Young Adult


The first book in a planned YA fantasy series. Can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2015

Publisher: Creativity Hacker Press

Format: ebook
Page count in GoodReads: 203

Merrick is an apprentice to his da, the smith. However, he’s not a good smith’s apprentice. He thinks too slowly and his skills aren’t advancing. He sleeps in the smithy and when a blue-glowing ghost appears in the smithy, Merrick thinks of only defending his da’s place. When the ghost limps outside, Merrick follows. The ghost lures him to the area where wealthier people live. There, Merrick meets two other young men whom the ghost has also brought to this place. They find a buried box and three strange items from inside. Before they find out what they are, they must run away from the Watchstanders. They don’t know what is going on, but they agree to meet the next night, to find out.

This felt like a boys’ adventure novel with three teen boys who suddenly find themselves in the middle of very important and dangerous events. The adults around them are clueless at best, a threat at worst.

Merrick is the main POV character. The two other boys, Tam and Kern, are quite different from him. Tam is an orphan, living on the streets. He’s an excellent thief, curious and quick-witted. He’s also quick to insult others. Kern grew up on a family ship. But it sank, leaving Kern the only survivor. He’s now a baker’s apprentice but resents it. Aboard the ship, he was taught to fight.

The city of Deneigh is described well. It used to be a mighty fortress city, but has since fallen to disrepair. People are moving out of it. At least some of the Watchstanders are corrupt and take up the job so that they can shake people down for money. The second POV character is a young Watch officer who is also the son of the Reeve, the appointed governor of the city. The officer enjoys tormenting people.

This book is a quick and light read. The ending ties up plot threads but it’s clearly meant to lead to a series.

A stand-alone Star Wars book.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Page count: 409
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm

This is set a few years before A New Hope. Leia has just turned sixteen and she’s ready to take on the responsibilities of the heir to the throne of Alderaan. To prove herself, she must go through the three Challenges: of the Mind, of the Body, and the Heart. To get ready for the Challenge of the Body, she joins Pathfinders who practice survival in different places on different planets. She has already been helping her father Bail Organa in his duties as a senator but now she joins the Apprentice Legislature to represent her home planet there. For the Challenge of the Heart, she will take on missions of mercy around galaxy.

But her biggest concern is that she senses a growing rift between her parents and herself. She’s been very close to them but now her father rarely talks with her and her mother, the queen, hosts seemingly endless dinner parties where Leia isn’t welcome. She doesn’t have real friends; her status has always kept her apart from Alderaan youth. But in the Legislature and among the Pathfinders, she meets other youths and one special young man who is also from Alderaan. The young people in the Legislature are from wealthy classes and some of them will become senators. The same people are in the Legislature and the Pathfinders.

Leia knows that the Empire is hurting people and she tries to help in her own way, but she soon realizes that good intentions alone aren’t enough. She also wants to know what her parents are doing and digs into that.

This was a good novel about young Leia. She’s growing to be the fierce woman in the movies. But she’s already thinking of ways to oppose the Empire, in her own way. She makes mistakes; of course, that’s the only way to learn. She must also face her own very privileged life; she knows abstractly that not everyone lives as sheltered life as she has but it’s another thing to really see it. She learns from bitter experience to think of the consequences of her actions. We also get to see more of Alderaan’s culture.

I liked Leia’s romance interest but of course I knew it was doomed from the beginning. As far as I know, the character hasn’t appeared anywhere else.

The book has several references to the prequel movies and introduces one character in their youth who appears in the Last Jedi. We know, of course, what the Organas were doing. I had the impression that Leia was involved with the Rebellion from early age, rather than her parents trying to hide everything from her, though.

We got a couple of scenes with Grand Moff Tarkin and he steals every scene. I also through enjoyed Mon Mothma in the few scenes she had. I would have loved to see Tarkin and Mothma meet!

I mostly enjoyed the book but it does take liberties with Leia’s youth.

The first book in a YA fantasy trilogy, Abhorsen.

Publication year: 1995
Finnish publication year: 2004
Format: Print
Translator: Kaisa Kattelus
Page count: 389
Finnish publisher: WSOY

Sabriel is the only child of Abhorsen, the necromancer whose mission is to put the dead to rest. Because in the Old Kingdom, the dead can’t rest unless someone performs the necessary rites for them. Otherwise, they threaten the living.

But Sabriel has grown up on Anceltierre, on the other side of the Wall. Magic starts to fade the further away you go from the Wall and most people don’t who don’t live near the Wall don’t even believe in magic. Instead, they have technology which in turn doesn’t work in the Old Kingdom. Sabriel has grown in a boarding school. Her father comes to see her a couple of times a year in person; also during full moons he can send his spirit self (dunno what that was in English).

Sabriel is now eighteen and thinking of going to university. She has powers that allows her to sense the dead and see dead spirits. She can also cross over to Death and return. She thinks that going further away from the Wall would make her powers disappear. She’s the only one in her school who has such powers, so she thinks it would be a good thing. The boarding school does teach a little bit of magic, though, but not necromancy.

But then her father sends a dead spirit to her as a messenger. It brings Sabriel a sword and the nine bells which are her father’s tools. She knows that he’s in terrible trouble, maybe even dead. She packs what she can and heads to the Old Kingdom where the dead roam. However, a terrible enemy stalks her.

This was surprisingly intense and fun read. Sabriel is a smart and determined main character. She quickly realizes that there are a lot of things she doesn’t know and she does her best to learn. She’s also compassionate and does her best to help people. We explore the Old Kingdom along with her. There wasn’t much character developed, though.

The magic in this world is pretty complex. There’s Charter magic which is “good” or at least something that respectable people use and then there’s wild magic which includes necromancy. Only Abhorsen and Sabriel use both.

However, I didn’t care for the romance which seems obligatory, at best, and I also don’t care for plots where the people close to the MC simply don’t tell her stuff. Abhorsen wasn’t just careless, he was stupid to keep his daughter in the dark. The POV jumps were distracting, at times. Sabriel was the main POV character but sometimes we got small passages from other characters’ POV.

Overall, I liked this and will get the next one when the libraries open.

The first book in the Stan Lee’s Alliances superhero series.

Publication year: 2019
Format: Audio
Running time:11 hours 47 minutes
Narrator: Yara Shahidi

Nia is the loneliest girl in the world. She lives with her father in the middle of nowhere. Her father is the only person she’s ever seen. He schools her in a room where holograms can create anything. Nia wants to go out, to meet other people, and see other places. But he insists that the world outside is too dangerous and keeps her inside all the time. However, he allows her to have an internet connection and she has lots of internet friends on her social media accounts. But she doesn’t feel any real connection with them. So, she plans to escape.

Cameron Ackerson wants to be a YouTube star but his account has only 16 followers. So, he’s taking his boat right into the heart of a storm. But inside the storm, a lighting hits him. He survives and in the hospital he realizes that he has strange powers: he can connect with any computer without touching it.

Now, he’s famous as the lighting bolt survivor. He can also beat any game without really trying. But one day, he meets Nia, a girl who is just as good with computers as he is. Nia captivates him and he wants to spend more and more time with her.

Cameron’s father was a software engineer but he vanished years ago.

Juaquo is Cameron’s best friend. His mom died recently and he hasn’t been the same. When Cameron’s dad disappeared, Juaquo was there for Cameron, but Cameron hasn’t been able to do that same to Juaquo. Cameron feels guilty about it.

The story is told through multiple POV characters, mostly Nia and Cameron but also others. It’s told in present tense. The last third is much more action packed than the rest of the story.

I’m a Marvel fan so I was eager to get my hands on Stan Lee’s last creation. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. However, it was mostly an entertaining adventure but people who like YA romance would probably like it more.

This is a story of loneliness and trying to connect with others. It’s also about how internet supposedly brings us together but also divides us. The main characters are teenagers who are having their first crush and that takes over about half of the book. The bad guys include a mysterious government organization and an alien from another planet who takes over a human body.

I really enjoyed the narration. It fit the story very well. The audiobook has also music in the beginning of chapters and also to highlight the more dramatic moments.

Part of the young adult Starfleet Academy series for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Publication year: 1996
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 104

This little book is aimed at younger readers. Geordi LaForge and William Riker are first-year cadets at the Starfleet Academy. Geordi is a roadie and mechanic for the Starfleet Academy Band. The Band’s trombonist has just quit the Academy without an explanation and the band’s frantically searching for another because in just a week, they’re going to participate in an intergalactic competition on Pacifica. Will Riker auditions and get the position. At first, he’s very happy but the older cadets start hazing him and he has hard time accepting that. Geordi is the only friend he makes in the band.

The Band heads to Pacifica but after the competition they’re kidnapped and plunged into a war zone.

This was a strange little story. The first half focuses on the Band and it’s very light, mostly about bullying Riker has to endure, but the second half is much darker because it’s set in the middle of a war zone. However, even their actions during the war are somewhat ridiculous. Geordi seems quite somber and focused on his work trying to find a way to make an alien musical instrument to work. Riker quickly picks up a grudge against the band members who do practical jokes on him and he tries to flirt with the female cadets.

Only for die-hard ST:TNG fans.

A stand-alone mystery book in the popular YA series.

Publication year: 1989
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 150

This was a nostalgic read. When I was quite young, I read a lot of mysteries aimed at young readers, such as Nancy Drew and Hardy boys along with some series translated from Swedish such as the Detective Twins. But I always read them in translation. So, this is actually the first Nancy Drew book I read in English. This turned out to be part of the Nancy Drew files series aimed at slightly older readers. It’s supposed have romance, as well, but (happily) not in this book. I think the Finnish translations are from the other series.

Jesse Slade is a rock star who vanished three years ago. Paula’s best friend Bess is still a huge fan and when his final concert is shown on tv, she invites Nancy and George to watch it, too. Nancy see something startling: a body falling off a cliff on the background. Bess manages to get them invited to Los Angeles with the cable music TV station, TVR, which aired that last concert. Nancy persuades the manager to let her investigate Slade’s disappearance. The manager only agrees if Nancy goes undercover. She agrees. However, when she starts work, the people at the station are mysteriously hostile towards her.

This is a rather convoluted mystery for such a short book. Nancy and her friends get to know a little bit of the rock TV station’s life.

Nancy is a good role model for girls: eager for adventure and to see justice and goodness to win, happy to help people but she and her adventures don’t question the the American culture they’re set in. Her father is also clearly quite wealthy. Bess and George are her loyal friends who are always with her. George is a tomboy while Bess loves make-up and clothes. We don’t get to know the side characters much.

No doubt this is an exciting adventure to the intended audience, especially those who are interested in (US) rock TV stations.

The last page of the book has a synopsis for Nancy’s next adventure.

The first book in a steampunk series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Publisher: HarperCollins
Page count: 322

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy aboard the luxury airship Aurora which travels from Lionsgate City, US, to Australia. He loves his job and dreams of being a sailmaker, like is father was. His father worked aboard the Aurora before he died in an accident. Matt is restless on the ground; only aboard an airship can he feel truly alive and also close to his father.

One night, he sees a balloonist nearby. He doesn’t answer any hails, so Matt volunteers for a daring rescue hundreds of miles up in the air. The old balloonist is in a really bad shape but right before he dies, he manages to tell Matt about beautiful creatures in the air. Matt hasn’t seen such things and thinks the balloonist is raving.

A year later, young lady Kate de Vries comes on board the Aurora. She happens to be the old balloonist’s granddaughter and she’s determined to prove that the strange air creatures are real. Matt likes her and he wants to help her. But then the air pirates raid the Aurora.

When I got this book, I didn’t realize it was YA. Matt and Kate are both quite young, even though not children anymore. The nice side effect is that the book has very minimal courtship romance elements.

The captain has promised Matt that he’ll be made a junior sailmaker when an opening comes. However, when a position opens up, it’s goes to another: the son of one of the owners of the air ship line. Matt is bitter but continues his work. He doesn’t really like the passengers because his dream is to work on Aurora and someday, maybe, command it. The passengers aren’t interested in the ship and just want a smooth ride which should be as short as possible.

However, Kate is inquisitive and curious. She wants to know about the ship and that really wins Matt over. Of course, Matt is poor, and Kate is rich, so they both know that nothing can come of their relationship. Also, Matt starts to get jealous of Kate pretty soon. Kate’s chaperone Miss Simpkins is a hilarious figure: she’s dramatic and commanding but also likes to sleep quite a lot. However, Kate is very determined to get what she wants and somewhat spoiled, too.

The story focuses on exploration and adventure which are both things I like quite a lot. It’s quite straight-forward story with a little bit of commentary on the women’s station (especially young women) and the divides between the wealthy and the poor. But mostly adventure.

It doesn’t end in a cliffhanger.

The first in a humorous fairytale series aimed at younger readers.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Running time: 6 hours and 9 minutes
Narrator: L. J. Ganser

The parents of Sabrina and Daphne Grimm vanished without a trace about a year and a half ago. The orphanage has sent them to a couple of families who turned out to be rotten. Now, an elderly woman has sent for them, claiming to be their grandmother. However, Sabrina knows that they don’t have any living relatives, their father said so. So, 11-year-old Sabrina is determined to keep her guard up and escape with her younger sister as soon as possible.

But Granny Grimm seems like a cheerful person willing to feed them very well, even though she is somewhat odd at first. But soon Sabrina starts to think the Granny’s insane. For one thing, she thinks that giants are real and that she’s some kind of detective. Sabrina is more determined than ever to be the voice of reason in this madness.

Then there’s Mr. Canis, a tall and thin old man who helps take care of the strange house Grandma Grimm lives in.

In this book, fairy tales are real, or at least some version of them. Fairytale characters (called Everafters) are also real but they’re confined to one town. The Grimm family is kind of sheriff types to them. Magic is also real. The characters aren’t just confined to fairytales, though. However, most of the Everafters are pretty unpleasant characters, even those who should be nice. For example, Mayor Charming continually verbally abuses everyone around him, unless he’s fishing for votes. Also, this book is quite reminiscent of the Fables comics. The foster care system is presented as pretty much a criminal system where children are abused, more or less systematically.

It takes a long time for Sabrina to accept that people aren’t lying to her and at first she tries to furiously deny it all, like, you know, a sane modern person would do. I liked her stubborn streak a lot. She’s also determined to protect Daphne and be “strong” for her, which is a lot of responsibility for a girl who is almost twelve.

Daphne accepts everything far quicker, too, quickly in Sabrina’s opinion. Daphne has a lot sweeter personality than her sister.

This is a fun and funny book. Unfortunately, there are some glaring holes in the background. But this is apparently the first in a series of books, so maybe they’ll be explained at some point.

Quotes:
“New York City is a place where everyone lived on top of each other, and that was exactly how Sabrina liked it. Living out in the middle of nowhere was dangerous and suspicious.”

A stand-alone fantasy book set in post-Apocalyptic Australia.

Publication year: 2016
Format: epub ebook
Page count: 194
Publisher: The Hive

I got the ebook in exchange for an honest review. Once I realized this was YA, I had some misgivings but in the end I had nothing to worry about. S. C. Flynn is a fellow blogger.

Couple of decades ago a brain disease called the Great Madness swept the globe. It made almost all people violent and they killed each other. It wiped out civilization, leaving a few survivors struggling for existence. They quickly divided to the City People, who live in the crumbling cities and try to bring back the old technology and the way of life which lead into the civilization collapsing in the first place, and people in the Settlements where they live free of tech and even destroying any tech they find. When the survivors started to get children, those kids go through a Change which gives them special powers. However, some the kids come out of the Change just wanting to destroy and kill; they’re called Ferals and the others banish them into the wilderness or kill them. So, people are at first afraid of the kids who come out of the Change. In the Change, the kid falls into a coma and his or her mind travels to the Changelands. They rarely talk about their experiences there, even to each other and never to the adults who haven’t experienced it. Any injury they get in the dream state is real.

Narrah and Arika are 13-year old twins. They’re born to a small Settlement in Australia and are now near their Change. They’ve tried to find out as much as they can about the Change but haven’t succeeded. Only three kids have gone through it before in their village. One has gone Feral, one was kidnapped by the City People, and one doesn’t talk anymore. Because Narrah and Arika are twins, they have a special connection: the Path will allows them to know each other’s feelings and thoughts even from a distance. They’re also orphans and witnessed their parents’ murder.

The book starts when Arika’s Change begins. She falls into a coma and goes into the Changeland where she encounters strange and dangerous visions. She sees the world before the Great Madness and is chased by a blood-thirsty enemy. Eventually, she manages to call her twin briefly to the Changeland to help her. Narrah is very worried about her but the elders convince him to leave Arika in the care of their foster mother and do his chores. One of those chores is destroying a metal tower from the old days. Narrah and a couple of other men go and bring it down. But then they’re attacked and the City People kidnap Narrah.

Narrah and Arika are the two POV characters and we follow their paths in real life and in the dream world. They’re both very resourceful and brave people but they’re also very young. They’re anxious about each other and want to find their own place in the world. Oh, and there’s no romance or love triangles in the book, which was great.

The book has several scenes in the Changeland which is a weird place. It follows dream logic and not natural laws. Of course, the real world is a dangerous place with Ferals that roam in packs wanting human flesh and supposedly sane people wanting to exploit other humans.

I didn’t really care for the ending and I had some quibbles about the enemy, but that’s just my weird taste.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed the book. Siblings are still rather rare choice for protagonists and both Australia and the dream world were interesting settings.

A fairy tale for all ages.

Publication year: 2011
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2013
Translator: Sarianna Silvonen
Illustrator: Ana Juan
Format: print
Page count: 339
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Gummerus

September is a 12-year-old girl and she lives in Omaha with her mother who is an engineer. Her fa-ther is away because he’s a soldier. One day, Green Wind invites September to Fairyland and she accepts. She rides Green Wind’s leopard to Fairyland where she will find new friends but also strange adventures.

This is a delightful, highly imaginative, and charming tale but it could be at times rather scary for young readers. Still, I think it’s well worth a read. It has a narrator who remains nameless but who is eager to please the reader.

I really enjoyed the characters, especially the wyvern “A through L” who thinks his father is a li-brary. He is named after the encyclopedia entries he read and knows by heart.

Quotes:
“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.”

“When you are born,” the golem said softly, “your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk, and crusty things, and dirt, and fear, and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you’re half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it’s so grunged up with living. So every once in awhile, you have to scrub it up and get the works going, or else you’ll never be brave again.”

“Shoes are funny beasts. You think they’re just clothes, but really, they’re alive. They want things. Fancy ones with gems want to go to balls, big boots want to go to work, slippers want to dance. Or sleep. Shoes make the path you’re on. Change your shoes, change your path.”

“When little ones say they want to go home, they almost never mean it. They mean they are tired of this particular game and would like to start another.”

“It is true that novelists are shameless and obey no decent law, and they are not to be trusted on any account, but some Mysteries even they must honor.”

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