Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
Coming out, coming of age, unrequited love – it’s hard to cover new ground in teen lit these days. But Ellen Wittlinger has managed to do just that, shedding humorous and sparkling light on a relationship between two teens that may not be what they expected but undoubtedly gives them something they hadn’t even known to hope for. John and Marisol will stick with you for a long time after the last page of this book is turned.
Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins
The premise of this book is clever enough to attract readers and it truly delivers on the concept. Kiriel is a demon – a real one, meaning that he lives in hell and torments the damned. To escape the pointlessness of his job, he steals a body to inhabit with the intention of taking a short vacation. It’s not long before Kiriel discovers that there is a lot more to being ‘alive’ than just the physical experience of it and, while often amusing and certainly unique, Kiriel’s adventure shows that life isn’t just fun and games either.
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
It’s bad enough that Virginia Shreves feels like an outsider at her school but she also feels like a glaring failure in her own family where everyone but her is a thin, well-adjusted (supposedly!) over-achiever impossible to live up to. It turns out, though, that her family members, and her older brother particularly, are not quite the superior beings Virginia and everyone else believed them to be. While the fat girl scenario has been done before (and this was an early and continues to be one of the best contributions to the field, published in 2003) and will certainly be done again, the message cannot be repeated too often. No matter why a person feels inferior to others, the feeling is REAL to them and the journey to escape those dark places is both difficult and essential. Carolyn Mackler is also the co-author – with Jay Asher – of the bestseller The Future of Us.
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Gemma has been kidnapped from a Bangkok airport and taken by her captor to the Australian outback. She tells her story as if addressing Ty, her kidnapper. Does it matter that Ty is handsome? Does it matter that he’s had a difficult childhood, could be considered a kind of victim himself? Does it matter that he cares deeply about Gemma and expects her to return the feelings, that he is also deeply connected to the stark but beautiful place he’s brought her and resents those who would destroy it for personal gain? Does any of that change what he’s done? Readers will have to decide for themselves.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (ALL FOUR BOOKS!) by Patricia C. Wrede
This series includes the books Dealing with Dragons (1), Searching for Dragons (2), Calling on Dragons (3), and Talking to Dragons (4.) Princess Cimorene refuses to fulfill all expectations of what a princess should be and how one should act. She is bored to the point where she actually seeks out a dragon, would rather keep house for Kazul and battle wicked antagonists than live the life for which she was destined. But like Cimorene herself, these books refuse to fulfill conventional expectations of the typical dragon-infused girl-centered fantasy tale. They are, instead, filled with adventure and excitement (and moderately well-hidden fairy tale references) while taking a highly entertaining farcical tone about the nature of the events themselves.
The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin
The subtitle for this book is ‘A True Story of Adventure, Heroism and Treachery,’ and that pretty much says it all. If we know the name Benedict Arnold, it is as a traitor to the American Revolution, a villain eventually executed for his crimes. As in all of human history, though, no story has just one side. And while it would be hard to deny that Arnold was a power-thirsty man who became his own worst enemy, this is a fascinating treatment of how a person gets from here to there, how both circumstances and personality combine to create our most memorable historic events. Sheinkin is also the author of the 2012 Newbery Honor Book, Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, another very worthwhile read.