Young Adult Fiction

The NaturalsThe Naturals
By Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Ages 14 & up

The Naturals is a thrilling mystery novel that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. Our teenage protagonist, Cassie, is a natural at reading people. So much so, that she is recruited for the trial FBI program for gifted teens. They are only supposed to be helping solve cold cases, but when a serial killer strikes too close to home, Cassie and the other naturals get involved. Too involved. ERYCA

 

 

AudacityAudacity
By Melanie Crowder
Ages 14 & up

For those of us who don’t normally pick up a poetry anthology as light reading, Audacity is the perfect introduction. Written in moving verse, this unique novel follows historical figure Clara Lemlich as she arrives in the Lower East Side of New York City at the turn of the 20th century. While many of us know the story of Clara and her role in the shirtwaist factory strike, Crowder has developed a fictional story of Clara’s hardships not just at work, but of her turmoil and oppression at home. Clara is a Russian Jewish immigrant and with her family she lives in unimaginably poor conditions. She’s expected to not only provide for her family as a factory worker, but to also devote herself to endless housekeeping. The verse format lends itself well to this emotional story and offers a fresh look at the strength and determination of a driven American woman. ALLISON

 

Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea
By Ruta Sepetys
Ages 14 & up

Expertly researched and beautifully told. Historical fiction mogul Ruta Sepetys is back and this time with a haunting WWII thriller that you’ll never forget! ALLISON

 

 

Anna and the Swallow ManAnna and the Swallow Man
By Gavriel Savit
Ages 14 & up

When Anna’s father, a linguistics professor in 1939 Krakow, is taken away by the Germans, she casts her lot with the mysterious Swallow Man. The reader experiences this years-long odyssey in the shadows of war-torn Europe through the eyes of an innocent, its terror and wonder, the Swallow Man’s protective kindness and his ominous instability. Mysterious and beautiful, realistic and magical. For mature readers. MARCELA

 

 

IlluminaeIlluminae
By Amie Kaufman
Ages 14 & up

A gritty YA space opera told through a collection of dossiers, interviews, schematics and more, Illuminae manages to be mind-bending and yet totally readable. Two teen colonists, Kady and Ezra, must navigate constant twists and turns to discover why their home planet was destroyed, and along the way the are pitted against rogue artificial intelligence, dangerous bioweapons, and a full fleet of military starships. Fans of Scott Westerfield, Marie Lu or Beth Revis should pay attention, this one’s good! KEVIN

 

The Riverman
By Aaron Starmer
Ages 12 and up

The RivermanI can genuinely say this book is like nothing else I’ve read before! The Riverman is the story of Alistair Cleary, a 12-year old boy growing up in a small New York town in the 1980s. Alastair is asked by his friend from childhood, the mysterious Fiona Loomis, to write her biography. In the process of doing so, he learns of the strange power she claims to have to travel to a fantasy world of her own creation. He also discovers that she believes herself to be in danger, with her and other children being threatened by the soul-stealing Riverman. As Alistair tries desperately to understand Fiona’s agenda, he starts to develop feelings for her and is sucked in to her world more than he could ever imagine. The Riverman features a fairly significant fantasy element, but what really drew me in were the real life details. Every character feels realistic and memorable, and some really keep you guessing as to their motives. A dark and at times unsettling story with many surreal elements, this is a novel best read by middle-graders and above, with many elements a mature readers would catch that younger ones might not. Even though it is marketed as a middle-grade novel, I would heartily recommend it to teens and even adults who are looking for something different. Perfect for fans of Kelly Link, Colin Meloy, or Ransom Riggs. KEVIN

 

Princess XI Am Princess X
By Cheri Priest
Ages 14+

I Am Princess X is a great mix of realism, fantasy, action-adventure, crime, detective and graphic storytelling! Highly recommended for ages 14 and up! ERYCA

 

 

I Crawl Through ItI Crawl Through It
By A.S. King
Ages 14+

Disturbing, puzzling, surreal, and honest. Like nothing else I’ve ever read! KEVIN

 

 

Bloody JackBloody Jack
By L.A. Meyer
Ages 12 and up

Hoping to escape a life of begging and poverty on the streets of early 19th century London, Mary Faber disguises herself as “Jacky” and boards the H.M.S. Dolphin as a ship’s boy. What follows is a great rollicking yarn full of adventure, romance, peril and bravery on the high seas. “Jacky” must withstand harsh beatings and lecherous advances from her superiors while hiding her true identity and her growing love for fellow ship’s boy, Jaimy Fletcher while the Dolphin fights pirates on the Caribbean Sea. Fun, feisty and freewheeling, Bloody Jack is sure to delight adventurous readers looking for a breath of fresh air! CHELSIE

 

Bloody Jack Audio Book
By L.A. Meyer, performed by Katherine Kellgren
Ages 12 & up

If you’ve already read my review for the first Bloody Jack book, then you know that you’re in for a great nautical adventure with street orphan Mary Faber who becomes “Jacky,” ship’s boy aboard the H.M.S. Dolphin. What you may not know is that the audio book brings this story to life in the most vivid way! Katherine Kellgren is perfect as the feisty, daring and oftentimes hilarious titular character and her narration makes the story race along at breakneck speed! Beware though! If you’re looking for a story for your family road-trip, look elsewhere, Jacky’s adventures are definitely a 12+ affair. CHELSIE

 

Picture Me GonePicture Me Gone
By Meg Rosoff
Ages 12 & up

Mila is a 12 year old girl with an extraordinary ability to perceive details about a person, a situation, or a room. She lives with her parents in London, and has a trip planned with her father to visit his best friend Matthew in upstate New York. The day before they are scheduled to leave, they get a call informing them that Matthew has disappeared. Mila and her father decide to go ahead with their trip, hoping Matthew will turn up. What they thought would be a relaxing vacation, ends up being a long road trip through unfamiliar places, with Mila using her unique sensitivity to try and find Matthew. Deep down Picture Me Gone is a novel about relationships, and family, and how things aren’t always as they seem. With an element of mystery driving the plot, you see their world through the small details that are always more important than they seem. ERYCA

 

All the Truth That's in MeAll The Truth That’s In Me
By Julie Berry
Ages 14 and up

After young Judith and her friend Lottie mysteriously disappear from their colonial era village, Lottie’s body washes up along the river but Judith remains missing for two years. After returning mutilated and mute she is shunned by her community and family. Her innocent romance with her childhood friend, Lucas, is viewed with disdain. Her “maidenhood” is questioned after years as a hostage. Her inability to speak makes her an easy target for those who mean her harm. With the aid of some unlikely allies, Judith finds her voice. When she does, she finds love and acceptance and we learn the truth about what happened to those two girls so long ago. Strong female characters and a mystery that kept me guessing until the end make this a great YA read! JAMIE

 

Ready Player OneReady Player One
By Ernest Cline
Ages 14 and up

Do you like video games? Perhaps you fancy yourself some kind of “Ultimate Gamer.” Do you want to test that by entering Oasis, a virtual reality gaming utopia that will pit you against other players and tax to the utmost your reflexes, problem solving abilities and knowledge of 80s trivia? Do you want to win a free Delorean? Ready Player One is a great book for older teens and any fan of detail-oriented science fiction and gamer trash-talk subculture (be aware, the language in this book can be a little raw). And yes, if you turn out to be the first person to decipher the fiendish series of clues and Easter eggs hidden throughout the story, the author will buy you a Delorean. That’s right, A DELOREAN! Every kid’s dream car in 1983! KEVIN

 

The Dragonbone ChairThe Dragonbone Chair
By Tad Williams
Ages 12 & up

First of all, The Dragonbone Chair is undoubtedly one of the best titles for a fantasy novel ever, and thankfully the book itself is no disappointment either. Set in a painstakingly developed fantasy world, evocative of Middle-Ages Europe but also its own unique setting, the story follows Simon, a young kitchen boy in the king’s castle who is driven from his home after uncovering a sinister conspiracy. The story is not just his though, and features a huge cast of fascinating characters, including unique and oftentimes complex protagonists and memorable and compelling villains. Fans of high fantasy, including such books as Eragon , Beyonders , and Lord of the Rings will get swept up in this massive fantasy series KEVIN

 

Throne of GlassThrone of Glass
By Sarah J. Maas
Ages 13 & up

When assassin Celaena Sardothien is taken from prison and given the choice of participating in a contest to win her freedom or returning to prison where her death is sure, she chooses life. Unfortunately, her life may have a time limit when an ancient evil begins to brutally kill off her fellow contestants one by one. Before it takes her down, too, Celaena must find the evil and destroy it. Throne of Glass is an intense book of action and includes a multi-dimensional heroine who will do anything to achieve her goals.This is a great choice for any teen looking for their next great fantasy read or for anyone who likes their stories dark and with edge. ANGIE

 

The Raven and Other StoriesThe Raven and Other Writings (Aladdin Classics)
By Edgar Allen Poe
Ages 11 & up

Master of horror, detection and rhyme, Poe was a writer of great imagination and polished craft. His poems are musical, lilting and accessible: they sing and chant of the kingdom by the sea and of the raven who croaks “nevermore” –easy to read and evoking terror and loss and premature death. In contrast the tales are elegantly and densely written in a prose more complex than 21st century readers expect but the cadenced and complicated phrasing infuses the stories of the plagues and premature death and obsession with a nuanced suspense and horror which a more “modern”style could never attain. Finally, the cool rational prose of the detective stories (pre-Sherlock Holmes) reveal yet another facet of Poe’s genius. So much to read and savor! MARCELA

 

ChiggersChiggers
By Hope Larson
Ages 11-14

Abby is excited to go back to camp this summer, until she realizes that all her usual camp friends have moved on, becoming counselors, boy-crazy motormouths, or punk rockers. Then Abby makes friends with Shasta, the mysterious new girl who is 1/8th Cherokee and a huge fantasy nerd with an internet boyfriend and a cool scar from where she was struck by lightning. Unfortunately, none of the other girls in Abby’s cabin like Shasta, leaving Abby somewhere in the middle. Throw in crushes, nature hikes and a cute boy and you have yourself a delightfully quiet, off-beat, camp adventure. CHELSIE

 

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal SnoggingAngus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
By Louise Rennison
Ages 12 & up

Georgia Nicolson is 14 and any ridiculous/embarrassing/hilarious/awkward thing that could possibly happen to anyone happens to her. I could give you some examples, but it wouldn’t be nearly as funny as reading it in Georgia’s own words. This is her journal. Enjoy. You will laugh until it hurts. I promise. ELIZABETH

 

Remember MeRemember Me
By Christopher Pike
Ages 14 & up

Do you like paranormal romance, but feel like it can be a little predictable as a genre? Well then, journey back with me to the late 80’s, a time filled with vengeful cheerleaders, slumber parties gone horrible wrong, and vampires that were more creepy than sparkly. Remember Me, one of Pike’s most memorable works, begins predictably enough, with a party that turns deadly when the main character perishes under questionable circumstances. After a time spent haunting her friends. she is then reborn in to a succession of new lives and identities. Fun, creepy, a little bit trashy, and ultimately mystical and life-affirming. KEVIN

 

The Astonishing Life of Octavian NothingThe Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing
By M.T. Anderson
Ages 14 & up

At the onset of the American Revolution, Octavian is raised in part by the Boston Novanglian College of Lucidity in a house of philosophers, scientists, and artists who address each other only as numbers. He does not question why he is weighed, measured and examined every day; after all, he is an African prince, receiving one of the finest educations possible. But the college is hiding a dark secret from Octavian; he is actually part of one of their experiments, designed to prove whether or not Africans are “a distinct and separate species.” But change is coming to Boston, the college, and Octavian, who is forced to discover what it means not to be free. Expertly crafted historical fiction from the wonderful M.T. Anderson, Octavian Nothing ponders just how detached science can be from a human experiment and the questions it raises about how education influences our identity are still relevant today. Anderson explores the endurance of the spirit and what it means to be truly considered human. CHELSIE

Beauty QueensBeauty Queens
By Libba Bray
Ages 16 & up

So, a plane full of young beauty pageant contestants crashes on a deserted island. Do they devolve into a pack of wild animals like the boys in Lord of the Flies? No! In fact, these young women stop competing with each other and begin cooperating to build up a nice little utopian community of girl power. Almost every aspect of contemporary American life is satirized in this uproarious novel: consumerism, reality television, boy bands, politics, militarism, megalomaniacal dictators, sexuality, and of course, beauty pageants and our notions of femininity. Mature themes abound in this novel, so it is not for everyone. There is frank sexual content, but rather than debase and exploit the young women, it serves to empower them and emancipate them from society’s hypocritical strictures. Highly recommended, but please get your parent’s blessing before reading it so I don’t get in trouble. CHERYL

 

Blood Red RoadBlood Red Road
By Moira Young
Ages 8 & up

With so many mass-produced dystopian novels being released, it’s nice to find a diamond in the rough. Saba lives in a desolate wasteland with her loony father, twin brother Lugh, and younger sister. Her whole life, Saba has happily followed in Lugh’s shadow until one day, men on horses show up and kidnap him. Saba makes the decision to leave the only home she’s ever known to rescue her brother. I loved the world that Moira Young built, showing a very real and very bleak future for humanity. The book is written in Saba’s dialect and with no quotations around the dialogue. It did take some getting used to, but after a few pages I didn’t even notice it anymore and began to enjoy it. I don’t know how much closer to Saba you can get than reading the story directly through her. ANGIE

 

The CardturnerThe Cardturner: A Novel About a King, a Queen, and a Joker*

Have you ever heard of a little game called bridge? If so, you probably have visions of old ladies gossiping over cards and snack bowls filled with pistachios, prunes, and stale taffy. You would be wrong. Bridge, as Alton Richards, underdog hero of The Cardturner, learns, is cut-throat: “more like a sport, a mental sport, like chess….” Pressured by his family to win the esteem of his rich, blind uncle in order to ensure a healthy inheritance, and pining over an ex-girlfriend who is now dating his best friend, Alton is relegated to spending his summer as his uncle’s card turner. Alton soon realizes there is more to his uncle than anybody realizes, and that bridge is way more than just a game. Hilarious, moving, and peppered with romance, strategy, synchronicity, and even philosophy, The Cardturner is a game-changing summer read. *Warning: upon finishing the book, you will probably not be able to rest until you’ve established a bridge club. NIKKI

 

The CatalystCatalyst

I have not yet read a Laurie Halse Anderson novel that I did not love, but Catalyst is without a doubt my favorite. Kate is the ultimate Type-A high school student: great grades, good at sports, perfect boyfriend, ideal daughter. She is a devoted chemistry student with little time or patience for the ambiguous nature of the Humanities. The structured way in which she organizes her life is mirrored in the novel’s breakdown of chapters into chemistry terms. On the outside, Kate appears to be in complete control of her world with a shining future ahead of her; however, internally she is plagued by self doubt. A personal catastrophe and a devastating revelation about a classmate Kate has always despised, shatter this division. In the end, Kate is forced to change the way she rigidly evaluates the world, and likewise, after reading Catalyst the reader cannot help but look at the world with a new perspective. REBECCA

 

The Catastrophic History of You and MeThe Catastrophic History of You & Me

At sixteen, Brie dies of a broken heart. Literally her heart breaks in half. While in heaven, Brie watches her family fall apart and she discovers that her best friend and the boy who broke her heart share a secret. With her guide Patrick, Brie must go through the five stages of grief before she is able to move on. While Rothenberg knows humor and her dialogue is full of wit and retorts, she also is able to bring on the sadness. Did I mention the romance? This is a romance for the ages. The Catastrophic History of You & Me will wrench your heart, then it will make you laugh, then you’ll find yourself sobbing in the bathroom. Very enjoyable read! ANGIE

 

Drums, Girls & Dangerous PieDrums, Girls and Dangerous Pie

Just so you know, this is a story about a teenager whose 5-year-old brother is diagnosed with cancer. So, yes, it has its tear-jerking moments. However, it also manages to be absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious and a stunningly accurate portrayal of teenage life. Even when bad things are happening, you can still have a crush on the most gorgeous girl in school and not notice the amazing best friend who’s always been there for you. Read this and get ready to have your heart broken and sewn back together again. ELIZABETH

 

 

The EnemyThe Enemy

Zombies. Zombies. Zombies. They have overrun London. All of the adults are either dead or have become creepy monstrosities running around the city eating children. Things seem pretty grim and that is when Higson is at his best. The Enemy is full of suspense, action, and sadness. Things are not easy for the children in The Enemy, and if you have read any of my other reviews, then you know that is the way I prefer it. Higson presents the real struggles of living in a city full of zombies. Kind of reminds me of the last time I was in London. Seriously, I loved this book; it is dark, wicked, and perfect for late night reading. ANTHONY

 

Every DayEvery Day

Every day our protagonist, A, wakes up in a different body, a different life. One day A wakes up in the body of Justin, Rhiannon’s jerk of a boyfriend, over the course of the day, A becomes infatuated with Rhiannon, and the rest of the book is spent breaking all the rules A has in place, to try and be with Rhiannon. All the while A still wakes up every morning in a different body of different genders, social classes, races, sexual orientations, and sizes. Levithan will have you turning pages to the very end, eagerly awaiting A’s fate. At its core, Every Day is a book about love, compassion, and empathy. ERYCA

 

Hope Was HereHope Was Here

Make mine the Combination Special. I’d like a tale about a hardworking 16-year-old waitress named Hope and her Aunt Addie, an extraordinary cook, who moves from Brooklyn to Mulhoney, Wisconsin, where they encounter an ethical employer, a despicable antagonist, politics, and romance. No one captures the profound satisfaction of humble work — honorably performed — and of families, however we build them — like Joan Bauer. If books were food, this novel would be an immensely satisfying meal followed by your favorite dessert, all served with intelligence, insight and wit. Come on in, take a seat, and savor an inspiring story. JANET

 

LockdownLockdown: Escape from Furnace 1

Alex Sawyer is framed for the murder of his friend and sent to the Furnace, an underground prison for juvenile criminals where they are never seen or heard from again. He is surrounded by murderers, thieves, and other miscreants, and that is just the inmates. During the day they are put into hard labor; and at night, lock your cell because that is when the fun begins. Mutant dogs, brutal guards, and ghastly creatures from the Blood Watch roam the halls. Mildly graphic and with just a few choice words, Lockdown is a plot driven thriller with no time to catch your breath. Suspend some of your disbelief and take a trip to this dark dystopian inferno. This novel had me from the first line, “If I stopped running I was dead.” ANTHONY

 

Marcelo in the Real WorldMarcelo in the Real World

Marcelo is a 17 year old boy with a condition similar to Asperger’s who is greatly looking forward to his summer job tending the ponies at his school for students with special needs. His plans are derailed by his father who wants Marcelo to work at his law firm instead. Marcelo’s father believes that Marcelo has the abilities to function more fully in “the real world” and feels a summer job at his firm will help Marcelo develop the necessary skills and confidence. I found this a very moving, engaging read as I rooted for Marcelo while following his ups and downs as he navigated the complexities of romance, friendship, family loyalty, and the need to follow one’s own sense of right and wrong when he discovers a photograph in a discard pile of a girl disfigured by a malfunctioning windshield produced by the firm’s biggest client. Marcelo in the Real World is the 2010 winner in the young adult category of The Schneider Family Book Awards which honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience. SHARON

 

StargirlStargirl

I loved Stargirl — both the book and the character! Stargirl possesses those rare qualities that we all long for: goodness, optimism, and the confidence to just be ourselves, despite intense peer pressure to conform. SHARON HOWARD