Young-adult books new on shelves

In the stacks

Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2005

Young-adult books are generally written for readers in grades eight and up. They offer more intricate or mature themes than chapter books and are shelved with the adult books because adult readers like them, too. When browsing for a good young-adult book, look on the fiction and new books shelves at all public libraries for books with lime-green stickers.

"What a Song Can Do," edited by Jennifer Armstrong. These 12 short stories all center around music and its power in the lives of young adults. From Ibtisam S. Barakat's moving "Piano Obsession," about life in war-torn Ramallah with a piano, to Dian Curtis Regan's story of two teenagers who share the same talent in "Tangled Notes in Watermelon," this is a wonderful collection. Each story is a strong statement about the joys, sorrows and strength that music can bring.

"Finding Grace," by Alyssa Brugman. When super-confident 18-year-old Rachel takes a job as a live-in caregiver for a brain-injured woman named Grace, she imagines it will be a piece of cake. The house is beautiful and within walking distance of the university that Rachel is going to attend, and Rachel thinks she's really going to enjoy it. How hard can it be? When she meets Grace's greedy sisters and accidentally leaves Grace in the bath until she turns blue with cold, Rachel begins to get an inkling of what her job really will be like. Through the next months, as Rachel pieces together what her charge's life was like before the accident, she comes to know Grace as a person and begins to see her as much more than just a patient.

"Monsoon Summer," by Mitali Perkins. Jasmine Gardner is wrenched from her California roots to be replanted in India for the summer, at the orphanage in which her mother grew up. But Jazz isn't eager to go - she isn't the do-gooder her mother would like her to be; misses her friend, business partner and secret dreamboat, Steve; and worries that without her around, he'll be snapped up by Miriam the drama queen. By the time summer is over, though, Jazz has found herself with new friends, a new sense of self, and a new reason to go home.

"A Winter Night's Dream," by Andrew Matthews. Under instructions from their literature teacher to go out and fall in love, high-schoolers Casey and Stew do. But not with each other: Casey goes for bad boy Dean, who rides a motorcycle and is a good dancer, while Stew falls hard for Lucy, who is gorgeous and does modern dance. Heart-aches later, they find that love does indeed improve their understanding of literature. Light, funny and full of high school life.

"Useful Idiots," by Jan Mark. Two hundred years in the future, when the earth has been reshaped by climate change and human culture by genetic engineering, a skeleton is found buried in peat on aboriginal land in what used to be the United Kingdom. Merrick, a graduate student in the highly controversial anthropology department, is sent to the site, in part to deal with the "Inglish," as they are known, who want to claim the body for reburial. His meeting with the aboriginals is morally and politically delicate, and when Merrick accidentally discovers a secret that no one wants known, it becomes personally dangerous.

"B for Buster," by Iain Lawrence. Desperate to escape his abusive father and become a hero, Kak enlists in the Canadian Air Force at 16 in the midst of World War II. Trained as a wireless operator, he is sent to England. But his comic books had let him imagine things that simply weren't true: Instead of feeling heroic and powerful, Kak is just plain terrified. Through his friendship with the pigeoneer, who cares for the carrier pigeons that are assigned to each flight, Kak begins to take measure of himself and discover what courage really means.

"The Saint of Dragons," by Jason Hightman. Whisked away from his boarding school by a man claiming to be his father, Simon St. George is indignant, but curious. The man not only claims to be a descendant of St. George the dragon killer, but to be a professional dragon killer himself. But why should Simon believe him - there aren't really dragons, right? A meeting with an odd art dealer, an even odder painter, and an encounter with a mysterious white fire prove him wrong and whet his appetite to join the family business.

"The Book of Dead Days," by Marcus Sedgwick. The days between Christmas and New Year's, called the Dead Days, hold special significance this year for the magician Valerian and his servant, Boy. Years ago, Valerian made a pact with dark powers and now his day of reckoning draws near. Desperate to save himself, he sends Boy and his friend, Willow, into terrifying places - in graveyards at midnight, descending into a subterranean network of canals and wandering the bleak, frozen countryside - all in an attempt to save Valerian's life and soul. This is the first in a series.

• Placing a hold on our material is easy: Call the Juneau Public Library at 586-5249, or, if you have Internet access, your library card and a PIN, you may place your own holds by going to our Web site (www.juneau.org/library) and looking at our catalog. Placing holds on items featured in this column is now even easier. The new columns are hyperlinked to the catalog: Simply look up the column on our Web site, click on the title you want, and you will be ready to place a hold.



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