Young Adult 2021
Souls of the Sea
December BoxSkin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
"When I open my eyes, the woman's essence hovers in the cradle of my fingers. I focus on the joy in her memories as I coax forth her soul, guiding it toward the sapphire of my necklace. The stone absorbs her essence, growing warm against the hollow of my throat."
- a gold and blue stone necklace.
"The wounds are covered and I push backward, reaching for the waterskin. The paste in the bottom of the wooden cup mixes well with the water and I offer it to Kola, holding my breath when our fingers touch."
- a set of two, bamboo cups (food safe, hand-wash only).
"I am rescued from the questions as Kola emerges from his father's quarters and heads straight for me. His skin shines in the sunlight, with a fresh wrapped slung around his waist, hanging in clean folds, he looks exactly like the leader of a village's son. 'Simi,' he says, coming close to me, smelling of black soap, shea butter, and the coconut oil that has made his clean curls tighter."
- a bar of black soap.
"Kola staggers forward, his sword clattering on the ground as he collapses. 'He's coming,' Kola whispers as he holds a fist toward me. His fingers uncurl to reveal a hefty crystal hexagon. The key."
- a crystal, hexagon, glowing keychain.
Castle of the Evil Eye
November BoxWithin These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
"Something bright red, something that wasn't on the other books caught my eye. I paused, venturing a quick look at it. I glanced at the top of the page, where the title sat beside the page number in the header. Jane Eyre. I'd never read that one, but from what I heard it was a romance. A significant one, apparently, because a paragraph was circled in red, wide and uneven as if by a finger."
- an exclusive, custom edition of Jane Eyre.
"I went the opposite way, to the room where it happened. It looked off. I tried to think back to how it looked last night, and every day before. Yes. The large tapestry had fallen off the wall and was lying in the middle of the floor. No...not fallen. It was arranged like a rug. "
- an exclusive, custom book blanket, featuring the cover of Jane Eyre.
"The hyena rammed us and Jember winced as he handed me the needle. He didn't have much shield left. 'Finish it. I don't need energy to shield you.'"
- a travel sewing kit reminiscent of the one used to sew the amulets in the novel.
October BoxBluebird by Sharon Cameron
"Inge tiptoes along the porch. The window boards have never been taken off the house. It makes it dark inside, nighttime during the day, but she's glad of it. Because Mama can't look out and see where she's going. As soon as her feet hit the muddy yard, Inge runs, unsnapping the tight barrette, flying down the firmer edges of the road."
- a metal barrette inspired by Inge's.
"And then Inge notices papers, scattered all over the passenger-side floor. The file. With her name on it. She gathers them up, shaking off bits of broken windshield. They're wrinkled, out of order. Journaled notes written in her father's slanted hand. Inge finds the first page, marked with the date November 1933, and a name. Observations: Anna Ptaszynska."
- a black, faux leather file folder, containing a file containing information about Anna.
"Jake nods, and Eva gathers up both sets of papers into a pile, taking them to the fireplace and laying them in the grate. Jake doesn't say anything. Just pushes open the damper, sits down beside her, and hands her a box of matches. Eva strikes the match. Smells of sulfur. And it isn't hard at all to put the flame to the first corner of the paper. They sit, side by side, and watch Anna's life burn."
- a glass match apothecary jar with striking pad on the outside.
"She breaks the seal, and it’s not a letter or a document about the Doctor, like she’d thought. It’s a photograph. A portrait of a family. Eva stares. She stares and stares at the photograph until her eyes are dry and her lungs burn. Four people. A man. A woman, and two little girls. Imagine, the Doctor had said, two little girls. One racially valuable, while the other is not. What an opportunity, to see how the inferiority of the one might be bettered, elevated, when compared to the other, who is so naturally superior...Two little girls in tones of gray. One is small, tiny, big-eyed with dark curls. A child-size version of herself. And the other could not be more different. With eyes a color that can be easily guessed, dimples, and beautiful fair hair that is long and straight."
- a vintage frame containing a photograph as described in the novel.
September BoxBeasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
"The first time she'd seen a jokomoto, as a little girl, she'd thought they were creatures spun from glass, fragile and delicate. She'd been wrong. There was nothing delicate about a fire-breathing lizard. 'Get the hasira leaf out,' Mama directed. 'Now.' At once, Koffi pulled three dry, silver-veined leaves from a drawstring pouch at her hip. They were exquisite, shimmering with white resin that left her fingertips sticky when she pinched them."
- a drawstring, leaf-print water bottle carrier with strap containing three faux silver leaves.
"But if Mama had seen or heard her, she gave no sign of it. Her eyes were darting back and forth like a hare caught in a trap, looking from the vines to the approaching warriors, to the vines again with visible panic. 'Mama, please!' Koffi reached, aware that if she extended much more, she'd fall forward; as it was, her body was already teetering. Mama looked up, and reached for Koffi's hand, oblivious to the small black stone hurtling her way."
- a black, stone-shaped bar of soap.
"The grootslang stopped short. Ekon's heart thundered in his chest like a war drum as he watched the monster turn its head slowly to the right. He followed its gaze to the thing that had given it pause. A single shaft of golden sunshine was piercing the jungle's canopy, shining light directly on the jeweled hilt of Koffi's jino blade."
- a custom designed letter opener shaped like Koffi's dagger.
"As soon as they were up the stairs and on the next landing, he let go of Koffi's arm and finally dared to meet her eyes. It was a strange recall. This was the hallway where they'd first met, albeit under very different circumstances. 'Did they hurt you, before I came?' 'No.' 'Good.' Ekon unshouldered his bag and pulled a blue cloak from it. 'I brought you this,' he said, wrapping it around her."
- a dusky blue, knit poncho.
August BoxA Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
"Ellis laughs and steals a wide-brimmed hat from a nearby mannequin, perching it atop her head. It makes her look like a character from an Agatha Christie novel; she has become a hardboiled detective in herringbone with a nose for blood."
- a wide-brimmed, dusty pink sun hat with the words Shh...I'm Solving a Mystery stitched on the brim.
"The trial took place in 1712, well before the advent of photography, but like most of us at Dalloway, the accused girls came from money. A portrait of Margery Lemont has been preserved here in the bowels of the Dalloway library; it hands on the easy wall next to the painting of her mother, the founder. When I look up from my book, Margery is watching me with a cool and impenetrable gaze. The artist painted her in luscious pale silks, her black hair tumbling loose over her shoulders, in defiance of the style of the time. Her nose is long and narrow, her lips faintly smiling, but it is her eyes that have always captured me the most. Pale green along the lower curve of her irises, they deepen to black past the meridian of her pupils. A pinprick of light gleams against that shadow but fails to illuminate."
- a custom, canvas art print of a woman inspired by the description of Margery Lemont.
"Time goes still - this moment, this room existing outside the rest of the universe - as I jerk my hand back to my chest and clutch it there, not breathing. The old book is nestled there on my shelf, the cloth binding slowly peeling back from the spine and the lettering of the title faded to grey. It's not possible. I tug the book free with shaking hands. A black dust tumbles from between the pages. Grave dirt. And there on the title page, in Alex's handwriting, an inscription. They're my words, from the letter I wrote Alex a week after she died."
- a custom edition of The Secret Garden including Felicity's inscription on the inside cover.
Dance the Night Away
July BoxInstructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon
"I never know what to do when she says something like that. It's not a question and not an accusation, but it has a little bit of both. Instead of answering, I stare at her apron. It reads Kiss the Cook and has a drawing of two enormous red lips smacking."
- an adorable apron that reads Kiss the Bookworm.
"As soon as I sit, my phone buzzes with a message from X. Just seeing his name on my screen makes me feel less panicky. X: Doing ok? he asks. I take a selfie holding one of the fancy teacups. I text it to him with the caption #teaforone."
- a beautifully painted teacup and a printout reenactment of their text conversation (including photos).
"'You want me to talk to you, but you never talk to me.' I measure out the sugar and pour it into a bowl. 'How many times have I tried to get you to talk to me about Dad?' 'This again?' she says, and restarts her whisking."
- a rubber whisk with a wooden handle.
Storm of Olympus
June BoxDaughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews
"A spar between a man and a woman hasn't gone on this long in an age, and never between a Mothakes and a true Spartan. I feel nakes in front of the jeering crowd, their taunts cutting through my clothes more clearly than any knife could. Though many Spartans, men and women alike, duel naked, I wear a poppy-colored chiton, wrapped tight across my chest and cut so short it dances high on my thighs. From my left wrist a single bronze bangle pinches my skin and sines in the firelight. Diodorus, my adoptive family name, is etched on the bangle, the only token of my status that I'll allow on my body. Anything more on my person might slow me down."
- a stunning 'chiton' (bathing suit wrap) and a gold bangle with a sticker reading Diodorus.
"'Be wary of treacherous Athenians. Better yet, trust no one.' She envelopes me in a warm hug and pulls away to press something small and cold into my hand. A necklace, delicate and beautiful in its simplicity. Suspended from a thin silver chain is a small crow, wings unfurled, and made of white gold."
- a crow choker pendant.
"With a deep inhale, the gryphon rises above me on its hind legs. It launches, sending another flurry of sand and dust over us, and vanishes amid a shimmer of vibrant, golden air. 'You're welcome.' I cough, choking on sand, and glance quickly at the others, all coughing and hacking from the settling dust. A shower of golden feathers flutters down around me. I catch one and the feather dwarfs my entire hand."
- a golden feather bookmark.
"They crowd me, cooing and hugging, kissing my cheek and exclaiming, showering me with thanks and affections, all home and unharmed. I tell myself to make Apollo promise to teach these women how to protect themselves. Kleio places in my cradling hands their expression of gratitude: an apple, gold and unblemished."
- a yellow apple pad of sticky notes (that can be stood up to form a full apple).
images by @The_Bookish_Runner
The Unsinkable Ship
May BoxLuck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee
"I bound forward on the balls of my feet, muscled from years of tightrope practice. Ba started training Jamie and me in the acrobatic arts as soon as we could walk. Sometimes, our acts were the only thing putting food on the table. The severe officer watches me as I pull my ticket from my velvet handbag."
- a beautiful red envelope clutch containing Valora's ticket.
"...even I know that wearing those clunkers with such a fine frock would cause heads to shake - not exactly the effect April intended. Plus, if I really need to run, I doubt I could do it in this dress. Even worse than wearing men's boots with an elegant dress would be wearing pumps with Jamie's sea slops. I look for something in which to carry my boots. In the wardrobe, I find a canvas bag stitched with the White Star logo containing a pair of black velvet slippers and a pair of white ones. Never in my life have I had so much footwear at my disposal."
- a custom designed pair of house slippers embroidered with the White Star Line logo inside a White Star Line bag.
"I lift my face to Bo's, and he kisses me with a fierceness that speaks of survival and wishes for a future. A sliver of a smile appears on his face and sears itself into my heart. Taking the wooden whale from my pocket, I press it to his fingers. 'Return it to me.'"
- a small carved whale.
images by @The_Bookish_Runner
After School Fright Club
April BoxThe Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky
"Soon I wasn't thinking about anything at all, and as my thoughts quieted, my senses took over. There was the sound of his breathing; sharp as he inhaled through his nose and then soft as he sighed. I took in the scent of his shampoo, something woodsy. Pine and lime."
- a bar of Mt. Bachelor Pine scented soap from Bend Soap
"I was starting to feel hot, my starched uniform shirt taking on the texture of steel wool. Sometimes being reckless wasn't a choice. Sometimes it just happened without me even thinking about it. I grabbed the first thing I saw on one of the shelves, only realizing it was a pair of scissors as I raised them over my head. Everything went dark as I plunged the flashing blades toward her."
- a small pair of black crafting scissors.
"'Bingo!' I said a little too loudly. 'Bingo?' Thayer asked. I showed him my sheet and he waved it around, happier for me than I was for myself. 'We have a bingo here! You know what that means.' Felicity whipped her head around looking uncharacteristically thrilled. Thayer grabbed a handful of poporn and flicked it at me. Bram, weirdly, did it, too, a small smile fighting its way across his face. Freddie laughed and half-heartedly tossed some bits of popcorn on me, too. Then I learned why Felicity was so happy. She took her full bowl in both hands, walked right up to me, and dumped it over my head. 'It's tradition,' she announced, with a self-satisfied grin."
- a custom, silicone popcorn bowl with instructions of how to use it to pop kernels in the microwave.
"He crawled toward a clunky machine on the windowsil behind his headboard, his bed squeaking from the movement. Freddie flipped a switch, sending lights dancing on my arm. 'Is that a film projector?' I whispered."
- a vintage-inspired, phone projector.
"I patted down my clothes. All I had on me were my keys, my phone, and a MetroCard. I took out my keys, attached to my favorite key chain. It was a red key fob for Room 237 at the Overlook Hotel."
- a red key chain inspired by The Overlook Hotel from The Shining.
images by @The_Bookish_Runner
Train to an Alternate Dimension
March BoxDown World by Rebecca Phelps
"I looked behind the flour, and behind the sugar. Soon I was furiously pushing aside everything on the counter, but it wasn't there. 'Did you find it?' I clutched by backpack to my chest. And there it was - tick tick tick. The only egg timer in this kitchen was the one I had brought from school."
- a silver egg timer inside a canvas and cork drawstring backpack.
"My mom came into my room late that night after the girls had left and sat on the edge of my bed, something she hadn't done in a long time. 'Did you have fun with your friends?' she asked. She looked so beautiful in the light from under the door, her hair pulled back and a soft black sweater on. Little blue earrings I hadn't seen her wear in years were dangling from her earlobes, and I think she was even wearing lip gloss."
- blue threaded earrings.
"I was alone in the science lab, but I knew it was only a matter of moments before they got the door open. So I spun and ran into the tent and down the spiral staircase. This was it. If this didn't work, there was no plan B. I took one of the coins Kieren had handed me out of my pocket, walked up to the door to Yesterday, and slide it into the opening that I had thought was a peephole."
- a penny that had been run over by a train.
"I opened the suitcase and let the top of it fall back. Inside was a small glass jar, like a beaker, narrow at the top and plugged with a cork, wedged into some Styrofoam padding that had been cut specifically to fit it. A pink solution sloshed around inside. It had a glow about it, an iridescence. I picked it up and stared at it, and I could see the liquid splash against the glass enclosure as my nervous hands shook."
- a glass bottle containing grapefruit scented perfume.
images by @The_Bookish_Runner
Nebraska Skies and Broadway Lights
February BoxMazie by Melanie Crowder
"Saturday afternoon, when I get back from an informal tap lesson Marsha led in the parlor downstairs, there's an envelope waiting for me on my pillow. My eyes focus on the tidy letters written in ruler straight lines while the rest of me flares like a dying star, popping and crackling as it devours itself from the inside out."
- a pair of two gold, satin pillowcases and the letter transcribed from the novel.
"'You're a capable dancer, and that voice is a thing of beauty. They're just after a different...look. You understand.' She's being kind, telling me even that much, but it stings all the same. Still, I'm an actor, aren't I? So I smile, blinking a little too fast. 'Thanks,' I manage. I toss Nana's scarf over my shoulder and push through the studio door like it didn't just kill me to do that much."
- a rust-colored, knit scarf with a leather patch with the words "I'm going to be amazing".
"She offers a weak smile. 'We help each other. It's what we do.' Fiona takes Gloria's arm and steers her past me with a pointed glare. Kathleen's waiting for me backstage, a pincushion strapped to her wrist."
- a cream and tan, polka-dotted pin cushion.
"Here's the deal: I have a friend who's been working on a show that'll start previews this fall in Boston, with the hopes to open off-Broadway soon. I was supposed to have a week of downtime, but now that this tour's gone long, I don't even get one day to rest-I'm hopping straight from this production into that one.' I grip the sides of my chair so hard the metal edges dig into the pads of my fingers. 'It's a revue, and they need to fill a few more spots in the singing ensemble. There's no square dancing, so I know you'll be bitterly disappointed.' I chuck my hairbrush at her, and she ducks, snorting with laughter."
- a teal green hairbrush.
images by @The_Bookish_Runner
Butter, Sugar, and Love Stories
January BoxHappily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
"I'm planning on saying as little as possible on the drive over to Chrysalis, allowing myself to stew in my bad moon, so I can hopefully get it out of my system. But that intention goes out the window when I open the passenger door. 'Oh my god, what the heck is that?' The scent that wafts out of the car is so thick, I can lamost see it moving through the air, curlicues and clouds, like a cartoon. It's nutty and sweet and makes me feel warm inside, like I got a big hug. My bad mood instantly evaporates. He laughs and reaches into the backseat to produce a muffin tin, as if he's just pulled it out of the oven, the delicious smell getting even stronger. The muffins are studded with plump raspberries and covered with a crumble that seems to sparkle."
- a light pink, silicone muffin tin. Inside the book club kit was also the recipe for Sam's Brown-Butter Raspberry Muffins.
"My phone goes off again in my pocket, but I fight the urge to pull it out. Instead I force myself to look at the different products on the shelves. There's dried lavender in tall plastic baggies. Something especially fragrant called ras el hanout in glass jars. Next to that are tubs of something that looks like a mix of a beautiful flower and a terrifying bug the color of midnight. I sort of feel like I'm walking through a magical shop in a fantasy novel, and I can get why Sam likes this place so much."
- a set of four glass jars with wood kilner lid
"Instead of waiting here alone, I decide to go check out Theodore's gallery again. It was the first place I went when I got here earlier, but he wasn't there. Still, I almost cried seeing the full scale of his creations. Giant color versions of all the sketches I'd seen him laboring over this year. A girl in a dress of flowers, long locs made out of blooms, and the star of the gallery: Lavon in a simple white tank top, a crow of peonies on his head, each of his features so perfectly realized that I had to fight back the urge to reach out and touch the piece."
- an 8x10 watercolor print inspired by Theodore's artwork.
images by @The_Bookish_Runner