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February 11, 2021

4 Young Adult Novels to Read

by MK French

Are you looking for young adult novels to keep your teens entertained during the cold winter months or perhaps you are a fan of young adult novels. Today I review 4 young adult novels from a few different genres.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria

This Golden Flame
February 2021; Inkyard Press; 978-1335080271
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); YA
Karis is orphaned and forced to work for the Scriptorium, a group of scribes looking for the secrets to unlocking the automaton army that had been left to rust. She wants to find her brother, who had been shipped away seven years ago and somehow managed to wake one of the automatons searching for information to find him. Alix doesn't know why he was made or why the automatons were meant to be destroyed. The Scriptorium finds out and hunts Karis and Alix as they try to find her brother.

From the start, Karis is so focused on one goal that she doesn't really make friends with any of the other orphans on the island. The scribes don't care for her either, and think of her as a troublemaker. Her one friend is content to stay on the island to become a warrior someday, but he's swept up in her wake as well when she tries to protect Alix from being found. We wouldn't have a story if she wasn't so driven and bad at planning ahead, but it does mean that there are moments where she isn't very likable in the beginning of the book.

Alix is a bronze automaton, human-sized and shaped, capable of independent thought and movement once Karis wakes him. Without memories of his past other than a few vague ones, he follows in Karis' wake as well. They're all caught by pirates, and it's there where he makes decisions for the first time. It's frightening for him, especially when he thinks his father might not have actually cared for him, and used him as only a tool to destroy the Scriptorium. It's the same goal that the others have, leaving him with the dilemma of being a tool or a person.

While romance isn't exactly at the forefront of the story, Karis remarking on Dane's past with girls on the island and then the growing attraction to Zara makes it clear that Karis has zero romantic or physical attraction to anyone. At first, she thinks that it makes her strange, but it's never actually remarked on as something odd. This makes Karis a good example of aromantic and/or asexual representation. It's simply another facet of her and not the main one we need to be concerned with. With everyone having very straightforward goals, they're easy to understand and follow through the story. I found it really enjoyable, especially the big climactic battle after we find out the truth about Alix's father, the purpose of the Automaton Heart, and the Magistrate's manipulations to stay in power. Friendship and family are important, and drive the characters to fix the power dynamic to improve their city. That kind of message is a great one to have, especially now.

Buy This Golden Flame at Amazon

The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Raven
February 2021; Inkyard Press; 978-1335091765
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); fantasy
Puck is King Oberon's jester, and now is able to tell a tale from before the time of Faery Iron Queen Meghan Chase has chosen Ash as her prince consort. Ash was Puck's rival, and he still resents losing to him. Evenfall is coming, and Puck has to work with enemies and allies to prevent it.

This book refers to events in Julie Kagawa's other books in the Iron Fey series. I hadn't read those, but it was easy enough for me to follow along. Puck, the same fairy of Shakespearean fame, had been the crueler Robin Goodfellow once upon a time, and he's thrown back into that by the Monster rampaging through the different lands. Puck has to join Nyx to inform the Iron Queen, one of his best friends, about the Monster. There is lingering resentment that he lost out on romantic love with her, even though he still cherishes her friendship. He takes joy in annoying the Winter and Summer fairy courts, and seeing the Forgotten court. The thoughts he has regarding pranks are fairly innocuous in the beginning, but after his transformation take on a much more dangerous cast. Harming others gives him joy, and he fantasizes about killing Ash. They're rivals and sort of friends; at least, they were friends more than frenemies in this novel, even though they started from an enemies' stance in the past.

To find ways to defeat the Monster, Puck, Nyx, Ash and Meghan have to travel through different realms. I enjoyed seeing the different places they were in, and the different types of fae that they talked to or fought. The challenges that they all faced leave them injured and sometimes close to death, and I feared for their safety even as I knew that most of them had to survive since this is book one of a trilogy. Puck was safe, given that he's narrating the book, but that doesn't mean everyone else is. We get to the conclusion of this novel, neatly tying off the original mission and giving a hook for the next book. The end of the Nevernever is coming, and it's bound to be a long and arduous journey to save it. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

Buy The Iron Raven at Amazon

Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher

Amelia Unabridged
February 2021; Wednesday Books; 978-1250253026
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); romance
Amelia Griffin and her best friend Jenna were big fans of the Orman Chronicles, written by the reclusive N. E. Endsley. The two attend a book festival, but only Jenna is invited to meet the author. After their argument, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. When a rare copy of the Orman Chronicles arrives for her, Amelia feels it's a sign from Jenna and tracks down the book's origin. It brings her face to face with Endsley himself.

Amelia Unabridged tackles family, friendship, and grief. Books started out as a way for Amelia to cope with her father abruptly leaving, and how Jenna and the Williams family essentially adopted her as a member of the family. The series of books were a means to bond and discuss weighty topics between them, and the prologue explaining the conflict between the sisters in the book clearly foreshadows how the two argue after the festival. It's the silly kind of argument that eighteen-year-olds have, one that doesn't really wound yet does at the same time; Jenna's death is sudden and leaves a gaping hole in its wake. For a voracious reader like Amelia, this is especially poignant: "my eyes refuse to change the letters into sentences, the sentences into pages," and "I would focus on the crumpled edges of the removed pages and call it Amelia Abridged."

I was actually close to tears reading large swaths of the book. There's the grief of Jenna's loss, of the fractures in Amelia's family, and then even with Nolan himself. The Orman books were born out of his own grief, and the anxiety left in their wake had forced him to close himself off from much of the world. The snippets of the books within this novel add to the poignancy of the story, to the feeling that a teenager wrote them to deal with loss and pain. Of course, there are obstacles to force both Amelia and Nolan out of their comfort zones, pushing them further than they can push each other.

By the end of the book, as Amelia really grows into herself and her choices, I really was crying. This book hurt my heart in such a good way. It's wonderful and has to be read by everyone. Life should be lived, even if there are parts that are awful. Beautiful things are more intense in response to the dark, and we carry forward the pieces of our loved ones into the future that they'll never get a chance to see.

Buy Amelia Unabridged at Amazon

Escape by Emma Eggleston

January 2021; Indie; 979-8594211483
ebook, print (148 pages); magical realism
Laila is the quirky girl in Richardsville High, and Matty is the popular All American star at school. The two start to talk, and Matty mentions that he’s part of a clinical study for the drug effugium, which allows him to travel to different places and times. Will Laila trust him enough to try it?

The summary sounds a little ridiculous, to be honest, because what kid would take Matty on his word? But he has depression and anxiety despite the shining exterior that everyone else at school sees. Medications so far haven’t been effective, and he’s desperate to try an experimental medication that turns out to have dangerous side effects. Instead of the usual headaches, stomach aches or body aches that standard antidepressants usually have, this one literally takes him away. In a world that heaps more and more pressure on children to perform and succeed, that’s certainly a tantalizing effect to have. Laila might not have depression or anxiety to the same extent that Matty does, but she’s shy and artsy and really hasn’t made friends at all in high school. From the moment we meet her, even the teachers can seem unnecessarily cruel to students. It’s not any wonder why she’d be just as tempted as Matty to leave their small town behind.

We got a lot of telling and info-dumping in this book, from the beginning chapters to the end of the story. The most vivid parts of the book are when Laila and Matty are interacting with each other. They’re kids with little knowledge about life, love, or how to navigate problems. Their attempts to talk to their parents are clumsy at best, and definitely ring true. As well-meaning as the adults are, they don’t hear what the teens are saying, and are more concerned with making sure that they do the right thing. Laila’s mother doesn’t see beneath the surface for Matty’s situation, and Matty’s parents also don’t delve too deeply into why Matty acts out the way he does. His ultimate decisions are dumb, even by teen standards, and leads to even more info-dumping. While the story is complete, I feel emotionally dissatisfied and distant. His issues are serious and need to be dealt with, and by the end, he has no growth whatsoever.

Buy Escape at Amazon
(The ebook is free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers and only 99 cents for everyone else)

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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