Young adult

Staff picks

 
 
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EVERY FALLING STAR

Sungju Lee

 A fast-paced action-packed story that reads like a dystopian novel but is in fact a memoir of a young North Korean boy. When Sungju is twelve his upper class family is banished from the capital to the north and is forced to live in hardship. Sungju’s parents both leave to find food, promising to return but do not. Left to fend for himself, Sungju forms a gang and becomes a thief to survive. The boys face death every day by starvation, rival gangs, torture and even execution. The reader learns much about the difficulties of life in North Korea Sometimes it’s hard to believe this story is true.

-Carole

 
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THE SECRETS OF BLUEBERRIES, BROTHERS, MOOSE & ME

Sara Nickerson

Twelve-year-old Missy and her older brother get a summer job picking blueberries at a local farm. Missy is looking for a distraction because her two best friends are away at camp and her father is getting married. She is not a fan of change and wants life back like it used to be. There are many surprises in store for Missy and soon she learns some very special things about life and herself. You will definitely want a bowl of blueberries to nibble on as you read the wonderful descriptions of the blueberry fields.

-Ann

 
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ELeANOR & PARK

Rainbow Rowell

Two misfits who sit together on the bus become friends through comic books and music. Over the course of a year they also experience first love. He comes from a loving family and hers is terribly dysfunctional. It is a well-written story about love, trust, and loss. There is some strong language so it is more suitable for mature readers.

-Ann

 
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Dark Energy

Robinson Wells

Aliens have crash-landed in Minnesota! Seventeen-year-old Alice’s father is a NASA director assigned to investigate. Alice is forced to relocate from Florida and enroll at Minnetonka Boarding School for the Gifted and Talented. This book doesn’t trivialize the tragic event and the fact that there are aliens to deal with. But it manages to keep a light tone through Alice, the narrator. She’s a rich kid but she has her heart and a sassy sense of humor. Two human-like aliens are assigned to the school to help interrogate the refugees. Alice and her new academically brilliant friends are welcoming to the two. All goes well until a second fleet arrives.

-Carole

 
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Hour of the bees

Lindsay Edgar

Twelve-year-old Carolina has never embraced her Mexican heritage but that begins to change when she meets her grandfather for the first time. The family is preparing to move him from his sheep ranch to a home for people with dementia. Interspersed with the action is a magical story of a lake, a tree, immortality, and, of course, bees. The line between fantasy and fiction becomes enchantingly blurred. Great for fans of Tuck Everlasting and Esperanza Rising.

-Carole

 
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All rise for the honorable perry t. cook

Leslie Connor

Perry Cook is  11-years-old and has lived his entire life at the Blue River Correctional Facility in Surprise, Nebraska where his Mom is an inmate. Warden Daugherty is responsible for allowing Perry and his Mom to be together. Everything changes when the District Attorney Mr. Van Leer finds out about it. Perry is forced to move in with the Van Leer family until his Mom’s parole. Perry is an extremely likeable character who looks for the good in everyone and ends each day by making note of the positive things that happened - his “wins.” There’s no doom and gloom here or harsh lessons to be learned. This is a story filled with optimism and hope, the importance of family and what home really means. 
   Ages 8-12

-Carole

 
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MY NAME IS NOT FRIDAY

John Walter

Samuel is a good boy living with his younger brother in an orphanage during the Civil War. He is captured, renamed Friday and sold as a slave to a Mississippi cotton plantation owner. Friday discovers that the slaves are forbidden to read and write so he sets about teaching them. Although he cares deeply for his new friends he never forgets his brother and when he sees a chance to escape he takes it. This novel is filled with great characters, and is a good introduction to the Civil War and Slavery. There are scenes of violence but also many uplifting ones. I was reminded of Twelve Years a Slave but this book is targeted to a younger audience. 
     Ages 12 -16

-Carole

 
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SIX OF CROWS

Leigh Bardugo

 A spin-off from the Grisha Trilogy, but it’s not necessary to read those first. The novel opens in the bustling harbor city of Ketterdam, populated with wealthy merchants, gang bosses, and thieves. Trade is a thriving business, legitimate or otherwise with rival gangs vying for the most profitable deals. This is a heist story. The main character, Kaz is hired to break into the most secure prison in the world to free a magician/scientist who has a secret formula for a magical super-drug. He can’t do it alone so recruits five other gang members each with their own unique skill. All the characters are fully fleshed-out and have interesting back-stories. The plot is told from the point of view of each one. Many things do not go according to plan along the way. This is no light-hearted romp but is dangerously exciting. You’ll be holding your breath and rooting for the team to succeed.
     Ages 12 & up

-Carole

 
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GOING WHERE IT'S DARK

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Buck is a seventh-grader who has a great passion for exploring caves. The excitement of discovering new things down in the cool recesses of a cave makes him feel free and helps him forget that he is often the target of bullying at school due to his stuttering. But there is one problem. Buck’s caving partner and best friend David has moved away. And the cardinal rule of caving is: Never go alone. One day, Buck happens to come upon a hole in the earth. . .a potential cave. A quick but foolish trip down into the initial chamber confirms his suspicions that indeed he may have found something really great; a cave no one knows about and no caver has yet explored! Both boys and girls will enjoy this story; not only for the excitement but also for the lessons it holds.
     Ages 10 & up

-Nancy

 
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THE GREAT GOOD SUMMER

Liz Garton Scanlon

Twelve-year-old Ivy Green’s summer is off to a very bad start when her mother runs off to the Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle, Florida with a preacher named Hallelujah Dave. Ivy’s friend Paul Dobbs is not enjoying his summer break either. The Space Shuttle Program has been closed down and his lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut has been crushed. The two of them come up with a plan to find Ivy’s mama and make a detour to Cape Canaveral to say good-bye to the shuttle. Ivy is a no-nonsense kind of girl who says exactly what she thinks and Paul is practical and scientific in his ways. Their journey has mishaps and dangers and you will laugh and cry along the way. 
     If you liked Winn-Dixie you’ll love this one. 
     Ages 8-12

-Carole

 
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FISH IN A TREE

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally covers up her inability to read by acting up and getting sent to the principal’s office regularly. She has been able to fool her various teachers over the years because her family moves often due to her father being in the military. In walks Mr. Daniels, her new teacher, who picks up on her intelligence as well as her inability to read. This books deals with how difficult it is to not fit in, as well as how three friends who are bullied bond and form a strong friendship. I love the quote in the front jacket: “Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” I highly recommend this book. 
     Ages 10 and up 

-Ann

 
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We Were Liars

E. Lockhart 

I read this one in an afternoon. I kept thinking I would only read one more chapter but the chapters were short and I couldn’t put it down. The books is written from the voice of Cadence and what went horribly wrong that wonderful summer. When you finish reading this book, you will keep thinking about the clues you missed. The book touches on prejudice, power, greed, and the truth that family dysfunction and drama does not exclude the wealthy and privileged. 
     Grades 9 and up

–Ann 

 
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THE MOUSE WITH THE QUESTION MARK TAIL

Richard Peck

Award-winning author Richard Peck brings us a charming tale about Mouse Minor. As a mouse of questionable descent, he scraps constantly with "mice of merit and rodents of rank." On the eve of Queen Victoria's 60-year Jubilee we learn about the nobility and their twin mice, who are forever only a whisker away. The story ends, of course, with a question mark. This is a new chapter book that will delight any reader, but especially those in the 8-12 year old group. 

-Sandy

 
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ONE AND ONLY IVAN

Katherine Applegate

Ivan is a gorilla at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade and rarely misses or even remembers life before there. He is friends with Stella (elephant) and Bob (stray dog). To increase dwindling profits, the owner buys Ruby – a young elephant. Ruby becomes attached to Stella and the others but misses her birth family. Stella asks Ivan to promise her something and Ivan agrees. He worries however, that he will not be able to keep his promise to Stella until he gets an idea while painting and seeing the world through Ruby’s eye. . .This is a truly heartwarming story for any animal lover. 
       Ages 8 & up

-Ann

 
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THE LEMONADE WAR

Jacqueline Davier

Fourth-grade Evan is good with people but not so much with academics. Second-grade Jessie (his sister) is good with math but struggles with understanding people. They get along until a letter arrives in the mail. Now begins the lemonade war! Each competes with the other to make the most profit in the remaining days before school. Filled with many great business tips and even math problems, this book will keep you turning pages to see what happens next.
     Ages 9 & up

-Ann

 
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LIAR & SPY

Rebecca Stead

Seventh-grader Georges’s life seems to be heading downhill fast. His architect father has lost his job due to the economic crash, his parents have had to sell the family house and move to an apartment building, and to make matters worse, Georges has become the target of two bullies at his middle school. One day, a mysterious note on a door in the building’s basement announces a meeting of the “Spy Club.” This turns out to be the ticket to a grand adventure filled with quirky characters and a good-sized dose of mystery. As things progress, Georges will find that sometimes there can be a thin line between deception and truth. Throw in a few surprises at the end, and you have a very satisfying read!
     Grade level: 4th & up

-Nancy

 
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THE FALSE PRINCE

Jennifer Nielsen

Can a book be mysterious, riveting and fun all at the same time? This is all those things and more! Sage is a street-smart orphan who is suddenly plucked from his familiar life of hand-to-mouth existence by a passing nobleman who has ulterior motives for wanting a boy who can be trained to impersonate the kingdom’s murdered prince. Three boys are found who resemble the prince, but only one will successfully make it through the training to be presented at court as the real heir to the throne. . . the other two boys will die. The farther the training progresses, the more apparent it becomes that deceit and treachery are just the tip of the iceberg, and Sage is caught in a trap far more urgent and important than anyone could imagine. An absolute page-turner, with a second installment coming in March of 2013. The story continues!
     Grade level: 7th & up

-Nancy

 
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SHELTER

Harlan Coben

Mickey Bolitar’s dad has died in a car crash and his mom is in rehab.  And if dealing with a new school and living with his Uncle Myron isn’t enough, his new girlfriend Ashley disappears.  He sets out to discover a maze of secrets, deceit and shocking events that will make him question what is real – both about Ashley and his own father. This is a scary. twisting and turning mystery that I couldn’t put down! Thank goodness there is a sequel. Mature Themes. 
     Ages 15 & up

-Judi

 
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13 GIFTS

Wendy Mass

Wendy Mass does it again! The third in the series that includes 11 Birthdays and 12. Finally, this new one features a girl who is stuck with her cousin’s family for the summer. Little does she realize that she is in for a wild time that includes new friends, a baffling mystery, and a lesson that she won’t soon forget. Add a good dash of humor and you will not want to put this one down. 

-Judi

 
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THE CABINET OF EARTHS

Anne Nesbet

Maya and little brother James have arrived in Paris with their parents. Right away Maya begins to sense that there is something strange going on, and she is right in the middle of it. Her investigations reveal a beautiful cabinet, a very old man, an enchanted house and a sinister underground, which enhances some people’s lives and sucks the life out of unfortunate victims. Can she stop the madness or will she become imprisoned by it?

-Judi

 
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AND BOTH WERE YOUNG

Madeline L'engle

Philipa Hunter, or Flip, has been whisked away to a boarding school in Switzerland. Feeling abandoned and out of place, she adjusts poorly until she meets Paul. He becomes her friend and confidante, and eventually her struggles lessen. But Paul has a dark secret, and in an effort to help him, Flip puts herself in a dangerous situation. Self-awareness, intrigue and first love combine to make a satisfying read. 

-Judi

 
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THE SEARCH FOR WOndlA

Tony Diterlizzi

From the creator of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” comes a delightfully original story that combines old-fashioned story-telling with exciting new fantasy. Eva Nine is a 12-year-old girl raised underground by a robot and is intensely curious about humans and the outside world. When a marauder destroys the Sanctuary where she lives, she has no choice but to adventure into the exciting unknown!

-Hannah

 
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THE MAZE RUNNER

James Dashner

Thomas wakes up to discover his memory is gone and he is among a group of teenage boys in The Maze, a terrifying, controlled environment with mile-high walls and evil creatures that lurk in darkness. It’s a race against time as they desperately try to solve the mystery of the maze in the hope to escape with their lives. 

-Hannah

 
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THE SCORCH TRIALS

James Dashner

The Maze was only the beginning. . . and the survivors now find themselves in a more desperate world than ever! Thomas and his friends are at the mercy of WICKED, a mysterious organization of scientists bent on testing them to their limits. A great book 2 in The Maze Runner Trilogy. 

-Hannah

 
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THEODORE BOONE: KID LAWYER (SERIES)

John Gresham

Thirteen-year-old Theo has everything going for him. His parents allow him a closet office in the back of their law firm where he counsels his friends through a range of legal issues, from divorcing parents, custody, and even illegal immigration. Suddenly, he finds himself in the middle of a murder trial holding crucial information. Full of intrigue and suspense, the surprise ending leads us to believe that we have not heard the last from Theo!

-Sandy

 
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THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA

Tom Angleberger

Dwight is the school weirdo. When he comes into school with a talking, advice-giving origami Yoda on his finger, Dwight becomes an instant celebrity! This story is unique. Read this, you must. Laugh you will!

-Judi

 
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MOCKINGBIRD

Kathryn Erskine

Caitlin sees everything in black and white; her world is much easier to figure out that way. Her brother Devon was her chief helper and support, but now that he is dead, she must help herself and her father find “closure.” As a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, she finds everyday tasks difficult, but is determined to “work on it.” Seeing the world through Caitlin’s eyes will inspire the reader to also find the empathy that Caitlin discovered.

-Judi

 
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A NORTHERN LIGHT

Jennifer Donnelly

A riveting based-on-a-true-story mystery is mixed with an engaging coming-of-age tale, with a little romance thrown in. Mattie Gokey is 16 when she finds herself motherless, poor, working at the Glenmore Hotel, and in the center of a grim murder plot. Ages 14 & up.

-Judi

 
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WHEN YOU REACH ME

Rebecca Stead

What do “The $20,000 Pyramid,” a sandwich shop, a kid named Sid, and time travel have to do with growing up in 1979 New York? Find out in Stead’s expertly crafted tale of sixth grade Miranda, who finds herself in the center of an interesting predicament. What sounds like a hodge-podge of a tale (part mystery, part coming-of-age, part science fiction) combines effortlessly into one of the best “indescribable” books I’ve read in a long time. Winner of the Newbery Award for 2010, this highly deserving book is great read for adults and kids alike.

-Jessica

 
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PEAK

Roland Smith

In this high-altitude adventure, 14-year-old Peak Marcello's passion for climbing is clearly in the genes, but when he is arrested for scaling tall buildings, his mom and stepdad ship him to his father in the Himalayas where he has the chance to become the youngest person to ever scale Mount Everest. A well-crafted plot and exotic setting give the novel great appeal to survival adventure fans.

-Lynn

 
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11 BIRTHDAYS

Wendy Mass

Amanda isn’t looking forward to her 11th birthday, especially since her ex-life-long-friend Leo is having the very cool party that same day. Oh well, it’ll be over soon, right? NOT! Repeating a really good day might be great, but repeating this crummy birthday 11 times??  What’s going on?! This turns out to be a weird, funny and heart-warming wild ride!!

-Judi

 
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THE WHITE GIRAFFE

Lauren St. John

When Martine loses her parents in a tragic accident, she is shipped off to Africa to live with her grandmother on a wildlife preserve. She learns about the mythical & secretive White Giraffe. Join Martine on her exciting but dangerous mission to uncover the truth. A lovely, fanciful tale for ages 8 & up. 

-Judi

 
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DOLPHIN SONG

Lauren St. John

In this sequel to St. John’s White Giraffe, Martine’s class takes a field trip off the coast of Africa. There Martine falls in love with the gentle spirit and beautiful ways of the dolphins. When a storm ravages their boat, Martine and her classmates become castaways on a supposedly desert island. Now they face a sinister plot while fighting for their own survival. This book celebrates loyalty, resourcefulness, and the wondrous relationship between humans and animals. 

-Judi

 
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THE LAST LEOPARD

Lauren St. John

Martine discovers more of her destiny in this wonderful third book in the White Giraffe series. On her summer vacation, Martine finds herself in Zimbabwe on a desperate mission to save a rare leopard believed to be the key to finding an ancient treasure. Pitted against unscrupulous treasure seekers and poachers, she and her best friend Ben must rely on their bush skills as well as their friendship to save the day.

-Judi

 
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NOBODY'S PRINCESS

Esther Friesner

Although she is destined to become Queen of Sparta, Helen is not your typical Princess. She prefers sword-play to embroidery, and longs for the kind of adventures that boys are allowed to do. How can she escape the confines of palace walls to follow her heart? This historical fiction explores the life of the young Helen of Troy. Ages 12 & up

-Judi