Category: 14 and up

The Gathering, by Kelley Armstrong

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I’ve liked some of Armstrong’s earlier books, but this YA didn’t work for me at all. Our protagonist is 16, but seems much younger, plot twists are signaled way ahead of time, and it feels too much like stronger books, including Shiver, the Mercy Thompson series, and Morganville Vampires. The book ends on a cliffhanger, but I won’t be continuing the series. Okay for 14 and up (though that’s not a guarantee that later books won’t skew older).

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Hamilton: the Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter

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This wonderful coffee-table book is for both fans of the Broadway musical Hamilton, and for those who don’t get it or haven’t spent time with the lyrics. The “Hamiltome” tells two stories, one of the play’s journey from conception to development to joyous opening night and beyond. The other tells the story of the play through its lyrics, annotated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, lyricist, and creator of the show.

It is in the annotations where the real nuggets lie for those who are as swept away by Miranda’s genius as I am. For those annotations cover which scene is tough for him to act, where many of his theatre and hip-hop references stem from, which internal rhyme scheme he loves the most, along with many other tidbits that deepen the theatrical love affair that so many of us have with the man and the show. A treasure.

 

Chasing Power, by Sarah Beth Durst

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This present-day YA took me quite a while to get into, but perseverance pays off. Sixteen-year-old Kayla is telekinetic, and uses her power (against her mother’s wishes), to steal money and valuables out of retail stores. But when a cute boy suddenly notices what she is doing, she is pulled into an epic quest that will challenge truths she has known all her life. A good read for ages 14 and up.

Cleopatra’s Daughter, by Michelle Moran

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This historical fiction is a fascinating look into the worlds of Egypt and Rome and the height of their power, but it feels like a strange cross between YA and adult literature. The prose seems targeted at a YA audience, and our lead character goes from age 10 to age 15 during the book. Yet much of the story is understandably bleak and violent, as were humanity’s short brutal lives in the era. We spend time in the vicious Circus Maximum, watch slaves being crucified, discuss abandoned infants eaten by wolves, and assorted other period horrors. So I’m guessing the targeted age is high school – maybe 14 and up.

That said, we root for Selene and her brother to overcome the tragedy that has scarred their lives, and the period detail is immersive and fascinating. If this is your interest area, I recommend it.

The Foundling, by Georgette Heyer

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Another of Heyer’s lovely tales, this one an adventure. The Duke of Sale is an unassuming 24-year-old who chafes under the strictures of his overbearing guardian and devoted servants, who seem to think he is still the child who caught cold too easily. So when he has the chance to solve a problem on his own, out from under the weight of his title, he jumps at it, leading to an almost madcap journey into the countryside, where Gilly finds out who he is as a man and not just a duke. A delightful read, filled with memorable characters and a hint of romance. Great fun for 14 and up, if they don’t mind the Austenesque prose.

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling

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NO SPOILERS. Wow, I have missed Rowling’s twisty mind. This wonderful play (in four acts) is more intricate than any return to Potter I could possibly imagine. It takes the established canon for the books and deepens it so that you won’t read the original novels the same way again. Simply lovely. We get to spend time with familiar characters (welcome and unwelcome), and we get to know wonderful new characters that I fell slowly in love with.

Without giving anything away, this play is just as plot-driven as the original books, and it’s steeped in the magic we expect from Rowling. As a theatre person, I had fun trying to figure out how the original production could have created some of the special effects required. I’d also like to say how wonderful it is for Rowling’s work to expose people to reading plays for pleasure. This one is a joy.

Beauvallet, by Georgette Heyer

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I love Georgette Heyer’s books, and this Elizabethan-era novel of a swashbuckling pirate and a fiery senorita is filled with adventure, romance, and period slang. (“You ruffler!”). Beauvallet routinely laughs in the face of death, and his journey across Spain (where he is a wanted man) to claim the love of his life is filled with nail-biting tension. This one is a joy to read, and suitable for 14 and up, if the reader can tackle 90-year-old, Austen-inspired prose.

The Immortal Heights, by Sherry Thomas

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It was a treat to finally finish this wonderful young adult fantasy trilogy. Despite the prophecies foretelling his death, the 17-year-old Master of the Domain and his beloved, the elemental mage Iolanthe, have continued their efforts to overthrow the Bane, an evil mage and tyrant. But though they have made progress, the worst is yet to come, and they never know who they can trust.

This fitting end to an epic, globe-spanning saga features romance, extraordinary feats of magic, and heart-stopping suspense. Recommended for 14 and up due to all of the above, and a wonderful, down-to-earth heroine. SMALL SPOILER: There is discreet, off-stage intimacy between our leads, which didn’t bother me since it wasn’t the focus of the story and because it wasn’t portrayed as any sort of obvious culmination of teen true love, as so many books do.

A School for Brides, by Patrice Kindl

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Another delightfully droll entry in Kindl’s Keeping the Castle series. This one works well as a stand-alone or a sequel, as it focuses on a finishing school in deepest Yorkshire. While most of the young women there plan to marry well, there are really no eligible men in the village of Lesser Hoo. The quantity of new characters introduced here can be overwhelming, but Kindl’s helpful listing of characters in the front of the book served to help me keep the young ladies distinct from each other. Fans of the first novel expecting a repeat of Keeping the Castle may be disappointed at the change of pace, but taken on its own, the novel is quite enjoyable, and I was a particular fan of the enormous dog that plays a key role. Fun for 14 and up.