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April 4, 2021

4 Books for Fans of Young Adult Fiction

by MK French

Hae your kids already read through the books they received for Easter. Here are four more books that will entertain your teen this month. There's a fantasy novel, a contemporary novel, a fairy tale, and a post-apocalyptic novel on this list. So no matter what your young adult reader (and you!) likes to reading, I'm sure there is a book here they will enjoy.

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The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

The Infinity Courts
April 2021; Simon & Schuster; 978-1534456495
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); fantasy
Nami Miyamoto has a great future in store for her when she graduates high school. Unfortunately, she's murdered and then wakes in Infinity, the realm where consciousnesses go upon death. There, the virtual assistant Ophelia is present and has set herself up as Queen, with the intent of eventually eradicating all human life on earth. Nami joins the resistance, and along the way takes stock of the life she lived and would have had.
Nami is a thoughtful and caring person from the start, leading her to throw herself in front of a child who would have been shot in a robbery gone wrong. She is also stubborn, and doesn't like blind obedience, like many teenagers. This also translated to her life in Infinity, where she doesn't blindly take the pills to erase her headaches and memories, and then when picked up by the Resistance, who wanted her to develop a skill that is useful for eliminating the opposition and freeing humans. She clings to the idea that all life should be valued and reasoned with, even Ophelia and the princes, which means she often argued with the Resistance leaders.

It's obvious that Nami and Gil are meant to follow the enemies to lovers trope, but I don't quite buy it. The two argue and are thrown into each other's orbit constantly, but I don't feel a romantic connection between them. Nami has more of a connection with Prince Caelan of Victory, one of Queen Ophelia's sons. They yearn for change and to be free of their gilded cages, and it's complicated on Nami's part because she also knows he still sees humans as empty shells to be eliminated if possible.

The question of survival is one that comes up frequently. Yes, there is oppression and danger, but the cycle is repeated constantly, even in the afterlife. Tension keeps rising along with the question of motives for the Residents and Royalty, and why humans are slowly starting to wake up after having their personalities suppressed to be used as servants.  The novel is the start of a fascinating trilogy. I can't wait to see what's planned for the next two books. 

Buy The Infinity Courts at Amazon

Beth and Lucy by Katherine Shade

Beth and Lucy
April 2021; Indie; ebook (266 pages)
young adult
Beth loves 90’s sitcoms, crosswords, and the Lucy Hutchinson books. There, Lucy attends a school for magic and has quirky adventures. However, Beth soon sees Lucy everywhere, and affecting the real world with magic. Beth has a troubled brother that doesn’t want her help, but Lucy tells her that the two have to work together to keep him alive, and solve a murder that hasn’t happened yet.

I’m not usually a fan of parenthetical texts within the course of a novel (where asides are put in like this), but teens often think that way. It adds to the convoluted and rapid fire rhythm of Beth’s thoughts as she goes through her usual day. It’s interrupted when Lucy arrives; to her, Lucy is a character from a book series, and to Lucy, Beth is the character in the book series. Lucy had managed to get to Beth when she saw in a book that Beth and her brother Tim die due to Tim’s gambling, but she never stopped to actually read it, and hadn’t brought the book with her. Tim owes twenty-five thousand dollars even after draining his cash and savings, and the only person he was comfortable talking about this debt is with Beth. From this premise, the book continues forward.

We have two teenage girls that irritate each other, question each others’ decisions and motives, and have little idea how to actually save Tim. They bicker a lot, almost the way sisters do, which is adorable and annoying at once. There’s a bit of a fourth-wall breakage when Beth talks about the obligatory emotional bonding that the two have to have, but she does read plenty of books on the topic. After all, with a very meta concept like this, it’s fitting to have that happen, as well as a very meta ending. I’m not sure how I feel about it, though. Both Lucy and Beth have some very questionable ideas and choices, and Lucy using the magic until it knocks her out shouldn’t be a catchall way to push for a conclusion she wanted. There are some very good and quotable statements that both girls make, especially after they realize what is truly important to them. The second half of the book feels like it’s a completely different tone from the first half, which I think is why I’m having trouble figuring out if I like it or not.

Buy Beth and Lucy at Amazon
(The ebook is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.)

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

These Feathered Flames
April 2021; Inkyard Press; 978-1335147967
audio, ebook, print (496 pages); fairy tale
Twin heirs are born in Tourin, so Izaveta stayed at court to learn the ways of court and rule, and Asya is taken to her aunt, the Firebird, to learn the ways of magic. Before Asya's training is completed, the powers come to life inside of her, a sign that the Queen is dead. Izaveta and Asya now have to figure out who to trust, what their future will be, and who killed their mother.

These Feathered Flames is a queer retelling of the Russian tale The Firebird. The beginning makes it clear that the Firebird is important for the balance of magic, and Asya is very uncomfortable with the role and uncertain of her abilities. Izaveta is trapped within the gilded halls of the palace, where loyalty is bought and no one, even family, can be trusted. Those aspects of the book are very common in YA retelling, so I had to go a little further to get truly hooked into the story. The intrigue got to me, as well as the tension between the sisters. One has magic that is sometimes beyond her control, hoping she doesn't have to be an Inhuman creature to do her duty to nature. The other shutters away emotions and interpersonal connections so that she'd be constantly anxious and on guard, alone even among those who profess to be allies.

Aspects of the world are beautiful. The idea of riding bears, a lake of magic, the palace, and the balls are well rendered and a stunning backdrop to this tale of intrigue and betrayal. Magic comes at a cost, and anyone can cast a spell if they're willing to pay the price. That can be anything from hair or a few drops of blood to a limb or heart. Of course, this can cause resentment and fear, leading to more questions than answers in the beginning. It's hard to really get a grasp on any of the characters other than the twins, who we're meant to sympathize with. Between them, I like Asya best.

The queerness doesn't take a huge role in the first half of the book. It's self-doubt and treachery that are bigger obstacles to overcome. Until the very end of the novel, betrayal and secrets plague the sisters. Justice comes at a high cost, and possibly the hint of a future novel in this world. 

Buy These Feathered Flames at Amazon

Dustborn by Erin Bowman

April 2021; HMH Books; 978-0358244431
audio, ebook, print (432 pages); post-apocalyptic
Delta of Dead River has a map tattooed on her back leading to the rumored paradise land of Verdant. Though most people in the wasteland can't read it, the people would kill for that map. Delta and her family travel through the wastes, and most people can't be trusted, even the friend that disappeared a decade ago. Finding Verdant is one problem: the secrets hidden there could undermine the foundations of her world.

Dustborn is a cross between Waterworld and Mad Max Fury Road. In a desert world, water and supplies are at a premium, and it's certainly apocalyptic. The Old World made jars with lids that screwed tightly, knives of metal and molded plastic, rovers and rifles. Life is harsh, but it's even harder for those visited by raiders, or sold to work for the General. He controls Bedrock, a cache of weapons, and a source of water used to grow crops. To consolidate his power, he rules with fear, guns and drugged water, turning laborers into mindless drones. Children aren't taught anything but how to fight or harvest; if they spontaneously know how to read or any other skill, they're "gods touched" and given a place of respect.

The bits of Old World history, as well as the land of this world, is very subtly laid out as Delta moved through it. The tale of Verdant haunts everyone, the hope for a life with water, greenery, and relative ease compared to the desert and dried up ocean beds. Delta resents additional burdens at first and losing everyone she loves, some in brutally horrible ways, makes her realize that she can't live in isolation. While she originally counts those she grew up with as her pack, it's the relationships along the way that truly matters most.

The apocalyptic landscape was not exactly what we thought it was, and the twist was one that had me grinning for the author's ingenuity as well as feeling the characters' pain. It's splendidly done, as was Delta's gradual change from the start of the book. I was engrossed by her story from the start, and wished her luck in her future. 

Buy Dustborn 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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