Rad Reads for Teens

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

A retelling of the Grimm Brothers' tale, Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra of Kildenree lives in luxury but still seems to feels uncomfortable in her skin. As she works with her aunt, she learns that she can speak with and understand animals, unlike her mother who has the gift of people-speaking. Soon, however, her aunt is sent away and then Ani, herself, is sent to Bayern, a neighboring kingdom. She is meant as a bride for the crown prince, as well as a peace-offering, so the kingdoms will not go to war.

On the way there, Selia (her lady-in-waiting) and many of her guards attack Ani and her faithful guards, most of whom are killed. Ani runs and finds shelter in the Bayern forest. She takes the name Isi and bides her time as a goose girl, until she can find a way to reveal that the Princess Ani who has presented herself as the bride is really an imposter. Along the way, she finds true friends, discovers how others live and nurtures another remarkable gift - the ability to speak with the wind.

Be forewarned: There is a surprising amount of violence (including animal cruelty) in this long tale. Yet, the story, the language and the characters all lead the reader on a worthwhile journey where Ani finds that she is a real princess who can be a leader among her people.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher

Mitra and her 5 year-old brother, Babak, are Persian refugees living in the City of the Dead - a series of caves in the cliff that rises above the ancient city of Rhagae. Mitra, who dresses as a boy to escape notice, lives by her wits, stealing food and other necessities as they wait for word of her older brother Suren, who has gone to find out what happened to the rest of their royal family.

Babak has dreams that are often prophetic and Mitra takes advantage of this gift, trying to make their lives in the caves a little easier as well as to raise enough money to get them to Palmyra where she believes her mother is. Instead, she is eventually betrayed to a traveling Magus, Melchior, who has heard of Babak's gift and wants Babak to dream only for him. Melchior takes the two with him in his caravan that is moving westward toward signs he has read in the stars. Eventually, the group meets up with two other Magi, Gaspar and Balthazaar, who are also interested in Babak's dreams and the bright star they are trying to follow.

This interesting tale tells the Christmas story of the three Magi who have read the stars, listened to Babak's dreams and are seeking the new king being born in Bethlehem. Told from Mitra's point of view, it is a beautifully rendered coming-of-age story of a young girl who is struggling to find her family and recapture her home.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

Cammie Morgan is the daughter of the Headmistress at the Gallagher Academy, a school that claims it is for genius girls. But behind it's twelve-foot, ivy-covered walls, Gallagher is really a school for training young female spies. Entering her sophomore year, Cammie and her friends are excited because this is the year that they get to enter Sub-Level 1, the underground rooms where Covert Operations is taught.

Little does Cammie know that soon she will be running the covert operation of her life as she meets Josh, a boy from town and falls for him. To him, Cammie is the child of religious zealots who are homeschooling her. As she tries to balance her two secret lives, while keeping them completely separate, Cammie soon realizes how impossible this task really is!

Filled with action, romance and quite a bit of humor, this light read is perfect, particularly after a grueling required reading assignment.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Aza, the adopted daughter of innkeepers, lives in the Kingdom of Ayortha where beauty and singing are idolized. She has a beautiful voice, but it is in the body of one with skin the color of "skimmed milk," lips that are "as red as a dragon's tongue" and hair that is "as black as an old frying pan." She and her family focus on her talented singing as she works in her family's tavern and inn.

One day, two things happen that will have a major impact on her life. She discovers she has an even greater talent in her voice, the ability to "throw" it anywhere so it appears that it isn't coming from her. She calls this "illusing" and keeps it a secret. Next, she is invited to the Ayorthan court by a visiting duchess, where the King is about to be married to a commoner from a neighboring kingdom.

Reluctantly, Aza goes with the duchess and is soon in situations she is ill-prepared for. She has mixed feelings for the new Queen, who makes her a lady-in-waiting but also makes her illuse the Queen's singing voice so no one will know the she can't sing. Aza also falls in love with the Prince, but doesn't have the confidence that the Prince could return those feelings to someone who looks like she does. And wait until she discovers that the Queen isn't as pretty as she appears! Potions and a magic mirror will contribute to Aza being chased from the castle and threatened with death.

This fast-paced fairy tale retelling has elements from Sleeping Beauty as well as Snow White, with a touch of Cyrano de Bergerac thrown in for good measure. For all readers who enjoy fairy tale retellings, high adventure, young romance or just a really good story.