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October 3, 2020

4 Young Adult Novels You're Going to Love

by MK French



Young adult novels are enjoyed by readers of all ages. For teens, it is often a way to explore their thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. For adults, it might be nostalgia for our own teen years. But what really draws us all to young adult novels is great storytelling and relatable characters.
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The Glass Queen by Gena Showalter

The Glass Queen
September 2020; Inkyard Press; 978-1335080288
audio, ebook, print (448 pages); fantasy
 
In the magical land of Enchantia, Saxon is the king of Avian. He knows that Ashleigh Ansklelisa is dangerous despite being called the Glass Princess for her weak heart. Destined lovers have to find their way back to each other, and everything can change at the stroke of midnight.

The Glass Queen is a Cinderella retelling, and I'm a sucker for fractured fairy tales and retellings. I hadn't read the first book in the Forest of Good and Evil series, which told the story of the Evil Queen from Snow White tales. I don't know if that book has multiple openings, but this one does. We have the Cinderella story, Ashleigh's birth, and then when she is sent away at her mother's death. The truth of the witch sharing her body is kept from her, but she soon enough learns about the spirit possessing her and trying to take over.

In this world, the fairy tales that we know are prophecies, and like prophecies can be interpreted, misinterpreted, reinterpreted, and completely misrepresented. People hope to be part of a tale, if only because it will make them important, but that doesn't mean they'll get their happily ever after. Ashleigh is picked on by Avians that know she's the reincarnation of a fire witch that had devastated their lands in the two prior incarnations she had gone after Saxon's incarnations. They're determined to prevent a third time, and Saxon is just as determined to stop her. However, he soon discovers that Ashleigh is possessed, and not truly the reincarnation of the witch. He has to fight off his own people as well as his own instincts.

Things aren't always what they seem when magic is involved, and in this story, it's no different. The Glass Princess is physically fragile, but emotionally she's as tough as any bullied girl that's determined to keep pushing through. Saxon is proud and loyal, but willing to change when he gets new information he hadn't known about and will fight for the truth. That's an admirable trait, and I understand why they're drawn to each other. Fate or not, their personalities mesh very well once the suspicion is gone, and they each hope for the best for the other's future.

The Glass Queen is a romance novel that takes the enemies to lovers trope and blends in a healthy dose of fairy tales, dragons, magic, and winged creatures fighting to the death in a competition our hero has every intention of winning. I enjoyed this book a lot, and look forward to future novels in this series.

But The Glass Queen at Amazon

Hush by Dylan Farrow

Hush
October 2020; Wednesday Books; 978-1250235909
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); fantasy
In Montane, magic is language-based for those capable of Telling, and Blot is a deadly disease spread by ink. This magic is only used by Bards, who have almost always been men. Shae feels she's cursed, as her brother died from Blot, and then her mother is found dead by a golden dagger only used by Bards. When Shae seeks justice, she's given the opportunity to train as a Bard herself. The training is hard, there are secrets in the castle, and Shae will have to sacrifice for the truth to be revealed.

The story here unfolds slowly but surely, with the devastating famine sweeping Montane. The village of Aster is small and people shun Shae and her mother after her brother's death. People are superstitious in the village and would prefer the safety of comfortable lies than to know the truth. Shae refuses that comfort and is shunned even more at every turn. Frequently she's accused of acting rashly, and it seems that some of her theories are the same as the novel progresses. I sometimes wondered how she made the connections that she did, and why she was so certain that some people were trustworthy when no one really gave her any reason to believe in them.

Shae is headstrong and young, so she doubts herself when others challenge what she believes in. The madness in Bards dogs her every step so that she truly thinks every terrible thing that happened is her fault. I feel bad for her because she's lost so much and then even doubts her sanity. That weakens the strength of her Telling, the magic that can change the very fabric of reality. Its efficacy depends on the confidence she has in what she Tells, as well as the specificity of the spell. As much as they say they're training her at High House, the Bards there really want nothing to do with her and even take bets on when she'll fail out.

The world here felt very real, and the frustration and prejudice against young women still ring true. I like that Shae continually works to find the truth when others around her want to keep it hidden. So much is revealed as asides or guesses, I can see why she insists on it so much. I admire that about her, and that is a trait we all can use more of.

Buy Hush at Amazon

Eventide by Sarah Goodman

Eventide
October 2020; Tor Teen; 978-1250224736
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); historical fiction
Verity Pruitt takes her sister Lilah with her into rural Arkansas in 1907 when their father goes insane after their mother’s death. Lilah is adopted right away, but Verity is not. To stay close to her sister, she indentures herself as a farmhand. There are superstitions and oddities in the town, however, and Verity’s parents had been history there. Trying to discover that history can be dangerous for her, especially when someone will go to violent lengths to keep that secret.

Rural Arkansas has its own laid back way of doing things compared to New York City at the turn of the century. The forest nearby has strange fog and Verity saw a young girl there as well as a woman that looked like Miss Maeve, the woman that adopted her sister Lilah. Maeve is kind enough to let Verity visit with her sister; no one had told them prior to their arrival that the girls would be separated, and the orphanage staff that accompanied them only let her know last minute and kept saying that she should be grateful that they were being given a chance. Their mother is dead and their father had been in an asylum in the city, unable to care for them and leaving them essentially orphans when no other family members stepped up to help. Of course, Verity would be drawn to any hints of family connections, as she's still determined to get back to New York and take care of her sister herself, even though Lilah really likes Maeve.

The second half of the novel moves rapidly. I couldn't put the book down and had to keep going because of the intensity of the story. There's so much happening, so much emotion and pain, and none of it is excused or waved away. The spiritual aspect is important and proves to be the ultimate way for Verity to get to the bottom of Maeve's plan and change it. She doesn't get the future that she thought she would, but ultimately it's one that she knows will work for her.

Buy Eventide at Amazon

Cherokee Summer by Susan Antony

Cherokee Summer
January 2019; The Wild Rose Press; 978-1509223985
ebook print (332 pages); romance
Ace is spending summer in Cherokee, North Carolina and has no interest in romance or dating. She meets John Spears, part of the Cherokee tribe, and a friendship develops. Over others' approval, the two fall in love. After Ace disappears after sending John a mysterious text, they have to trust in each other and their love.

With an alcoholic mother, Ace is forced to parent her and look after her younger brother with autistic, as well as hide the evidence of their mother's alcoholism and her father's infidelity. John lives on a reservation with his maternal grandmother, siblings, and cousins; he wants to leave for Duke University, and she doesn't want him to go. On top of that, his mother is an alcoholic, flitting in and out of his life when she needs money. The two meet when John is the white water rafting guide, and John is rather stoic and calm from the start.

There area number of obstacles along the way, from her mother looking at John in a racist way, the reservation people thinking Ace is appropriating their culture, John's grandmother wanting him to stay, and another boy pushing for Ace's attention despite being rebuffed. These are the ordinary troubles of a biracial relationship, but the additional problem of Ace's disappearance a little past the halfway point complicates matters. John is blamed, and he has to keep his head while trying to find her.

While there were cringe-worthy moments, it's not because this book was written badly. They're cringe-worthy because of the nature of teen romances, when they meet and fumble through conversations, or don't quite manage to hide from the authority figures in their life. It's real life, and real life isn't always pretty or smooth. They are sincere in the way that idealistic teens are, and do mean a lot to each other. There's hope for the future, giving a happily ever after for them both.

Buy Cherokee Summer at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 

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