I’ve enjoyed a lot of really good Young Adult, New Adult and Middle Grade fiction this year. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings. For now here’s a 5-Star round-up to kick-start your holiday shopping for that favorite reader.
DREAMER’S DAUGHTER Book 9 of the Nine Kingdoms by Lynn Kurland Berkley Trade ~ January 2015 ~ 5 Stars
Aisling of Bruadair’s quest to restore her country’s rightful rulers to their throne has been long and difficult. Now, after a lifetime of lies, she’s confronted with an unexpected truth: Bruadair’s salvation may lie within her. But the path to harnessing her newly discovered magical gifts threatens to lead her back through a past that may well spell her death. With his own magic restored, Rùnach of Ceangail has come to terms with the fact that the simple life he once coveted is no longer an option. Instead, he is determined to help Aisling fulfill her quest, even if his part of the bargain includes facing evil mages with power far greater than his own. But once they reach Bruadair, Rùnach and Aisling discover that nothing is as it seems, and not only must they accept their past, they must also embrace their destiny—before the enemies drawing near succeed in extinguishing all the light in the world…
THE MARKED SON Keepers of Life by Shea Berkley Entangled Publishing ~ August 2012 ~ 5 Stars
Seventeen-year-old Dylan Kennedy always knew something was different about him, but until his mother abandoned him in the middle of Oregon with grandparents he’s never met, he had no idea what. When Dylan sees a girl in white in the woods behind his grandparents’ farm, he knows he’s seen her before…in his dreams. He’s felt her fear. Heard her insistence that only he can save her world from an evil lord who uses magic and fear to feed his greed for power. Unable to shake the unearthly pull to Kera, Dylan takes her hand. Either he’s completely insane or he’s about to have the adventure of his life, because where they’re going is full of creatures he’s only read about in horror stories. Worse, the human blood in his veins has Dylan marked for death…
THE TRAGIC AGE by Stephen Metcalf St. Martin’s Press ~ March 2015 ~ 5 Stars
This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.
Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul. With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities. Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It’s the age he’s at. The tragic age.
TWIST by Karen Akins St. Martin’s Griffin ~ April 2015 ~ 5 Stars
Bree Bennis finally has it all—a non-comatose mother, an uber-hot (albeit anachronistic) boyfriend named Finn, and a new-found mission to protect the timeline from those who would skew it for their own gain. But when she leans over one day to smooch said boyfriend, her lips meet those of her arch-nemesis Wyck instead. The timeline has been altered, and Bree is caught in the crosshairs. But when she goes back to repair the damage, she is stopped by none other than her Future Self, who delivers an urgent message: Someone is kidnapping Shifters from the distant past. It’s up to Bree to stop them. But first, she has to figure out who… and why.
To follow the trail of chronocrumbs, Bree reluctantly accepts her new undercover gig as Wyck’s girlfriend. Everything goes spiffy until Finn shows up in the 23rd century on the eager arm of a gorgeous fellow Shifter, Jafney. Even as Bree struggles with jealousy, she battles the nagging dread that Finn might be better off with someone less chronologically complicated. Her worst fear is confirmed when Finn becomes the kidnapper’s next victim. As Bree zeroes in on the culprit, it unravels her life one timeline-change at a time. She realizes that she alone has the power to save herself and everyone she loves. But to do that, she may lose Finn forever.
CAMP PAYBACK by J.K. Rock Spencer Hill Contemporary – April 2014 – 5 Stars
Alex has big plans for camp this year, starting with making it the best summer ever. Having fun and breaking some rules will get her the payback she wants against her parents and her ex-boyfriend. Because of his disgusting texts, she’s headed to a super strict all-girls school in the fall. Then she meets Javier and revenge doesn’t seem nearly as important as getting to know the troubled loner determined to keep a low profile at camp. But Alex’s trouble-magnet personality and Javier’s need to stay in the background don’t mix nearly as well as their irresistible chemistry. With her home life eroding under her feet and her last year of summer camp speeding to a close, Alex wants to make her mark on the world and squeeze every bit of fun out of her time with Javier. Too bad her old plans for revenge turn back on her just in time to ruin everything. Will she lose Javier too?
CAMP FORGET-ME-NOT by J.K. Rock Spencer Hill Contemporary – October 2014 – 5 Stars
Playing it safe and fitting in may have rocketed Kayla West into the “In” crowd at Camp Juniper Point, but it’s left her lonely. The only person she’s ever been herself with was her former best friend, Nick, an outsider that pushed her to join the most popular girls cabin two years ago. Too bad being a Diva meant pressure to break up with Nick. Of course, Kayla had her reasons, but Nick can never know the real one. She always thought she’d forget him one day and move on. Until he returns to camp a super-hot Olympian snowboarder. Now, every girl wants him and Nick seems determined to show her what a mistake she made. Or at least, she thought that’s what he wanted. But when Nick starts sending her private notes–just like he used to–she wonders what kind of game he’s playing. Nick’s attention is making it tougher to stay in the background and play it safe, forcing Kayla to make a decision–stay on the sidelines and get overlooked? Or take a chance on trusting Nick and, maybe… herself.
PRETENDING TO DANCE by Diane Chamberlain St. Martins’ Press – October 2015 ~ 5 Stars
Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can’t have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly’s past and her family–the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison’s Ridge. Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father’s death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?
CLOSER TO THE HEART Book 2 of the Herald Spy by Mercedes Lackey DAW, October 2015 ~ 5 Stars
Mags was a Herald of Valdemar. But he had once lived the brutal life of a child slave. When he was Chosen by his Companion Dallen, his young life was saved, and he slowly adjusted to being well fed, educated, and treasured as a trainee in the Herald’s Collegium at Haven. Singled out by the King’s Own Herald, Mags would thrive in his secret training as a spy. His unusually strong Gift—an ability to Mindspeak and Mindhear anyone, not just others who were Gifted—made him a perfect undercover agent for the king. Sequel to Mercedes Lackey’s Closer to Home, this adventure continues Mags’s journey as Valdemar’s herald spy.
THE GIRL IS TROUBLE by Katherine Miller Haines Roaring Brook Press, July 2012 – 5 Stars
Iris Anderson and her father have finally come to an understanding. Iris is allowed to help out at her Pop’s detective agency as long as she follows his rules and learns from his technique. But when Iris uncovers details about her mother’s supposed suicide, suddenly Iris is thrown headfirst into her most intense and personal case yet.