Every week, 17-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time — her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present? Kim Johnson’s THIS IS MY AMERICA (Random House) is an unflinching, yet uplifting YA debut that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system.
From award-winning author Ibi Zoboi comes PUNCHING THE AIR (cowritten by prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five) (Balzer + Bray), a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. Suddenly, at just 16 years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. With spellbinding lyricism, PUNCHING THE AIR tells a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.