12 Second-Person Books Just For You

You thought the article about books written in the second person sounded interesting when it appeared on the Book Riot homepage. You vaguely remember hearing this odd term in high school English class, but your teacher assured you that you would never need to use it. Nobody writes in the second person, he said, tapping the whiteboard, except pompous artistes who don’t care about selling their books. He was a strange little man whom you quickly learned to ignore by tucking a novel into your textbook.

But the second person now haunts you. What does it mean? You wrack your brain, then proceed to the gold-embossed black leather notebook where you list all of the books you’ve ever completed. You have attached notes to each title: Slow until midway; ends abruptly; strong secondary characters. You consider yourself a connoisseur of literary structure and style. But nowhere has your past self described a book as written in the second person.

It is time to remedy this situation. A wave of resolution washes over you and you exchange your dignified notebook of completed titles for the industrial-sized plastic trapper keeper that houses your TBR list. It bulges with newspaper clippings, magazine covers, printed New York Times articles from your mother, and a napkin that you used at a table in a restaurant at an event center where Roxane Gay once did a book signing.

You burrow through until you’ve found a blank envelope, once the home of some critical piece of ephemera and now only a ghost of its former significance. Book Riot glows on your laptop’s screen, glittering with the promise of second-person narrative gems that will betray the supposed limits of the written word. With pen in hand, you prepare to add to your list.

12 Second-Person Books

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Soccer is poetry in motion. This book is poetry about soccer. A rapping librarian, a dictionary-obsessed dad, and a fractured family round out this excellent YA coming-of-age story.

Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Mothers. Daughters. Crappy jobs in mill towns and dreams that could take you away. You know what this book’s about, but you’ve never read anything quite like this painfully sharp book.

Damage by A.M. Jenkins

If you liked the sports focus of Booked, you may also enjoy Damage. You may also like it if you can empathize with a depressed high school football star’s struggle to make it through the worst of his teenage years.

The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela VidaThe Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida

Travel can take you out of your comfort zone, but the protagonist of this book is taken out of everything—including her identity—when her papers are stolen in a foreign land. Things really get weird when a movie producer asks her to be a film star’s body double. Coincidence? Or some kind of plot?

Earth and Ashes by Atiq Rahimi

The Soviets have invaded Afghanistan. As war ravages the nation, the people who suffer the most are also the most innocent. Follow the journey of Dastaguir and his grandson as they seek shelter and safety from the violence around them.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The second-person chapters of this sci-fi heavy hitter follow Essun, a character who leaves home to find her family. There’s more, but it’s complicated, epic, grand, and vast. Just read it already.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

After the traumatic passing of a dear friend, the problem of his dog remains. You take it in despite your building’s restrictions on pets, determined to honor his memory by caring for his grief-stricken canine.

How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia by Mohsin HamidHow To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia by Moshin Hamid

In a country like Pakistan, you rise from poverty through the water trade. Even so, your newfound riches may not be able to get you the one thing you desire: the love of your lost sweetheart.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

If ever a story could be said to contain worlds, it would be this one. Follow its twisting narrative as you pursue an elusive book, victim of a fateful misprint.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Through the magic of the second person, you yourself can visit the incredible and unearthly Night Circus. Just don’t get lost in the tale of its star-crossed magician lovers!

Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North

You make the choices now! A pox on every possible house of this book. You can be Romeo or Juliet, but you’re probably going to die anyway in this choose-your-own-path adaptation of Shakespeare.

The Sweetheart by Angelina MirabellaThe Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella

Wrestling and romance smack down in what’s essentially a sports drama. And guess who’s in the center of it all? YOU, of course!

10 Books About Girls Who Code

With more and more women entering into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) hobbies and careers, I always like to find books I can recommend to my students who have taken an interest in science, engineering, or computers. Books about or for girls who code can be difficult to come by, but here are ten books featuring girls who code that might inspire the coding phenom in your life.

10 Books About Girls Who Code

Books for Teens and Tweens

The New Girl Code: Launch of a Fashion App by Niki Smit and Janneke Niessen

This novel is about a teen named Charlie who has always felt like she doesn’t quite fit in. But when Charlie learns how to code, she finds her niche. Charlie develops her own fashion app and launches it with the help of a team of friends. However, when someone tries to sabotage her app, is Charlie up to the challenge? Told through diary entries, illustrations, and lists, this is the perfect book for teen girls who code!

Girl Code by Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Houser

This books tells the true story of two girls who met at a teen coding camp and worked together to create their own video game. This is a relatable, funny read, and a great book for aspiring teen coders!

Girls Who Code by Reshma Saujani

This is a how-to book for tween and teen girls who want to learn how to code. The book is upbeat, has quirky illustrations, and highlights various women in coding and science. Girls Who Code pairs humor with easy-to-follow directions on how to code.

Creative Coding in Python by Sheena Vaidyanathan

Though not solely about girls, this is a great book for teens who want to dig deep with coding. With 30 different coding activities that can be done in Python, a free programming language, this book is a whimsically illustrated guide to learning to code.

Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code by Stacia Deutsch

This is the first in a series of middle grade fiction books about a group of middle school girls who learn to code, and learn a lot about friendship in the process. I like the diverse group of girls and the humor in this book. This is the perfect book for tweens interested in coding!

Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alston

This is an easy chapter book about 10-year-old Sasha, who reluctantly takes a summer coding camp with her friends. Sasha finds out that she really likes coding, but can she keep up with how challenging it is? This book is great for 7–10-year-olds who want to see a STEM role model their own age.

Picture Books For Younger Kids

DOLL-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey

This delightful picture book is about Charlotte, a little girl who loves all things tech. Charlotte loves to code, tinker, and create. But when she receives a doll as a gift, she doesn’t know what to do with it! Then Charlotte decides to use her tech knowledge to give her doll a little upgrade! This is a great book for kids ages 5–9.

How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk, Illustrated by Sara Palacios

Pearl is at the beach, and she keeps trying to build the perfect sandcastle, but it keeps getting destroyed. Pearl and her robot Pascal figure out a way to use code to create the sandcastle they’ve been dreaming of. With colorful illustrations and a simple example of coding, this is the perfect picture book for ages 5–8.

Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Links Liukas

Follow redhead Ruby and her robot friends on a coding adventure! Ruby is a girl with a big imagination and a knack for tech. She has to figure out some tough clues, and she demonstrates how to use coding concepts to solve problems. This book is part story, part activity book, and it’s sure to be a hit for kids ages 7–10!

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Hallmark, Illustrated by Katy Wu

This picture book biography tells the story of Grace Hopper, a computer coder who helped create COBOL. The intro of the book describes Grace as “a software tester, workplace jester, avid reader, naval leader—AND rule breaker, chance taker, and troublemaker.” This story and its illustrations will draw in readers of ages 7–10.

5 Things I Learned Launching a Little Literary Magazine

Little literary magazines come and go. Shi’r was here one decade, gone another. So too Tin House, Souffles, The Partisan Review, and Black Clock. Indeed, author Nick Ripatrazone went so far as to write last year that “Literary Magazines are Born to Die.” He didn’t mean it as a bad thing, but rather that we should recognize they have a life cycle and pay tribute to our literary ancestors.

ArabLit Quarterly Winter/Spring 2019: The Strange.

As a species, little literary magazines have persisted, blossomed, and flourished. If most of the publishing landscape is big, profit-oriented, and difficult to maneuver, then the little-lit-mag landscape is small, bad with money, and welcoming. Finding a traditional publisher can be soul-killingly difficult. But finding a little mag to love your work? It’s doable.

The sheer number of living lit mags also demonstrate a clear hunger to belong to the literary discourse. A few magazines have predated on this need, charging exorbitant fees for submissions, writing courses, and editorial assistance. But a lot of little lit mags—let’s optimistically say most—have made room, in the best anti-capitalist spirit, for tens of thousands of literary voices.

Why open yet another little magazine? The answer to the question is, naturally: Why not? Although you might need a few more reasons during the long hours of formatting the pages, rooting out errors, fielding angry emails, and remembering you forgot to ask for so-and-so’s bio.

We recently launched the second issue of ArabLit QuarterlyAfter a lot of frustration trying to get the print version uploaded on Blurb, we eventually decided to go with Amazon. The biggest thing we learned was probably: It always takes more time than you think! But also:

Five (MORE) things We’ve Learned (so far)

1. Find a space where you’re comfortable. I moved to Cairo in the summer of 2001, and I spent my literary coming-of-age hanging around Arab book fairs and literary translators. Although I’ve attempted to tackle other niches, the one I always fall back into is Arabic literature in translation. I’m by no stretch an expert. But this is where I’m most comfortable.

2. Community is essential. ArabLit Quarterly is prrrrobably not going to make me rich or famous, give me better teeth or healthier skin, or put my children through college. Alas! So what makes it worthwhile? Creating fresh aesthetic experiences and stretching literature, certainly. And yes, it’s also the friends we made along the way.

3. A budget is necessary. Ugh. I am anti-capitalist both by belief and by circumstance, but it’s important to know how much you can pay your contributors without emptying your personal checking account.

4. Apply for grants. We’re not a U.S. nonprofit, since none of ALQ’s core members live in the U.S. That cuts off a lot of possibilities. But there are other opportunities out there. Our second issue, for instance, we floated in large part by the Gumroad Creators Fund, which recently opened up.

5. Define your own success. There might be a page out there, if I google hard enough, that tells me whether ArabLit Quarterly is successful or not. But that seems about as promising as an internet search for “my left breast hurts am I going to die?” or “does life have meaning?” It’s bound to take me to a dark place. What could “success” be for ArabLit Quarterly? I’m not sure yet. But maybe just being able to talk about it is enough.

HIGH RISE MYSTERY: The First Young Black UK Detective Duo Is Here!

High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson is the first black UK detective duo for readers ages 9–12 in the UK. It takes place during a record-breaking heatwave in London.

High Rise MysteryThere’s been a murder in the TRI, the high-rise building where two sisters Nik (age 11) and Norva (age 13) live. One of the building’s most favourite residents, Hugh Knightley-Webb, a dealer of antiques, has been found dead, and Nik and Norva are on the case.

They are smart, they are stubborn and they know how to follow the evidence. In the wake of a lackluster police effort, Nik & Norva will get to the bottom of the case no matter what it takes.

Author Sharna Jackson is also Artistic Director of The Site Gallery, an international contemporary art space in Sheffield, UK. High Rise Mystery is a new series and I’m delighted to see it hitting the shelves in the past few weeks.

High Rise Mystery is published by Knights Of, a new, inclusive publisher based in London. I’ve written before about Knights Of. I took a group of students to meet co-founder David Stevens, who, along with business partner Aimée Felone, started Knights Of because of a study which revealed that in the UK only 1% of children’s books published contained a BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) main character.

As a School Librarian, I know the importance of ensuring students see themselves reflected back at them in the books that they read. The damage done by seeing only white, straight characters as the protagonists in novels is undeniable. It tells students from diverse backgrounds in a very direct way that they are not good enough to be the hero or to come out the winner in the stories that help develop their teenage brains.

Knights Of have also successfully remained permanent in their Brixton location, opening Round Table Books in May of 2019—check it out!

LOVE FROM A TO Z: S.K. Ali is the Role Model Muslim Women Need

Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali drops April 30, 2019, and deserves to be at the top of everyone’s spring reading list. In the book, Hijabi heroine Zayneb is an empowered Muslim female, and in real life, Ali inspires Muslim women!

Love from A to Z book cover

In her highly anticipated second YA novel, Ali tackles Islamophobia towards young adults, and wraps it around an innocent love story. Eighteen- year-olds Zayneb and Adam’s ways of life are both compromised: Zayneb is harassed by her Islamophobic high school teacher, and Adam’s mobility and independence are dwindling because of his recent MS diagnosis. They share something else special: they each own a “Marvels and Oddities” journal, in which they introspectively note their daily wonderful and weird observances. They write about first impressions, the “friends you’re dealt with,” and of course, each other.

Love from A to Z immediately drew me in with its lovable, complex characters. Although tall, patient Adam and fiery Zayneb feel chemistry immediately, it’s unsure whether their relationship will beat the odds: Adam’s health issues, the long distance, and even religious guidelines on male-female interactions.

Whereas in her debut novel Saints and Misfits, Ali focused on internal issues like spiritual abuse, in Love from A to Z she confronts the global epidemic of Muslims getting harassed simply for practicing their religion. Reading this book personally allowed me to heal my buried experience of Islamophobia during my freshman year in college. I still remember my Creative Literature professor criticizing Islam in front of the whole lecture hall, and ignoring me when I went up to ask a question. I always regret not speaking up and defending my religion, even though the words were on the tip of my tongue. Reading how Zayneb seeks justice against her racist teacher makes me feel validated, as though I had actually stood up for myself back then. We all want peace like Adam, but as Zayneb rightly points out, “there couldn’t be peace without…justice.” I’m glad in the real world, we have authors like S.K. Ali, who is continuously fighting for our justice with her pen and tweets.

Ali’s writing career has not always been smooth sailing, which she transparently shares on Twitter (@SajidahWrites). In October 2018, the Ontario Library Association overlooked Ali’s Saints and Misfits for an award, and instead awarded a book about a hijabi written by a non-Muslim, non-hijabi. As an advocate for “Muslim representation,” Ali explained that there is no excuse not to “promote books written in our own voices.” Ali then encouraged fellow authors to “tell our own stories” and share our diverse publications on her thread. Her eloquent portrayal of her #ownvoices struggle allowed me to contextualize moments that I have allowed non-POC’s to tell my story. I put my feelings into words in another article for Muslim Girl, stating the need for more creative spaces for Muslim women’s voices.

Another delightful gem in Love from A to Z is the diversity and inclusivity among the characters and settings. Both Adam and Zayneb are mixed-ethnicity, or ‘halfies’: Adam is half-Chinese and white, while Zayneb is half-Guyenese and Pakistani. In fact, Adam is a convert Muslim; he converted to Islam like his dad. As a halfie myself (I’m half-Mexican and Pakistani) and the daughter of a convert, I reveled in the fact that Ali features unconventional and ethnically marginalized Muslims, who are typically unknown or overlooked in mainstream society and even among Muslims. The book starts off in middle America, and then takes us across the world to explore Doha.

Like all writers, my query emails and tweets are often ignored. That is why I am so happy when S.K. Ali replies to my DMs. Despite her (well-deserved) success and busy schedule, Ali continues to offer me writing and publishing advice, and even met with me in person. When reading Ali’s tweets and messages, I feel a gentle nudge forward to write my truth. She has helped me find my voice both as a writer and as a Muslim women. Further, I’ve opened myself up to mentor emerging Muslim women writers.

Especially in the aftermath of the nightmarish New Zealand masjid attack on March 15, 2019, we need an unapologetic she-ro like Zayneb.

Riot Recommendation: Tell Us The Best Twisty Reads You’ve Read!

This Riot Recommendation asking for the best twisty reads you’ve read is sponsored by Flatiron Books, publishers of I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney.

I Know Who You Are cover imageMeet Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. Except one person. Someone knows Aimee very well. They know who she is and they know what she did.





We are strapped in and ready for a ride! Seriously, books that take twists and turns and leave us spinning and shouting, “We never saw that coming!” are so much fun we can’t get enough. That’s why we’re asking you for the best twisty reads you’ve read? Pop on down to our comments and let us know and next week we’ll be back with a list sure to take us all for a ride! (Please provide your own seat belts.)

Fairytale Openings Around The World: Critical Linking, April 23, 2019

Sponsored by our $100 Amazon gift card giveaway! Enter here.

In Korean, a typical fairytale begins: “Once, in the old days, when tigers smoked…”. In Catalan, spoken in the north-east of Spain, a story may start with, “Once upon a time in a corner of the world where everybody had a nose…” or, “Once upon a time, when the beasts spoke and people were silent…”.

In some parts of the Caribbean, stories begin with call and response with the audience, with the narrator saying in Creole, “E dit kwik?” (I say creek) to which the audience replies “kwak” (crack).

I’d read an entire book of how fairytales begin in different parts of the world.

Per the press release, Hear to Slay “will be a black feminist podcast, with an intersectional perspective on celebrity, culture, politics, art, life, love and more.” The array of confirmed guests will include Natasha Rothwell, Gabrielle Union, Audra McDonald, Sarah Paulson, Ava DuVernay and Gloria Calderón Kellett.

Hear to Slay will be housed on the Luminary app, which has been dubbed the “Netflix of podcasts.”

Roxane Gay and Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom have a podcast and my ears have never been more ready!

I’ve watched this so many times it’s etched on my heart now: ¡Ay, qué trabajo me cuesta quererte como te quiero!


Book Cover

A slimmed-down version of Loewen’s (Sundown Towns, 2018, etc.) damning indictment of the way United States history is taught.

As in the adult edition, the author bases his argument on critical examinations of 18 high school textbooks published between 1974 and 2007. He sees clear tendencies to blandly hero-ify not only historical figures—such as Helen Keller, commonly presented in relation to her disabilities, not for her lifelong social and political radicalism—but also American culture and government, which are consistently portrayed as international forces for good despite centuries of invasion-based foreign policy. To freshen his material, the author slips in more recent statistics and general comments that newer textbooks seem to have filled in at least some of the more egregious gaps. More provocatively, he also flings down a gauntlet to young readers by not reproducing two of the five photos he discusses as iconic images of the war in Vietnam, arguing that they are still too edgy for some school districts. He also offers alternative narratives about the conflicts between European immigrants and Indigenous residents, slavery, racism, social class, and the ideal of “progress.” Overall, he presents a cogent argument for studying historical nuances. He argues that young people should not be deprived of hearing the incredible truth of American history in service to avoidance of controversy or blinkered, parochial nationalism.

An accessible, eye-opening invitation to look for hidden—and not-so-hidden—agendas in supposedly authoritative sources. (notes, index) (Nonfiction. 13-18)


Book Cover

A watershed picture book for a watershed moment—all in time for the Stonewall uprising’s 50th anniversary.

The historic Stonewall Inn, site of the eponymous uprising (and the book’s first-person-plural narrator), originated as two separate stable houses in 1840s Greenwich Village. By 1930, the buildings were joined to become Bonnie’s Stone Wall restaurant, “a place where being different was welcomed and accepted.” 1967 saw another change—to the Stonewall Inn (a tamely depicted bar and dance club). Subsequent years saw multiple police raids targeting the establishment’s LGBTQIAP patrons. On June 28, 1969, the people finally fought back, galvanizing the LGBTQIAP rights movement. As the text carries readers from past to present, its unusual narrative perspective gives a strong sense of place and community. Sanders attempts to balance the received historical narrative with inclusivity, but his retrospective tone bears slight hints of erasure when, for example, “gay men and women” is used as a catchall phrase. Moreover, though the backmatter makes mention of the key roles of trans women of color in the uprising, the visuals instead position a white-presenting woman as a key instigator. Christoph’s digitally rendered illustrations paint a vivid, diverse portrait of both setting and community. The book concludes with photographs and an interview with Martin Boyce, a participant in the uprising.

A beautiful—if a bit cis-centric—tribute. (glossary, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 5-9)


Book Cover

Meet Flubby, a quintessential cat.

Flubby, a rotund gray-and white cat with stubby legs, seems unimpressed by his owner’s expectations of pet behavior. He won’t sing like Kim’s bird, catch like Sam’s dog, or jump like Jill’s frog. Flubby doesn’t even run when it rains. But when thunder pounds—“KA-BOOM”—cat and kid need each other. Morris limits her palette to muted shades of brown, blue, gray, and green with an occasional spot of orange. Short, declarative sentences follow a predictable pattern and complement the spare illustrations. Cartoon panels opposite full-page pictures move the simple story along. In one memorable double-page spread, the action—of the child throwing a ball while Flubby watches and then rolls over to sleep—moves readers’ eyes left to right across the spread in three stacked, horizontal panels. A full range of emotions, including happiness, frustration, boredom, concern, disappointment, fear, is conveyed with subtle changes in posture and eyes. The human characters are a multiracial mix. Kim presents Asian; Sam appears black; Jill seems white. Flubby’s owner is not gendered and has longish brown hair and brown skin. Series companion Flubby Will NOT Play with That! publishes simultaneously.

Nonjudgmental encouragement for new readers—even if they flub up. (Early reader. 5-8)