22 March 2019

8 Good Books for Teens and Tweens

March has been a great month for fiction geared to younger readers. You may shy away from middle grade and young adult books, assuming they lack a certain, shall we say, sophistication. In my experience, many contemporary novels written for teens and tweens deal with real-life issues in a authentic and frank manner and can be every bit as intense as adult fiction. Of course, you’ll also find plenty of books with teen angst, magic, and love gone awry.

Today’s roundup covers just a few of this month’s middle grade and young adult titles that caught my attention. Some are set in real life, but others contain elements of speculative fiction. All are worth looking into for yourself or for the young readers in your life.

Contemporary Stories

  • Far Away, XL, In Another LifeFar Away by Lisa Graff (Philomel, March 5): This middle grade story is about 12-year-old CJ who lives with her itinerant aunt, who makes her living as a psychic. CJ is grateful that her aunt can commune with spirits because that’s the only way she can talk to mother, who died when she was a baby. But when her aunt says that she can no longer receive messages from CJ’s mother, the girl takes off with a teenage friend to try to reforge the connection. Magical realism, family secrets, and a road trip create a moving coming-of-age story. Note: this novel has gotten very mixed reviews. Audiobook: read by Monika Felice Smith Listening Library; 7 hr, 3 min)
  • XL by Scott Brown (Knopf BYR, March 26): Set in San Diego, this young adult novel focuses on 16-year-old Will who still hasn’t had his growth spurt. Measuring in at just under 5 feet, he feels invisible and unattractive. But what happens when he starts growing . . . and growing? Is life any better on the other side of the yardstick? Romance, popularity, self-acceptance, friendship, and family round out Will’s story, which (according to reviews) contains a good dose of humor. Audiobook: read by Robbie Daymond (Listening Library 9 hr, 50 min)
  • In Another Life by C. C. Hunter (Wednesday Books, March 26): When teenage Chloe and her just-divorced mom move to Texas to start over, Chloe has trouble adjusting. First, she begins to imagine that she remembers her life before her parents adopted her when she was just a toddler. Then when she befriends a cute boy living with foster parents, she begins to question everything her adoptive parents ever told her. This young adult thriller involves family secrets, lies, mental illness, adoption, and cancer. Audiobook: no information
Speculative Fiction
  • Revenge of Magic, Sky without StarsThe Revenge of Magic by James Riley (Aladdin, March 5): Set in a future Earth in which only children can learn magic, this is the first entry in a middle grade fantasy / adventure series. Young Fort Fitzgerald loses his father when Washington, D.C. is destroyed by monsters. Thus he jumps at the chance to attend a government-run school that teaches magic to promising tweens. Perhaps he’ll find a way to recover his dad and stop further creature attacks . . . or maybe he’ll just be haunted by disturbing dreams and barred from learning the truth of who’s really in control of the world. Fort must find allies and his own inner strength. The academy is less wizardy and more military, as the kids are being trained to fight the monsters. Audiobook: read by Kirby Heyborne (Simon & Schuster Audio; 9 hr, 2 min)
  • Sky without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell (Simon Pulse; March 26): Centuries after the French colonized the planet Laterre, rebellion is in the air as the one-percenters have all the power and the rest have few resources and little hope. Can three teens of very different backgrounds, personalities, and skills lead a successful uprising? This is the first in an action-packed young adult space opera series that is a futuristic retelling of Les Misérables, complete with the politics, romance, and class divides. Audiobook: read by Vikas Adam, Joy Osmanski, and Emily Woo Zeller (Simon & Schuster Audio; 18 hr, 33 min)
Finish Up a Series
  • Young Adult Fantasy SeriesWinter War Awakening by Rosalyn Eves (Knopf BYR; March 19): Final entry in the Blood Rose Rebellion trilogy. This series is set in eastern Europe (basically Austria and Hungary) and contains elements of alternate history, real history (rebellion against the Hapsburgs) and fantasy. Series themes and issues: overcoming prejudice, self-acceptance, romance, strong female protagonists, learning to trust. Audiobooks: read by Fiona Hardingham & Steve West (Listening Library)
  • The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform; March 5): Second book in the Belles duology. These books are set in an alternate history New Orleans and contain dystopian and steampunk elements. Series themes and issues: corruption of power, LGBTQ, class differences, the worth of beauty. Audiobooks: read by Rosie Jones (Blackstone Audio)
  • The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebook Fire; March 5): Final book in the Bone Witch trilogy. Set in an alternative world with an Asian feel, the trilogy follows Tea and her brother as she struggles to find her place in a world that is hostile and dangerous; high fantasy elements. Series themes and issues: LGBTQ, romance, self-discovery, personal growth, family, leaving the past behind. Audiobooks: first two read by Emily Woo Zeller and Will Damron (Blackstone Audio); no information on book three


Daryl 3/22/19, 7:38 AM  

several of these sound like books my friend's granddaughter would love, thanks

rhapsodyinbooks 3/22/19, 7:54 AM  

I like to see what the trends are in young adult lit because they often seem to reflect what is concerning that age group. I'm surprised there aren't more post-apocalyptic environmental disaster books these days!

bermudaonion 3/22/19, 8:11 AM  

XL sounds like a terrific book and I just love its cover.

Vicki 3/22/19, 2:26 PM  

I've added a few children's books to my Kindle and even got a few at the library. I see a few from your list that I'm interested in.

Literature and Limes 3/24/19, 5:20 PM  

Great list! My 11-year-old would love some of these.

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