New library selections for young adult readers

Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Young adult fiction is for readers in high school and older who like more involved plots and more mature themes than those found in chapter books. They are easy to spot: look for yellow-green stickers on the spines of books shelved in the adult fiction area. Look for the conclusion to the Sea of Trolls trilogy "The Islands of the Blessed," by Nancy Farmer, as well as the titles below.

"Moribito: Guardian of the spirit," by Nahoko Uehashi.

Balsa is a veteran of many battles, expert with the short sword and thoroughly versed in the martial arts. Her latest job is to keep Prince Chagum alive as he journeys to the distant sea to deliver the egg of the Water Spirit. One legend says that if the egg is not delivered safely, the country will be plunged into drought, but another says just the opposite! Set in a fantasy version of ancient Japan, this fast-moving novel captures readers' attention from the start as Balsa plunges into a raging river to save the young prince. She doesn't realize that she's also diving into a sea of political intrigue, magic, danger, and mystery. But there's even more to the story than that and readers will find themselves eagerly awaiting book two. (For older middle school and high school readers.)

"Going Bovine," by Libba Bray.

Cameron's ordinarily annoying world has suddenly gone surreal: something flits past and leaves a feather behind that says "hello," he gets stoned and goes for a bike ride to find himself at the center of an extremely isolated tornado, and when the toaster catches fire, it's not just flames he sees, but fire giants staring back at him. His parents blame the drugs, but the doctors say that Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is turning his brain matter into a sponge. And so, with only months to live, Cameron sets off on a quest to find a cure and perhaps even save the world. He's accompanied by a punk angel hallucination named Dulcie, the new kid from school named Gonzo, and the god Baldur who's currently in the form of a yard gnome. (Lots of teen "language" and drug use makes this most appropriate for older high school students and young adults.)

"Fairy Tale," by Cyn Balog.

Morgan and Cam have been best friends for as long as they can remember (and girlfriend and boyfriend for nearly as long) but as their shared 16th birthday approaches, Morgan finds someone has come between them. Cam's cousin Pip arrives for a visit, and Cam starts avoiding her and acting distant and different. Morgan, who sometimes has psychic visions, thinks her recent puzzling vision of Cam means that he's dying, but Cam finally comes clean: he's not dying, he's a fairy changeling. His "cousin" is really the human boy who should have been Morgan's friend, and who has returned to send Cam back to fairyland to be King. Unfortunately, the changes Cam goes through aren't all pretty wings and pointy ears - the former football quarterback shrinks and his voice changes to go with his new scrawny body. Pip is changing too, from geeky to godlike. And soon Morgan is left to wonder whether she really wants to try to trick the fairies and keep Cam in her world at all. (For older middle school and high school readers.)

"Flash Burnout," by L.K. Madigan.

Blake is a sophomore who loves photography and his girlfriend, and who aspires to become a standup comedian. His brain is that of a typical teen boy: busy observing the girls in his classes, coming up with one-liners, and learning to deal with comedic flops. When his photography class partner, Marissa, sees his latest photos, though, the two of them are shaken out of a friends-in-class relationship into a serious friend-in-need friendship: one of his photos, of a homeless woman passed out in an alley, is of Marissa's long-lost mother. Framed by photography metaphors and information, this coming-of-age story touches on serious topics like juggling girlfriends and friends who are girls, and death (Blake's father is a coroner and his mother is a hospital chaplain), but still manages to be funny and endearing. (For older high school readers.)

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