It's the middle of summer and Seattle is scorching hot these days. The best I can do under the circumstances has been to hide out with a fan and distract myself with books.
For the Best YA Books of July list, you'll see something a little bit different--a nonfiction YA title. Now, this is not to imply that there hasn't been great nonfiction YA titles in months past, but this one, The Family Romanov, was so good it took the spotlight. I hope you find a book on this month's list to help you beat the heat...
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
There have been no shortage of books written about the Romanovs, particularly the mystery surrounding Anastasia. The Family Romanov covers some familiar ground but Fleming maintains the perfect balance of detail without overkill, and achieves that "you-are-there" feeling. Alternating narratives tell the story of the last Tsar's family in the context of the time, not only what was happening in their lives individually and collectively, but also the lives of average Russians. This is some of the most engaging nonfiction I've read in a while and for anyone with an interest in this period of history, The Family Romanov will not disappoint.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
This novel is not listed as young adult, but it speaks so well to that reader that we didn't see an age designation as a reason to keep it off the YA list for July. In book one of a promising new fantasy series, a young woman born to be queen and raised in exile embarks on a quest to save her kingdom from an evil sorceress called the Red Queen. I really loved some of the fairy tale elements--magical jewels and loyal knights, a dark queen vs. a simple girl with hidden strengths and royal blood--along with the Game of Thrones style political intrigue. Definitely a story to immerse yourself in this summer.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Sonny Liew
I'm not a huge graphic novel reader but this one by the author of the Michael L. Printz award winner, American Born Chinese, and last year's National Book Award finalist,Boxers & Saints, totally grabbed my attention. In The Shadow Hero, Yang resurrects a Chinese comic superhero from the 1940s, the Green Turtle, and creates his own origin story for the masked crusader. In Yang's vision, it is a mother's will that pushes young Hank to accept his destiny and become the Green Turtle, in order to fight the crime plaguing the people of Chinatown. This graphic novel has a great classic comic book feel to it while at the same time playing on more sophisticated cultural references and shifts. If you only read one graphic novel this summer, make it this one.
Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie, oh, Maggie. How thrilled I was to see a companion novel to the Shiver trilogy coming out this month! Thrilled but then a little nervous too...what if I didn't like it as much? Senseless, I know, but many years in this business has left me cautious at times. Plus, it's always nice to be pleasantly surprised (of course it's fabulous!), right? In Sinner, Cole St. Clair is back in Los Angeles with a spot on a dodgy internet reality show and determined to rekindle his passionate but toxic love affair with Isabel Culpepper. Their story makes for compulsive reading and fans of the trilogy will love the return of some Wolves of Mercy Falls characters, but this one can also be read as a standalone.