Clean Young Adult Fiction


Winter ShadowsWinter Shadows
Casey Bond
Tate Publishing

The day Claire’s father warned her about has finally arrived. Armed with few provisions, Claire and her father join friends and church members fleeing from government mandated confinement in quarantine camps. At first the camps may have been necessary to prevent a deadly pandemic from decimating the entire population, but surely the threat has passed, and the government may be using fear of this disease to round up the remaining citizens and control them. Determined to live free, Claire’s father has created a living space off the government grid, and he’s taking anyone willing to come along.

At first Claire isn’t too thrilled about leaving her life at home behind, but there seems to be little choice. Despite her apprehension, she throws herself into her new way of life, learning to fish and hunt along with the others. As a deep bond forms between her and Ethan, his feelings bloom into love, something Claire isn’t sure she’s ready to handle. Then, when a mysterious boy appears at the river, Claire feels her heart stirred in a new way. Can this be love? But the boy has secrets of his own, and they may destroy everything Claire’s family has worked to preserve.

In an interesting take on dystopian stories, Bond creates a story world in which characters choose to hide and be free rather than live within the constructs of a crippling government. As Claire learns what it means to be part of a community and contribute, she finds courage, loyalty and strength of heart. While some elements of the story seem a little disjointed, the development of the romance is gentle and sweet. Readers interested in Christian dystopian romance may find this one to their liking. Parents looking for a clean alternative to Dashner’s The Kill Order may be interested in giving this one a try.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
In a brief scene, a young man begins undressing an unconscious girl with the intent of taking advantage of her.

Spiritual Content
Since her mother’s death, Claire has been angry at God. As she learns to be a part of a close-knit community and forms deep bonds with its members, she begins to re-explore the foundations of her former faith and to reconnect with her spiritual life. She even finds a way to encourage others to do the same.

Violence
One young man hits another over the head, causing grave injury. Two teen boys engage in a fistfight. One boy is shot with an arrow.

Drug Content
A young man slips a sedative into a girl’s tea without her knowledge or consent.

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City on FireCity on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
Tracy L. Higley
Thomas Nelson

Ariella, a slave girl in service to a lustful, vicious master, finds her chance for escape during a secret celebration to honor Bacchus. Before she can flee the city, however, she is drawn to a young slave boy in a troupe of gladiators. His resemblance to her missing younger brother moves her heart, and she takes his place among the troupe members, setting him free. As a gladiator, she conceals her gender and hopes to make a name for herself, winning enough favor among the people to be rewarded with freedom.

Young Roman nobleman Cato escapes Rome following a bitter political defeat. He hopes to begin a new life in Pompeii as a wine merchant, but he finds his new home steeped in corruption. His determination to remain apart from politics is shattered when the vile city leader sets his eyes on Cato’s married sister and intends to take her as his mistress. Cato vows to protect her, and when he discovers the identity of a fierce young girl masquerading as a boy gladiator, he longs to keep her safe as well. An injured man and an urgent errand bring Cato and Ariella to the home and meeting place of a group of Christians. At first both are reluctant to become involved with the strange faith, but neither can deny the genuine warmth and peace the group’s members possess and how deeply they hunger for such peace. Before either of them can understand the spiritual hunger or find a way to pursue it, a powerful volcano reigns terror on Pompeii and its citizens, and Cato and Ariella must overcome great obstacles to find one another and their families and escape the city.

Higley has clearly done a monumental amount of research on Pompeii and her people, and many interesting cultural or historical tidbits are woven throughout the story, intermingled with fascinating characters and a beautiful landscape. For the most part, the plot is powerful and well-constructed, with only one weak spot: when Ariella has freedom within her grasp and she instead takes the place of a gladiator slave, it was hard to grasp why she would do this thing. The boy was not her brother, and surely if her deepest motivation was to find him, wouldn’t she have had a better chance to do so with her freedom? Despite this, City on Fire is a rich retelling of the story of a volcano and its wrath upon an ancient city, and a great pick for historical fiction fans. See Tracy Higley’s web site for more information on the research she used in her novel about Pompeii.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
References to aberrant sexual practices perpetrated by members of a cult who worship Bacchus. Descriptions are brief but creepy.

Spiritual Content
Ariella was captured and enslaved in Jerusalem, and after experiencing cruelty and abuse at the hands of her perverse master, she abandoned any hope or faith in God. The wealthy Roman Cato has always gone through the motions of worship to the Roman gods. When the two cross paths with a secret Christian group, their hearts are drawn to the strange, kind ways of the people and the whispers of a Presence to which they can’t deny being drawn.

Violence
As a slave, Ariella knew a cruel master. As a gladiator, she knows only violence as a means of survival. Details are brief, and she is usually spared from having to end the life of her opponent by the mercy of the games’ host. Some descriptions during the volcanic eruption are a little bit intense as well.

Drug Content
During cult celebrations, participants drink wine laced with an opiate.

 

Of PoseidonOf Poseidon

Anna Banks

After surviving a devastating shark attack, the last person Emma wants to see haunting the halls of her high school is the mysterious boy she met on her beach vacation. But try as she might, Emma can’t seem to escape Galen, nor can she find an explanation for the powerful connection she feels when she’s around him.

When Galen finally explains his reasons for following Emma across the country, she can’t – or doesn’t want to – believe him. But neither can she deny the inexplicable gift she possesses, a gift Galen says holds the key to saving his people from war. If Emma accepts Galen’s story, it will change everything and put everything she wanted and almost had squarely out of reach.

Despite the heaviness of the opening scenes, this is a fun, often humorous story about forbidden love with a bit of a new spin on mermaid – or Syrena – myths. Emma, a pure soul with a tragic past, and Galen, a duty-bound prince of a hidden realm, make perfect star-crossed lovers. Of Poseidon has recently been nominated for the 2013 YALSA Top Ten award.

Language Content
Mild.

Sexual Content
Emma worries that her mother will assume she and Galen are having sex, though they aren’t sharing more than secrets and a few super-charged kisses.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violence
A bull shark attacks a young girl as she swims at the beach. Details are a bit gruesome. Two girls with super-strength tackle each other in a beach house, destroying furniture, but causing only minor damage to each other.

Drug Content
None.

Broken ForestBroken Forest
Eliza Tilton
Curiosity Quills Press

Since the death of his little brother, Akivar has wanted only to get away and leave family and memories behind. Before he can have his chance, however, savage men kidnap his sister Jeslyn. Akivar and Derrick, his best friend and Jeslyn’s fiancé, pursue the kidnappers, determined to rescue Jeslyn and bring her safely home.

Jeslyn vows to escape her captors, but once she arrives in Daath, a place of legend which she remembers her mother fondly describing, Jeslyn can’t help being intrigued. Her captor, Lucino, seems a wealthy lord, and she is honored by his attention and wants to believe his claims that he had nothing to do with her kidnapping and will contact her family on her behalf.

Though at first she is reluctant to accept his offer of marriage, the longer she spends with him in his magical homeland, the more Jeslyn wants to embrace her role as his wife. She does not know that her brother and lover continue to track her and still plan for her rescue.

Lucino may seem like a stereotypical charming villain at first glance, but as the story unfolds, both his exposure to Jeslyn and something deeper from within his character bring forth conflicting desires, making him one of the most interesting and complex characters in the story. The narrative moves quickly, but sometimes jumps ahead, skipping over transitions and leaving the reader to fill in the blanks, causing some confusion. Still, Tilton creates an interesting fantasy landscape and weaves together the stories of several very different characters, leaving readers anxious to open the second book in her Daath Chronicles series.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
The Daath Lord keeps a house full of women, but no specifics are given as to what he does with them. It’s clear women, even Jeslyn, are attracted to him.

Spiritual Content
Akivar and his family worship a Creator god, and their planet’s two suns are cleverly described as the eyes of the god watching them.

Violence
Lucino’s advisor studies humans, sometimes torturing them as part of his “research.” Descriptions are brief.

Drug Content
Lucino poisons wine he offers guests at a ball so that he and other reptilian leaders can draw energy from the debilitated humans. The humans do not survive.

running_leanRunning Lean
Diana L. Sharples
HarperCollins/Blink

Haunted by a cruel playground song, Stacey is determined never to be fat again. With her best friend Zoe, she embarks on a rigid diet, rejecting the high-calorie, deep-fried southern dishes her family seems to thrive on. But just when Stacey has it all under control, a fainting spell alerts her boyfriend Calvin that things aren’t as well-ordered as they seem. Stacey brushes off the event as “female problems” and hopes Calvin will just forget it.

Calvin just wants Stacey to be okay, and he’s willing to pay just about any price to make that so. He endeavors to support her, but his own emotions become increasingly strained as his bike – and through it his way of coping with life – begins to fall apart. Though Calvin wants to believe he can love and encourage Stacey through her insecurities, it becomes impossible to ignore the downward spiral her life is taking. Calvin isn’t sure he can push her into recovery without breaking her.

In her brave debut, Sharples captures the raw driving intensity of emotional insecurity and the terrible tension it places on a relationship, boldly describing a tragic teen issue. The reactions of Stacey’s friends and family, the helplessness Calvin wrestles with all felt very real and true to character and life. Though a message of hope is woven through its pages, the story Running Lean isn’t dominated by its spiritual messages. Rather, each character wrestles with thoughts about and feelings toward God in his or her own timing and way.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
Stacey and Calvin share kisses and hold hands, but both have made a commitment to abstinence until marriage. Things get a little hot and heavy between them as Stacey’s emotions spiral further out of control and Calvin tries to reassure her of his love by pressing her physical boundaries further than she’s comfortable with. Clothes stay on, and nothing much ultimately happens before Stacey stops Calvin. There are brief references to a past sexual abuse situation. While the scars of the experience, both physically and emotionally still manifest in the victim, not a lot of detail is given about the events.

Spiritual Content
Since his brother’s death, Calvin has had difficulty thinking about spiritual things. He’s grieving and angry and offers of prayer from his friends and family only frustrate him further. As his relationship with Stacey becomes more and more strained, Calvin begins to rethink his “okay on my own” religious stance and consider asking for God’s help with the situation, since he’s way past knowing what to do on his own.

Violence
None.

Drug Content
Stacey visits a party at which alcohol is present. She doesn’t drink anything, but others around her do.

Clifton Chase and the Arrow of LightClifton Chase and the Arrow of Light

Jaimie Engle

When a mysterious arrow turns up in a dusty closet, Clifton Chase thinks he’s uncovered nothing but old worthless junk. The arrow, however, turns out to be so much more. With a flash of light, Clifton finds himself transported back to fifteenth century England, in a time when a ruthless ruler has seized power and locked away two young princes. Allies of these princes believe Clifton is just the hero they’ve been waiting for and they prepare a force to accompany Clifton on a bold rescue mission.

Inspired by true historical events, this middle grade adventure novel weaves history together with mythical creatures and memorable characters to create a highly entertaining story. Though this is Engle’s debut novel, she handles story like a pro, barely giving the reader a moment to catch breath before leaping off into new twists and turns. Readers who enjoy middle grade adventure stories will not be disappointed in this charming tale.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Brief references to a Creator who has a plan for the lives of his creatures.

Violence
A few brief battle scenes. Nothing gory. One character gives his life to save another.

Drug Content
None.

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Once Upon a MarigoldOnce Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
HMH Books for Young Readers

A Review by Anna Heinly, Age 8

A forest troll named Ed finds a young boy named Christian. Christian had run away from home. He did not want to go back. Ed says Christian can stay with him for one night, but Christian ends up staying in the cave with Ed and his two dogs, Bub and Cate until he grows up. One day while he was looking in his telescope, Christian saw a princess named Marigold. Christian wrote her a letter and sent it by pigeon. Marigold read the letter and p-mailed back. They became best friends. Ed was worried. Soon it was time for Christian to get a job. He got a job fixing things at the castle and had lots of adventures.

Marigold’s mom, Queen Olympia, was forcing her to get married. Marigold was upset. She did not want to get married. Christian was sad, too because he wanted to marry her, but she could only marry royalty. Christian would have to find a way to be with Marigold.

I loved everything in the story. Ed always gets idioms mixed up. It is hilarious. Bub and Cate and Marigold’s dogs (the three floor mops) are silly. Queen Mab is the Tooth Fairy. She always gets lost on her way to collect people’s teeth. That is funny, too. Queen Olympia orders everyone around. That was entertaining. It was also funny when Rollo the guard got mad because Meg kissed Christian. There is nothing about this book I do not like. It is the best book in the world!

A Review by Kasey Giard

Christian is a young inventor living in the forest with his foster father, a troll named Ed. Life is pretty sweet until the day Christian discovers the lonely Princess Marigold and decides to send her a message via carrier pidgeon (p-mail). To Christian’s surprise, the princess replies to his message and the two become best friends. If only that were enough for Christian. As he comes of age and sets out to make his way in the world, Christian seeks work at the castle where Marigold lives, even though he knows he’ll never be able to have a relationship with her since he will be no more than a servant. Then Christian uncovers a vicious plot to kill Marigold, and he can’t sit by and do nothing. But how can a commoner do anything to save the princess?

Once Upon a Marigold is a spunky, cute fairytale story about having courage to do what’s right to protect the people important to you and the meaning of true friendship. Ferris cleverly weaves a whimsical world in which a forest troll wants to break the Tooth Fairy’s monopoly on collecting teeth, even though she constantly gets lost. Full of silliness and heart, this is a great story to share with middle readers.

Language
None

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
The princess is under a curse of uncertain origin: when someone touches her, she knows their thoughts. She and Christian briefly discuss their astrological signs, and the fact that they share the same sign is viewed as a confirmation of their relationship.

Violent Content
A flying machine crashes, causing some minor injuries. A character is struck with an arrow that must be removed. Nothing graphic.

Drug Content
None

Anna Heinly, Kasey GiardAbout the Bloggers
Anna Heinly is a third grade student. She enjoys reading, riding her cousin’s scooter, playing with her cousins, and having adventures. She also enjoys riding bikes with her cousins. This is her first review.
Read about Kasey Giard here.

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