Readers' Favorite

June 29, 2024

Keep Your Teens Reading With These 4 Young Adult Novels

by MK French

Are your teens spending too much time in front of screens? Or perhaps they are already bored with summer vacation. Or maybe they are avid readers who need suggestions of what to read next. Whatever kind of teen you have, I'm sure at least one of these young adult novels will keep them entertained.

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Storm: Dawn of a Goddess by Tiffany D. Jackson

book cover of young adult science fiction novel Storm: Dawn of a Goddess by Tiffany D. Jackson
June 2024; Random House; 978-0593308851
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); science fiction

Ororo Munroe is a thief on the streets of Cairo, hiding her blue eyes and white hair beneath a scarf. She must be stealthy, as strange things happen whenever she loses control. Sudden rainstorms and mysterious winds form, attracting attention to her. The Shadow King steals people's souls and is coming after her. With nowhere to turn, she listens to the inner voice she ignored and searches for her heritage. As she does, her powers grow stronger and the Shadow King comes closer. Can she outrun the shadows that chase her?

Storm is a powerful mutant, able to control the weather, but long before that, she was an orphan running the streets of Cairo. We see how that happened, and how she survived as a child. The bulk of the story is her life as a teen, long before she joined the X-Men. She tries to escape the Shadow King when he comes to Cairo to find her and hopes to make her way to Kenya based on a memory of her mother's background. Others once had blue eyes and white hair like her, and she hopes these women would be able to teach her how to control her emerging powers. She meets and develops a connection with T'Challa of Wakanda, who is doing a walkabout to learn about other African countries, as well as people of other villages. It's the farthest she'd ever been from Cairo, and the journey itself is fraught with dangers outside the risk of the Shadow King.

Ororo's journey is one of self-discovery. She sees her powers as a problem, an alien thing to get rid of so she can return to help the group of boys she considers her brothers in Cairo. They're problematic and flare in times of strong emotion or when she has nightmares of past trauma. We know it's not a curse or the mark of a goddess, but Ororo is still discovering that. Any talent can help as well as harm, and she has to face her multiple fears before she can even begin to meet the Shadow King head-on. This is a great look into Ororo's origin, and we understand where she's coming from. She's approachable and troubled and learns that doing the right thing is worth the cost.

Dead Girls Talking by Megan Cooley Peterson

book cover of young adult mystery novel Dead Girls Talking by Megan Cooley Peterson
June 2024; Holiday House; 978-0823457014
ebook, print (288 pages); mystery

Multiple podcasts, tours, documentaries, and investigations all seemed to prove that Bettina's father murdered her mother a decade ago. Copycat murders make her question that truth, so she enlists bookish goth Eugenia to aid her search for what really happened.

Everyone in town talks about Bettina because her father is a well-known killer, so she cultivates a surly attitude and looks for the usual kinds of trouble girls could get into in a small town. Eugenia's parents run the funeral home, and she's generally ostracized and seen as weird for that. But she doesn't judge Bettina for her parents or grandparents the way others do, which makes her safe to go to when another body is found in the woods. Like a true crime podcaster, the girls look into the trial and potential suspect list on their own. Things don't seem to add up, but some of the clues don't pan out, either. The killer is much closer than they first imagined. 

This book is YA, but it still deals with grief, murder, social ostracism, and touches on class differences and the social strata in small towns. The trauma it leaves behind affects the next generation, and the women that perpetuated the system as well as the classiest views did incredible harm. The mystery of it was compelling, as well as the ending. 

Buy Dead Girls Talking at Amazon

Icon and Inferno by Marie Lu

book cover of young adult romance novel Icon and Inferno by Marie Lu
June 2024; Roaring Brook Press; 978-1250852915
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); romance

In the year since superstar Winter Young last saw secret agent Sydney Cossette, they haven't kept contact. Their connection had been intense and they continually think about each other but don't meet until there's a new mission from Panacea. They head to Singapore to rescue an operative in danger, who turns out to be Sydney's ex, a rogue agent known as the Arsonist. On top of that is the addition of Gavi Ginsburg, socialite and Winter’s former girlfriend. Is she back for Winter, or does she want something else?

Icon and Inferno is the second novel in the Stars and Inferno series. While it isn't quite necessary to have read the first novel, it's lots of fun and makes the relationships make more sense. We have Sydney and Winter’s relationship here, as well as their prickly and frankly obnoxious exes in the story. Faced with an assassination plot, of course, they all go ahead to stop it rather than send Tems home as planned. There's danger in this, as Sydney's targeted by an assassin as well, and someone is planning a tell all book about Winter. There are so many little details to keep track of, and everything falls apart with devastating consequences. 

As ever, Sydney and Winter work best when together and can read each other well. There's tension between them because they don't know where they stand emotionally, and there's a larger picture to keep in mind. But as much as they both were put into positions where they are in danger, they pull through and manage to prioritize each other and the mission. This is a wonderful follow-up to the first novel, and hopefully, there are more in the series. 

Buy Icon and Inferno at Amazon

Of Jade and Dragons by Amber Chen

book cover of young adult fantasy novel Of Jade and Dragons by Amber Chen
June 2024; Viking Books; 978-0593622759
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); fantasy

Eighteen-year-old Aihui Ying's dreams of becoming an engineer like her father fell apart after his murder. She has a journal of her father’s engineering secrets and a jade pendant snatched from the assassin, and soon is determined to enter the Engineers Guild to discover why he was murdered. Disguised as her brother, Ying infiltrates the guild’s male-only apprenticeship trial. She has the help of  Eighth Prince of the High Command Aogiya Ye-yang, but her father’s renown makes her a target. Ying must stay ahead of her fellow competitors, the guild masters, and the killer still hunting for her father’s journal. Complicating everything is her increasingly tangled relationship with the prince, who may have mysterious plans of his own.

This is billed as Mulan meets Iron Widow, as it's basically a steampunk C-drama in print form. She finds her father and he dies in her arms, but her older brother seems more interested in maintaining the status quo. She discovers he was essentially threatened to do so, which cements her decision to leave. Entanglements get her to the apprenticeship trial, which is only the start of her trouble. Logistics are an issue, given that the school isn't built for women, as well as the fact that some teachers had known her father and disliked him, so that enmity passed down to Ying. The prince is one of multiple possible heirs, so he has a lot of backbiting and social jockeying to deal with himself. The two are drawn to each other, adding in another complication. 

There are multiple sequences related to the engineering guild classes, the teacher and student interactions, as well as intermittently searching for answers. It's difficult for Ying to learn much about the assassin, though she sees him again and eventually discovers the identity in a way she didn't expect. She's able to move forward and put aside some emotions and impulsive behavior, a far cry from our first view of her diving off a cliff. She's grown up a lot over the course of the novel, and the finale really brought it home. Without spoiling the ending, I can say that she delivered real zingers of lines, was incredibly brave and clever, and had gadgets that absolutely reminded me of Chinese martial arts movies. I mean it the best way, because Amber Chen really nailed the vibe of her inspiration. Once the story got going, it was hard to put down and I loved seeing the journey Ying took.

Buy Of Jade and Dragons 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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