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Books for Teens, Tweens

May 3, 2010
Amy Phelps

Fairy tales meet a Lemony Snicket vibe in “Out of the Woods” by Lyn Gardner with illustrations by Mini Grey (David Fickling Books, $17.99).

The Eden sisters are targeted by a witch in this story. While their father is out searching for the legendary Honey Dragon, the three sisters are left on their own. Deciding to go to a “Fun Fair” that advertises “special rates and free candy-floss for unaccompanied children, orphans and almost orphans and those of exceptional beauty,” the girls meet the strange Belladonna who claims to be their new stepmother. But she seems a little too obsessed with Aurora’s beauty (and perhaps her heart) and Storm’s magical, musical pipe. The girls must meet many perils, a trip to the Underworld, and witches who like kids (in pies) for a chance at their happily ever after.

This is a fun series that twists fairy tales and a bit of sarcasm into a great page turner. It is for ages 8 to 12.


A good series that blends magic and adventure for boys is “Barnaby Grimes: Legion of the Dead” by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell (David Fickling Books, $16.99).

Barnaby Grimes is a messenger in Dickensian times, called a tick-tock boy who roams the rooftops on errands, getting into trouble along the way. One of his errands is to deliver finger-chains for a headstone bell. People are worried about being buried alive, but perhaps they should be more worried of the dead rising - there appears to be an outbreak of zombies! Not only does Barnaby have the undead to face, there’s also paying respects at a Gangland funeral, an encounter with a sea monster and perhaps the gatekeeper to the underworld. It’s just an ordinary day for the infamous tick-tock lad!

The New York Times bestselling team brings a page-turning adventure series to life with many colorful characters and plot twists along the way. It is for ages 8 to 12.


For sports-loving kids, two new books showcase soccer and baseball. In “Breakaway by Andrea Montalbano (Philomel, $16.99) a girl excels on the soccer field, but not so much off of it. Lily “L.J.” is starting to get a big head about her prowess on the field and the possibility of a scout coming to see her play that its affecting everyone around her. She’s beginning to throw fits on the field, and even her coach doesn’t like what he’s seeing from her. And her selfish behavior is starting to slide over into her family life too. It’s when she befriends one of her teammates that is used to sitting on the bench, Tabitha, and she ends up suspended that L.J. learns a good lesson about the importance of teamwork. A good story for sporty girls and anyone needing lesson on the importance of working together. It is for ages 9 to 12.


Baseball has to take a backseat to grade in “Roy Morelli Steps Up to the Plate” by Thatcher Heldring (Delacorte Press, $15.99). Roy can’t wait to start high school at Pilchuk and start on the All-Star team. But right now, he has to pass his classes. But he’s distracted by his Dad dating a new woman, Camille, instead of doing ballpractice with him. But when his mom finds out he’s failing history, she freaks out and Roy finds himself not joining the All-Stars, but the rec league instead. And his dad offers to get his new girlfriend to tutor him in history. Meanwhile, Roy has a crush on Valerie, a girl in his history class, who makes it clear she’s not interested,

While he’s trying to get his history grade up and suffering from having to play in the “minor” leagues, is Roy missing the point of it all? Will he find balance in his life? This book shows that while competition can be good, it’s important to not become all about that and to remember to have fun and keeping school just as much of a priority as sports. It is for ages 9 to 12.


A non-sporty boy and his dog get up off the couch and outside in “The Fast and the Furriest” by Andy Behrens (Alfred A. Knopf, $15.99.)

Kevin would rather play video games than anything related to sports, and that includes kickball. But his parents love sports. It isn’t until his dog, Cromwell, takes interest in a dog-agility competition on television, that Kevin gets off the couch and outside to walk the dog. But Cromwell seems to want to train for the agility contests. That leads Kevin to the Paw Patch obedience training school and into the path of Elka, who dresses like a pirate and seems more interested in dogs than people. With the financial help of his best friend, Zach, so Cromwell can take the classes, Kevin’s keeping it a secret, even as he’s forced to join a flag-football team by his dad. But as Kevin learns to have faith in himself and Cromwell, he also learns about the importance of sticking with something. It’s a funny underdog story that will make you laugh and think. It is for ages 8 to 12.


Read about a hall monitor as written like it’s an old-school cop show in “Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol” by Jim Krieg (Razorbill, $15.99.)

Griff has moved to Rampart Middle School after getting kicked off the “force” at his old school (and school). He’s a legend, and not in a good way. The captain of the patrol at his new middle school considers Griff a “loose cannon” and doesn’t want to have to explain his screwball antics to the commissioner, but has lost half of his “force” to high school and is in need of another badge. Even though Griff is known for working alone, he’s partnered with Thomas Rodriguez, a camp scout who plays by the rules. Griffin’s not only saddled with a good-guy partner, he’s got a pretty journalist named Verity King sniffing around and a possible corrupt politician named Marcus Volger to deal with. Just like any good buddy-cop movie, there’s a “high-speed” chase or two, possible expulsion from the force and more than a few criminals.

The best part of this book is the hilarious writing style of taking middle school and turning into the setting for a police show, complete with middle-school problems and vices. It is for ages 9 and up, and older kids will enjoy it.


A girl tries to make sure she never has her heart broken by her ex-boyfriend in “Gimme a Call” by Sarah Mlynowski (Delacorte Press, $17.99.)

Devi is devestated when her boyfriend Bryan breaks up with her. They have spent all of their time together since they got together freshman year - Devi ignored other friends and didn’t do much in school, and now she has nothing. She wishes she could have warned herself before their relationship, and accidentally drops her cell phone in the fountain. Now, the only number her cell phone dials is herself from freshman year!

Devi immediately warns her freshman self not to go out with Bryan. But the younger her desperately wants to and Devi keeps warning her off.  Finally, she does, and Devi’s life in the future changes for the better. What else can they change? Soon, they’re trying to save a friend from an eating disorder, trying to keep another from obssessing about a guy, and getting Devi into the college of her choice through better grades and activities. But in the past, Bryan is still around and even though younger Devi knows he will break their heart, she still thinks he’s nice. Have they stopped the heart break, or have they just put off the inevitable?

This is my new favorite YA book. It’s a great story about having balance in your life, and its message about relationships and how even if they end, they help shape who you are, is a good one. Both Devis are highly relatable characters and ones that you will cheer for. According to a press release, this book has already been optioned by a movie studio and I can see why. It is for ages 12 and up, and I can see alot of older teens and adults enjoying this one.



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