Last week my daughter, my mother, and I held fast to one of our favorite traditions: Going to Charleston, SC for YA’LL Fest, the largest annual Young Adult Book Festival and book signing. With over forty authors and their publishers, publicists, and book store owners running the show, the event is geared to thousands of avid YA readers.
One of the things I love about this festival is that although you run from signing to session to signing, the authors have one goal in mind: to meet and spend time with their fans. The authors are accessible to their readers, showing up at ice cream parlors for chats about Harry Potter and sponsoring cupcake socials where the fans and authors play YA book trivia games. The authors even put on a variety show at the end of the festival where they sing (badly), dance (terribly), and read from their middle school journals (hilarious).
The event is sponsored by the Blue Bicycle Bookstore in Charleston, SC and Epic Reads. And it takes place in various historic buildings throughout the city. We caught Jay Asher in a tiny brick courtyard that was so quaint it looked like a movie set, then we saw Kiera Cass at the library society in an antebellum mansion south of Broad street.
We dragged a rolling suitcase filled with books everywhere we went and that was in addition to our two backpacks. My mother and I took turns standing in long book signing lines so my daughter could stand in a third. Between texting and begging people to hold our spots, my daughter was able to get over thirty books signed. Not bad considering many authors limited how many books they’d sign. There were even publisher tents set up with famous authors, like David Leviathan, running carnival games and handing out ARCs and cookies.
We spent time with authors such as Veronica Roth, Maggie Stiefvater, Kiera Cass, Victoria Aveyard, Sarah Dessen, Jay Asher, Eoin Colfer, Scott Westerfeld, Alexandra Bracken, Leigh Bardugo, Renee Ahdieh, Lauren Oliver, and many, many others. By the time we were on our way home, we had two suitcases and two backpacks filled with signed books, a dozen ARCs, and a “Library Card” bag covered with autographs.
YA’LL Fest is a great experience, and it’s hard to tell who’s more excited to be there, the authors or the readers. So next November 10 & 11 we hope you’ll join us in Charleston, SC for YA’LL Fest 2017. It’s sure to be a blast!
Did you know I have my own army?
Unlike most armies of the world, mine consists of a group of young people aged 8-17 who love to read. And over the past few years, they’ve been an invaluable asset in helping me build my reading lists for kids stuck in middle school and teens just trying to survive high school.
They are my reading army.
Every year, toward the end of the school year, my reading army helps me compile my Middle Grade/Young Adult summer reading list. But since I’m getting more and more requests for updates, I’ve decided to put out a second mid-year list.
So with the help of my army, here is the Mid-Winter 2016 MG/YA list. Perfect for those winter school breaks and unexpected snow days.
Below are a few highlights, but for the entire printable list, click here for the Mid-Winter 2016 MG/YA list.
This list is not all-inclusive. And two of these books will be released next month. But what makes this list special is that every book, except for two to be released in March, has been read by myself and at least two members of my army.
(So each book has been vetted for coolness!)
For the Middle Graders, here are a few newer releases.
First up, the newest Rick Riordan book: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.
(Amazon Blurb): Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.
One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows-a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.
When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.
Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .
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(Amazon Blurb): Jordan Stratford imagines an alternate 1826, where Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) meet as girls and form a secret detective agency!
Lady Ada Byron, age eleven, is a genius. Isolated, awkward and a bit rude—but a genius. Mary Godwin, age fourteen, is a romantic. Adventurous, astute, and kind, Mary is to become Ada’s first true friend. And together, the girls conspire to form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency—a secret constabulary for the apprehension of clever criminals. Their first case involves a stolen heirloom, a false confession, and an array of fishy suspects. But it’s no match for the deductive powers and bold hearts of Ada and Mary.
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From two of my favorite YA authors, here’s a wonderful new MG fantasy series: The Magisterium Series by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.
(Amazon Blurb): Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.
All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.
So he tries his best to do his worst — and fails at failing.
Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.
The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .
And the second book in the series, The Copper Gauntlet.
(Amazon Blurb): Callum Hunt’s summer break isn’t like other kids’. His closest companion is a Chaos-ridden wolf, Havoc. His father suspects him of being secretly evil. And, of course, most kids aren’t heading back to the magical world of the Magisterium in the fall.
It’s not easy for Call . . . and it gets even harder after he checks out his basement and discovers that his dad might be trying to destroy both him and Havoc.
Call escapes to the Magisterium — but things only intensify there. The Alkahest — a copper gauntlet capable of separating certain magicians from their magic — has been stolen. And in their search to discover the culprit, Call and his friends Aaron and Tamara awaken the attention of some very dangerous foes — and get closer to an even more dangerous truth.
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For the Young Adults, here are a few long-awaited titles. A series ender, a series beginner, and all things in between!
My daughter read Winter, this yearned-for book which ends the Lunar Chronicles series, in one day. Not too surprising for her except the book has 832 pages!
(Amazon Blurb): Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.
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The movie based on the first book in this next series, The Fifth Wave, is in theaters now. And the third book in this thrilling Sci-Fi series comes out soon. In the meantime, dive into The Infinite Sea, the second book in the series. It’s not to be missed!
(Amazon Blurb): How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.
Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.
Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.
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The next book is the first in a new series from mega-author Alexandra Bracken. While her first series The Darkest Minds was dystopian (speculative fiction for you purists!), her newest release Passenger is all about time travel.
(Amazon Blurb): In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles, but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods-a powerful family in the Colonies-and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, his passenger, can find. In order to protect her, Nick must ensure she brings it back to them-whether she wants to or not.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home forever.
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For fans of the Selection Series, Kiera Cass’s newest title (a revised version of her originally self-pubbed book), The Siren, will be a huge hit!
(Amazon Blurb): From Kiera Cass, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Selection series, comes a captivating stand-alone fantasy romance.
Kahlen is a Siren, bound to serve the Ocean by luring humans to watery graves with her voice, which is deadly to any human who hears it. Akinli is human—a kind, handsome boy who’s everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. Falling in love puts them both in danger . . . but Kahlen can’t bear to stay away. Will she risk everything to follow her heart?
The Siren was previously self-published; this brand-new edition has been completely rewritten and redesigned.
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For fans of the Shadow Hunter series, here is the newest book in the series, Lady Midnight. (It won’t release until March 8, 2016. And although we haven’t read it yet, my army has fully endorsed it! Anything by Cassandra Clare is an auto-read!!)
(Amazon Blurb): It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?
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Veronica Rossi wrote one of our favorite Sci-Fi/Dystopian series — the Under the Never Sky Trilogy. And Riders is her newest fantasy adventure release.
(Amazon Blurb): For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.
Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen–Conquest, Famine, and Death–are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.
Now–bound, bloodied, and drugged–Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for–not to mention all of humankind–he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.
But will anyone believe him?
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This February 2016 release by C.J. Redwine felt like it was on pre-order forever. Since the teens loved her Defiance series, they couldn’t wait for her newest book. The Shadow Queen is a dark, fantasy re-telling of Snow White, and it was well worth the wait!
(Amazon Blurb): Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic of his own—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman—and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.
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We have waited AGES for The Raven King, the fourth book in the The Raven Cycle series. If you’re not familiar with this series, start at the beginning. You’ll be so glad you did!
Although we haven’t read this book yet (it comes out March 29, 2016), we’ve read the other three in the series and can recommend this book based on the quality and success for the first three.
(Amazon Blurb): All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
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And since the teens love novellas, here are a few from their favorite series that made the Mid-Winter 2016 MG/YA list:
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Do you have any titles you’d like to add to the Summer 2016 list? If so, we’d love to know!
All covers and blurbs courtesy of Amazon.
All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray. Copyright 2016