Tag Archives: YA

Librarians Recommend: First Test

Katie Recommends: First Test by Tamora Pierce
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(Why two covers? Because we have gloomy, scary looking one at the library, but it is a horrible cover, so have the original as well.)

Ten years after knighthood training was opened to both males and females, no girl has been brave enough to try. But knighthood is Keladry’s one true desire, and so she steps forward to put herself to the test.


Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces one roadblock that seems insurmountable: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on a probationary trial period that no male page has ever had to endure. Further set apart from her fellow trainees, Kel’s path to knighthood is now that much harder. But she is determined to try, and she’s making friends in the most unlikely places.
This book was published in 1999, but it is as relevant today as it was then. Kel’s a girl just trying to do what she loves, even though everyone keeps telling her she’s not suited for it. She has allies who support her from the start, but they are few and far between and often tend to exhibit bigotry of their own, even without being aware of it. It’s the microagressions that Pierce really nails, with people unconsciously treating Kel differently, even without trying. And Kel often not knowing if she should be mad about special treatment she’s given, or grateful.

Then there’s Kel as a character. She’s stubborn and selfless and so innocent. When Lord Wyldon speaks of her distracting the male students with her presence, she has no idea what he means. Her general lack emotional awareness is coupled with a ridiculous command of physical arts, often something she uses to protect people smaller and/or weaker than her considerable height and stature. She’s a hero in the quietest, truest sense of the term. Her series, starting with First Test, is a pleasure to read.

Tamora Pierce, for those who don’t know her, is a titan of the Fantasy YA world. Many of her books are available through our Overdrive.

Kel’s Story (aka The Protector of the Small Quartet) is all available in audio format on our Overdrive:

First Test



Lady Knight

The first book is also in our collection at the library.

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Gateway to YA

Interested in branching out to YA? Not sure where to start? Here are a couple of recommendations from our collection.

Do you like Historic Fiction?
Try The Book Thief by Marcus Zusack


The story of Liesel–a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, through WWII.




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Give YA Books a Chance

Young Adult Literature (abbreviated YA) is technically literature aimed at teens, usually from about middle school up through high school. Some famous titles of the genre have been turned into movies you may have heard of, like the Hunger Games, the Maze Runner, and the Harry Potter series.

But YA as a genre consists of much more than dystopias and magic schools. There are plenty of fantastical and science fiction-based stories, yes, but there is also historical fiction, romance, and just plain fiction. In fact, the book often credited with creating the idea of “young adult” fiction, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, has no fantastical elements whatsoever:

The Outsiders is about two weeks in the life of a 14-year-old boy. The novel tells the story of Ponyboy Curtis and his struggles with right and wrong in a society in which he believes that he is an outsider.


Fun fact: this was also made into a movie. With Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise.

Ponyboy’s story deals with issues of class and poverty, of gang violence, and even of what it means to be a man. These are not the simple ideas outlined in classic fairy tales, or even earlier fiction aimed at children, but complex concepts that are just as relevant to adults.

Such universal themes continue in YA today. Take Maggie Stiefvater‘s The Raven Boys, an often humorous book delving into the mystery of a long dead king that also tackles problems of economic class, privilege, and abuse. Or Patrick Ness‘s A Monster Calls, which explores all the stages of grief. These books speak to more than just the age group they’re meant for. And they do so in the easily accessible, often incredibly lyrical language of a book ostensibly meant for younger readers.

YA also has the advantage of being one of the most diverse genres around in terms of not only characters, but also authors. For instance, it is one of the very few genres where more women submit manuscripts to publishers than men.  Massive online communities drawn to the genre have also supported movements like We Need Diverse Books and Disability in Kidlit, bringing visibility and support to diverse stories within the genre. There’s so much to explore, that a person can spend years just beginning to get into YA.

And in an increasingly busy world, these complex yet accessible stories are often a ready escape from the tyranny we face every day in America. Sometimes you need a story about a guy who can read characters out of books into the real world or a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join a pirate crew or a bunch of troubled teens who set out to pull off an impossible heist. Maybe you just want a sappy romance or a family drama or a lyrical mystery with a twist. Whatever you want, there’s probably a YA for it. And chances are it will be an engaging read that will take you much less time to get through than the average adult fare.

At RML, we are currently working to expand our YA collection to include more newer works. If you’re curious, come in and try one of the many titles hyperlinked in this piece (we own all of those titles in hard copy), or talk to one of our librarians for a recommendation. You never know, you may find a new favorite book among the YA stacks.

YA is worth your time. But don’t just take my word for it:

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers: In Defense of YA (video)

In Defense of Reading Young Adult Literature as a Grown Up (article)

Why I read YA (article)

9 Reasons Why Reading YA is Books is Good for Adults too (article)

Grownups: You Can Read YA, and Why not read it with your kids? (article)

Look Homeward, Reader: A Not-So-Young Audience for Young Adult Books (article)

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Audiobook Recommendations

Narrators either make or break an audiobook. If you’ve only ever had bad luck with audio, try some of these readers to get you out of that rut:

Robin Miles
Listening to Miles is like listening to a full cast recording – every character has a different accent, a different tone of voice. Her reading is so rich that it can be hard to turn her audiobooks off.

Some of the books she narrates:

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Will Patton
Not every guy can read female characters in a way that sounds realistic, but Patton can definitely pull it off, even for characters singing nonsense songs. He’s got a surprisingly varied catalog of works, too, so there’s something for anyone trying to get into the genre.

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Jim Dale
The man best known for bringing the Harry Potter books to audio, Jim Dale is one of the titans of YA audiobooks. While he might not be as versitile as the above readers, he has a lovely voice, and his style feels very much like story hour at your local library or school If you’re a YA addict, or are just looking for some lighter, more action-packed books to add to your day, give his work a try.

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All of the books listed are available through the Green Mountain Library Consortium. Each book cover above is linked to its download page.  Just sign in under the Russell Memorial Library with your FULL card number to borrow the audiobooks, (if they haven’t already been checked out by someone else):

Russell Library Number: XXX
FULL Library Card Number (for use online): 2v6td000000XXX

For more details on why you have two different library card numbers, see our Audio and E-Books tab.

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Page to Screen

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

In Theatres: November 17th

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Why yes, that is Oprah on the cover.

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death.

This is the story of her, her family, and the cells that changed modern medicine as we know it.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

This is their story.

In theaters: Now!

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Genre Feature: Verse Novels

Did you know that there are entire novels written in poetic verse? Like so many poems, they tend read quick but carry quite the emotional punch.

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton


“So, I have to know,” he says, “what are you?”
But just because he has to know doesn’t mean I have to tell him anything.

It’s 1969, and the Apollo 11 mission is getting ready to go to the moon. But for half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, moving to a predominantly white Vermont town is enough to make her feel alien. And even though teachers and neighbors balk at her mixed-race family and her refusals to conform, Mimi’s dreams of becoming an astronaut never fade—no matter how many times she’s told no.

Written by a Middlebury College Alumn!



Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse


And I know now that all the time I was trying to get
out of the dust,
the fact is,
what I am,
I am because of the dust.
And what I am is good enough.
Even for me.

Billie Jo is just a fourteen year old farm girl trying to survive unspeakable loss while living in the dust bowl during the Great Depression.

Hesse currently lives in Vermont!




brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson


Even the silence 
has a story to tell you. 
Just listen. Listen.

Growing up both in her Grandparents’ South Carolina and her mother’s New York City, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. This is the true story of how she grew up in limbo between the two places, and how she discovered she wanted to be a writer no matter how hard it was for her to read.





Love that Dog / Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech


when you are trying 
not to think about something
it keeps popping back in your head
you can’t help it
you think about it
think about it
think about it
until your brain
feels like
a squashed pea.

Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won’t stop giving her class poetry assignments — and Jack can’t avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say.

Especially about the dog he loves that isn’t with him anymore. And that stupid cat his parents got him afterwards.

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

movie.jpgYou ever laughed so hard
nobody in the world could hurt you for a minute,
no matter what they tried to do to you? 

Fourteen-year-old LaVaughn is determined to go to college–she just needs the money to get there.

When she answers a babysitting ad, LaVaughn meets Jolly, a seventeen-year-old single mother with two kids by different fathers. As she helps Jolly make lemonade out of the lemons her life has given her, LaVaughn learns some lessons outside the classroom.

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Review Round Up – Six of Crows


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Watch the book trailer here.

#1 New York Times Bestseller
USA Today Bestseller
New York Times Notable Book of 2015

Yeah, we’re a little late to the party on this one, but it’s in the library now, and one of our librarians will not stop pushing it everyone’s faces. Is it really as good as she claims, though?

NPR praises the skill with which Bardugo crafts her heist, expounding upon her cleverly handled characters and impressive world building, but comments that her characters seem a bit too mature for their 17 years, with one of them sounding more like a 50-year-old hardened criminal than a teenager.

Disability in Kidlit praises depictions of PTSD and physical disability in the book, while noting the lack of time spent with the queer characters and queer romances in comparison to their straight counterparts.

In her BookTube review, gingerreadslainey praises how well-rounded the book is, giving the character and world and plot equal weight and development, and drawing on real world research extensively to craft a world so real that it made her want to jump in and join it.

Entertainment Weekly generally enjoyed the page-turning qualities of the story, but struggled to get through the first chapter of exposition and into the story itself.

What do you think? Ready to grab our copy of this book (and its sequel) and give it a go? Think it sounds too low-brow for you? Tell us in the comments below.

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