This is not a young adult novel and not fully historical fiction. However, the heroine is seventeen and this regency romance is so much more appropriate than most popular young adult fiction these days, I feel it is appropriate to include on my site.
After the death of her mother, Marianne Daventry is sent to live with her grandmother in Bath while her father takes his grieving heart to Paris. Marianne’s twin Cecily, goes to London for her debut in society and to search out the gentleman she intends to marry. Eventually, both sisters are invited to Edenbrooke, the estate of their mother’s friend, Lady Catherine. While in route to Edenbrooke, Marianne encounters a mysterious and flirtatious gentleman who both intrigues and angers her. He turns out to be Sir Philip, the son of Lady Catherine.
Trouble ensues as Marianne becomes friends with Philip, but learns he is the same man her sister intends to marry. Patterned after the manner of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Edenbrooke is perfect for Regency period readers. It doesn’t have the same level of wit or writing as Jane Austen, but it captures the feeling of that time period and a classic, clean romance.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.
Melkorka is an Irish princess living a privileged life in medieval Ireland. When she and her young sister are kidnapped by a Russian slave ship, Melkorka is plunged into the unfamiliar struggles of poverty and servitude. In her grief, she takes a vow of silence, but soon learns her silence is the key to survival. Her captors and masters are fascinated by her silence, giving her more power than a typical slave.
Hush is the story of Melkorka’s journey from a royal home in Ireland, through medieval Europe, to find her place among the Vikings of Iceland. Her journey gives insight into the slave trade and Viking culture. It is a painful and realistic story of a young girl pulled away from everything she knows. The writing is well-researched and developed, and it doesn’t avoid the harshness of a hard life. The story is engaging, but not for readers expecting ‘happily ever after.’
Recommended for ages—13 and up.
Tess’s life has been ruled by her violin. While she loves the music, she suffers from the pressures placed on all child prodigies. After a crushing failure in her first performance as a soloist, Tess retreats from New York to spend the summer with her father in Montana.
Intertwined with Tess’s story, is the story of Frederick. He is a teenaged homesteader trying to make ends meet in turn of the century Montana. Jeanette Ingold skillfully jumps between the stories of these two young people with similar struggles in vastly different time periods and life styles. Through their experiences, she shows the joy and heartache of finding one’s place in the world and taking on the responsibilities of life. Ingold provides a realistic view of both homesteader life and the struggles of a truly talented musician.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
I was immediately captivated by the title Al Capone Does My Shirts. However, while the title is an excellent fit for the story, it led me to expect an entirely different type of book. I expected kids mixed up with gangsters or some other sort of hilarity. Instead, Al Capone Does My Shirts is a much deeper and more profound work of historical fiction placed against the backdrop of the Depression and Alcatraz. This book was assigned to my ten-year-old daughter and I think she can appreciate it, but readers of her age would need a background on Alcatraz, Al Capone, and the culture of the time period.
Moose Flanigan and his family move to the island of Alcatraz where his father works double shifts as an electrician and prison guard. They make the move in an attempt to earn enough to send his mentally handicapped sister Natalie to a special school in San Francisco. When that plan fails, Moose is overwhelmed with the responsibility of watching his sister. At the same time, he struggles to make new friends and avoid involvement in the troublesome schemes of the prison warden’s daughter.
Al Capone Does My Shirts is an interesting story based on the lives of families who lived and worked on Alcatraz during its operation. It also deals with the trials of mental disabilities and the way it affects families. The book is written with compassion, sensitivity and great insight, but would be a good one to discuss with young readers as they read.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
I didn’t have high expectations when I started this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was one of the better crafted stories I have read in a while, with action as well as depth and meaning. Solveig is the middle daughter of a Nordic king and considers herself without value to her father. She, her older sister, and younger brother are sent to a freezing fortress at the base of a glacier to be kept safe during a war with a neighboring nobleman.
Trapped for the winter with only a few servants, restless warriors, and a dwindling food supply, Solveig finds herself struggling to keep peace in their camp. When acts of treachery begin to surface, the peace is threatened even more. Solveig finds hidden talents as she trains with the king’s skald, or storyteller. She learns the power of words to soothe heartache, engender courage, and even save lives.
Although this story of a young girl is set in an ancient, frozen landscape, Solveig’s story resonates with youth of all ages and circumstances who are searching for their own place in life. The action is captivating, but the life lessons are powerful for youth of all ages.
Recommended for ages 10 and up
It is the summer of 1910 and wildfires are raging through northern Idaho and Montana. Sixteen-year-old Jarrett Logan signs on to fight the fires and is forced to quickly grow up in ways he never imagined. Private Seth Brown learns the army is much more frightening work and less glory when his division is assigned to fight the fires. Lizbeth Whitcomb realizes the true beauty of the wilderness as she sees it burning before her eyes. Through these perspectives, Ingold shows the bravery and the horror that characterized what is now known as ‘the Big Burn.’
The characters are ordinary teenagers living in an extraordinary time of history. Their relationships and their struggles against nature are both compelling and inspiring. The Big Burn is an interesting retelling of history as well as a very captivating story. It is a good read for teenagers, especially those interested in fire fighting.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.
Fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook enjoys the bustle and energy of Philadelphia in 1763. The Nation’s capital is filled with people and Mattie has great ambitions for her family’s coffee shop. However, soon the summer’s unseasonable warmth has sapped the city’s energy and fever is beginning to sap its life. As the death toll climbs, more and more people flee the city. Mattie’s mother insists on sending her to the country, but even there she isn’t free from the effects of yellow fever.
In this frightening story of Philadelphia’s 1793 epidemic, Laurie Halse Anderson gives a detailed view of colonial life and medical practices. She also tells an intriguing coming of age story. As Mattie Cook struggles to survive and save those she loves, she learns valuable lessons about herself and the world in which she lives. This historical fiction is appropriate for young adult readers, but educational for adults as well. It covers the fear brought by an epidemic, but also shows the strength of charity and service in a difficult time.
Bella, Yetta, and Jane are three very different girls, but they are each fighting for freedom. Bella, newly arrived from Italy, is fighting to be free of the crippling poverty that plagues her family. Yetta, a Russian Jewish immigrant, wants to be free of workplace injustice. Jane, part of the social elite, wants freedom from high society restraints and the mundane life of a turn of the century woman.
Through the eyes of these three young women, Haddix shows the plight of an American woman in the early 1900s. The girls become involved in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company strike against the great injustices of the Industrial Revolution factories. As readers follow the characters’ struggles, they will vow along with these girls, “We will not be stupid girls. We will not be powerless girls. We will not be useless girls.”
Haddix does an excellent job of bringing a harsh time in history to life. She makes me grateful to be a woman who has benefitted from those who have gone before. This is an important book to teach young women the value of our place in the world and the fight it took for us to get here.
This short historical fiction book is perfect for tweens interested in the Wild West. We recognize names like Buffalo Bill, Butch Cassidy, and Wyatt Earp with their questionable heroics in a wild time, but not many have heard of the truly heroic Bass Reeves. One of the most successful federal marshals in the late 1800s, Reeves worked in Indian Territory arresting criminals and fighting for justice against amazing odds. Reeves, the only recorded African American marshal, was known for his honest devotion to duty as well as his uncanny ability to get out of tight spots.
Little is recorded about this hero of the Wild West, but Paulsen has combined known facts with fiction to create a compelling historical figure. Paulsen creates a believable childhood and combines that story with actually known events to show the shaping of this man. The reading is interesting for all ages, but it does deal with the violence that so filled that time period—raiding Indians as well as the cruelty of white men. None of the writing is explicit, but the themes make it better for 10 and older.
This story follows Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral in the late 1300s. It is told from the point of view of Belle, a teenage girl who joins the pilgrims to pray for her crippled father. Belle is a headstrong girl, struggling to find purpose in her life, but as she interacts with her fellow travelers, she learns the importance of friendship and family. Belle also learns about political intrigue when one pilgrim blackmails her into spying on Chaucer and others in the party.
This story is entertaining on its own, with intrigue and interesting characters. However, it is also an intriguing addition to The Canterbury Tales with more insight into the characters of the Knight, the Summoner, and Chaucer himself. My only complaint is I find it strange that Grant wrote for a young adult audience when few read The Canterbury Tales before college level English classes. Therefore, a lot of the literary allusions are lost on the intended audience. Belle and her story belong with a young adult audience, but the richness of references to Chaucer might not be recognized.