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Teen Read Week 2012: Lesser-Known Favorites

October 18, 2012

It’s Teen Read Week! And yesterday, the brilliant John Green asked his twitter followers “What are your favorite underloved YA novels?” As I have yet to post anything this week, I thought I’d make a list in response. Most of these will be things I’ve included in previous lists, but that’s because I love them so much!

1. The Squire’s Tales series by Gerald Morris – I cannot say enough good things about these books. Each book focuses on a different story from Arthurian legend, and they are full of adventure and humor and richly developed characters. The first book is The Squire’s Tale, about a boy named Terence who becomes squire to Sir Gawain, and who is the protagonist of four of the ten books.

2. The Withern Rise trilogy by Michael Lawrence – A fascinating and complex story of parallel universes. In the first book, A Crack in the Line, Alaric crosses to an alternate reality in which he was born a girl and his (her) mother survived the train crash two years ago. Naia, his female counterpart, has a much happier life than he does, and the temptation to spend more and more time in her world is strong, but could have devastating effects on both worlds.

3. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff – This is an extremely emotionally powerful story of a girl finding her place in the world in the midst of war. When Daisy is sent to stay with her cousins in the English countryside, she feels more displaced than ever, but then England is invaded and she and her cousin are left on their own, struggling to survive and to stay together in the occupied and war-torn country.

4. The Wren series by Sherwood Smith – I was reminded of my love for this series last year when I read the most recent addition, Wren Journeymage. The four-book series starts with Wren to the Rescue, in which the spunky heroine who dreams of becoming a mage discovers that her best friend, Teressa, is actually a princess. When Teressa is kidnapped by an evil magician, it’s up to Wren and her new friends, the smart mage-in-training Tyron and the sweet Prince Connor, to rescue her.

5. The Tomorrow series by John Marsden – A fantastic series about a group of Australian teens who come back from a camping trip to find that their country has been taken over by an invading army. Their families are all being held captive, and the teens decide to fight back, forming their own small, guerrilla army. The seven-book series takes an in-depth, thoughtful look at the effects that the war and their new lifestyle has on the group of friends, and expertly mixes teen drama and romantic elements with gripping action and adventure.

6. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow – Teen hacker Marcus and his friends find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time when San Francisco is attacked by terrorists. After being ruthlessly questioned by the government, Marcus is determined to get revenge by finding ways to thwart all of the new, invasive surveillance measures put in place by the Department of Homeland Security.

7. Hero by Perry Moore – One of my favorite superhero stories. Thom Creed is the son of a famous superhero, but he is keeping a lot of secrets from his father. As if his homosexuality wasn’t enough, now he also has to hide his new-found superpowers, and the fact that he’s been invited to join The League. On top of that, there’s a mysterious masked vigilante who knows all of Thom’s secrets.

8. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier – A richly detailed retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, set in Transylvania. Every month, Jena and her sisters travel through a portal to the Old Kingdom to dance with the fairies and wildwood folk, but when the Night People arrive, Jena worries about their safety, particularly that of her sister Tatiana, who has fallen in love with one of the Night People. Meanwhile, their cousin, Cezar is threatening to tear down the wildwood, and it’s up to Jena and her best friend, an enchanted frog named Gogu, to find a solution to both problems. Full of romance and magic, this is a lovely and satisfying fairy tale adaptation.

9. The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper – This is a classic story of good versus evil, in which Will Stanton is told that he is the youngest of the Old Ones, tasked with keeping the Dark at bay, and he has a crucial role to play in the latest battle between Light and Dark. This is an epic fantasy story that’s been near and dear to my heart for a long time.

10. The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty – Originally published in Australia as Finding Cassie Crazy, this is a story about three friends – Emily, Cassie, and Lydia – who are forced to write to pen pals at a neighboring school, and hilarity, mischief, and romance ensue. It’s part of a series of inter-connected stories, all of which are delightful, but this one is my personal favorite.

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