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Posts Tagged ‘Young Adult fiction’

An email from one of our great friends in need of perfect books for her soon-to-be-High-School-Senior to read this summer led to this post.  Since this student is an avid and discriminating reader, she wanted well-written books. However, since this student’s summer plans include attending a challenging academic camp, she wanted our picks to be “fun” to read.

What follows is based upon the list we created for her.  Since we think it is pretty good list for anyone (adult and young adult alike) looking for good books to read this summer, we share it now with you.

Before we begin our reviews, we would like to note two things about this list. 1) Most of the titles were published years ago. We list them now because people currently in high school were too young for these novels when they initially appeared on bookstore shelves, and we don’t want them or anyone to miss a chance to read these titles. 2) Most of these picks, while selected for readers who are YA’s target audience, are not books that most publishers would label as YA. Two 2014 YA titles finish out our list for anyone looking for a purely YA read.

What Could Be Called “Coming of Age” Novels 

Zorro by Isabel Allende (2005).  While Ms. Allende is known for magic realism, this novel offers a more straightforward narrative than found in most of her books. Ms. Allende’s account of the legend begins with Zorro’s childhood and finishes with the hero. Have fun with this book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell (2002) – A look at China and USA through the eyes of a young woman whose life is greatly affected her American father’s fascination with China. Not necessarily light, but truly a great, great “coming of age” book. We have been recommending this to men, women and young adults for years and have never had a disgruntled customer.  One all male book club declared it their best discussion book ever. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (2005) – Mr. Urrea creates a history of Mexico as seen through the life of one of their saints (who happens to be one of his distant relatives). This saga, written in gorgeous and lyrical prose, shows a Mexico that many might otherwise miss. ~ Lisa Christie

Some Novels with an Adventurous Bent

Death Comes To Pemberley by PD James (2011) – This mystery revisits at the characters and places from Pride and Prejudice six years after Darcy and Elizabeth are married. Their lives are rambling along quite well until a murderer enters their realm. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Department Q mysteries by Jussi Adler Olsen (assorted years) – All the Department Q mysteries take place in Denmark. They all involve a lovable and unique cast of police detectives. They all teach you a bit about life in Scandinavia. They are all well-written and fun, with some gory details periodically inserted. ~ Lisa Christie

A More Serious Novel with International Overtones

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2001) – This well-written novel tracks the lives of partygoers when an event honoring a Japanese businessman visiting an embassy in an unnamed South American country goes terribly awry. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Some Non-Fiction Choices 

On Writing by Stephen King (2000) – His attempt to show people how to write well, is really an autobiography about a writing life. Well-written, fascinating look at an American author that happens to have some good tips on getting better at writing. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda (2011) – This short book follows an Afghan refugee through the countries he must cross, and shows what he must do to survive and achieve political asylum. The fact that he was ten when his journey began, and he did it all alone, makes it a truly thought-provoking read. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor at Little Big Horn by Larry Colter (2001) – An amazing tale of a gifted young basketball player named Sharon LaForge. Mr. Colter follows her and her team as they navigate the challenges of their basketball season and their home lives on an Native American reservation. I still remember passages thirteen years after reading it the first time. ~ Lisa Christie

Some Actual YA Titles For Young Adults (and adults – let’s be honest here)

Like No Other by Una LaMarche (July 2014) – West Side Story with an African-American as the male lead and a Hasidic girl as the female lead.  Set in modern-day Brooklyn, this tale explores the feelings one’s first true love brings, and what it means to make your own way into the world — even if it requires navigating respecting one’s parents while rebelling from their rules. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (May 2014) – I can not say much about the plot as it will ruin the book.  But this story of a privileged family summering on an island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard is a page-turner. The plot revolves around decisions leading up to a tragedy, and then focuses on how the decisions made after the tragedy affect the family, particularly the 18-year-old narrator. ~ Lisa Christie

This list is not meant to be a one size fits all recommendation.  If you have trouble matching the young adults in your life to any of these books, please send us a comment and we will try to find a book to meet your needs.

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Next month, Catching Fire – part two of the Hunger Games trilogy debuts in movie form; The Fault In Our Stars is being filmed and/or edited as we write this.  Divergent will be a movie before we know it.  These movie versions of books have us thinking about terrific young adult fiction.  And when we think, we tend to read.  So today we thought we would highlight some great young adult books that have not yet made it to the big screen.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (2013) – This novel offers a great way to think about fate and choices.  Plus, this has one of the most memorable opening chapter events of any book I have ever read.  If you continue past chapter one you will: 1) Get to know Ezra – the golden boy of his high school until a car accident ends his star tennis career.  2) Get to know Toby – a boy ostracized by his classmates ever since being the innocent victim of the horrific event in chapter one.  3) Meet Cassidy – the new girl in town with a huge secret that sets her apart.  4) Start to believe Ezra is right when he states that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them.  Yes, Ezra believes each life has a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen In other words, an event that is “the beginning of everything”. ~ Lisa Christie

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012) – OK, I lost sleep reading this one; I could not put it down.  It has young women heroines, WWII history, a glimpse into life in England and France, spies, and Nazis.  Pick it up and be prepared to spend a day reading. Note: This review is short as it is hard to review this book without giving away too much plot; and, surprise is important with this book. ~ Lisa Christie

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (September 2013) – I am not sure how the award winning author of Code Name Verity endured the research for this book.  She must have just kept thinking it was so much worse for the actual prisoners. But in this book, she takes on the German concentration camps, specifically Ravensbruck.  Ravensbruck is where her heroine Rose, an American ATA pilot, ends up after being overtaken by two German fighter planes.  What happens to her there is unthinkable; what she witnesses is worse.  But somehow, while this book caused me to cry quietly throughout, and then sustainably at the end, the message is one of hope, survival, and bearing witness so that the horrible, horrible things that happened in Ravensbruck, never occur again.  May all world leaders read this and govern accordingly.  But in the meantime, get this book in the hands of your favorite future world leader and yourself. (And yes, a few characters from Code Name Verity play a part, but mostly this is the tale of Rose and her fellow prisoners.) ~ Lisa Christie

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013) – Set during one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits — both from the “wrong side of the tracks” and smart enough to know that first love rarely, if ever, lasts, but willing to try anyway.  When you watch as Park meets Eleanor, you’ll remember your own high school years, riding the school bus, any time you tried to fit in while figuring out who you were, and your own first love.  I also truly believe that when the book ends you will think hard about children from the “other side of the tracks” and from family situations that are less than ideal. ~ Lisa Christie

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