Since Twilight burst on the scene, the Young Adult genre has skewed heavily towards vampires, magic and all thing supernatural. Fortunately, there are so many books coming out in the genre that you can find excellent titles that fit any criteria. For example, in honor of Women's History Month I asked some of my favorite book bloggers who focus on Young Adult titles to nominate their favorite titles featuring women of another era. Their choices are below for your reading pleasure.
by Sarah MacLean
Did someone say perfect? Well I did! This is the most enjoyable, fun, and romantic book I've read in a good long while. I don't usually go for historical books, there are usually all sorts of things I haven't got a clue about (what are they riding in, what is this weird hobby etc — I remember nothing from history class) but in The Season I didn't have to put up with that frustration and what was left were the beautiful clothes, swoon-worthy boys, traditions, and manners of Regency England. It was seriously so much fun and instantly put me in a good mood when reading.
by Y.S. Lee
Robert Downey Jr.-esque Sherlock Holmes wannabes — look out! Dark, gritty, and sensual Victorian England has got itself a memorable female protagonist by the name of Mary Quinn. Y.S. Lee's first novel is intelligent, mysterious, romantic, and full of non-stop action. The setting of Victorian-era London is well-researched and realistically rendered. In a time period where women had few options for what to do with their lives, Mary is surprisingly and happily resourceful, plucky, and active. The suspenseful mystery is smart without being overwhelming, and the banter between Mary and the romantic interest is spine-tinglingly good. Fans of historical fiction, detective stories, and romance must not miss this top-notch debut!
by Ann Rinaldi
Annie Brown, the daughter of abolitionist John Brown, isn't sure what she thinks about her fiery, single-minded, freedom-loving father. She believes in his cause-freedom for the slaves — but also wishes that her father would pay some attention to her, and perhaps think more about the effect of his actions on his family and on the volunteers that follow him. Of course, the upcoming raid on Harper's Ferry is even more exciting and frightening because one of those volunteers is the man Annie hopes to marry. Ann Rinaldi's historical fiction is always excellent, and her protagonists from Annie Brown to Sarah Revere to Patrick Henry's daughters, Patsy and Anne, are always fully realized, intriguing, and vivid. Women's history comes alive in Ms. Rinaldi's books.
by Sherri L. Smith
Ida Mae Jones has always wanted to fly. Ever since she was put behind the wheel of her daddy's Jenny and taught how, she knew that this was what she was born to do. Except, she's an African American and lives in the outskirts of New Orleans. Not only can she not get a pilot's license because she's a woman; she can't get one because she's the wrong color. It's only when her younger brother spies and article about the Army's WASP program (that's Women's Airforce Service Pilots), and that there was a Chinese-American woman in it, that Ida gets an inkling of an idea. She forges her daddy's pilot's license, and since she's light enough skinned to pass for white, she applies. And gets in. The best part of the book is Ida learning how to fly military planes. It's fascinating to learn about the challenges posed by the program, the obstacles she had to surmount in order to succeed in a man's world. It was not only historically interesting, but had a universal appeal: what woman hasn't faced the "you can't do it because you're a girl" and fought her way to success in whatever that is? In addition, it's a cracking good story.
by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Let's face it. Rumpelstiltskin has always been a rather nasty little fairy tale. An awful dad sells his nameless daughter to an awful king in exchange for money. The awful king threatens the nameless daughter with death unless she is able to spin straw into gold. Then to top it all off, a creepily awful dwarf appears and saves the nameless daughter's bacon... in exchange for her potential first-born child. It turns out it wasn't Elizabeth C. Bunce's favorite story either and her splendid adaptation of the old tale fills in the cracks, reworks the plot, and carefully shapes it into a lovely story of courage and ill luck, curses and redemption. The setting is a perfect choice: eighteenth century England, just on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. And the beautiful names — Charlotte Miller, Randall Woodstone, Shearing, Stirwaters, Jack Spinner — truly belong to their characters and places, each one chosen for effect, like a Dickens cast. For the mill, the mansion, and the curse itself are characters in their own right. Seventeen-year-old Charlotte is an indomitable soul and her strength and determination make her easy to root for as Bunce's beautiful, unselfconscious writing propels the story forward to its climactic conclusion. The most original reworking of a fairy tale I've read in ages — it is dark, drafty, remarkably real and, like Jack Spinner, it will spin its golden thread around you.
by Katherine Paterson
After losing her family's hill-country farm, Lyddie Worthen leaves Vermont to maker her fortune — or maybe just get by — in the Lowell, Massachusetts textile mills. This book's so good I'll leave it at that and leave the rest for you to discover and enjoy on your own.
by Jennifer Donnelly
Set in upstate New York at the turn of the twentieth-century, A Northern Light is the story of Mattie Gokey, a teenager who becomes a crucial witness in the famous murder of Grace Brown. But Mattie's own story, which is told in flashbacks, takes center stage. Mattie comes from a family of farmers, which along with the fact that she's a girl means that she must fight twice as hard for her dream — to go to New York City and attend university. As the story unfolds, Mattie realizes that her dream may be incompatible with some of the other things she wants — romance, love, a family. Donnelly portrays the dilemma countless women had to face with insight and sympathy, and more than wish that Mattie would make one choice or the other, readers will be left thinking long and hard about why she had to choose at all.
by Suzanne Crowley
Part of the fun of historical fiction is feeling like you're actually in the scene. Crowley details Queen Elizabeth's court so well — the intrigues and the fashions — you might as well be a courtier right along with main character Kat, an orphan searching for her true identity. And though Queen Elizabeth is as crafty and vibrant here as she is usually portrayed, Kat still manages to steal the show. She was such an appealing character to hang out with — curious, bright, passionate, and unpredictable. An utterly enthralling and enchanting story.
by Christine Fletcher
Christine Fletcher vividly brings early 1940s Chicago to life in Ten Cents a Dance with rich characterizations and a sympathetic, unforgettable heroine. Dancing is 15-year-old Ruby Jacinski's only escape from the drudgery of working at a meatpacking plant to support her family. Then Ruby learns about taxi-dance halls, where men pay to dance with women and Ruby can easily earn three or four times as much as she did packing pickled hogs feet. But taxi-dancing isn't a respectable occupation. Becoming a taxi-dancer means growing up in a hurry as Ruby's forced to confront things like racism, love, and manipulation, while lying to her family about what she is really doing. A wonderful and captivating story that will appeal to both teens and adults.
by Lensey Namioka
Set in 1911 China, 16-year-old Yanyan is a smart and determined young woman. Her family has money and her father believes in educating girls. Yanyan must decide between following a boy she likes or going to college and following her dreams of becoming a doctor. She decides to go to college in the United States and adapts quickly to her new home of the next four years. (I loved the boy she ends up with — he's not embarrassed that Yanyan can break out a couple of marital arts moves when needed.) I loved this book and Yanyan is a strong, smart and ahead of her time or just in time to help bring about change. Naomioka's writing is wonderful and I quickly lost myself in this story.
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Imagine 10 percent of your city's population dying in the span of three months. Because that's what happened when an epidemic of yellow fever hit Philadelphia in 1793. 16-year-old Mattie Cook has a fairly comfortable life, but the yellow fever changes all that. You just know Laurie Halse Anderson researched the heck out of this story because the details are creepy vivid. I wish I could have read books like this in middle school to learn about historical events, rather than boring history textbooks that drill dates and facts into your head without the story behind them.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
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