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Young Adult Literature--Stand Alone Reading Recommendations

Submitted for your approval, the Series Zealot presents her reading selections and recommendations. Title, author and annotation written for your information and improvement. Further aficionados might want to check out the Series Zealot's Author's Page.

Dr. Franklin's Island by Ann Halam--Based on H.G. Well's The Island of Dr. Moreau, Halam's novel takes cues from both the survival and science fiction genres. When, following a plane crash, teenaged environmentalist Semi is stranded on what she believes to be a deserted island with two other teen survivors, the discovery of the island's inhabitants leads them to further estrangement.

The Cross by Day, the Mezuzzah by Night by Deborah Spector Siegel--Set in Spain during the 15th century, Siegel illustrates the persecution of the Jews during the time of the Inquisition. Secretly practicing Jewish conversos are captured and questioned by the Catholic government; punishment for following the forbidden faith is death by burning termed an auto de fe.

Straydog by Kathe Koja--High school outcast Rachel finds dubious comfort volunteering at the local animal shelter, where she finds herself identifying with a doomed stray dog. Told as a first person narrative, the events of the story are interspersed with Rachel's own writing; the essay Rachel composes about the stray mutt she calls Grrl is a poignant revelation of her own feelings as a "stray".

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares--When four friends must separate for the summer, a pair of thrift-store-purchased jeans is passed among them through the mail. The "traveling pants", a pair of denims each girl wears to advantage, becomes a conduit for the girls' individual growth, as well as a symbol of their friendship.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor--Don't let the dorky cover fool you--Bloor's Tangerine is a sophisticated and rich young adult novel. Paul, the legally blind goalie on his school's soccer team, has always been the runner up for his family's attention. A move to Florida to better his brother's chances for athletic success leads Paul to discover hidden truths about his family and himself.

Stephen Fair by Tim Wynne-Jones--Disturbing nightmares haunt Stephen, leading him to question their meaning and examine what he knows of his past. Rich, natural descriptions enhance this novel of family secrets and self-discovery.

Close to a Killer by Marsha Qualey--A murder mystery centered around Barrie Dupree's mom's Hair Salon, Killer Looks, the staff of which is comprised of ex-cons. When two of the salon's wealthy clients are killed, local police and even Barrie herself begin to suspect the supposedly rehabilited stylists.

Spider's Voice by Gloria Skurzynski--Told from the point of view of a mute adolescent rescued from a medieval freak show by a popular instructor and intellectual, the story of the 12th century romance of Abelard and Eloise is given new voice in this remarkable work of historical fiction.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky--A year in the life of fifteen-year-old Charlie, who writes anonymous letters to an acquaintence in this coming-of-age narrative. Early nineties memories of life as a high school outcast are sharply drawn against a soundtrack of Smiths songs and a backdrop of drinking, drugs and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Girl by Blake Nelson--Anthologized in the dearly departed teen magazine, Sassy, the tale of Andrea's interest in and absorption into the Portland, OR underground music scene is a must read for aging scenesters.

Aimee by Mary Beth Miller--Seventeen year old Zoey, recently acquitted of assisting the suicide of her best friend, tries to reconstruct her life in a new town. Emotionally estranged parents and a well-meaning therapist provide little comfort to Zoey, whose recovery following the tragedy is ultimately a solo activity.

Acting Normal by Julia Hoban--Stephanie, an eighteen year old former actress who found success in commercials, re-emerges in public school after a nervous breakdown prompted by the recovery of a long repressed memory. The introspective and sometimes sarcastic narrator finds a friend in Dahlia, a classmate with a penchant for personal drama.

The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci--When Christopher Creed, a local misfit with few redeeming qualities, disappears and is presumed dead, Torey starts to look into the circumstances surrounding Christopher's departure. As Torey investigates, he uncovers semi-scandalous secrets about his small, New Jersey town and begins to believe he may have found Christopher, himself.

Players by Joyce Sweeney--When the talented and ambitious Noah steps onto the basketball court as the newest member of team captain Corey's team, accidents and incidents with the players clear a path for Noah's athletic success. Suspense tempered with sports, Sweeney's novel of dissolving naivete is part mystery, part action.

The Falcon by Jackie French Koller--It doesn't take long to realize that seventeen year old Luke, the narrator of Koller's novel, is somewhat unreliable. His narrative includes a number of accidents that seem to result from his skewed judgment, as well as an incident he seems determined to hide from the reader (text in the novel is actually crossed out in print).

Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser--When Tara was 11 years old, something about the rhyme, "step on a crack, break your mother's back", seized her; she became determined to avoid cracks, suspicious of walking on sidewalks and consumed by counting her steps. The development of her behavior into OCD is sympathetically and realistically chronicled in Hesser's novel of the heartbreak and difficulty of mental illness.