Category Archives: Young Adult

The Giver

the giverOne of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to read more books that are considered to be classics.  I decided to kick off this resolution by reading Lois Lowry’s The Giver, a book that is a staple on many young adult reading lists, and that I feel I should have read long ago.

Jonas is an eleven-year-old boy who grew up in the Community, a place where everyone has a role to play and where people thrive on sameness.  Jonas anxiously awaits the Ceremony of Twelves, where he and his classmates will receive their assignments for their role in the community and take their first steps into adulthood.  But Jonas isn’t assigned–he is selected, selected for a very prestigious and rare role, known as the Receiver.  As the Receiver, Jonas works with the Giver to receive memories of things and feelings from “back and back and back” and Jonas begins to wonder whether the Community’s commitment to efficiency and sameness is wrong, or possibly even sinister.

The Giver is a story that celebrates difference by imagining a world in which everyone is the same.  Even if the story is rather predictable at times, it’s not any less powerful or gripping.  This book is a quick read, and I’m very glad I finally picked it up!

Lowry, Lois. The Giver. New York: Random House, 1993.

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Trickster’s Choice & Trickster’s Queen

trickster's choice trickster's queenTamora Pierce has written many books for young adults over the years, usually with strong, independent female characters.  I have been reading Tamora Pierce since middle school, when a friend recommended I read Alanna: The First Adventure.  It was the start of a love to rival that of Harry Potter!

I decided to write about Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen instead of any of the others because they are the two Tamora Pierce books that I pick up over and over again–my copy of Trickster’s Choice has a few pages that are falling out and my copy of Trickster’s Queen has a ding on the cover where I dropped it on the street on my way home from the bus stop.  These two books and I have been through a lot together!

The Trickster’s series follows Alianne, or Aly, of Pirate’s Swoop as she becomes involved with a country seeped in racism and poverty and the family that could change it all.  After foolishly leaving her home, Aly is kidnapped by pirates and taken to the Copper Isles as a slave, where she begins to work for the Balitang family.  She soon learns that the Balitangs are not a typical Kyprian family, and something about the two Balitang daughters seems to be of vital importance to the downtrodden raka people of the Isles.  A story of intrigue, queens, magic, gods, revenge, and finding a place and a passion, the Trickster’s series could be called the Game of Thrones for teens.

This is Tamora Pierce at her best!  Give Tamora Pierce a try–I hope you love her as much as I do!

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Choice. New York: Random House, 2003.  Cover art by Joyce Tenneson.  Image from

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Queen. New York: Random House, 2004.  Cover art by Joyce Tenneson.  Image from

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Filed under Bookshelf, Coming of Age, Fantasy, Young Adult

The Book Thief

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is one of my very favorite books.  It is the story of a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany who learns to read from stolen books, learns to write by painting words on the wall, and who learns how to tell stories from the Jewish man hiding in her basement.  It is a marvelous story of death and survival and growing up, narrated by Death himself.

The New York Times blurb on the cover says The Book Thief is “Brilliant and hugely ambitious…the kind of book that can be life changing.”  It’s true.  I have never read a book like this one, and only one other book has given me such an appreciation of the power and magic of words (Harry Potter, just in case you were wondering).

I have to admit, I’m having a difficult time writing about this book!  It’s hard to describe the way I feel about this book.  Also, part of the wonder of The Book Thief is discovering it for the first time, so I think I will end by saying: READ THIS BOOK!

P.S. The movie adaptation comes out in the U.S. next weekend (Nov 8).  It looks really good, but please, read the book first, you won’t regret it!

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.

Jacket photo copyright by Colin Anderson/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images.  Image from

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Ender’s Game

ender's gameThe first time I read Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, I was in sixth or seventh grade and I hated it.  In fact, I hated it so much I couldn’t even finish it.  It has been many years since middle school, and with a film adaptation set to be released in November, I felt that the time was ripe to give the book another shot.

Ender’s Game is part epic war story and part school story.  Andrew Wiggin, who goes by the name Ender, is chosen to go to an elite school to train to fight the inevitable second coming of the alien invaders called “buggers.”  The students at the school are divided into armies and spend most of their time playing mock battles against each other.  Ender quickly rises through the ranks and becomes the best student at the school, despite his young age.  Ender never loses.  Could he be the one who can destroy the buggers once and for all?

The most interesting thing about this story is that the whole world is relying on a group of specially trained children to save them.  Card seems to be interested in the idea that wisdom comes from the mouths of children, so to speak, and that children are not to be underestimated.  On the flip side, he asks questions about whether it’s right to deprive a child of his childhood and to ask him to hurt, kill, and essentially lose his innocence for  the greater good.  For being a book that is commonly read by a young adult audience, Ender’s Game poses a lot of ethical questions and deals with heavy topics.

Although Ender’s Game still isn’t my all-time favorite book, it was definitely worth finishing after all this time.  It’s a classic of the genre, and I encourage everyone to give it a shot!

Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1977.

Cover art by Sam Weber.  Image from


Filed under Bookshelf, Coming of Age, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery

angel de la lunaAngel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery, by M. Evelina Galang, is a beautifully unique young adult novel, set in the Philippines.  After her father dies and her mother moves to the U.S. to pursue the American dream, Angel has to come to grips with her new role as head of the family.  As she settles into this new role, she comes to learn more about herself, her country, and what she believes in.  She finds a place and a purpose, but before long her life is uprooted again when her mother sends for her to come and live in Chicago.  Angel struggles in Chicago, with a new family, a new school, new friends, and even a new language.  She acts out and expresses herself the only way she knows how–by playing the drums like her father taught her.  She has to find who she is in America, and more importantly, she has to learn how to forgive.

Galang is a strong storyteller.  She has created a heroine who is truly original and has given her the sort of life most people can hardly imagine.  Angel is recognizable as an ordinary teen girl who makes mistakes, but is also a great role model; she is smart, responsible, and even involved in politics.  The story is split into two sections (the first set in the Philippines and the second set in Chicago), and this abrupt setting change helps the reader and Angel herself discover her identity and what really matters in life.

Galang is a well known and highly respected Filipina-American, and she has written a contemporary young adult classic.  While I felt that the story started off a little slow, it truly blossomed into the sort of story that makes you think and that sticks with you even after you’ve turned the last page!

Galang, M. Evelina. Angel De La Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2013.

Cover and book design by Linda S. Koutsky.  Cover copyright Niki Escobar.  Image from

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, has been one of my favorite books since a girl named Lauren recommended it to me in eighth grade.  The book is a collection of letters written by a unique boy named Charlie who is getting ready to start high school.  Charlie is somewhat of a loner, and in his first letter he says that he’s writing because “I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even though they could have” (pg. 3).  As the book progresses, Charlie finds a group of people who accept him, namely a girl named Sam and her stepbrother Patrick.  Charlie’s straightforward descriptions of their year together from his position as a “wallflower” provide crystal clear insights into the complicated (yes, complicated) life of the high school student.

I love that Chbosky organized this novel in a series of letters.  Charlie is such a rich, individual character, and his letters really allow the reader to understand him and accept him just the way he is, as so many others have not.  To me, a “wallflower” is a person who notices everything without really being noticed themselves.  While the book definitely highlights some of the “perks” of being a wallflower, Charlie also learns the benefits of having a solid group of friends and being noticed for exactly who he is.

This book is also soon to be a movie.  I for one am really looking forward to seeing how the story is portrayed onscreen, with a cast including Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, and Paul Rudd.  Mostly, I just really want everyone to know what a great and important story The Perks of Being a Wallflower really is!

UPDATE: The movie is awesome–everything I had hoped it would be!  The author of the book should always direct the movie!

Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket, 1999.

Cover design by Stacy Drummond.  Cover photo by Jason Stang.  Image from

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Filed under Bookshelf, Coming of Age, Fiction, Young Adult