Young Adult Realism

Titles, M-Z

A Mango Shaped SpaceA MANGO SHAPED SPACE by Wendy Mass (Little Brown, 2003). To thirteen year old Mia Winchell, sounds, letters, and numbers have colors. She hasn't told anyone since the second grade debacle, though. When she finally does, she discovers she's not alone. A fascinating and engaging first novel. Don't miss it. Ages 10-up.

THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner (Delacorte Press, 2009). Sixteen year old Thomas wakes up without a memory and in a "lift" in the center of the Glade, an open area surrounded on all sides by walls that lead to a Maze that changes every night. And you don't want to be caught out there at night. Once a month, a new boy is delivered into the Glade, where the Gladers have formed their own society and are seeking answers to the mysteries of why they're there.

The Maze RunnerBut after Thomas arrives, everything changes: the next day, a girl is delivered. And food deliveries stop...Can they solve the mystery of the maze and make it home? Or will they be trapped there forever? THE MAZE RUNNER is an exciting, suspenseful, thrill-ride with an intriguing "world" that's more than meets the eye. Readers will be eagerly awaiting the next installment. Ages 12-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.

MY FATHER'S SUMMERS: A DAUGHTER'S MEMOIR by Kathi Appelt (Henry Holt, 2004). Poignant. Powerful. Poetic. Appelt's memoir is her best work to date. Heartfelt and hopeful, she describes the impact of her father's departure, her first kiss, and a surprisingly close connection to a defining day in American history. This book will resonant with young adult and adult readers alike. Five stars. Ages 12-up. Recommendation by Anne Bustard.

My Road Trip...MY ROAD TRIP TO THE PRETTY GIRL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD by Brian Yansky (Cricket, 2003). In this journey to the self (and from Iowa to Austin), Simon's struggling to keep things together. He's skating the law, recently dumped, and dealing with a dad who just doesn't understand. Overwhelmed, he hits the road to find his biological parents and wisdom about evil advertisers, scary giants, witches, ETs, friendship, nature/nurture, and, well, pretty girls. One part magic, two parts tall tale, this YA debut is one to read and remember. Ages 12-up.

MYRTLE OF WILLENDORF by Rebecca O'Connell (Front Street, 2000). In her first year of college, artist Myrtle is distanced from her goddess-worshipping, high school best friend. Myrtle's roommate Jada is a unworthy replacement, and Jada's friends are even worse. But Myrtle's painting eventually leads her back to the goddess in more ways than one. Ages 14-up.

Nathan FoxNATHAN FOX: DANGEROUS TIMES by L. Brittney (Feiwel & Friends, 2008). Thirteen-year-old Nathan Fox is an acrobat/actor in the same theatre company as young Will Shakespeare. Unbeknownst to him, Will and Nathan's sister, Marie, are employed by Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen's spymaster, who also wants to recruit Nathan. After a period of training, soon Nathan, his sister, and one Sir John Pearce are off to Venice to try to forge an alliance with the Doge against the Spanish. There they encounter the famous general Othello, his new wife Desdemona, and his sinister ensign, Iago. Forced to accompany the general to Crete, the three are soon caught up in treachery and mayhem. DANGEROUS TIMES is terrifically fun, clever, and accessible. Nathan himself is well-developed and the use of Shakespeare's Othello is fascinating. Full of, but not burdened by, period details, DANGEROUS TIMES should appeal to fans of both historical and spy fiction (and, of course, Shakespeare!). Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.

NECESSARY ROUGHNESS by Marie G. Lee (HarperCollins, 1996). Chang Jung Kim encounters racism and struggles to fit in after moving to a small town in Minnesota from Los Angeles. Ages 12-up.

Ninjas, Piranhas, and GalileoNINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO by Greg Leitich Smith (Little Brown, 2003). From the flap copy: Elias, Shohei, and Honoria have always been a trio united against That Which Is The Peshtigo School. But suddenly it seems that understanding and sticking up for a best friend isn't as easy as it used to be. Elias, reluctant science fair participant, finds himself defying the authority of Mr. Ethan Eden, teacher king of chem lab. Shohei, all-around slacker, is approaching a showdown with his adoptive parents, who have decided that he needs to start “hearing” his ancestors. And Honoria, legal counsel extraordinaire, discovers that telling a best friend you like him, without actually telling him, is a lot harder than battling Goliath Reed or getting a piranha to become vegetarian. What three best friends find out about the Land of the Rising Sun, Pygocentrus nattereri, and Galileo's choice, among other things, makes for a hilarious and intelligent read filled with wit, wisdom, and a little bit of science. Ages 10-up. Read the Story Behind the Story from Greg Leitich Smith.

A NORTHERN LIGHT by Jennifer Donnelly (Harcourt, 2003). Based on the sensational Chester Gillette murder case at the turn of the century, this intricately-woven historical novel tells Mattie Gokey's story in such a fresh and original way and with such precise and beautiful language that is impossible to talk about it without minimizing it. Just read it. Ages 12-up. Review by Frances Hill.

THE NUMBER DEVIL: A MATHEMATICAL ADVENTURE by Hans Magnus Enzensberger (Metropolitan, 1998). Robert's worst fears are realized when he is plagued through twelve dreams by The Number Devil, who introduces him to the magic of numbers. A witty and fascinating romp through several basic concepts in mathematics. DEVIL is Enzensberger's "first book for children and other thinking beings." Ages 12-up.

On the Fringe ON THE FRINGE edited by Donald R. Gallo, Lauri Hornik (Dial, 2001). Realistic, gritty, and, at times inspiring, this collection of short stories takes varied looks at the dynamics between teens deemed "in" or "out" and their tense, too often tragic, results. Contributing YA authors are: Joan Bauer; Alden R. Carter; Chris Crutcher; Jack Gantos; Angela Johnson; M. E. Kerr; Ron Koertge; Francess Lantz; Graham Salisbury; Will Weaver; Nancy Werlin. A must-read for every teen. Ages 12-up. Read interviews with Francess Lantz, Graham Salisbury, and Nancy Werlin.

ONE BIRD by Kyoko Mori (Holt, 1995). Set in 1975, Megumi's work caring for birds helps her come to terms with her mother's decision to leave her husband and family. Ages 12-up.

One Hot SecondONE HOT SECOND: STORIES ABOUT DESIRE edited by Cathy Young (Knopf, 2002). Desire is defined broadly in this irresistible collection that features stories by: Jennifer Armstrong, Sarah Dessen, Emma Donoghue, Nancy Garden, Angela Johnson, Victor Martinez, Norma Fox Mazer, Rachel Vail, Rich Wallace, Ellen Wittlinger, and Jacqueline Woodson. "Loving Megan" by Garden offered the favorite happy ending. Ages 12-up. Read interviews with Nancy Garden and Ellen Wittlinger.

OPEN ICE by Pat Hughes (Random House, 2005). Sophomore Nick Taglio is passionate about one thing (other than girls): hockey. When he suffers yet another concussion, amid fears that a further injury could result in permanent damage, his doctor and parents are adamant that he quit playing. Nick struggles to come to terms with his new circumstance, while having to deal with family, friends, girlfriends, teammates, and that splitting headache, as he tries to recover. Ages 12-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.

Out of Order (book jacket)OUT OF ORDER by A.M. Jenkins (HarperTempest, 2003). Colt Trammel is a popular jock with a pretty, if prim, girlfriend and real problem maintaining his baseball eligibility because of grades. When green-haired Corrine transfers in, he's intrigued, even though it's clear she'll never fit in and doesn't care to. Over time, she becomes his tutor, and the two come to understand each other. Colt's voice is unapologetically alpha male, the Texas high school setting dead-on, and his connection with Corrine refreshing. A fascinating read. Ages 12-up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. More on this title from Cynsations.

PICTURES, 1918 by Jeanette Ingold (Harcourt, 1998). Asia, 15, grieves when someone burns down her family's chicken house, killing her pet rabbit. Her love of photography and new appreciation of loss leads her to buy a camera and use it to record those close to her. Meanwhile, she finds romance and discovers who burned down the chicken house. Set in World War I Texas. Touches on anti-German American sentiment. Ages 10-up.

PROM by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2005). Ashley Hannigan isn't nearly as into the upcoming prom as her pals, including her best friend (and head of the prom committee) Natalia. But then the faculty advisor swipes the prom money and Natalia is temporary out of commission. Despite an unforgiving school administration (and, okay, a few detentions), can Ashley pull together the perfect night after all? Filled with an eclectic array of godmothers and set in a sometimes unforgiving upper-poor-to-lower-middle-class community, PROM offers up heart, sass, hope, and possibly the first believable Cinderella. Ages 12-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

Quiver by Stephanie SpinnerQUIVER by Stephanie Spinner (Knopf, 2002). The celebration of a strong heroine — fast, sure with a bow — of ancient Greece who has dedicated herself to the goddess Artemis and sworn never to marry. All's well until her father and the gods meddle. An excellent choice for mythology and adventure fans, those seeking good books for girls. Author's notes provide welcome background about ancient Greece and its gods. Ages 10-up.

Rain Is Not My Indian NameRAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek)(HarperCollins, 2001). Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn't know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his. It's been six months since her best friend died, and up until now, Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia's Indian Camp in their mostly white Kansas community, Rain decides to face the world again — at least through the lens of a camera. Ages 10-up.

Rainbow Boys by Alex SanchezRAINBOW BOYS by Alex Sanchez (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Three teen boys: Jason, an athlete with a girlfriend; Kyle who plays straight next to his very out best friend; Nelson who is out with a passion (at least until confronting the object of that passion). As they struggle with homophobia and dealing with their own emerging sexual maturity, they find their friendships altered forever. This first novel is a rare look at gay male coming of age, complete with sex and romance. Ages 12-up. See also the companion books, RAINBOW HIGH and RAINBOW ROAD.

Raising the GriffinRAISING THE GRIFFIN by Melissa Wyatt (Wendy Lamb Books, 2004). Alex Varenhoff had grown up knowing his family history, that his forefathers had once ruled Rovenia. But that was the past. All his life, he'd been a well-bred British boy, no different from his boarding school chums. Then he's called — by his parents, by his ancestral homeland — to leave behind the life he's always known, the horse who's his best friend — and take on the position of Rovenia's prince! This modern-day story is no fairy tale. Alex, make that Alexei, is a reluctant royal who quickly finds himself overwhelmed — and worse — by paparazzi and politics, manners and expectations, but most of all, the questions of duty, identity, and whom to trust. Wyatt's novel offers a rich and thoroughly convincing fictional land, lovingly crafted with effective attention to detail.

RAISING THE GRIFFIN is excellent choice for fans of THE PRINCESS DIARIES and, perhaps more significantly, also for those young readers who dismissed that title as too light. In sum, RAISING THE GRIFFIN is thoughtful, compelling, romantic, and suspenseful. A dazzling debut for Wyatt; clearly an author to watch. Ages 12-up. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. Read a chatlog with Melissa Wyatt from the YA Authors Cafe.

RATS SAW GOD by Rob Thomas (Simon & Schuster, 1996). At the decree of his high school counselor, Steve York, 18, is forced to write about his life, his rocky relationship with his dad, and the love he found, experienced, and lost in Dub. Ages 14-up.

REVOLUTIONS OF THE HEART by Marsha Qualey (Houghton Mifflin, 1993). Seventeen-year-old Cory faces her mother's death and tensions between both her step-father and brother. Meanwhile, she encounters racism at school when she begins dating Mac, an Ojibwe-Cree. An interracial romance that is hopeful but not romanticized. Ages 12-up.

A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E PearsonA ROOM ON LORELEI STREET by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2005). Zoe, 17, has had it with her alcoholic mother and manipulative grandmother. She moves out of the house and rents a room on Lorelei Street in hopes of a new start. But ghosts, living and dead, swirl around Zoe, trying to tug her back, and it's hard making ends meet as a diner waitress. Zoe's new landlady, Opal, has a fresh, hopeful perspective, but ultimately, Zoe's uncertain future rests in her own hands. Ages 12-up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. More on this title from Cynsations; read The Story Behind The Story from Mary E. Pearson.

ROUGHNECKS by Thomas Cochran (Harcourt, 1997). Oil Patch, Louisiana, is a town where football is king and where Travis Cody is responsible for the team's only loss. Travis's championship game-day preparations are a vehicle for Travis to reflect on his past as an Oil Patch Roughneck and his future as . . . he doesn't know what. One of the few sports books which will have you wondering the outcome of the game. Ages 12-up.

SAMMY & JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004). Set in a rough New Mexico barrio in the latter 1960s, this story embraces a first true love and its loss, racism, homophobia, war, street violence, family, community...in others words "life." The prose is at times breathtaking in its poetry and at others jarring in its truths. Sammy's voice lingers long after the book closes and leaves the reader more thoughtful than before. An absolute triumph! Ages 14-up. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. More on this title from Cynsations.

Saving MaddieSAVING MADDIE by Varian Johnson (Delacorte, 2010. Seventeen-year-old Joshua Wynne is a preacher's son—a "good boy" in a small town in South Carolina where everyone knows him. But when his childhood friend and (apparently) bad girl, Madeline Smith, returns to town, his faith, intentions, and virginity are tested. Can he bring back the old Maddie while keeping faith with God and his parents, when he doesn't know who he is himself? Told in a strong first-person voice, SAVING MADDIE is an elegantly written, non-preachy novel of redemption, intercession, and the courage of faith. Ages 14-up. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley and Heather HeplerSCRAMBLED EGGS AT MIDNIGHT by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler (Dutton, 2006). Calliope is tired of being dragged by her mother cross-country from Renaissance Faire (don't forget the "e") after Renaissance Faire. Eliot longs for the day when his father used to sell swimming pools—before he "found God," and subsequently founded the "Jesus fat camp" for Christian kids ("What would Jesus eat?"), thereby also discovering financial success. When Cal and Eliot meet, there's instantly chemistry--literally and figuratively. Do they have a future? Or will Eliot's father and Cal's mother (and her jouster boyfriend) tear them apart? A romantic comedy with an almost classic feel. Cal and Eliot feel like people you know even as they face unusual, even surreal, circumstances with humor and aplomb. Ages 12-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith. Read The Story Behind The Story from Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler.

SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD by Kim Ablon Whitney (Knopf, 2004). Bridget has been raised a Traveler, leading the life in trailer after trailer, city after city, with her friends and family—no roots, little school, running scams, casing pigeons, hearing the pros and cons of a really big score. At 16, she's already engaged, and her older brother Jimmy is enamored with the idea of following in Big Jim's footsteps to pull in huge money. It's a culture within the culture, with its own rules and (sometimes sexist) norms. It's the life. But is it the life for Bridget? Ages 12-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

SHATTERING GLASS by Gail Giles (Roaring Brook, 2002). As compelling as it is disturbing, readers will not be able to put down this suspenseful high school story of power, popularity, and manipulation. When puppetmaster Rob takes over Glass (or thinks he does), takes down Lance (or tries to), and makes Young his own, the more twisted side of adolescence is shown in its full gore and glory. Ages 12-up. A Reader's Guide by Patty Campbell is also available. Read The Story Behind The Story on Giles' second novel, DEAD GIRLS DON'T WRITE LETTERS.

Shayla's Double Brown Baby Blues by Lori Aurelia WilliamsSHAYLA'S DOUBLE BROWN BABY BLUES by Lori Aurelia Williams (Simon & Schuster, 2001). This sequel to Williams' much celebrated WHEN KAMBIA ELAINE FLEW DOWN FROM NEPTUNE reunites readers with Shayla, who is still friends with Kambia Elaine and dealing with the birth of her half sister, Gift, the daughter of Mr. Anderson Fox. Meanwhile, Kambia Elaine and newcomer Lemm face their own challenges. Williams strong, unique voice is lush and melodic as ever. Ages 12-up.

SHIZUKO'S DAUGHTER by Kyoki Mori (Holt, 1993). When her mother commits suicide, Yuki struggles against her loneliness and their shared qualities that challenge cultural expectations. Ages 12-up.

SIGHTS by Susanna Vance (Delacorte, 2001). Baby Girl has the sight from having been so long in Momma's womb before the vet delivered her, and that sight helps Baby Girl survive despite Dad's murderous attempts. That said, you'd think this wasn't a funny novel--but it is. It's funny, charming, fiesty, and insightful. With its popularity and romantic struggles, this first novel, is set in the 1950s and 1960s. First recommended to me by a young reader-site visitor who promised I'd love it, and she was right! Ages 12-up.

SLAM! by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic, 1996). SLAM! is the story of Greg, 17, who's hot on the basketball courts but not in class. A strong voice and well-drawn character who's part of the crowd that looks to athletics for escape and a future. Ages 12-up.

SLEEPING DOGS by Sonya Harnett (Viking, 1995). This darkly disturbing novel by an Austrailian author looks at a morally and literally isolated family, diseased with abusive and incestuous behavior, and the violence that erupts when their secrets are revealed. Neither explicit nor gratuitous but definitely for mature readers. Ages 14-up.

SLEEPING FRESHMEN NEVER LIE by David Lubar (Dutton, 2005). An insider's look at Scott's freshman year of high school as he tries to win a girl, finds another, stumbles into sports reporting, is unfortunately successful at politics, joins a theater crew, loses and gains friends, dodges bullies, seeks inspiration in English class, sometimes stands up for what's right and sometimes doesn't, and chronicles the highlights for his still in utero baby brother AKA "you quivering sack of viscous fluids" (p. 44). Ages 12-up. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. More on this title from Cynsations; read The Story Behind the Story from David Lubar.

SLUMMING by Kristen D. Randle (HarperCollins, 2003). High school seniors and best friends, Nikki, Alicia, and Sam, naively decide to play a Pygmalion game to liven up the last part of their senior year. The game has rules: each of them chooses a misfit, benevolently befriends and tries to improve his or her life a little, then takes this person to the prom. The day after the prom the most improved misfit's escort will win the game. It doesn't occur to them that the misfits might not welcome or want these intrusions into their lives. So the Pygmalion game begins, full of heartache and deception and fun and love and laughter, leaving you holding your breath (and your sides) to the last page. Ages 12-up. Recommendation by Frances Hill.

SON OF THE MOB by Gordon Korman (Hyperion, 2002). Will a mob boss's son find true love (and his moral center) with the daughter of the FBI agent assigned to bring down Dad? Funny, fresh, brilliantly executed. Ages 12-up. Don't miss the sequel, SON OF THE MOB: THE HOLLYWOOD HUSTLE (Hyperion, 2004), which is just as great as the original. Surf to Cynsations for more comments.

So Punk RockSO PUNK ROCK (AND OTHER WAYS TO DISAPPOINT YOUR MOTHER) by Micol Ostow, illustrated by David Ostow (Flux, 2009). Ari Abramson is on a mission during his junior of high school: avoid studying for the SAT, get out from under the thumbs of his academically-intense parents, and form an indie rock band so as to rise up the ranks of "coolness" at Gittleman Jewish Day School.

In this last enterprise, he enlists his best friend, the ultra-popular Jonas Fein; and the religiously conservative Yossi Gluck (and his sister Reena). Along the way, to their surprise, they become something of a hit. But as Ari comes to terms with his new-found popularity, he discovers there's more to his friends and him than he ever imagined.

With a fresh voice and terrific characters, SO PUNK ROCK is a hilarious look at high school, rock bands, and taking control of one's life. Age 10-up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith. Read The Story Behind The Story from David and Micol.

Split Image: A Story In Poems by Mel GlennSPLIT IMAGE: A STORY IN POEMS by Mel Glenn (HarperCollins, 2000). Laura Li is a different person to her ashamed mother to her motherly librarian, to her distant father, her friends, the bartender, her rivals, the boys at school. In alternating diverse and compelling voices, Glenn offers another first-rate verse novel to teens. Ages 12-up.

ST. MICHAEL'S SCALES by Neil O. Connelly (Arthur Levine Books/Scholastic, 2002). In this first novel, 15 year-old Keegan Flannery is overwhelmed with guilt over the death of his twin during their premature births and his mother's subsequent mental breakdown. So he decides he must make amends by killing himself on his sixteenth birthday. But first, he must navigate past his former Marine wrestling coach, a distant father, and his own devout Catholicism. Ages 13-up.

STAINED by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (Atheneum, 2005). Jocelyn loves Gabe, loves Benny, but Father Warren sees her as a demon child, a temptation, in league with Satan, all bad. Or is that just a diversion from his own agenda and manipulations? Ages 12-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Jennifer Richard Jacobson.

STORKY: HOW I LOST MY NICKNAME AND WON THE GIRL by D.L. Garfinkle (Putnam, 2005). Told in a diary format by high school freshman Michael "Storky" Pomerantz, this sparkling debut novel chronicles its hero (1) befriending a Scrabble geezer, (2) embracing a family that "includes" Mom's boyfriend "Dr. Vermin" and Dad's rotating bimbos delight, (3) landing a first girlfriend (which one?), and (4) finding self-acceptance. It's funny, real, and unapologetically boy-like with a solid heart. Great for avid readers and reluctant ones. Strongest on voice and humor, jam-packed with "life lessons," Storky is a must-read from a novelist to watch. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Ages 12-up. More on this title from Cynsations; read The Story Behind The Story from D.L. Garfinkle.

A STEP FROM HEAVEN by An Na (Front Street 2001). Young Ju and her family have emigrated from Korea to the United States, where they dream of building a better future. Once here, the family struggles economically - Young Ju's parents both work long hours at two jobs - and with her father's increasing drunken violence. The novel takes the reader from Young Ju's arrival at age four to when she leaves for college; and, without being heavy-handed, offers a genuine sense of what it's like to learn the language and of Young Ju's frustration at the family's necessary frugality. An excellent immigration story. Ages 12-up.

SUN DANCE by Kevin McColley (Simon & Schuster, 1995). Randy, 15, has always looked up to his big brother, but when Mike deludes himself into believing he can blow up a nuclear reactor, how long can Randy go along for the ride? Ages 12-up.

Tae's Sonata by Haemi BalgassiTAE'S SONATA by Haemi Balgassi (Clarion, 1997). Tae has to sort out her feelings when she is assigned to do a school report on South Korea with a popular guy. An interracial romance and a sweet look at Korean-American family life that also deals with what it's like to feel spotlighted for your race. Ages 10-up.

Taking OffTAKING OFF by Jenny Moss (Walker, 2011). It's late 1985, and Clear Lake, Texas, high school senior Annie doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. Stay in town and marry Mark, who loves her? Go to college? Or write poetry, which she loves, but has never told anyone, including her best friend Lea? When Annie meets teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, she's fascinated. So much so that she just has to go see the launch in Cocoa Beach... Annie's story is compelling and should resonate with anyone who has faced the dilemma of "where do I go from here?" In sum, TAKING OFF is a bittersweet coming-of-age story that brings home the 1980s and the events of January 28, 1986, when seven astronauts "prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'" Ages 12-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.

TARGET by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson (Roaring Brook, 2003). It's eating away at Grady, what the two men did him, how they attacked him, a sixteen-year-old but a big sixteen-year-old, and what does that mean anyway? What does any of it mean? He tries to fold into himself, but his new pal Jess, bursting with black-identity angst and homophobic rhetoric, not-so-gently begins tugging him back among the lively. As does sensitive, observant Pearl and Fred, an "out" gay kid, who can more than defend himself when Jess's homophobia turns from words to a classroom brawl. A memorable, three-dimensional cast, wrestling with the effects of Grady's secret and, to a lesser extent, the ways in which they are "different," too. Ages 14-up.

TERRY AND THE PIRATES by Julian F. Thompson (Atheneum, 2000). Terry is running away from home and the prospect of boarding school by stowing away on the boat of a famous older man (not someone she wants for herself, but the standard all others must live up to). But when it's time to reveal herself, she finds not the boat's owner on board but rather his stuttering son Mitch, who was once a marquis, or at least thinks he was. One storm later, Mitch/Marquis is lost overboard, Terry is captured by murderous pirates whose pet is a hungry Komono dragon, but never in this humorous, optimistic YA novel does all seem lost. This is a laugh-out-loud funny read. A great choice for teens. Ages 12-up.

THICKER THAN WATER: COMING OF AGE STORIES BY IRISH AND IRISH-AMERICAN WRITERS edited by Gordon Snell (Delacorte, 2001). A fascinating and much-needed young adult collection, highlighted by "One Day When We Were Young" by Vincent Banville and "Off Ya Go, So" by Chris Lynch. Ages 12-up.

This is rocket scienceTHIS IS ROCKET SCIENCE: TRUE STORIES OF THE RISK-TAKING SCIENTISTS WHO FIGURE OUT WAYS TO EXPLORE BEYOND THE EARTH by Gloria Skurzynski (National Geographic, 2010) offers a fine introduction to the history and physics of rocket science. Most of the book is given to discussing the past and present of rocketry and the space program, with final chapters looking toward the future and the potential for ever-more-advanced methods of sending humans into space. In short, from the beginnings of rocketry in ancient China to the current era of modern space exploration and beyond, THIS IS ROCKET SCIENCE provides an exciting look at the development of the science and engineering — and the physicists and engineers — behind the rockets. Ages 10-up. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.

THOU SHALT NOT DUMP THE SKATER DUDE (AND OTHER COMMANDMENTS I HAVE BROKEN by Rosemary Graham (Viking, 2005). Kelsey is trying to adjust to the sudden move to the west coast. She is excited at the prospect of a new school (preferably of her own choosing). Her divorced parents seem to be getting along a lot (too much?) better. And then, boom! A hand reaches out to her as if from on high. It's supersmooth C.J. Logan, California "It" Boy AKA "The Skater Dude." At his side, she's in--into the hottest social scene, in somebody's arms. But "side" is the key word there, as in "sidelines." How long can Kelsey endure of C. J.'s accessory, and what if she dares to do the unthinkable? What if she dumps The Skater Dude? Ages 12-up.More on this title from cynsations; read The Story Behind the Story from Rosemary Graham.

TWELVE SHOTS edited by Harry Mazer (Delacorte, 1997). This short-story collection looks at gun use from a variety of perspectives. Not preachy but not sugar-coated either. A worthy realism read. Top contributing authors include Walter Dean Myers, Chris Lynch, Richard Peck, and Nancy Werlin. Ages 12-up.

Under a Red SkyUNDER A RED SKY: MEMOIR OF A CHILDHOOD IN COMMUNIST ROMANIA by Haya Leah Molnar (Frances Foster/FSG, 2010). Eight-year-old Eva Zimmerman (as the author was previously known) lives with her family in tight quarters in Bucharest, Romania. Her family, Holocaust survivors, have hidden Eva's Jewish heritage from her, in the hopes that it will shield her from anti-Semitism. Formerly well-to-do, the family has suffered under the Communists and is trying to emigrate to Israel. But when her family applies for visas, they are fired from their jobs. UNDER A RED SKY is, at its core, the sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, story of the day-to-day life of a young girl trying to discover who she is in a society where even school-children can be government informers. More broadly, it provides a compelling and sometimes chilling look at the tribulations of life in post-war Romania and living under Communist rule. Ages 12-up. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.

Unexpected Development (book jacket)UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENT by Marlene Perez (Roaring Brook, 2004). What did Megan do over her summer vacation, Mrs. Westland? Sex. That's what she relates in her answering essay. But that's not all. Megan also works at a pancake house, fends off sexual harassment, contemplates breast reduction surgery, and finds herself overwhelmed when a crush turns into a real boyfriend with everything that implies. With its emphasis on body language and virginity lost, this debut novel has an engaging voice and an Are-You-There-God-It's-Me-Margaret-meets-Forever quality sure to win readers. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Ages 12-up. Read The Story Behind the Story from Marlene Perez.

The UninvitedTHE UNINVITED by Tim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick, 2009). Mimi Shapiro is coming off an intense freshman year at NYU, where she just broke off an affair with a married professor who won't leave her alone. So when her father, the famous artist Marc Soto, offers her the use of his remote Canadian cottage, she jumps at the chance. But when she gets there, she finds it's already occupied by a young grad student musician named Jay. Worse, there's a mysterious and unseen intruder who's been leaving Jay strange gifts (a snakeskin and dead bird, and the like) and now he seems to have turned his attention to Mimi... THE UNINVITED offers an intriguing premise, well-drawn characters, and a fascinating setting. Altogether, it's a richly atmospheric story of stalking, suspense, lies, and family ties. Ages 14-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
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VIKING WARRRIOR by Judson Roberts (Book One of THE STRONGBOW SAGA)(HarperCollins, 2006). It's the Ninth Century and fifteen year old Halfdan is a slave-- the born-out-of-wedlock son of slave Derdrui (who was captured long-ago in a raid on Ireland) and Danish Chieftain Hrorik Strong-Axe. Though he dreams of battle and winning spoils from foreign lands, Halfdan knows that a slave can never be a warrior. But Halfdan's fate is changed in one stroke when his mother sacrifices herself so that he may be freed. Now, Halfdan must learn to be a free man and a warrior. Can he earn the respect of his half-brother and the clan and become a true Viking warrior? Roberts provides a richly-drawn glimpse into the Viking era. The story is fascinating and the action non-stop and appropriately bloody. Roberts offers likeable and well-developed characters without sugar-coating the mores of the day. Ages 14-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.

VIKKI VANISHES by Peni R. Griffin (McElderry, 1995). At first Vikki, 16, is thrilled when her long-gone father returns to pay attention to her. But when those attentions turn against her and Vikki disappears, only her half-sister Nikki, 8, can help. But Nikki's been known to fib before. If only someone would listen to her, she could save Vikki. Ages 8-up. Peni Griffin lives in San Antonio. Ages 10-up.

Waiting To Disappear by April Young FritzWAITING TO DISAPPEAR by April Young Fritz (Hyperion, 2002). The summer of 1960 is the last summer before high school for Elizabeth "Buddy" Mullens. On the eve of the Fourth of July holiday, her mother, who has never recovered from the death of Buddy's brother, has a breakdown and checks herself into the local sanitarium. In this charming first novel, Buddy struggles to get through the summer and get her mom back. Ages 12-up

WANDERING WARRIOR by Da Chen (Delcorte, 2003). Enter another world, the world of ancient China where it is decreed in the scriptures that the future emperor will have five moles on the bottom of each foot. Watch as eleven-year-old orphaned Luka searches for his destiny on those very feet and see him meet mythological creatures and magical beings. You won't be tempted to turn back. This skillful writer takes the reader on a spiritual journey with Luka, one the reader doesn't want to end. Ages 12-up. Recommendation by Frances Hill.

Whale Talk by Chris CrutcherWHALE TALK by Chris Crutcher (HarperCollins, 2001). Popular YA author Crutcher presents T.J. Jones (a.k.a. The Tao), a black Eurasian whose biological mother abandoned him in large part due to the influence of drugs and whose white hippie parents are a treasure. T.J. takes on the school's outcasts as a cause, and he helps to form a swim team to give them an outlet, a safe place, and a forum to triumph on their own terms. Meanwhile T.J.'s father, plagued by guilt over a tragic accident, faces another bully. Dark, funny, sarcastic, thought-provoking.

WHEN JEFF COMES HOME by Catherine Atkins (Putnam, 1999). For two and a half years, Jeff was Ray's captive, doing what was necessary to survive. When he's finally returned home, healing doesn't come easily and is complicated by the expectations of his controlling father, family and community. A fierce and fabulous first novel, often intense but never sensational. Ages 12-up.

WHEN KAMBIA ELAINE FLEW IN FROM NEPTUNE by Lori Aurelia Williams (Simon & Schuster, 2000). Shayla and Kambia are neighbors and best friends in a poor neighborhood in Houston. While Shayla struggles with tensions between her mother and runaway sister as well as the reappearance of her father, Kambia faces the pain of rape and molestation, coordinated by her greedy so-called mother. Reading this stunning, searing, first-time novel is a strengthening, inspiring experience. Williams focuses her stories on urban African Americans. Definitely a new, talented author to support! Ages 14-up.

WHERE THE KISSING NEVER STOPS by Ron Koertge (Atlantic Monthly, 1986). Walker has his share of troubles — dealing with his father's death, the family financial woes, and his mother's embarrassing job. Luckily, his pal Sully is psychoanalyzing him and a girl named Rachel is a bright spot in Walker's life. But how will Walker keep Rachel from learning the truth about his mom? Ages 12-up.

WHITE BREAD COMPETITION by Jo Ann Yolanda Hernandez (Piñata Books, 1997). Set in San Antonio, this linked series of stories offers insights into Luz (and the women in her life) when she prepares for the state-wide spelling bee. Hernandez does not shy away from the ways in which communities often jeopardize themselves or the complex array of sometimes surprising influences that make people who they are. Ages 12-up.

bookjacketWONDERS OF THE WORLD by Brian Yansky (Flux, 2007). Eric's father introduced him to the "wonders of the world"-- stories of (mostly) made-up adventure and world travel. But when Eric was twelve, his father left, never to return. His mother remarried, and they moved to Omaha. At seventeen, Eric runs away, to escape his mother's new life and maybe find his father. Now, Eric is living on the streets of Riverton, a cesspool of gangs, junkies, murder, and sex for hire. He manages to eke out a miserable existence panhandling, along with a handful of other street kids. But then he and his ex-girlfriend attract the attention of Bluebeard, the thuggish and vicious crime boss who runs much of the vice in Riverton. Desperate to find a way out, Eric just may have a chance if only he can escape the evil Bluebeard.  Told with sardonic humor, this is a quirky, gritty, and riveting story with a great voice story. Ages 14-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith. Read The Story Behind the Story from Brian Yansky.

WRESTLING STURBRIDGE by Rich Wallace (Knopf, 1996). Sturbridge, PA, is a wrestling town. Ben is the second-best wrestler in his weight class. The first-best is his friend, who's counted on to win the state championship. Ben has other plans. Compelling guy voice and well-drawn characters make this more than just a "sports" book. A 1997 Best Book for Young Adults. Wallace is also the author of SHOTS ON GOAL, which takes us back to the town of Sturbridge, Pennsylvania, focusing this time on soccer, friendship, teamwork, girls, and feuding about all four. Ages 12-up.

The Year we were FamousTHE YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS by Carole Estby Dagg (Clarion, 2011). It's 1896, and seventeen-year-old Clara Estby and her mother Helga need to raise a lot of money fast -- to prevent foreclosure on the family farm. Inspired by the intrepid Nellie Bly, they hatch a scheme to walk across the United States, from Spokane to New York City. If they make it by the seven month deadline, a mysterious benefactor will pay them $10,000 and publish the account of their journey as a book. En route, the mother-daughter pair encounters hardships and dangers and finds out more than a little bit about themselves and each other. Based on the true story of the author's great-aunt and great-grandmother, THE YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS is a satisfying and thoroughly fascinating adventure road-trip. Dagg offers a likeable protagonist and relationships that feel real in their complexity, while compellingly evoking the atmosphere of the era of William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley. Ages 12-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.