B4U: Early Young Adult

Chance Fortune and the OutlawsChance Fortune Series by Shane Berryhill
First Book:  Chance Fortune and the Outlaws
Genre:  Sci-fi, Action, with a dash of Norse Mythology
Publication Date:  January 2, 2008
Publisher:  Starscape

What’s Chance of Fortune and the Outlaws about:
For as long as he can remember, fourteen-year-old Joshua Blevins has wanted to be a superhero. He has the brains, the passion, and the heart. There’s only one problem: he doesn’t have any superpowers. But Josh isn’t about to let that stop him.

Determined not to give up on his dream, Josh enlists the aid of his mentor, Captain Fearless, a retired costumed adventurer, to gain entrance to the Burlington Academy for the Superhuman under the false identity of Chance Fortune–a superhuman with the power of having unnaturally good luck.

Masquerading as Chance, Josh rises among the ranks of his fellow students at the Academy, eventually becoming the leader of his own combat team, the Outlaws. Together, Chance and his teammates Psy-Chick, Shocker, Gothika, Space Cadet, Iron Maiden, and Private Justice make new friends, battle new enemies, and ultimately find themselves caught up in a struggle for the fate of the universe. Can Chance and the Outlaws save the universe–AND survive their freshman year?

Our Thoughts:  It is really hard to find superheroes in novel form.  We were really excited when we found this series, and it lived up to our hopes with very vivid action sequences, good narration, and lovable characters.  The world was wonderfully detailed; it felt like there was years of history that we were walking into.  We do need to let you know about the character Gothica who speaks incantations backwards, like Zatanna.  Our father is an avid comic book reader so we have been exposed to the Marvel, DC, and independent universes all our lives, and this series had the feel of the “Golden Age of Comics” without completely loosing its modern edge.  “’Nuff Said!”  Now fellow Chance champions join us next time as we sit on the edge of our seats for the next intoxicating installment of our galvanizing guardians.

 

Gregor the OverlanderThe Underland Chronicles Series by Suzanne Collins
First Book:  Gregor the Overlander
Genre:  Sci-fi, Epic
Publication Date:  September 1, 2003
Publisher:  Scholastic 

What’s Gregor the Overlander about:
In the irresistible first novel by the author of The Hunger Games, a boy embarks on a dangerous quest in order to fulfill his destiny — and find his father.

In the first novel of the New York Times bestselling series by Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, young Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building and hurtles into the dark Underland. This strange world is on the brink of war, and Gregor’s arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland’s uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it — until he realizes it’s the only way to solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance. Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.

Our Thoughts:  We read this book younger than this but missed a lot of nuances that upon rereading it made this series a good deal more interesting.  (Yes, this is the author of the Hunger Games Series which is all we are going to say about that.)  We liked that the main character, Gregor, did the right thing even if he had to be tricked into doing the right thing.  He watched closely over his little sister, Boots, who is the cutest two year old and the brightest light in the whole series.  The family was tight knit, loyal, and never lost faith in each other.  We loved that the series never tears down the parents.  It moves them out of the way without making them ineffectual.  The only warning we feel the need to give is that this series deals with real issues in a very blunt light (and some of us did not like the ending), but we still wish to share this (loosely) Alice in Wonderland inspired novels for you to read and decide for yourselves.

 

Skulduggery PleasantSkulduggery Pleasant Series by Derek Landy
First Book:  Skulduggery Pleasant
Genre:  Action, Fantasy, Comedy
Publication Date:  March 31, 2007
Publisher:  HarperCollins

What’s Skulduggery Pleasant about:
Skulduggery Pleasant; wise cracking detective, powerful magician, master of dirty tricks and burglary (in the name of the greater good, of course), oh yeah, and dead!

Buffy meets Dr Who meets Ghostbusters in this thrilling new book you won’t want to put down!

Stephanie’s uncle Gordon is a writer of horror fiction. But when he dies and leaves her his estate, Stephanie learns that while he may have written horror, it certainly wasn’t fiction.

Pursued by evil forces intent on recovering a mysterious key, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source – the wisecracking skeleton of a dead wizard.

When all hell breaks loose, it’s lucky for Skulduggery that he’s already dead. Though he’s about to discover that being a skeleton doesn’t stop you from being tortured, if the torturer is determined enough. And if there’s anything Skulduggery hates, it’s torture…

Will evil win the day? Will Stephanie and Skulduggery stop bickering long enough to stop it? One thing’s for sure: evil won’t know what’s hit it.

Our Thoughts:  This macabre set of novels is not our usual choice as you can see, but we loved the sarcasm that dripped from the pages, though it was dark.  We liked that the main character was down to earth; and as time went on, the initial slightly star struck quality to her relationship with Skulduggery wore down.  She from then on called him out when he tried to pull anything.  The plot was very good and the action sequences were awesome.  The way they integrated their magic into their fighting was, for lack of a better word, cool.  (Ghastly was a doll!☺)  We don’t generally like villains, but we have to admit that this author actually created a bad guy that we shamelessly really enjoyed.  We loved reading about this rich magical world supposedly hidden right under our nose.

 

The Ruins of GorlanThe Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan
First Book:  The Ruins of Gorlan
Genre:  Fantasy, Adventure
Publication Date:  November 1, 2004
Publisher:  Random House

What’s The Ruins of Gorlan about:
They have always scared him in the past—the Rangers, with their dark cloaksand shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied. . . .

Our Thoughts:  We (and we include our younger brothers in this) all loved this series that was smart, exciting, and a true page turner.  The world that Mr. Flanagan created may parallel our own, but it is different enough and vivid enough that you wish you could make that your home.  It is the reason most of us want to learn archery to this day.  Rangers are the absolute best!  Halt was mysterious, stealthy, in a word, great.  He wasn’t the only character in this series that we liked; Will and Horus, who are the main protagonists, grabbed our attention with the development of their friendship and the adventures that they went on time and time again.  We actually have nothing bad to say about this series and can’t think of anything that would be objectionable.  We hope that you will give this one a try (and while you are at it check out the companion series Brotherband).

 

The Princess in BlackAnything By Shannon Hale
Genres:  Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Slice of Life

Our Thoughts:  This author is one that we like so much that we can’t bring ourselves to choose just one of her multitude of series-es and individual novels that are available to read.  For young readers, she has The Princess in Black and Princess Academy Series (Princess Academy book 1).  The Books of Bayern (The Goose Girl book 1) and Book of a Thousand Days are excellent selections for readers of young adult books.  If you like graphic novels, she even has something for you.  She is writing a series with her husband (and some other dude that is no relation but has the same last name coincidentally); the first book in this group is called Rapunzel’s Revenge.  You are pretty safe with her writing in regards to magic and any other objectionable material.  If she has anything, it is treated similar to what is found in books by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.  These are just some of her books that we have read; she has others (such as Dangerous) that we are itching to read and look forward to more.

 

The Looking Glass WarsThe Looking Glass Wars Trilogy by Frank Beddor
First Book:  The Looking Glass Wars
Genre:  Fantasy
Publication (Reprint) Date:  August 21, 2007
Publisher (Reprint):  Speak

What’s The Looking Glass Wars about:
The Myth: Alice was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carroll in his famous storybook. The Truth: Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss? parents. To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

Our Thoughts:  The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy is a retailing of the Alice in Wonderland stories, yet more gritty and full of action.  I (Dylana) liked the adaptation of the Alice character, Alyss, and that of the Mad Hatter, Hatter Madigan.  Hatter’s “spiky hat Frisbee of death” was truly the neatest weapon ever!  It was quite effective at taking out foes.  He himself was the coolest.  Though the world is dreamlike and bizarre, I could easily envision all that the author intended due to his excellent and in depth description.  This series may be more on the darker side, but it is still a well written and engaging read that I would most definitely recommend.

 

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to FooAnything by Obert Skye
Genres: Fantasy, Comedy

Our Thoughts:  This creative and imaginative author has written several books.  Some of the ones that we have read and enjoyed include the Leven Thump series (Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo book 1) and the Pillage Trilogy (Pillage book 1).  Mr. Skye writes mostly fantasy comedy and has a plethora of fascinating and unique characters that will make you smile.  We like that the main characters in both the above series were diversely different – one was quiet while the other had a sharp tongue; yet, they were still extremely likable.  The familial relationships though not always bad could be complicated.  Simply put, any author that can make you like a toothpick must be a good one.

 

The Cabinet of WondersThe Kronos Chronicles Series by Marie Rutkoski
First Book:  The Cabinet of Wonders
Genre:  Fantasy, Historical
Publication Date: August 2008
Publisher:  Square Fish

What’s The Cabinet of Wonders about:
Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it’s never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hide in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a father in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mind. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world’s finest astronomical clock. Petra’s life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home–blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them. But why? Petra doesn’t know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father’s eyes back. Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father’s clock has powers capable of destroying their world.

Our Thoughts:  We were fascinated to learn that this series is set in 16th century Europe, and parallels our own world’s history with the exception of the use of magic.  The tomboyish and independent young Petra Kronos’s life was suddenly shattered when the evil, evil, evil, evil, evil,…evil Prince of Bohemia stole her father’s eyes, preserved them in a box and placed them in his cabinet of wonders (did we mention that he was evil?).  Gypsies, mechanical spiders, crazy people, and monsters are just a few of the things that you will find in this exciting trilogy that takes you all over the world and back (well, Europe at least).  All of the above are a few of the reasons we enjoyed reading this series and believe that you will too.

 

The Grimm LegacyThe Grimm Legacy Series by Polly Shulman
First Book:  The Grimm Legacy
Genre – Fantasy, Adventure, little bit of Romance
Publication Date:  July 8, 2010
Publisher:  Penguin Group

What’s The Grimm Legacy about:
Elizabeth has just started working as a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository – a lending library of objects, contemporary and historical, common and obscure. And secret, too – for in the repository’s basement lies the Grimm Collection, a room of magical items straight from the Grimm Brother’s fairy tales. But the magic mirrors and seven-league boots and other items are starting to disappear. And before she knows it, she and her fellow pages – handsome Marc, perfect Anjali, and brooding Aaron – are suddenly caught up in an exciting, and dangerous, magical adventure.

Our Thoughts:  Imagine working in a library filled with objects from your favorite fairy-tales and folklore; this is exactly what the characters in this novel have the great fortune to do.  We like that it felt like a fairy-tale itself.  The main character was relatable, like someone you would meet in the real world, and the series was very informative.  It not only shared what fairy-tale an object came from but also its history as regards to that fairy-tale.  We also liked that they had different ways to sense magical objects – one could smell them while another saw the difference because it sparkled in a way.  This is a series that will take you on multiple adventures if you choose to check it out. 😉

 

SavvySavvy Series by Ingrid Law
First Book:  Savvy
Genre:  Adventure, feels like Slice of Life although there are Fantasy aspects
Publication Date:  May 1, 2008
Publisher:  Penguin Group

What’s Savvy about:
For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a “savvy”—a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it’s the eve of Mibs’s big day.

As if waiting weren’t hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs’s birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman’s bus . . . only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up—and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.

Our Thoughts:  In a little space between Kansas and Nebraska (Monday through Wednesday it’s Kansaska and Thursday through Saturday Nebransas) lives a big family with special natural abilities.  Join Mibs (Mississippi Beaumont), in the first book, as she grows into her Savvy and drags her friends on a wild adventure to save her father.  We loved the strong family bond between the entire family, and the lengths they would go for one another.  The author was able in the second book to write about a totally new main character without loosing our interest (with the bonus that she gave us information on the first book’s characters so we felt their story line had a good conclusion).  We also liked that though they had amazing powers the conflict was not resolved by using them.  Their problems were fixed by using ordinary methods.  We enjoyed these two books so much and eagerly (like nail-biting eagerly) await the release of the third book, Switch.  (Which is probably out by the time your reading this, but rest easy knowing that we are fighting amongst each other to see who will get to snuggle up with it first.)

 

Final Thoughts:  We are not including Percy Jackson and Harry Potter because everyone knows about them, but they are a given.  We have found the Young Adult section of our library and bookstore as a great source for books that are slightly “cleaner” than their adult counter parts, but don’t let down your guard completely because even these can contain topics and agendas, or even suggestive content, much like today’s teen programming on television.  However, like everything in this world it is always much better to read the book (or a book ☺).

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