people don’t live through their service, because the war is far tougher than anyone back on Earth knows. Great sense of humor in this first book from the now-famous Scalzi.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Stapes — This award-winning adult graphic novel series follows two soldiers from opposite sides of a generations-long war as they become parents for the first time while on the run. Absolutely stunning, hilarious, a personal favorite.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo — All across the nation, flocks of birds hurl themselves at planes. People die, communication breaks down, martial law is declared—and Reese’s car is run off the road, nearly killing her. But when she and her friend wake up in a secret facility in Nevada, a month has passed and they’ve received some experimental treatment that drags them into a government conspiracy. An X-files-esque thriller with a sequel to wrap up the cliffhanger.

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers — When a boy flies a plane all the way up to space and runs out of gas, he encounters a martian whose spaceship has broken down. They’re both scared, but friends can be found in the most unexpected places.

Beyond the Binary at JMRL

y648At the Crozet Library, our focus for LGBT+* Pride Month 2017 is gender. We’re featuring fiction and nonfiction books about people who identify somewhere outside the cisgender man/woman binary system and inviting patrons to contribute their identity to our community board. Check out the display in our teen area for information, pronoun stickers, book selections, or to add to the board.

Looking for some great books to read for Pride, or want to educate yourself about gender identity? Check out these fiction, nonfiction, and memoir picks! Links will take you to the JMRL catalog, where you can place these books on reserve.



Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin – A genderfluid teen creates a blog to share thoughts and experiences about gender. When it goes viral, the responsibility and risk of exposure may prove to be too much.

Beast by Brie Spangler – A Beauty and the Beast retelling featureing fifteen-year-old Dylan (hairy, burly, outcast) and Jamie (witty, gorgeous, transgender) who meet when Dylan is assigned to a therapy group for self-harmers after an accident.

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky – A novel about twelve-year-old Grayson, who feels trapped under the weight of a life-long secret: “he” has always been a girl on the inside. A sweet and thoughtful story about friendship and support.

George by Alex Gino – George wants to play Charlotte in the annual school rendition of Charlotte’s Web, but she’s not allowed to audition because everyone sees her as a boy. With the support of her best friend, though, George comes up with a plan to embrace her true self and make her dream come true.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills – Public access radio star Gabe is dealing with a lot: romance, parents, friendships, coming out as transgender, and an awesome opportunity to audition for a radio station in Minneapolis. The difficulty ramps even higher when several violent students discover that Gabe the popular DJ is also Elizabeth from school.


The ABCs of LGBT+ by Ashley Mardell – This one isn’t strictly about gender, as it encompasses the entire scope of gender, sexual, and romantic identity, but it’s a must-read for anyone feeling out of their depth in the ever-more-complex world of identity. YouTuber Ashley Mardell presents what could be an overwhelming amount of information in a straightforward and easy-to-digest way, with complete definitions, personal anecdotes, and infographics.

Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews / Being Normal by Katie Rain Hill – Two halves of the same story, told by two transgender teens who were dating during their respective transitions from male to female and female to male.

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings – Young transgender activist (and now reality TV star) Jazz Jennings recounts her experiences growing up as a transgender child and her work to educate the world about gender issues.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out edited by Susan Kuklin – Author/photographer Susan Kuklin interviews six transgender or non-binary young adults as they work to understand themselves and their gender identities. Filled with beautiful photos and candid anecdotes.

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt – A family who adopted identical twin boys reexamined their deeply held views about gender identity when one of the twins turns out to be transgender.

Want more? Ask a librarian at any JMRL branch, chat with us via our website, or use our What Do I Read Next? tool. Happy reading!

* – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and more