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March 5, 2022

4 Young Adult Books That Will Entertain Teens and Adults

by MK French

Spring Break is quickly approaching and whether you are looking for stay at home entertainment or something to keep you...I mean your teens...occupied while traveling, I have 4 great young adult novels that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. The first three are fantasy. The last one is a paranormal romance of sorts that was recently made into a movie for Paramount+.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

cover of young adult novel Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli
March 2022; Wednesday Books; 978-1250821522
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); fantasy

Emeline Lark keeps returning to Edgewood forest. It's haunted by ghost stories and tall tales, and she was determined to avoid superstition. Her grandfather disappeared, leaving an orb behind in his nursing home room. Finding him in Edgewood involves making a deal with the fabled Wood King; her grandfather can go free in exchange for her voice. This puts her right in the middle of a curse and the stories she worked so hard to avoid.

From the start, with creeping things responding to Emeline's voice as she sang, the dread of the stories from her youth, and the vague sense of wrongness in her hometown, this book hooked me in. Nineteen-year-old Emeline tried hard to make it as a singer, which is difficult, and her grandfather with dementia is her only family left. His disappearance draws her back in spite of herself, and she won't let him be collected as a tithe. With this in mind from the start, we can accept a lot of weirdness before she confronts the Wood King and deal with the fae.

Emeline has a strength of will in trying to deal with the fae of the forest and pushing herself to face the hometown she had left. The relationships she has with the other characters in the book, human or fae, all show different facets of her and the stubbornness she has within her. We also see how she deals with adversity and the secrets that others had kept from her. She has difficult choices and realizations to make along the way, culminating in the decision that makes up the climax of the book. (no spoilers, even if you can probably guess what it will be from the start!) I was touched by her determination and drive, and the love she has for her grandfather even when he can't remember her. The author had based that part of her book on real life, an even more emotional facet for this story. It's a beautiful tale, and one I think many other readers will enjoy just as much as I did.

Buy Edgewood at Amazon

A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft

cover of young adult fantasy novel A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft
March 2022; Wednesday Books; 978-1250623652
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); fantasy

The hala is the last magical creature in the land, believed to be formed from God's flesh and possessing the very essence of life and the secrets of alchemy. Margaret Welty is a sharpshooter and could very well hit the hala, but only teams of two can hunt it: a shooter and an alchemist. Weston Winters isn't an alchemist yet, but Margaret will let him stay at the manor to wait for her alchemist mother if he joins the hunt with her. The unlikely duo are drawn to each other, and could possibly win the hunt with dark magic if they live long enough to use it.

From the start, we're given flashes into a wider world that draws us in. Maggie's mother is missing, drawn to her alchemical research, and we soon learn about different religious views on the hala, the ruling alchemical class of New Albian, and the prejudices against different nationalities. Both Maggie and Wes are of mixed minority heritage, putting them at a disadvantage to the monied elite. Maggie's worked so hard on a daily basis just to survive, and Wes is desperate to make it as an alchemist to provide for his family. Working together makes sense, and also makes them targets for those interested in keeping the status quo right where it is.

We see microaggressions and outright aggressions from the people, which Maggie had to deal with for years on her own by keeping her head down and trying to make herself invisible. Wes, on the other hand, is still idealistic enough to try to fight it, and call out those complicit in abuse to save themselves. While alchemy is magic of a sort, the hala is formed from magic itself and winning the hunt is a matter of pride and heritage. Working together makes them see the other's point of view, as well as contemplate what winning the hunt will truly mean for them and their families. They're willing to give up everything, much like in the beats of a romance novel, and we reach a similar end to the novel. I really enjoyed reading this and seeing Maggie and Wes triumph over their fears and the bigots who would think less of them because of their heritage. Working together is an important kind of magic for them as well.

Buy A Far Wilder Magic at Amazon

A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson

A Forgery of Roses
March 2022;  Inkyard Press; 978-1335418661
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); fantasy

Myra's portraits alter the shape of her subjects, and keeping that secret is the only way to keep her sister safe. The governor's wife finds out and threatens to expose her secret unless she paints a portrait that would resurrect the governor's dead son. Going to the mansion makes it clear that the death was no accident, and the killer is obsessed with portrait magic. Desperate to survive, Myra turns to the governor's older son for help.

In this world, magic through portrait art can change the subject's appearance, heal wounds, and fix illness. This magic is seen as a perversion of the work that the Artist, their God, had done in creating the world. Not all portrait artists can do this magic, only the Prodigies, and because they were hunted down, few remain. Myra's mother had been one and went missing. Then her father went missing looking for her, so Myra and her sister were left alone. Because her sister was ill, Myra was willing to risk her safety for money to get a doctor. Her magic didn't work on the body, the first clue it was murder. Searching for the truth revealed the strained relationships in the family, August's anxiety, and Myra's weakness and fear of her own magic.

I love the world building here, the way Myra gradually learned more about her magic as well as the secrets hidden within the governor's household. By the time we get to the final third, I was racing to the finish line because I was so invested in the outcome. The story is one I'm glad to have read. Myra and August are great characters, and I loved spending time with them. 

Buy A Forgery of Roses at Amazon

The In Between by Marc Klein

cover of young adult paranormal novel The In Between by Marc Klein
June 2021; Poppy; 978-0316457712
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); paranormal romance

Seventeen-year-old Tessa had gone from one foster home after another, sure she doesn't deserve to be loved. When she meets Skylar, the two have a whirlwind romance like that in movies. Unfortunately, after an accident that leaves Tessa waking up in a hospital, she finds out that he's dead. His spirit reaches out to her, leading her to learn more about their relationship and the afterlife itself.

Released in June 2021, this book has since been picked up and turned into a Paramount+ movie, released in February 2022. The book is about love and loss, a universal concept many readers can relate to even though this is a YA novel. It's told in dual timeline form, before and after the accident that split Tessa's life and heart in two. We see the growing relationship before the accident, as well as the fallout of grief and loss. Relationships are difficult, especially when there are few good models for it, and Tessa guarded herself against the possibility of loss by not making connections in the first place.

Ultimately, loss is one of those aspects of life that we all experience. Grief is incredibly painful and can be alienating, but shouldn't be a reason to completely cut yourself off from love. We all have to learn and grow, and as difficult as it is, put ourselves out there to experience all that life has to offer. The connections we make are more than worth it.

Buy The In Between at Amazon

In case you missed the movie on Paramount+ when it came out in February, here's the trailer:

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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