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By Joseph Conrad

9780486264646Joseph Conrad was a Polish-born sailor who became a British citizen in 1886 at the age of 29. In 1890 he served as commander on a ship bound for Congo, an experience that fulfilled a long-held dream of his but also wreaked havoc on his physical and mental health. It was this trip that eight years later provided the inspiration for his most famous work, a novella called “Heart of Darkness.”

“Heart of Darkness” is primarily the monologue of a sailor named Marlow, a battle-worn skeptic with a gift for storytelling. It is the tale of Marlow’s journey up the Congo River as the captain of a riverboat for a European trade company. In spite of his doctor’s mysterious references to the detrimental effects of Africa on a man’s sanity, Marlow forges on with his adventure.
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By Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

Eve_and_AdamNobody’s perfect. Yet despite our own physical and social shortcomings, we often fantasize, especially when we are younger, of meeting the guy or girl of our dreams, someone that could almost be tailor-made to our specific tastes. But what if you could handpick your ideal soulmate? What if the technology existed that would enable you to design your perfect person? Would your choices ultimately satisfy you, or would you perhaps discover that who you thought you wanted wasn’t actually right for you after all?

Eve is really not actively looking for Mr. Right. She is too busy trying to keep her grades up and help her best friend, Aislin, maintain an even keel in her tumultuous romantic adventures. But an accident changes everything. Whisked away from the hospital, despite the objections of her doctor, to the private medical facilities within her mother’s company, Spiker Biopharmaceuticals, Eve is given the task during her recovery of designing the perfect boy.
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By Bonnie S. Calhoun

9780800723767Selah Rishon Chavez is nearly 18 and longing to prove herself to her family. Where she lives -- a dystopian future United States, sometime after a period referred to as "the Sorrows" -- many people survive by hunting . . . not just animals, but other people. Every now and then a stranger called a "Lander" shows up on the shore, and if these Landers can be captured and sold, they bring great profit. Selah is determined to bag one herself, and show her father and brothers that she's worthy to be a hunter.

But the Lander whom she finds turns out to be much more than she bargained for. The young man who stumbles ashore, Bodhi Locke, is quite capable of defending himself against her. More than that, he saves her from an attack by some local boys. Selah finds herself both intrigued by him and concerned for him -- and soon comes to identify with him much more closely than she ever wanted to. For when she wakes up the day after their meeting, the same mark that was on Bodhi's forehead -- the mark that all Landers bear -- has appeared below her own collarbone. Read More >
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E. Lockhart's novel won in the YA category with nearly 34,000 votes. In case you missed it, John Roper's review of the book for Youth Reads is here!

Also, in the YA Fantasy & Science Fiction category, Cassandra Clare's "City of Heavenly Fire" was the winner. I reviewed the first part of that series here.
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We're doing something a little different this year for our suggested list of Christmas books to buy for your kids:

You're going to make the list! Click below to find out how. Read More >
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By Leslye Walton

ava_lavenderTo many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth—deep down, I always did. I was just a girl.”

Given such a well-written and tantalizing beginning, one naturally expects much from the story to come. Perhaps a literary masterpiece like “To Kill a Mockingbird” is about to be revealed or, at the very least, an angst-driven teen novel on the level of “The Outsiders” but with a modern fantasy backdrop. Unfortunately, while “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” by Leslye Walton exhibits many of the hallmarks of an emerging classic, its true power remains muted by the politically correct immorality of our times.
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By Diana Peterfreund

seaAcross a Star-Swept Sea” is a reimagining of the classic French Revolution tale “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” set in a distant but recognizable dystopian future. After a devastating event called the Reduction, a brain disorder that sparked wars between the two imagined countries of Albion and Galatea, revolution reigns supreme, and aristos are tried and tortured under the auspices of the regs.

There is one saving grace in the guise of the Wild Poppy, who twists the breathtaking technology of the spheres and saves the innocent. The Wild Poppy and her elaborate spy ring are the brainchild of the gorgeous aristo Persis Blake, modeled after the Pimpernel. Persis constructs a narrative full of elaborate hairstyles and a passion for luxurious silks and careful tailoring to distract from her real work. The legendary Persis Flake narratives are genius-level satires of tabloid journalism, and recall the “They Seek Him Here” poetry of the original Pimpernel.

“Star-Swept Sea” is the second in a series known as For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund. (The first was a reimagining of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.”) What Peterfreund does well in both books is to honor the classic stories she’s retelling, even while transposing them to the dystopian world so popular with teenagers. Read More >
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By Katherine Howe

Conversion(Note: This review contains some spoilers.)

Salem Village, Massachusetts, 1706. Ann Putnam has come to Reverend Green's house to make a confession. Many years before, Ann played a part in a major deception with terrible consequences, and now her conscience will not let her rest. "I am so alone," she tells us in her narration. "Even God has turned His face from me."

Danvers, Massachusetts, 2012. Colleen Rowley is a student at St. Joan's, a prestigious and highly competitive prep school for girls. She's so focused on getting into Harvard that she can hardly think about anything else. But even Colleen can't help but notice when a classmate suffers a bizarre seizure one morning -- and then when more and more students start to fall prey to a mysterious, debilitating illness.

In Katherine Howe's novel "Conversion," Ann and Colleen take turns telling their stories, and we soon begin to see just how they closely they parallel each other. Not only do both girls live in the same place -- Danvers was once known as Salem Village -- but both of them are caught up in an odd, widespread phenomenon that no one can fully understand. Read More >
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By Daphne du Maurier

rebecca“What’s in a name?” William Shakespeare famously queried—a pertinent question when dealing with a book bearing a single name as its title. In the case of the name “Rebecca,” the meaning has to do with tying and binding, even captivating. This etymology was doubtless known to Daphne du Maurier when she used it as the title of her bestselling 1938 novel.

The story is told in flashback, narrated by a shy, insignificant young woman of uncertain origins. Her name, in stark contrast to Rebecca’s, is never even mentioned. When the tale begins, she is employed as a companion to a wealthy lady on vacation in Europe. In the course of their travels they cross paths with Maxim de Winter, a widower who owns a famous English estate called Manderly.
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By Amy Clipston

9780310736691Destination Unknown by Christian writer Amy Clipston is a contemporary teen novel about Whitney Richards, who is in her final year of high school and struggling to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

After her callous boyfriend, Brent, breaks up with her on Valentine’s Day, Whitney is surprised that she is more angry at his insensitivity than upset about the breakup. On the same day, she finds out she got a D on her last calculus test, which causes her mother to panic about Whitney’s grade point average and losing her acceptance to Kentwood University, the prestigious school her mother attended. Whitney is forced to take tutoring sessions from Taylor Martinez, a boy from the wrong side of town who rides a motorcycle and has never run in the same social circles—the best social circles—as Whitney.
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By James Dashner

91h7wNd9PSL(Note: This review contains major spoilers.)

A teenage boy wakes up in an elevator, surrounded by darkness. He remembers nothing except that his name is Thomas. The elevator carries him up to a group of boys who live in a huge courtyard called the Glade, surrounded by a maze with giant stone walls that move at night.

So begins “The Maze Runner,” James Dashner’s 2009 Young Adult bestseller. The book was the first in a highly successful trilogy that also included “The Scorch Trials” and “The Death Cure,” and was followed by a prequel, “The Kill Order.” Now it’s become the basis for a new movie from 20th Century Fox, starring Dylan O’Brien.
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It's now much easier to search for a particular book review on Youth Reads! The menu bar at the top of this page now has tabs for "Genres," "Reviewers," and "Authors"; click on the tab you want to find direct links arranged accordingly. Additionally, each review now has genre tags (they're the ones starting with "Literature," i.e., "Literature -- Sci-fi/fantasy," or "Literature -- Classic"). If you're reading a book review, you can click on these tags to find more books in the same genres.

Many thanks to Valen Caldwell and Shane Morris for doing the hard work to make this happen!
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