Tag Archives: YA Literature

The Silver Cup

By Constance Leeds
Classification
: YA Literature
Genre: Historical fiction
Age Level: 12+
Subjects:  Crusades, persecution, Christians and Jews, religion, self-discovery

Reader’s Annotation:  In medieval Germany, superstition and prejudice abound, so when young Anna takes an orphaned Jewish girl into her home, she faces open hostility from her entire village.

Summary:  The Silver Cup is set in 1095 in a small village of no more than 60 families.  The village is half a day’s travel from the city of Worms, Germany.  Anna is a hard-working 16-year-old, filled with compassion that shines through her lovely singing voice.  Unfortunately Anna’s father Gunther, still grieving for the loss of his wife, is too often away from home to conduct trading to notice much about his daughter.  Anna’s Aunt Agnes has nothing kind to say about her late sister’s daughter.  To Agnes, Anna is a burden, neither a competent housekeeper nor a worthy match for any of the young men of the village.  So there has been little joy in Anna’s life when a horrific massacre takes place in Worms.  Anna, stunned by the slaughter, rescues Leah, a young Jewish girl, and takes her into her home.  As a result, Anna is completely ostracized by her family and the rest of the village, yet discovers her first friend in Leah.  Remarkably, as she heals from her ordeal, Leah brings laughter and hope to Anna and Gunther’s home, and they each find the strength to face an uncertain future.

Notes:  This historical novel, with its engaging characters, is a great read that illuminates a kind of prejudice that persists in our modern world.
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The Shadow in the North

By Philip Pullman
Classification: YA fiction
Genre: Mystery
Age Level: 13+
Subjects: Women’s rights, weapons, warfare, technology, spiritualism

Reader’s Annotation:  Sally Lockhart encounters unspeakable evil when she investigates the business ventures of Axel Bellmann.

Summary:  In 1878 London, Sally Lockhart is undeniably unconventional.  Self-employed as a financial consultant, Sally is devastated when a client loses her money after investing on Sally’s advice.  Turning her devastation to recover her client’s money, Sally enlists the help of friends Jim Taylor and Frederick Garland to investigate the enterprises of the elusive businessman Axel Bellmann.  As the friends dig deeper and deeper, encountering illusionists, spiritualists, fraud and murder, they uncover a sinister plan involving weapons technology and find themselves all in mortal danger.

Notes:  This novel is the second book of the Sally Lockhart trilogy.  Books one and three, respectively are The Ruby in the Smoke and The Tiger in the Well.  Sally is 22 years old in this book, so not technically a teen heroine (though she is a teen in Book 1), but it is a very provocative book, treating themes still relevant more than a century after the book’s setting.
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Pretty Little Liars

By Sara Shepard
Classification:  YA Fiction
Genre: Chick lit, mystery
Age Level: 14+
Subjects: Friendship, relationships, high school

Reader’s Annotation:  Hanna, Aria, Emily and Spencer all thought they had moved beyond the dark period in their past when their friend Alison disappeared, but out of the blue someone called “A” enters their lives and refuses to let the girls forget.

Summary:  Three years after Alison’s disappearance her four best friends, Hanna, Aria, Emily, and Spencer, have grown apart yet are still haunted by their memories of the daring stunts and dark secrets they shared with their vibrant friend.  Suddenly, as the girls begin their junior year of high school, they are each contacted by someone called “A.”  Through text messages, notes and emails, the girls find that their secrets have not vanished.  So just who is A?  What does A want from Hanna, Aria, Emily and Spencer?

Notes:  Book one of series.  Content to be aware of—underage drinking, drug use, sexuality.  This book reads like a prequel or a pilot episode, laying the foundation for the rest of the series, so many plot developments are not resolved by the end of this book.
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A Northern Light

By Jennifer Donnelly
Classification: YA fiction
Genre: Historical, mystery
Age Level: 13+
Subjects: Women’s rights, education, children in poverty

Reader’s Annotation:  With the real-life mystery of Grace Brown’s death as a backdrop, this novel tells the fictional story of Mattie Gokey in Uttica, NY in 1906.

Summary:  In upstate New York in 1906, Mattie Gokey is working hard to hold her family together after her mother’s death and her brother’s desertion.  In a constant struggle against poverty, illness and hopelessness, Mattie cares for her three younger sisters, helps her father run their small farm, and studies to earn her high school diploma.  Her greatest dream is to attend Barnard College where she has gained acceptance and a full scholarship, but only Mattie’s good friend Weaver and her teacher Miss Wilcox are excited for her.  Mattie’s father says no, her sisters do not want her to leave, and her intended, Royal, simply does not understand Mattie’s desire for further education.  Then a traveler, a young woman by the name of Grace Brown, dies mysteriously.  As Mattie tries to piece together an understanding of Grace’s life and death, she realizes the importance of her own story.

Notes:  Though Mattie narrates the novel, many women’s stories are presented, offering an unflinching account of the hardships faced by women at this point in history.  These struggles resonate with women today as well, making this novel a thought-provoking read.
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Marked

By P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
Classification
: YA Fiction
Genre: Fantasy, vampires
Age Level: 14+
Subjects: High school, friendships, self-discovery, vampires

Reader’s Annotation:  Newly Marked vampire Zoey Redbird copes with friends and rivals in her new school, the House of Night.

Summary:  Zoey,16, is Marked by a vampire Tracker and leaves her home and high school to attend the House of Night, a boarding school for fledgling vampires undergoing the Change from human to adult vampire.  Once at the House of Night, Zoey finds both unfortunate similarities and startling differences between her new school and her old:  a Queen Bee named Aphrodite and her sycophants, hot guys like drama buff Erik, classes in fencing and vampire sociology.  With the help of new friends, Zoey discovers her powers—gifts from the vampire goddess Nyx—and struggles to follow her grandmother’s advice to balance her unique abilities with responsible behavior.

Notes:  Book one of a series.  This series is engaging even for those readers who are not deeply interested in vampires.  Content to be aware of—language, sexuality
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The Luxe

By Anna Godbersen
Classification
: Fiction
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery, romance
Age Level: 13+
Subjects: Turn of the century, New York high society, relationships

Reader’s Annotation:  The events leading up to the funeral of 17-year-old Elizabeth Holland reveal that all that glitters is not gold, especially amid the upper class of Victorian New York.

Summary:  The novel opens in 1899 with the funeral of Elizabeth Holland, a dearly loved daughter of New York’s high society.  From Elizabeth’s funeral, which is attended by the extensive cast of characters including Diana Holland, the deceased’s sister, the story flashes back to the short weeks leading up to the tragedy.  What really happened to seventeen-year-old Elizabeth that fateful morning by the river?  At least two people wish her dead:  her best friend/chief rival who covets her fiancé, and her ladies maid who covets her true love.  Possibly Elizabeth’s life is in danger from the debtors who extracted payment from her father by killing him.  But in a world where mothers lie to their daughters and best friends lie to each other, how will anyone uncover the truth?

Notes:  Book one of series.  An entertaining read with a predictable conclusion, this novel never gives the reader a good reason to love any of the numerous characters introduced.  The plot rather than the characters engages the reader.
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ttyl

By Lauren Myracle
Classification: YA Literature
Genre: Realistic fiction, chick lit
Age Level: 13+
Subjects: Friendship, high school

Reader’s Annotation:  Tenth-graders Zoe, Madigan and Angela have been friends since childhood and hope to remain close as they grow up but the challenges of high school threaten their friendships as the girls cope with crushes, parents, rivals and teachers and begin to keep secrets from one another.

Summary:  Zoe has a crush on her teacher, who in turn seems to be paying an unseemly amount of attention to Zoe.  Madigan befriends a long-time rival and finds herself in over her head when her “friend’s” loyalty is tested.  Angela struggles to see the best in herself after being treated badly by her boyfriend.  And these three childhood friends have developed the bad habit of keeping secrets from one another, precisely at a time when true friends are the one thing they each need.   The story unfolds entirely via instant messages, the girls’ primary means of communication outside of school.

Notes:  This book reads like a hybrid of a diary and a play, and has the delicious, absorbing feeling of eavesdropping on a good conversation.
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Speak

By Laurie Halse Anderson
Classification: YA Literature
Genre: Issues Fiction
Age Level: 14+
Subjects: High school, relationships, trauma, sexual assault

Reader’s Annotation: While her inner voice is clever, strong, and insightful, Melinda Sordino has no intention of speaking her thoughts aloud, even though her story needs to be told.

Summary:  Melinda Sordino realizes what happened to her at a party over the summer, but she has told no one.  Now, she is ostracized at school, she has grown apart from her best friend, and she knows she probably will not want to talk even if she had someone to listen to her.  The tremendous weight on 14-year-old Melinda’s shoulders seems to have claimed her voice.  As she drifts through her freshman year of high school saying as little as possible, it is clear that Melinda needs to find her voice before she drowns in her own silence.

Notes:  A spot-on assessment of high school cliques, this is a gripping story how a young girl copes with assault.  The novel is an ALA Printz Honor Book (2000), a 1999 National Book Award Finalist, and a Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist.
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Luna

By Julie Anne Peters
Classification: Fiction
Genre: Issues fiction
Age Level: 15+
Subjects: Transgender identity, family, high school

Reader’s Annotation:  Luna has been living as Liam for her entire life, and she realizes that she must cast off that role now or risk losing herself entirely.

Summary:  Luna is a girl trapped in the body of a boy named Liam, but only Regan, Luna’s sister is in on the secret.  Regan offers her bedroom so that, under the cover of the night, Luna can take off the mask of Liam and allow her true identity to emerge.  This has gone on for years, but Luna senses the time is coming when she can no longer retreat into “total boy role.”  With Regan’s help, Luna begins to transition from living as a boy to living as a girl, starting with short shopping trips in malls across town.  But will the rest of the world, starting with their parents, be as supportive of Luna as Regan has been?

Notes:  Narrated from Regan’s point of view, this story is deeply moving with vivid characters and fresh insight.  This novel is a National Book Award Finalist
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Life of Pi

By Yann Martel
Classification
:  Fiction
Genre: Adventure, survival
Age Level: 14+
Subjects: Shipwreck, animal and human nature, religion, spirituality

Reader’s Annotation:  Pi Patel is stranded on the Pacific Ocean in a rowboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Summary:  Pi Patel has grown up in a zoo—literally.  His father is the founding director and owner of the Pondicherry Zoo and his family lives on the premises.  A solitary boy by nature, Pi’s inner life is as rich and colorful as his upbringing in 1960s India.  As a young teenager, Pi encounters Christianity and Islam, and becomes dedicated to both in addition to loving his Hindu background.  Baffled and frustrated by Pi’s devotions, his family attempts to dissuade him from his bizarre religious practices until the political and economic climate of their country prompts them to move to Canada…with the inhabitants of their zoo.  When the family is shipwrecked, young Pi is stranded in a row boat with Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger, and Pi suddenly needs an act of God—whether He be Christian, Muslim or Hindu—if he hopes to survive.

Notes:  There is only one word for this novel:  profound.
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