10 Hidden Gem Books in the YA Genre

articles, top 10 Tuesday / Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Yesterday evening, I took a break away from blogging to enjoy the surprising awesomeness that was Spiderman: Homecoming.

My choices are not necessarily “hidden” more like “overlooked” gems. Many of the books on this list have received praise or awards at some point in their publication history; yet, are not as popular as other books in this genre. Over the years, these books have been overshadowed by the rise of the YA genre and other more recent books published. To be fair this list is more or less a mix of middle grade and YA aged novels, but writing all that does not have the same ring as just simply writing YA.

Also, can someone seriously make a movie using at least a few of these books:

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The Mysterious Howling: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood-This is a charming lighthearted novel about a governess named Miss Penelope Lumley who teaches three wild siblings (they were literally found running wild in the forest) Alexander, Cassiopeia, and Beowulf in and slowly educate them. When I read this charmingly Gothesque book, I blew through some of the other books in the series. I would say the best way to describe this book is Jane Eyre meets Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (except it depicts a scaled down supernatural elements).

The Ghosts of Tueplo Landing by Sheila Turnage-I received this book as an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) when I volunteered at New Jersey Council of Teachers of English Conference. I miss all the swag free books. Sigh. The Ghost of Tupelo Landing has a lot of similar elements to The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place except this is a middle grade mystery. The book is the second in a series of mysteries following Miss Mo LoBeau and her friend Dale. In this installment, they explore a mystery surrounding a ghost that haunts an old inn their town called Tupelo Landing.

Ghost Knight by Corneila Funke-Ahhh Ghost Knight. I’m not going to say much, because I did a review for this book a couple of months. If you like you can read my adoration for this book here: Ghost Knight. Maybe it’s lazy to just link back to an older review, but really I can’t simply write a paragraph about this book, and can’t waste half the night writing another review.

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Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson-So I decided to pair up the books that are similar to each other on this list. In my youth, I read most of Eva Ibboston’s books. While all of them are very good Which Witch? is the one I have reread multiple times over the years since I was 10 or 11. The story begins when a wizard named Arriman the Awful decides to choose a wife from his hometown of Toadcaster. He devises a competition to choose the darkest (as in magic) of them. One of the greatest parts of this novel is the diverse cast of characters and the friendship between Belladonna, a white witch competing, and Terrence Mugg an orphan she rescues from an orphanage. Together, they have a pure, giving friendship, and help each other become better people.

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli-Moving away from the books suitable for the child Tim Burton movie lover, the next two will be fairy tale retelling. If you cannot already tell, this is an interesting take on  Beauty and the Beast. The Beast is Orasmyn, a Persian Prince, who angers a fairy/pari because of his pride during an ancient ritual. After being transformed into a lion, he escapes from being killed by his own father. During his travels, he is reluctant to kill or act like a lion. To prevent his animal instincts to take over, he prays to Mecca, reads verse, and gardens. Most of the novel is dedicated to his journey from Persia to France and less on the romance with Beauty.

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen-Briar Rose is told in flashbacks and juxtaposes between the past and present. This is a slight retelling of the Sleeping Beauty taking place during WWII. Rebecca Berlin grew up with her grandmother’s bedtime stories. After her grandmother dies, she feels like there was more to the story than just a simple fairy tale. After some research, she finds an old friend of her grandmother. What she finds out is not what she was expecting. This novel focuses on concentration camps.

Daniel Half Human by David Chotjewitz-Another historical fiction YA novel with a WWII setting, Daniel Half Human focuses more on the rise of National Socialist (Nazi party) and the gradual insertion of anti-semitic laws and ideology in German society. Though, there are many books with this premise, the main character Daniel Kraushaar has two things going for him that makes him stand out: he doesn’t know he’s half Jewish and he desperately wants to join the Hitler Youth with his bff Armin. As the the regime increasingly worsens, Daniel and his family are ostracized by society. Eventually, the situation goes from bad to life threatening. Daniel, his parents, and his Jewish cousin Miriam go to America. However, that would not be the last time, Daniel would see his friend Armin.

Soldier X by Dan Wulffson-Of these three YA historical fictions with a WWII setting, Soldier X is written in more the of the tradition of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Erik Brandt is a 15 year old Half-German/Russian boy who is conscripted into the German Wehrmacht. After a battle, he realizes the Germans lost and decides he must switch his uniform with that of a dead Russian soldier in order to survive. He uses his fluency in Russian to help him live. Unlike most of the war novels (both WWI and WWII mostly), I have read Erik is a young teenage soldier, not 18 or 19 like most soldier protagonists. His young age shows the need for soldiers that he would be conscripted at such a young age. It really makes you wonder where all the other men? Did Germany lose that many men, they needed to conscript teenagers to fight?

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Queen’s Own Fool by Jane Yolen and Robert Harris-The Queen’s Own Fool is a historical fiction novel about Mary Queen of Scots and her female jester Le Jardiniere (or Nicola). They are portrayed as having a very close bond from France where Nicola meets her at the tender age of 13 to when they travel back to Scotland.Queen Mary listens to Nicola less and finds herself in all of the well-known historical predicaments that led to her downfall. It’s also nice to see a novel about a historical footnote for once. Not a lot of facts are known about Le Jardiniere. Judging from my torn copy from all the rereads I did as a teenager, I believe that Jane Yolen and Robert Harris did a stand up job in doing her justice.

The Pox Party (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor of a Nation, #1) by M.T. Anderson-Octavian is an African slave living with his regal mother in Boston in the house of philosophers. Octavian is given a classical education. However, he soon realizes he is part of a series of experiments. The novel takes place right around the American Revolution. In Boston, in particular, Patriots fought for their liberty. This fight is juxtaposed with Octavian’s life as a slave.

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