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By Sophie Kinsella

41i4toi6eL._SX330_BO1204203200_When we first meet 14-year-old Audrey Turner, she's trying to stop her mother from throwing her brother's computer out of an upstairs window.

And things just get crazier from there.

As this opening makes clear, "Finding Audrey," the first Young Adult novel by bestselling author Sophie Kinsella, introduces us to a British family going through some rough spots -- some of them comical, some genuinely traumatic. Audrey's brother Frank is hooked on computer games; Audrey's mother is hooked on the Daily Mail, which is full of alarmist articles that cause her to worry intensely about everything -- including Frank's being hooked on computer games.

Audrey herself is recovering from a long illness, following something horrible that happened at school. Interestingly, we never learn exactly what did happen, other than that it involved bullying by a group of schoolmates -- bullying that was so bad that Audrey ended up in the hospital, and some of the girls involved got expelled.
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By Stacey Lee

22501055As someone who drove across the country to Oregon early this summer, I have to say that modern conveniences make all the difference. An air-conditioned car, reliable gas stations, frequent bathrooms, comfortable hotels, and a McDonalds here and there make the four-day trip a bit more bearable then, say, making the trip on foot.

But that’s exactly what Samantha Young, a second generation Chinese-American, does when she’s thrown onto the 1849 Oregon Trail in Stacey Lee’s debut novel “Under a Painted Sky.”

Stacey Lee, a fourth generation Chinese-American, digs into American history and her own Chinese roots to create a unique adventure. The pace is frenetic from the beginning: Within the first few pages, we learn that Samantha has killed a man. A few pages more, and we learn that her father died in a terrible fire earlier that same day. Wracked with guilt and sorrow, and surely facing a death sentence for her accidental crime, Samantha does the only thing she can: She flees. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha turns towards California, where her father had been planning to travel.
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By Renée Ahdieh

TheWrathAndTheDawnCoverIn Eastern lore, there is a collection of legends and folktales that makes up an epic metafiction of interwoven stories. In English, this epic is called "The Thousand and One Nights," or "The Arabian Nights." Hundreds of legends reside within the frame story of a vengeful king who, after being betrayed by his adulterous wife, marries hundreds of virgins, one after the other, and kills each one the morning after the wedding. Only when Scheherazade marries him does this cycle end. Every night, for a thousand and one nights, she tells the king an ongoing story, so intriguing and mystifying that he keeps her alive so that she may finish it the next night.

You may recognize the names of a few popularized stories from the collection, some of which have been adapted by Disney. “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” are just two of the stories Scheherazade tells her husband.

In her debut YA novel, “The Wrath and the Dawn,” Renée Ahdieh adapts the story of “The Thousand and One Nights” into a sumptuous teen romance. Entering Ahdieh’s world with limited knowledge of the lore of “The Thousand and One Nights,” I was skeptical. How could an author possibly take this horrifically violent epic and create a believable love story? How could a woman fall in love with a man who killed her best friend? How could Ahdieh possibly adapt the legend into a love story without losing the original richness of the text?

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By Brian Godawa

enochDo you ever wish you could have some kind of amazing device that would allow you to experience biblical history as it happened, rather than just read about it?

Imagine what it would have been like to see the ark up close and then watch the animals gather on their own. What would it have been like to march with Joshua’s crowd around Jericho and see the walls of that mighty city collapse? How breathtaking would David’s fight with Goliath have been if you had had a front row seat to the event?

Unfortunately, no such gadget exists, and while what we do learn from the Bible is more than sufficient for our spiritual needs, there is also so much we don’t know about life back then. At best we have some snapshots of the lives and events that shaped history, tantalizing glimpses only of the full portrait of the past. Brian Godawa’s “Chronicles of the Nephilim” series, originally written for adults but also available in a Young Adult edition, doesn’t change this, but it does give the reader a chance to speculate, to ask the “what if” questions, and to realize that there is so much more to the familiar stories of the Bible than we will ever fully understand this side of heaven.
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By Cassie Beasley

CircusMirandus(Note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Ten-year-old Micah Tuttle has been brought up by his Grandpa Ephraim ever since his parents died, and the two of them have always shared a special bond. Micah loves learning to tie fancy knots just like his grandfather, and he can't get enough stories about the magical and mysterious Circus Mirandus that his grandfather visited as a child. But now everything is changing. Grandpa Ephraim is dangerously ill, and his sister, Micah's Aunt Gertrudis -- who "didn't like any of the things that Micah's grandfather liked, including ten-year-olds" -- has moved in and taken over.

As his grandfather's illness grows steadily worse, and his aunt keeps coming between them, Micah has only one hope. He has to find Circus Mirandus and its star magician, the Man Who Bends Light -- a magician who once promised his grandfather a miracle. Though Micah's aunt lashes out at any talk of magic, and his practical friend Jenny tries to convince him that stories of the circus are just fantasies, Micah knows his grandfather's future, and his own, depend on the stories being true.
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By Maria Dahvana Headley

MagoniaImagine having a disease so rare, so mystifying, that the doctors name it after you—a disease that makes you feel like you’re drowning in Earth’s air. That’s exactly how Aza Ray Boyle feels.

Aza is the heroine of Maria Dahvana Headley’s debut Young Adult Novel, “Magonia,” a blend of romance and fantasy. Headley, a novelist, memoirist, playwright, and winner of the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award for her short story “The Traditional,” creates a mystifying and topsy-turvy tale in “Magonia.”

At first glance "Magonia" feels similar to any number of other contemporary YA novels about sick girls: Bitingly sarcastic Aza has grown up in hospitals, and everyone expects her to drop dead at any moment. A few chapters in, a predictable romance develops between Aza and her best friend, Jason—but it’s interrupted as quickly as it begins.
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By Mary Weber

9781401690359On the mythical and magical island of Faelan, Nym is a slave girl, deemed worthless by society, overwhelmed by her own remarkable power. As an Elemental, she is one of the last surviving residents charged with magic. Plagued by guilt for the death of innocents slain by her unintentional power—the ability to conjure storms when she is angry—Nym’s journey is one of believable self-discovery and self-forgiveness.

Mary Weber’s debut novel, “Storm Siren,” not only establishes a fresh voice in CBA fiction, but also breaks barriers as a perfect example of the growing market for crossover fiction: fiction released by a religious publisher that is accessible to all, Christians and non-believers alike.
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By Diane Stanley

Prince(Note: This review contains some spoilers.)

Much as C. S. Lewis did with his book "Till We Have Faces," Diane Stanley uses Greek mythology to convey profound moral and spiritual truths in her middle-school novel "The Chosen Prince." Themes of sacrifice, selflessness, and especially forgiveness are prominent in this story of Alexos, prince of Arcos, and his struggle to please the gods and find his purpose.

At a ceremony just after his birth, Prince Alexos was mysteriously marked as the chosen champion of the goddess Athene, the long-awaited hero who would deliver his people from the plagues of war, famine, and disease sent to them long ago by Zeus. But being chosen proves to be a heavy burden, not the glorious destiny that most people think it's supposed to be. As hard as Alexos tries, he finds it impossible to live up to his father's punishingly high standards. And then he falls prey to a terrible, paralyzing illness that leaves both him and his father wondering if he will ever be of any use at all.
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The summer reading season is almost upon us! What are your kids planning to read this summer, either on their own or guided by school reading lists? Comment here and let us know!
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By William Golding

Lord_of_the_Flies“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.” (ESV)

Jesus’s words in Luke 11:17-18 reference a corruption of the name “Beelzebub,” which translates to “Lord of the Flies.” Whether or not this quote was the direct source for the title of William Golding’s 1954 novel, its truth is unmistakably at work in "Lord of the Flies." Influenced by Golding’s experiences in World War II, this dark tale of innocence lost firmly established him in the canon of influential English authors, which eventually won him a Nobel Prize in 1983.
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By John Green

51hgkNewXL._SY344_BO1204203200_There are many universal experiences in life, and teenage unrequited love is one of them. Okay, maybe not unrequited love. But unrequited angst-inducing-emotionally-crushing-painfully-awkward crushes are a universal experience in life—of that I am fairly certain.

Such unrequited crush-love is the starting point for “Paper Towns,” a novel by John Green, being released as a film adaptation this summer. Quentin Jacobsen, or Q as his friends call him, has grown up living next to The Perfect Girl, or at least his perfect girl: Margo Roth Spiegelman. Not only is she pretty and popular, but she also exudes carefree confidence, demonstrated through adventures and outrageous stunts that have made her almost infamous.
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By Colleen Gleason

17084242As hooks go, Colleen Gleason’s Stoker & Holmes series has a nearly irresistible one. The two main characters are Mina Holmes, daughter of Mycroft Holmes and niece of Sherlock, and Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram Stoker. The setting is an alternate steampunk Victorian London, and Mina and Evaline have been recruited by Irene Adler to solve mysteries afflicting the young women of the city.

Mina is gifted with the Holmesian mind and has been trained by her uncle in the arts of observation and deduction. In every generation of Evaline’s family through the ages, one person has been born with enhanced strength and speed, destined to fight and kill vampires. In her generation, that person is Evaline.

What’s not to love?
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