Skip to main content
Holiday Gift

Need a book idea for your favorite young adult? Or just looking for a great story that will keep them reading during winter break?

Just in time for UT’s Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature’s annual holiday book sale, center director Susan Groenke and her team make some recommendations of great reads for teens and young adults.

Groenke’s pick:

Property of the Rebel Librarian is the debut middle-grades novel by Knoxville’s Allison Varnes, a former special education teacher and graduate of UT’s PhD program in English education. When 12-year-old June Harper’s parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level, and soon everything June loves is affected: her favorite librarian at school is fired, the library is gutted, and all books on the school premises must have administrative approval. So, June decides to start a library of her own—out of an abandoned school locker—and as it becomes more and more popular, she makes new friends and realizes that the freedom to read is something to fight for.

Assistant Director Deborah Wooten’s pick:

Sunny, written by Jason Reynolds, tells the story of Sunny, an award-winning runner headed to the Junior Olympics. All of the people in Sunny’s life are thrilled that he wins races—except for Sunny himself. So, what happens when he quits in the middle of a race one day because he wants to be a dancer? His coach comes up with a brilliant plan for Sunny to use his dance moves to throw the discus. Now what will happen? Sunny is the third book in a series about a group of determined kids running races to win gold medals and beat the odds in life.

Graduate Assistant and PhD student Arianna Drossopoulos’s pick:

Here To Stay, written by Sara Farizan, is the story of Bijan, a teenage boy of Jordanian and Persian descent who is relatively unknown at his high school until he makes the winning shot during the varsity basketball playoff game. While Bijan’s popularity explodes, some people at school aren’t happy he is getting such positive attention and they create a situation where he is left to wonder who his real friends are. Here To Stay will make you laugh, cheer, and shed a tear as you root for Bijan to make his next move on the court and in his personal life.

Student Center Director and PhD student Liz Garcia’s pick:

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, written by Anna Meriano, tells the cozy fantasy story of Leo, a young Mexican-American girl who accidentally discovers that the women in her family are brujas (witches) using sweet magic to run the family’s bakery. Leo is not supposed to know about her own inherited powers until she is older, but she secretly experiments. Heartwarming family and friendship themes evolve as Leo tries to get out of a sticky mess.

Graduate Assistant and PhD student Caitlin Metheny’s pick:

A Very Large Expanse of Sea, written by Tahereh Mafi, is a novel every teen needs to include on their holiday wish list. Sixteen-year-old Shirin moves around a lot, as her parents seek better employment and schools for their children. Because of this transience, Shirin increasingly feels alone and copes by withdrawing. Adding to her isolation, she is a Muslim Hijabi teen living in the United States a year after 9/11. She is determined to deal with the cruelty by suffering alone and in silence, until her brother introduces her to his break-dance crew; and then again when the school golden boy, Ocean, works his way past her defenses and into her heart. Mafi tells a unique, semi-autobiographical story of a Muslim teen’s experience with hate while also dealing with relatable high school annoyances and finding first love.

CCYAL Holiday Book Sale

The Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature will hold its annual holiday book sale from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, December 5, and Thursday, December 6, at the Cedar Bluff Branch Library, 9045 Cross Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37923. Get free books and buy new children’s and young adult books at heavily discounted prices, while also sampling handmade Christmas cookies from VG’s Bakery. The center’s mascot, Sachi—an adorable three-year-old Japanese Spitz dog—will be on hand to greet shoppers.


Brian Canever (865-974-0937,