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Young Adult Fiction

  • The Slope Rules

    by Melanie Hooyenga

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: While the plot here is pretty standard for YA, that doesn't mean the story isn't well executed. The author has crafted a compelling book that will engage readers.

    Prose: The prose is tight and enjoyable from the first paragraph until the very end. The author's descriptions are vivid and beautiful.

    Originality: Although the plot is somewhat standard, the author finds ways to make the story feel fresh, new, and unique.

    Character Development: Cally has a strong, self confident voice and is a fully developed character. Most of the supporting cast are also well rendered.

  • Firebrand

    by Sarah MacTavish

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: While an intriguing, fresh look at an important period of American history, the book takes a long time to coalesce. However, the depth of research is evident and the story speaks to the heart.

    Prose: The prose is crisp and clean. The book features a fine balance of description and dialogue. Each phrase seems chosen with care for maximum impact.

    Originality: The wholly original plot and examination of slavery and the abolitionists in the United States is absolutely fascinating. Of particular delight is the frank look at the plight of Irish immigrants and the moral questions that arise when one is faced with a choice between family and faith.

    Character Development: Each of the characters is well developed with a clear voice. The character voices will likely speak quite well to any audience -- from young adult to adult.

  • Miss E.

    by Brian Herberger

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Herberger presents young readers with a poignant tale with its share of fast-paced action inspired by historical events.

    Prose: Herberger's prose is relatable, believable, and engaging. The writing is clear and suitable to the material.

    Originality: Herberger's tale provides a great way to expose students and younger readers to actual historical events. Additionally, the voice the author lends to Bets is unique, and the story is very relevant politically.

    Character Development: With Bets, Herberger provides readers an inspiring young heroine. Bets is immediately endearing and appealing to readers as an intelligent, mature, and determined young student.

  • Water Ghosts

    by Linda Collison

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Collison’s energetic, fast-paced, twisty plot is pleasantly full of gruesome surprises and revelations about characters, the true history of events, and the power of dreams.

    Prose: The prose here is engaging and smooth. The author gives readers insight into the characters and moves the story along at a good pace.

    Originality: Collison’s vivacious and determined narrator will remind readers of books like American Gods and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. However, the novel’s intense plot and memorable cast of characters is wholly unique.

    Character Development: Collison treats readers to a colorful cast of well rendered characters, both sticking to and straying from popular genre tropes

  • The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Wizards

    by Steve LeBel

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: At times the story bogs down in details that do little to advance the plot or characters, but overall the story is interesting and well constructed. The author does a good job of throwing believable obstacles at the protagonist.

    Prose: This novel is well written, though the prose feels somewhat basic when when compared to that of other books in the genre. Some of the character interactions are awkward, but descriptions and actions are handled well.

    Originality: The Universe Builders is a master class in world-building. The plot centers on building—and fixing—worlds, which is an original and entertaining concept that readers will enjoy.

    Character Development: Some awkward interactions aside, the characters in this novel are believable, well-developed, and likeable. For all his power, Bernie is wonderfully unequipped to handle the problems facing him.

  • Marking Time

    by April White

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: This well-plotted, book starts with a bang and doesn't slow down until the very end. This keeps things exciting, but some down time might allow the characters—and readers—a little time to reflect.

    Prose: The writing here is excellent. The different accents of characters are represented well in dialogue, and the descriptions are on point.

    Originality: This novel blends the historical and the modern very well, and introduces time travel in an effective and fresh way. Saira's journey has plenty of twists that keep things interesting.

    Character Development: Saira is a skillfully developed character, and the other main characters have enough depth, too.  But the nonstop pace—as well as rather large cast of characters—leaves many of the secondary players underdeveloped and sometimes difficult to remember.

  • My Life as a Country Album

    by LJ Evans

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: Evans's coming of age novel is fast-paced, stirring, and leaves the reader engaged and eager for more.

    Prose: This book is beautifully written and a pleasure to read.

    Originality: While the novel tells a familiar story, the details and characters make for a fresh and original tale.

    Character Development: The main two characters, Jake and Cam, are well developed throughout the novel. Both of their struggles feel real—and readers will be engaged by their story.

    Blurb: In this tragic love story you will root for Jake and Cam, while reaching for your Kleenex.

  • The Sailweaver's Son

    by Jeff Minerd

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: This novel's plot is solidly constructed, interesting, and engaging from the very beginning. The story will definitely keep readers turning the pages.

    Prose: The steampunk style is well done and fits with the story. However, the use of Tak's name is oddly excessive -- in a lot of cases the pronoun could be used without losing clarity.

    Originality: What makes this novel original is the fabulous world building. The descriptions of this steampunk world is flawless and engaging.

    Character Development: Tak's character is very well developed. He all but jumps off the page, grabbing the reader early in the book and never letting go

  • Paper Airplane

    by Kevin N. Fair

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: This refreshing narrative flows smoothly, is well plotted, and will have young readers turning pages.. Removing the alternate ending would only strengthen the book.

    Prose: Mitch has authentic, fallible, inexperienced, and pitch-perfect voice that reveals his strengths and weaknesses and shows where he has room for growth.

    Originality: Because of its central character—and the rich voice and interiority that Fair provides him—this invigorating novel easily stands out in the crowded YA market.

    Character Development: The minor characters remain slightly underdeveloped, which serves to highlight Mitch’s personal growth at the end of the novel. Giving more depth to characters like Stephanie, Percival, and even Mitch’s family members would make them and this narrative particularly dynamic

  • Renaissance Wonders and Humanist Wisdom

    by Bernard André Ancel

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: This book is solid in its plotting, with some vivid scenes and good forward momentum. The reader of historical novels will find a lot to like here.

    Prose: The writing here is admirable. There is an old world feel to the language and syntax that is appropriate, but that never distances readers from the characters and story.

    Originality: The setting and time period are this book's most original elements. The world building is incredibly well done.

    Character Development: Unfortunately, the character voices in this novel are not distinct. The old world sound is there, but different characters lack unique voices. In places, readers may become confused about who is speaking.

  • Burnout

    by Stacia Leigh

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot: There are a lot of moving parts to this love story between Will and Miki, each of which has the potential to be fascinating. But perhaps because there are so many moving parts, none of them are explored in much depth, which will disappoint readers.

    Prose: The descriptions are on point and beautiful at times. Also, the author has found some effective voices for her characters. However, there is some clunky dialogue, and the perspective shifts between Will and Miki at times work to pull readers out of the story.

    Originality: At its essence, this book tells a familiar story: two kids finding their places in the world and falling in love. However, Leigh mixes that straightforward YA structure with motorcycle gangs and a fair amount of gender role reversal with the protagonists. And this works to create a book that is anything but standard fare.

    Character Development: Will and Miki both have strong voices and clear motivations for their actions. As with all good YA protagonists, readers will root for them to stop being such drama queens. And readers will root for them to finally figure out their issues with one another.

  • ReWired

    by S.R Johannes

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot: By blending some common YA tropes with an eerie, detailed look into the world of young hackers, a beautifully twisted mystery emerges. Realistic situations and responses add just enough spark to the intrigue.

    Prose: The easy, flowing style pulls readers more deeply into the plot. While plenty of details are provided, there’s more than enough left to the reader’s imagination, drawing them into a foreign and fascinating world.

    Originality: While there are certainly plenty of stories with similar settings, the author created a fresh world filled with darkness—but also with hope.

    Character Development: Each character, including those visited in memories, is amazingly well-rounded and realistic. It was easy for readers to laugh when the characters laugh, hurt when they hurt, and gasp when each piece of the mystery is revealed.

  • Inspired

    by Susan Schaefer Bernardo

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot: Bernardo’s fast-paced novel takes readers through the emotional roller coaster of being a teenager trying to find her identity. Her brimming-with-action novel packs a few twists of its own, as Rocket finds more to her world than she believed existed, and mysteries from classic mythology begin to unravel themselves before her.

    Prose: Rocket Malone is as fiery and determined as her name implies (even though she reminds readers that she's actually named after arugula), and as her snappy dialogue and angsty powderkeg thoughts reaffirm; however, at times, she is revealed to be a vulnerable young woman trying to find her way and purpose. The change in fonts in the manuscript is noticeable and confusing; the font that takes over in the later part of the novel is much more legible.

    Originality: Bernardo draws upon classical and contemporary literature and mythology to present the perfect blend of history, fantasy and entertainment, with the author's own signature style.

    Character Development: Rocket and her friends are presented as typical Los Angeles moody teenagers, until it is revealed to readers that other realms and fantastical creatures lurk below the surface, for both good and for evil. Bernardo devotes much attention to the creative and memorable characterization of the unexpected antagonist of the novel, the nymph Echo and her obsession with a lack of creativity and uniqueness.

  • A Strange Companion

    by Lisa Manterfield

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot: Kat’s relationship with the “strange companion” of grief and her awareness of the absurdity of her hope that her adopted niece might be her reincarnated boyfriend make for a compelling plot that keeps readers turning pages.

    Pose: Manterfield invokes a vivid sense of place and gives readers access to her characters' inner lives. Readers see more of the characters’ personalities and surroundings than of their physicality, which works well given Kat's character and circumstances.

    Originality: Kat’s slide into self-harming behavior textures what could have been a simple story of mourning and loss.

    Character Development: Manterfield succeeds in making Kat likable, but this tested when she finds herself in dark and self-destructive places. Other characters feel a little flat in the shadow of Kat’s emotion, with the exception of the well-drawn and delicately evoked Mai.

  • Plot: Adorable is one word to describe both the characters and plot of this novel. There are enough twists and turns to make the story interesting and keep readers engaged.

    Prose: The prose is well crafted, descriptive, and entirely suited to this sweet story. The writing will spark the imaginations of young readers.

    Originality: The continuing adventures of Orville and friends calls to mind Winnie the Pooh crossed with just a bit of Harry Potter, while still maintaining its integrity with unique characters.

    Character Development: The characters here are relatable, fleshed-out, and show some growth and development over the course of the story.

  • Plot: The plot scampers along at a good pace, providing background information and only a touch of tension, until the predictable conclusion.

    Prose: Werlinger's deft and skillful prose features vivid descriptions that place the reader in the story.

    Originality: The narrative, while enjoyable, employs tropes that will be familiar to fans of the genre.

    Character Development: Readers get a thorough sense of Caymin, who feels real and well developed. Supporting characters could use more background, motivation, and overall development.