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Once You Know This
By Emily Blejwas
Random House/Delacorte Press, 2017
Hardcover $16.99
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Reviewed by Katie Lamar Jackson

Knowledge is power, especially when you feel powerless.

That’s one of many empowering insights that middle-grade readers — readers of any age, actually — can find in the pages of Emily Blejwas’s unflinchingly truthful, yet unerringly optimistic, debut novel, Once You Know This. Read Full Review...

By Gin Phillips
The Penguin Press, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015
$16.99, Paper; $10.99 eBook

Young Adult

Reviewed by Don Noble

Birmingham writer Kerry Madden is fond of saying, in fiction for young people the writer should run her protagonist up a tree and then throw rocks at her. One assumes none of these rocks will hit her in the head and kill her. Gin Phillips follows this pattern. Her heroine, the eleven-year-old Olivia, has just moved with her mom from their home in Charleston, South Carolina, to downtown Birmingham where they moved in with Gram in her condo. Read the complete review

By Faye Gibbons
NewSouth Books, 2014
$21.95, Hardcover

Young Adult Fiction

Reviewed by Don Noble

Faye Gibbons is an old pro at children’s and Young Adult writing. An Auburn graduate and author of more than a dozen books, she won the Georgia Author of the Year award in 1983 for Some Glad Morning and the Alabama Author Award, given by the Alabama Library Association, for Night in the Barn in 1998. Although she lives in Alabama now, Gibbons was raised in the hills of northwest Georgia and sets most of her fiction there. Her characters are generally rural and poor, struggling to get by but holding together, only by virtue of family, sharing, love, church, neighbors. READ MORE…

By Kevin Waltman
Cinco Puntos Press, 2013
$16.95, Hardcover; $11.95, Paper

Young Adult Fiction

Reviewed by Don Noble

Sports fans know that what football is to Alabama culture, basketball is to Indiana culture: passion, obsession, madness, religion. The young adult novelist Kevin Waltman grew up in Indiana, played high school basketball and attended Depauw University. Waltman, now an Alabamian, took the MFA in creative writing at the University of Alabama, and stayed on to teach in the English Department. In Next, Waltman’s third novel, he has created a more accurate picture of Hoosier basketball and done so with considerable elegance and authority and without stereotypes. READ MORE…

These young adult titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

These young adult titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

By Stephanie Lawton
Ink Spell Publishing, 2012
$14.99, Paper; $4.99, eBook

Young Adult

Reviewed by Eleanor Inge Baker

Young Adult Readers and Readers Young at Heart:

If you’re looking for a steamy and emotionally taut read, give Mobile writer, Stephanie Lawton’s debut Young Adult (YA) novel, Want, a try. You will not find vampires or futuristic sci-fi villains between these pages, but a string of nail biting conflicts all the same. Set in Mobile and centered around a family steeped in the dark and secretive traditions of Mardi Gras, the reader learns that things are not always as they seem. Read the complete review

These young adult titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

By Ted M. Dunagan
Junebug Books , 2011
$21.95, Hardcover; $9.99, eBook
Young Adult
Reviewed by Tony Crunk

Trouble on the Tombigbee is the third of Ted Dunagan’s Young Adult novels to chronicle the adventures and deepening relationship between two adolescent boys, Ted and Poudlum, one black and one white, in the southwest Alabama of the late 1940s. As with the two previous novels, A Yellow Watermelon and Secret of the Satilfa, the adventures are frequently harrowing, the boys infinitely resourceful, and the suspense finely honed, all resulting in a satisfying, page-turning read.
Read the complete review

By Anne Chancey Dalton
Seacoast Publishing, 2012
$7.95, Paper
Reviewed by Julia Oliver

This 104-page book is part of the Alabama Roots series, a joint venture of Seacoast Publishing, Inc., and Will Publishing, Inc., both of Birmingham. The purpose is to provide historically accurate and interesting biographies of famous people from Alabama for students in middle grades. Read the complete review

By Larry Dane Brimner
Blue Slip Media, 2011
$16.95, Hardcover

Young Adult

Reviewed by Don Noble

Black and White is a capsule history, in plain but not simplistic language, of the events in Anniston and Birmingham–the rallies and boycotts, the arrests, the Klan violence at the Greyhound station, the marches, Shuttlesworth’s attempts to integrate Phillips High School. During one attempt, with policemen watching, Shuttlesworth was beaten unconscious on the street and his wife was stabbed in the hip. Brimner has written this as a battle between two great foes: the fiery preacher who led the protests, Fred Shuttlesworth, and his absolutely stubborn antagonist, Eugene “Bull” Connor. Brimner has cast them not as equals—a number of times Commissioner of Public Safety Connor is characterized as hateful and evil—but rather as classically epic foes, each one necessary to the other in a battle of the darkness and the light. Read the complete review

By Linda C. Fisher


Reviewed by Julia Oliver

A former school teacher, Prattville author Linda C. Fisher has written tourism articles and brochures, hosted a television interview show, and composed two young adult novels about William Shakespeare. The first, A Will of Her Own, utilized a youthful Shakespeare as a sleuth. This second narrative in the series is somewhat reminiscent of the real Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It begins on the famous Bard's sixteenth birthday, in April 1580. Will is running away from his home in Stratford and, in particular, from his father John Shakespeare, who told him he would never amount to anything. His mother has advised Will to head for London, where he could be a lawyer's apprentice and work off a family debt. Will's goal is mainly to avoid danger. His father had warned him to "stay away from Gypsies." So, of course, he immediately encounters and takes up with a band of them. Among the group is a lovely young girl, Katya. Read the complete review...

By Roger Reid
Reviewed by Sarah Eckermann

Roger Reid’s Time is the third book in a series that serves to introduce young people to scientific locales in Alabama. The title refers to the Steve C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site, located just south of Jasper. Primary characters Leah Pickens and Jason Caldwell are invited to visit there to look for fossils, learn more about the ancient history of the area and—figuratively speaking—travel back in time.

Read the complete review...

By Valerie Gribben

Young Adult Fiction

Reviewed by Beth Wilder

Fantasy books are all the rage among young adult readers, but rarely is one of those books actually written by a young adult. Until now. Valerie Gribben, a UAB medical student, has penned a fast-paced, intriguing fantasy series, the first of which was written when she was only sixteen years old.

By: Irene Latham
Reviewed by: Beth Wilder

As a crow flies, Camden, Alabama, is only about forty miles from the community of Gee’s Bend. But for ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett, it might as well be on the other side of the earth. Ludelphia has never left the safety of her poor but closely-knit community, and she has no idea what lurks in the wider world. Set during the trying times of the Great Depression, Leaving Gee’s Bend chronicles the dangerous and exciting journey that Ludelphia must make to save her mother’s life.

By: Ginger Rue
Reviewed by: Peter Huggins

It’s a wonder any of us survives middle school, much less high school. Survival is definitely on the mind of Emily Wood, the fourteen-year-old narrator of Ginger Rue’s fun debut novel Brand New Emily. Poetry geek Emily attends Wright Middle School in Ohio and becomes the prime target of the Daisies, led by uber-bully Heatherly, a Nurse Ratched in training. Through intelligence and courage, Emily comes up with a plan to defeat Heatherly and the so-cool Daisies.

By: Kerry Madden
Reviewed by: Norman McMillan

Considering such a large audience for To Kill a Mockingbird, it is little surprise that Viking would have wanted to include Harper Lee in its Up Close series, which publishes short biographies for young readers on a wide range of important figures from the twentieth century. The publisher approached Kerry Madden, author of books for young readers, about writing the biography, and she took on the daunting task of researching the life of a subject who has not given an interview since 1964 and who has made it known widely that she will not cooperate with any such project.

By: Ted M. Dunagan
Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

One of its back-cover reviewers states that Ted Dunagan’s young adult novel, A Yellow Watermelon, reminds him of To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn. The novel is squarely in Twain territory, but that of Tom Sawyer rather than of Huckleberry Finn. By the same token, it only comes within shouting distance of Harper Lee territory. That is, it is an engaging and well-told adventure story....

By: Roger Reid
Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

As the follow-up to his first young adult novel Longleaf, author Roger Reid offers Space, the story of teen sleuth Jason Caldwell and his hair-raising discovery of international espionage at a Huntsville, Alabama, observatory. Seizing an opportunity to educate, Reid shares scientific enlightenment while engaging the reader with mysteries that lurk in each chapter of the tales he tells.

By: Loretta Ellsworth
Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

Erin Garven is a teenager who desperately wants to connect to her mother who died when she was three days old. The only connection Erin has to her mother is a worn paperback book of To Kill a Mockingbird. The day before her sixteenth birthday, Erin’s father gives her the diary her mother had kept at sixteen. Upon reading a few pages, Erin realizes that she and her mother have a lot in common. Both wanted to become writers. She also discovers that her mother once wrote to Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird.

By: Susannah Felts
Reviewed by: Beth Wilder

Vaughn Vance is not like any American teenager I have ever met, but she is just like every American teenager I know. The protagonist of Susannah Felt’s debut novel This Will Go Down On Your Permanent Record, Vaughn is a sixteen-year-old artist coming of age in a school and a community where she is struggling to fit in, struggling to find her identity somewhere between the giggling, silly girls who used to be her friends and the burnouts and freaks she finds herself hanging out with at a local park known as The Dragon.

By: Linda Fisher
Reviewed by: Peter Huggins

When well done, historical novels are great fun. A Will of Her Own, a young adult historical novel set in London on April 23-24, 1589, is great fun.

By: Roger Reid
Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

Longleaf is an engaging novel that applies a good deal of educational insights into Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest.  Boys and girls will become knowledgeable of all facets of the longleaf pines and the preservation of forest life there.
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