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.

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.

Divergent by Veronica RothDivergent

Veronica Roth

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior lives in a world in which faction comes before family. Upon turning sixteen, each society member must choose to commit life to one of five factions. No turning back. Though Beatrice loves her family, she can’t imagine living out the rest of her life wholly committed to serving others selflessly as the Abegnation faction members do. But if she chooses to leave her faction, she will lose her family for good.

Beatrice discovers making her choice puts more at risk than her connection to family. Her mind carries within it a deadly secret, one she must keep at all costs. As she prepares to join the faction of her choice, she renames herself Tris and braces herself for the battle of her life.

Roth’s debut novel packs quite a punch, drawing readers into a world in which survival depends on securing one’s place within a group and virtue is everything. But while the virtues chosen by each faction may have started in purity, time has warped some so that instead of coming together to form a society that is a balanced whole, some factions have become twisted and parasitic.

Though the early chapters spend a lot of time setting up the story, the pace picks up quite a bit once Beatrice/Tris chooses her faction and the initiation rites begin. From that point on, the reader scarcely has a chance to pause for breath, and may need intervention from friends and family in order to put the book down for things like dinner and sleep.

Series fans are already eagerly anticipating the March 2014 release of the movie starring Shailene Woodley based on this first book in the Divergent Series. The series will conclude with the release of Allegiant on October 22, 2013.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
While romantic tensions run high between Tris and her boy, both seem committed to taking the relationship slowly. Lots of kissing scenes and one pretty intense make-out scene in a train, but nothing goes beyond that.

Spiritual Content
The Abegnation faction believe in God and serving others. Though she has always struggled to live up to the pure virtues of her faction, Tris returns to those beliefs in a moment when things go horribly wrong.

Violence
Some initiation rituals are a bit violent. Other initiates, motivated by jealousy, attack their rivals and even attempt to kill them. Divergent climaxes with an intense sequence of battles, but graphic details are limited.

Drug Content
To celebrate or mourn, Tris’s new faction members drink alcohol. Tris herself doesn’t participate. Faction leaders use a serum to create simulations in the minds of the initiates as part of the process of admittance into the faction.

Goddess TitheYesterday we had the pleasure of seeing the next lovely cover in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series. (Click here to see reviews and other earlier posts about the series.) Today I’m pleased to bring you an excerpt from the novella itself, with an opening description by the author, Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Enjoy!

***

Here is an excerpt from the middle of the story. In this scene, Munny has been ordered to Captain Sunan’s cabin to clear away his breakfast . . . an unexpected task, for a lowly cabin boy would not ordinarily dare enter his captain’s private quarters! Munny hopes to slip in and out quietly without attracting the captain’s notice. But his hopes are dashed when Sunan addresses him, asking how their strange, foreign stowaway is faring:

__________

“And what do you make of him yourself?”
Munny dared glance his captain’s way and was relieved when his eyes met only a stern and rigid back. “I’m not sure, Captain,” he said. “I think he’s afraid. But not of . . .”
“Not of the goddess?” the Captain finished for him. And with these words he turned upon Munny, his eyes so full of secrets it was nearly overwhelming. Munny froze, his fingers just touching but not daring to take up a small teapot of fragile work.
The Captain looked at him, studying his small frame up and down. “No,” he said, “I believe you are right. Leonard the Clown does not fear Risafeth. I believe he is unaware of his near peril at her will, suffering as he does under a peril nearer still.”
Munny made neither answer nor any move.
“We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly, won’t we, Munny?” the Captain said. But he did not speak as though he expected an answer, so again Munny offered none. “We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly and there let him choose his own dark future.”
“I hope—” Munny began.
But he was interrupted by a sudden commotion on deck. First a rising murmur of voices, then many shouts, inarticulate in cacophony. But a pounding at the cabin door accompanied Sur Agung’s voice bellowing, “Captain, you’d best come see this!”
The Captain’s eyes widened a moment and still did not break gaze with Munny’s. “We’ll keep him safe,” he repeated. Then he turned and was gone, leaving the door open.
Munny put down the pot he held and scurried after. The deck was alive with hands, even those who were off watch, crawling up from the hatches and crowding the rails on the port side. They parted way for the Captain to pass through, but when Munny tried to follow, they closed in again, blocking him as solidly as a brick wall.
“Look! Look!” Munny heard voices crying.
“It’s a sign!”
“She’s warning us!”
“It’s a sign, I tell you!”
Fearing he knew not what, Munny ran for the center mast and climbed partway up, using the handholds and footholds with unconscious confidence. Soon he was high enough to see over the heads of the gathered crew, out into the blue waters of the ocean. And he saw them.
They were water birds. Big white albatrosses, smaller seagulls, heavy cormorants, even deep-throated pelicans and sleek, black-faced terns. These and many more, hundreds of them, none of which should be seen this far out to sea.
They were all dead. Floating in a great mass.
Munny clung to the mast, pressing his cheek against its wood. The shouts of the frightened sailors below faded away, drowned out by the desolation of that sight. Death, reeking death, a sad flotilla upon the waves.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Munny looked down to where Leonard clung to the mast just beneath him, staring wide-eyed out at the waves. “How could this have happened? Were they sick? Caught in a sudden gale? Are they tangled in fishing nets?”
There was no fear in his voice. Not like in the voices of the sailors. He did not understand. He did not realize. It wasn’t his fault, Munny told himself.
But it was.

AESAbout the Author

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.

Giveaway:

Visit Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s blog to enter for a chance to win one of two proof copies of Goddess Tithe! U.S. and Canada only, please.

Here’s a peek at the gorgeous cover of the next book in the wonderful Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. The cover image is accompanied by the back cover copy below:

Goddess Tithe

The Vengeful Goddess

Demands Her Tithe

When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya’s only hope to return safely home.

Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown’s garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe.

Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl talks about the beautiful cover:

I had the fun of designing this cover—finding reference photos, inventing the composition, applying the text, etc.—but the actual artistic work was done by talented cover artist Phatpuppy (www.phatpuppyart.com), whose work I have admired for many years. It was such a thrill for me to contact and commission this artist to create a look for Goddess Tithe that is reminiscent of the original novels but has a style and drama all its own.

The boy on the front was quite a find. I hunted high and low for an image of a boy the right age, the right look, with the right expression on his face. Phatpuppy and I worked with a different model through most of the cover development stage. But then I happened upon this image, and both she and I were delighted with his blend of youth, stubbornness, and strength of character! It wasn’t difficult to switch the original boy for this young man. He simply is Munny, and this cover is a perfect window into the world of my story.

You can’t see it here, but the wrap-around back cover for the print copy contains some of the prettiest work . . . including quite a scary sea monster! Possibly my favorite detail is the inclusion of the ghostly white flowers framing the outer edge. These are an important symbol in the story itself, and when Phatpuppy sent me the first mock-up cover with these included, I nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement!

Goddess Tithe Illustration by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Goddess Tithe Illustration by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

About the Illustration by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

There are eight full-page illustrations in Goddess Tithe featuring various characters and events from the story. This is the first one in the book. I decided to share it with all of you since it depicts my young hero, Munny the cabin boy, under the watchful eye of his mentor, the old sailor Tu Pich. Munny is on his first voyage, and he is determined to learn all there is to know about a life at sea as quickly as possible. Thus we see him utterly intent upon the knot he is learning to tie. Tu Pich is old enough to know that no sailor will ever learn all there is to know about the sea. Thus he looks on, grave, caring, and perhaps a little sad. He might be looking upon his own younger self of many years ago, fumbling through the hundreds of difficult knots his fingers must learn to tie with unconscious ease.
I enjoyed creating all the illustrations for Goddess Tithe, but this one was my favorite. I love the contrasts of light and dark, the contrasts of young and old . . . youthful intensity versus the perspective of age.

AES

About the Author

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.

Giveaway:

Visit Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s blog to enter for a chance to win one of two proof copies of Goddess Tithe! U.S. and Canada only, please.

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