Posts Tagged ‘YA fiction’

Book Review: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Published by Kirsten on September 28th, 2014 - in Uncategorized

   Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Delacorte Press, December 2014

ISBN: 978-0385743891

Available: Pre-order (hardcover and Kindle edtions)


Hot on the heels of her two previous books (Timeless, Timekeeper), author Alexandra Monir gives us Suspicion, a tale of secrets and suspense that lurk behind the iron gates of a modern day “Downton Abbey,” the magnificent and mysterious Rockford Manor.

Imogen lived in New York as a young girl, but she would often spend summers in Wickersham, England with her family at the grand estate known as Rockford Manor. One summer, while Imogen, her cousin Lucia, and friends Sebastian and Theo, are busy helping the groundskeeper plant flowers, Imogen accidentally discovers that she has supernatural powers – and a remarkable green thumb.

One night as she and Lucia are asleep in the boathouse, Imogen wakes to a raging fire in the garden, and sadly, both girls lose their parents to the devastating blaze. But not before Imogen’s father reveals there’s something special hidden within the garden’s curious maze. It’s decided that young Lucia will stay on at Rockford Manor in the care of her grandfather and a house full of servants, while Imogen is whisked back to New York, to live with friends of her family.

Over the years, the girls lose touch. Yet right before her high school graduation, Imogen’s past catches up with her. She receives word that both her grandfather and cousin have died, making Imogen sole heir to Rockford Manor and all of its twisted secrets.

For fans of The Princess Diaries or the classic Rebecca, this is a good fit –  and it looks like the author has left some wiggle room for a sequel, too. Recommended for ages 12 and over.

Contains: Teen Romance


Reviewed by Tina Mockmore


Book Review: Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

Published by Kirsten on September 9th, 2014 - in Uncategorized

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

Viking Penguin, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0670786206

Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition, audiobook


I don’t read a lot of YA fiction, as I tend to enjoy a harder, darker horror in general, but I have enjoyed it from time to time, and the concept of Man Made Boy intrigued me.

It is indeed an interesting book filled with fun ideas. Man Made Boy is the story of Boy, the son of the Frankenstein monster and his Bride. Boy and his parents live in a New York City refuge for monsters; hidden in plain sight from the public as a part of a freak show, the monsters live in a labyrinth behind and underneath a theater in the city. I LOVED this concept. The set-up is beautifully done and creates a wonderful environment that is both gothic and surreal.

Boy is a teenager and this for sure is a road trip coming-of-age novel. Boy decides he wants to leave the show and live in the outside world, which is not the easiest thing to do when you are made up of re-animated body parts, but he gets out there and gets a job. As he travels, he meets other monsters, falls in love and has adventures. Where the story gets muddied is in a secondary plot about Boy’s love for hacking; he creates a villain named Vi, a sentient computer virus, in effect making Boy like Doctor Frankenstein.

The theme is not subtle, it is about responsibility. I thought the novel was fun overall and would be perfect for young teens. There is some strong language and suggestion of sexuality, entirely off camera. The book is targeted to ages 12 and up, and I think that is fair n terms of age-appropriateness. YA collections should have this book– kids looking for a light-hearted fantasy will enjoy it. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by David Agranoff

Booklist: Northern Frights– Canada and Alaska in YA Fiction

Published by Kirsten on July 29th, 2014 - in Uncategorized

Having recently returned from vacation in Alaska and Canada, suddenly I’m finding myself surrounded by YA titles set in those places. While I wouldn’t call these horror in any kind of traditional sense (with the possible exception of Visions) survival stories do possess their own kind of terror and fascination, and there are a lot of survival stories set in the Far North, where the setting, in itself, is often a major character.
The Call of the Wild, White Fang & To Build a Fire  by Jack London

Animals seem to play a large part in stories of the north, and nowhere is that more obvious than in The Call of the Wild. ” To Build a Fire” is actually a short story, and it always terrified me. You can almost feel yourself freezing to death along with the main character. There is no doubt about it that Jack London could truly evoke the wildness and savagery of the far north.
  Visions by Eric Walters

Teenage twin brothers are shanghaied by their biologist mother into “vacationing” on a remote Alaskan island while she studies muskoxen. Mystical visions, ghosts and curses draw the brothers into a situation where only their ability to set spirits to rest will allow them, their mother, and the rest of their scientific team, to leave the island.  Walters does a good job of drawing lively characters, and creates a nicely creepy atmosphere with details that are fitted well to the setting.
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

After teenager Cole Matthews severely injures another boy, he is sent to a remote Alaskan island for a year as an alternative to jail time. In anger, he destroys his supplies, and while there, he is badly mauled by a white bear. Is it really possible for him to survive, much less be redeemed? Mikaelsen has a talent for vivid description and deals with issues here that many boys will have to face in their teen years.
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

A cat and two dogs travel through the Canadian wilderness on a trek to reach their family and home. That’s a description of the plot, but doesn’t begin to do it justice.  I speak from personal knowledge when I say that this is an unforgettable book.
Brian’s Return by Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen is probably best known for Hatchet, a middle grade novel about Brian Robeson, a boy who lives through an airplane crash  and must survive alone in the northern wilderness. There are several sequels to Hatchet, and Brian’s Return, the final book, is definitely NOT a middle grade novel. In Brian’s Return, Brian is a high school student who is having difficulty fitting in after his time out in the wilderness, and he returns to the place where he now feels he belongs. There’s a pretty intense battle with a grizzly bear– parts of Brian’s Return are pretty scary (or were for me when I read it). Survival stories are not typically my thing, but Paulsen knows his stuff and he will grab the attention of many, many reluctant readers. The previous books, in order, are Hatchet, The River, and Brian’s Winter. Brian’s Return can be read as a stand alone novel, but the background knowledge from the three earlier books is helpful.
My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

This isn’t horror, or an adventure/survival story, but it is a powerful and original piece of writing, and even though it’s a National Book Award finalist, it hasn’t gotten as much exposure as it should. Luke is an Alaskan native sent to a Catholic boarding school with his brothers. His brother Isaac is deemed too young for school and is separated from him and sent into foster care. Tensions between students are high, and the teachers vary from frightening to friendly. The story takes place in the 1960s, during the height of the Cold War, and the students find that they have been involuntarily enrolled in a government experiment that requires them to ingest radioactive iodine, not something Luke is going to take lying down.  My Name Is Not Easy exposes prejudice for a group that is often overlooked, with fantastic descriptions and nuanced characters. Edwardson apparently based the book on her husband’s experiences of growing up in boarding school. If you know a teen who has read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and loved it, this is a good recommendation.
Jason’s Gold by Will Hobbs

How can you have a list of books about Alaska without one mentioning the Gold Rush? On this list, Jason’s Gold is that book. Middle grade students can enjoy this as well as middle schoolers.  Fifteen year old Jason catches gold fever, stows away on a boat to Alaska, and undertakes the difficult, and sometimes frightening, journey through the Alaskan winter to reach the Klondike gold fields, accompanied by… a young Jack London.  The Gold Rush setting gives this survival story a little twist– while you can’t say Jason knows what he’s getting into, he has a definite reason of his own for being there. Jason’s Gold has a sequel, Down the Yukon, that is just as good. Author Will Hobbs has written several other books set in the far north including one titled, you guessed it, Far North.

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George.

You can’t have a discussion of Alaska in YA fiction without bringing up this Newbery Medal award winner. In a different kind of survival story, thirteen year old Miyax was raised in traditional Eskimo ways by her father. After a traumatic experience with her husband (through an arranged marriage) she decides to run away to  her pen pal in San Francisco, who knows her as Julie. Lost in the wilderness, she learns she must depend on the skills her father taught her, even as she attempts to escape her situation, and is adopted into a community of wolves.

Happy travels, and stay prepared!