Hey YA, why you gotta be so shady? We all know young adult books don’t shy away from darker subjects, but our favorite section of the bookstore seems to be a little obsessed with shadows.
Source: A Very Shadowy YA Reading List
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Summary:The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball.
Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?
Review:What if the Axis had won World War 2?
It’s a scary question to contemplate. Most historians concede that it was, at some point or another, possible. Alternative history is a genre composed of educated guesswork and speculation. That’s what Ryan Graudin bases this novel on. That and a little dose of the mythical.
Wolf By Wolf is a clever and impressive combination of alternate history and fantasy. Ryan Graudin clearly did a lot of research, yet it never feels like a history lesson – only one girl’s thrilling attempt to seek revenge on those who destroyed her life. Yael is a brave and intelligent heroine, and one I was supporting all the way. She has five tattooed wolves, each one a memory of someone she has lost. To enter the race, Yael alters her appearance to mimic blonde-haired, blue-eyed Adele Wolfe, the only previous female Victor. I loved discovering Yael’s past and the story behind each of the wolves. Wolf By Wolf seamlessly moves between the Yael’s heartbreaking backstory as a frightened young girl to her exhilarating and dangerous present as she pretends to be Germany’s most famous female rider.
The author has said that this book, at its heart, is about identity. What makes people who they are? The color of their skin? The blood in their veins? I love that she gave her main character the ability to skinshift as a way to confront this dilemma. No matter who Yael impersonated, what her outward appearance, she was still the same girl. The same girl who’s world was torn apart and never really put back together completely. I loved that through it all, Yael never lost who she was in the way that mattered, though she feared that she had lost herself long ago when her ability to skinshift led to her forgetting her true appearance. But after all, that’s not what matters. The author did a beautiful job of reinforcing that all people are created equal, despite race, despite gender, despite everything.
As the race progressed, I was on edge to discover whether Yael would complete her mission, especially as she began to develop relationships with her fellow riders, and make enemies of some. Wolf By Wolf throws us into the dusty path of a stunning, fast-paced and well-written journey. All I wanted to do upon finishing was tell other people about it. Even if you’re not usually into contemporary historical fiction or fantasy, this will be one book that a lot of people will be talking about this autumn, so don’t miss out.
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Summary:Jack, 12, tells the gripping story of Joseph, 14, who joins his family as a foster child. Damaged in prison, Joseph wants nothing more than to find his baby daughter, Jupiter, whom he has never seen. When Joseph has begun to believe he’ll have a future, he is confronted by demons from his past that force a tragic sacrifice.
Review:Orbiting Jupiter is quiet and simple for the most part, which makes it all the more devastating when the blows come. And come they do. Schmidt has a way of effortlessly drawing out emotions in every scene, without ever making you feel like you’re being manipulated. This quiet sadness is more effective than any drama I could read.
The story is narrated by Jack, the 12 year old son of foster parents. When 14 year old Joseph joins their family, his life is changed in many ways and not all of them are good. It actually tells two stories – on the one hand, it’s about the power of friendship and *sob* “having someone’s back”, on the other, it’s about Joseph’s backstory. I’m not sure which one elicited the greatest emotional response from me.
It made me sad and even angry at times. Joseph is a 14 year old parent to a baby called Jupiter. Both naive and mature, all he wants is to be with his baby and love her. You understand why being with Joseph is not in Jupiter’s best interests, whilst also being heartbroken for him. Especially after learning of his abusive, loveless upbringing.
The author’s decision to narrate from Jack’s POV gives the novel even more strength. We are not clouded by Joseph’s blind love for his baby, but we do also see how powerless children are. We feel their frustrations and sadness.
Beautiful and devastating. Don’t miss this one, but get tissue for the inevitable sobbing. I recommend this to everyone who enjoys contemporary YA/Middle Grade.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
Summary:My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
Summary:The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives.