I’m excited to share some of the best novels I’ve read recently for young people. The first six are middle grade novels, and the last one is a YA novel.
The Crumberry Chronicles by Shelley Pierce include The Wish I Wished Last Night, Battle Buddies, and 624 Juniper Lane. The author shares Biblical principles in all three novels.
In The Wish I Wished Last Night, 11-year-old Jase lives with his widowed mom. They grieve the loss of his dad, and Jase struggles with how to handle bullies in middle school. Jase makes mistakes, but with the help of family and concerned teachers he learns how to cope.
In Battle Buddies, Jase and his friends have more challenges to overcome. Jase struggles to encourage his best friend who suffers from a serious head injury. Meanwhile, Jase discovers some secrets and doesn’t know whether he should tell them. He wants to do the right thing, but he doesn’t know what that is. His mom gives him a box of letters his dad wrote to him before his dad died. The letters and the advice of caring teachers help Jase.
624 Juniper Street is the third book in this series. Jase hasn’t seen his grandparents since he was little. When his mom wants them to spend Thanksgiving with his grandparents, he’s anxious. I loved his growing relationship with his grandparents. Like Jase, I was curious about what was hidden in the barn. Jase deals with temptation, then with guilt when he makes wrong choices. He learns to forgive and ask for forgiveness, and he makes the most important decision of his life.
My Name Is River and Hope Girl are by Wendy Dunham. In My Name Is River, 12-year-old River wonders why her birth parents and her adoptive parents gave her up before she was two. She hopes one day they’ll come back for her. When her adoptive grandmother moves them to West Virginia, River worries that her parents won’t be able to find her. She builds a bird sanctuary with an unpopular boy and in the process learns about birds, friendship, bullies, death, and grief. As Biblical themes of acceptance, love, forgiveness, and redemption are woven throughout the story, River learns that God loves her.
In Hope Girl, River finds that her identity in Christ brings her the love and fulfillment she has always wanted. Though she deals with struggles and challenges, she learns that Christ is always with her.
Riding the Rails to Home: A Newsie Rides the Orphan Train by Cleo Lampos is a historical novel about a newsie in NYC in the 1800s. Stephen lives with his parents and his sister in NYC, but he spends his time on the streets because his dad is an abusive alcoholic. When Ma dies and his sister is put in an orphanage, Stephen works selling newspapers and stays at a lodge for newsies where they get a bed, food, preaching, and classes which teach them to read. Then Stephen is sent west on a train with other orphans. Stephen struggles with trust because people he’s known have not been trustworthy. How can God or anyone else love him when he never felt loved by his dad? Cleo Lampos has created a likable boy that readers will care about. She weaves in historical details and shares Stephen’s emotional journey as he discovers that he is loved.
One of my favorite YA novels is The Crown and the Axe by Darcy Fornier. This inspirational YA novel set in medieval times is a coming-of-age story that offers adventure, suspense, and a touch of romance. Dierk, the 17-year-old Crown Prince, makes a mistake that injures one of his knights. To teach Dierk humility, Dierk’s father sends him on a journey with his father’s trusted friend, and Dierk must pretend to be a woodcutter’s son instead of the prince. The obstacles Dierk faces put him in danger. He’s introduced to spiritual warfare, but good overcomes evil. Dierk grows emotionally and spiritually as he learns to obey God.