12 Best Middle Grade and YA Fiction Books I Read in 2013

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, reviewed at Semicolon. What a delight! Navigating Early is just the kind of novel that the Newbery award-givers, who have already awarded Ms. Vanderpool’s first book, Moon Over Manifest, a Newbery Award, would love. And I loved it, too.

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen, reviewed at Semicolon. The Runaway King is just as good as (or better than) the first book in the Ascendancy Trilogy, The False Prince, which was the Cybils award winner last year in the Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category. In Book Two, Prince Jaren has become King Jaron, but his grip on the throne is none too secure. Both the neighboring kingdom of Avenia and the cutthroat Pirates are ready to attack

The Sound of Coaches by Leon Garfield, reviewed at Semicolon. This novel is an oldy-but-goodie, set in the 1700’s, published in the 1970’s. Garfield’s plot and characters and atmosphere owe a lot to Dickens. I was especially reminded of Great Expectations as I read this story of an orphan boy of mysterious parentage who is raised by a common coachman and his wife.

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck, reviewed at Semicolon. I loved that fact that this book is full of repetitive motifs and running gags and just gentle humor. The mouse world itself is delightful to explore. Set down in the secret, hidden pockets of Victorian England where Queen Victoria is about to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee: Sixty Years Upon the Throne, the mice study in schools, sew costumes and uniforms, pledge service to the Queen, and generally keep themselves hidden from but indispensable to humans.

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan, reviewed at Semicolon. Even those of us who have never been persecuted or made to fear for our lives can identify to some extent with Habo, the albino protagonist of this novel, and his search for significance, his desire to see himself as more than just a zero-zero, the Tanzanian term for albinos.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, reviewed at Semicolon. Willow Chance is a twelve year old genius, but that one word isn’t nearly enough to encapsulate her distinctive voice and personality. Willow herself has a Voice that won’t quit. She’s a real person, maybe somewhat autistic, but fully engaged with the world. She gets hit hard by some of the worst stuff a child can go through in this story, but she is indefatigable. Great story, great characters.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, reviewed at Semicolon. This new companion novel to Code Name Verity is about 18-year old American pilot, Rose Justice, who joins the British Air Transport Auxiliary in order to help end the war. The story takes place in England, France, and later, Germany, as Rose’s flying assignments take her closer and closer to danger and destruction.

Orleans by Sherri Smith, reviewed at Semicolon. This apocalyptic YA novel is set in the future, sometime after the year 2025, after seven ferocious hurricanes have pounded the Gulf coast, after those hurricanes and Delta Fever, a deadly virus, have decimated the population, and after the United States has turned itself into two separate countries: the quarantined Delta Coast and the rest of the U.S., The Outer States, with a Wall in between and no travel between the two.

Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar Cake by Joyce Magnin, reviewed at Semicolon. Wilma Sue forms a bond with two rather peculiar and unorthodox missionary sisters, as she tries to figure out just what it is that makes the cakes that Ruth bakes so magical and what gives them healing properties.

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy, reviewed at Semicolon. Prince Liam, Prince Frederic, Prince Duncan, and Prince Gustav are back, and they’re just as klutzy and heroic as they were in the first book in this series, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab, reviewed at Semicolon. This YA novel gave a good picture of a teenager who never really did think much about religion, and her own Catholic tradition in particular, until she was confronted with her older sister, a former nun, for whom the issues of religion and God were all-consuming.

If We Survive by Andrew Klavan, reviewed at Semicolon. High schooler Will Peterson and three friends, along with their youth director from church, go to some unspecified country in Central America to build a school. While they are there, a revolution takes place, and Will and his group are caught up in the violence and politics of the country.

1 thought on “12 Best Middle Grade and YA Fiction Books I Read in 2013

  1. I have a couple Klavan books, but didn’t realize that he wrote YA books as well. I checked out mine, and one IS a YA book. I look forward to it.

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