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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, November 14, 1999

Young Adult Books for Adults

This past spring I started serving on a national committee of 15 librarians who pick the Best Books for Young Adults. For me it has been a crash course in books for middle and high school students, as well as an opportunity to meet librarians from coast to coast. I am finding that many of the books nominated are very appealing to adults and today I want to tell you about some of the nominees which are recommended for teens and will also appeal to adult readers. If you are looking for something different I suggest you try one of these books, all are available at your public library.

Blue Hole by G.D. Gearino (Simon & Schuster, 1999).

The author of What the Deaf Mute Heard paints a vivid picture of small-town Southern life, with its complex relationships and dark secrets. At once murder mystery with page-turning suspense, and a funny, heartwarming coming-of-age story, "Blue Hole" is about a young man expelled from high school in his last semester over a racial incident in which he defends a black teammate. He goes to work for a young woman photographer and they become involved in the investigation of a missing child. Read this one slowly and savor the author's dryly humorous insights into life in the South.

In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke with Jennifer Armstrong (Knopf, 1999).

Rarely does non-fiction read like fiction but a talented co-author has helped Ms. Opdyke weave a skillful and haunting story. As a teenager in Poland young Irene found the courage to act when she saw Jews being persecuted. The only way she was able to save people was to hide them in the basement of the Nazi officer for whom she worked. When he discovered his uninvited guests Irene was forced to become his lover to buy his silence. One of the most memorable books I've read this year.

Frenchtown Summer by Robert Cormier (Delacorte, 1999).

An autobiographical story in poetry by one of the acknowledged masters of young adult fiction. Cormier grew up in a French Canadian community in Massachusetts and in this lyrical and haunting series of verse vignettes the writer reminisces about being a twelve-year-old boy the summer of 1938.

Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card (Tor, 1999).

Not a sequel but a parallel to Ender's Game which I recommended last summer as a classic of the genre which would be appreciated by many readers who think they don't like science fiction. Ender's Shadow was even more enjoyable for me; it is the story of a little boy with great intelligence who is rescued from gang life on the streets of a furtuistic Amsterdam. He is sent to a special school in outer space to learn to become a military leader against the Buggers, ant-like beings from outer space who are destroying civilization. Philosophical questions, exciting action and intelligent characters kept me turning the pages. This will appeal to young and older teens as well as grown-ups.

At Her Majesty's Request by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic, 1999).

A biography of an African princess rescued from death by a British Naval officer, taken to England and placed under the protection of Queen Victoria. After an English upbringing the girl is forced to marry a man she doesn't love and return to Africa as the wife of a missionary. Although the historical details are sketchy, I was fascinated by this unusual story of a young woman caught between two cultures. You will find the book in the juvenile non-fiction section, but don't think it is for children only, it is a captivating story.

Alida's Song by Gary Paulsen (Delacorte, 1999).

An autobiographical novelette about a summer the author spent working on a farm with his grandmother and two bachelor farmer brothers. I was at first put off by the childish cover but this gentle story held my attention from start to finish. A sequel to an earlier book, The Cookcamp. I recommend this book for everyone who is looking for a book which can be read in a few hours.

From the Black Hills by Judy Troy (Random House, 1999).

An adult book which will be of interest to older teens as well as those who enjoy thoughtful coming-of-age stories. The protagonist is a boy who has just graduated from high school and is getting ready to go to college when his father commits a murder and disappears. The boy's struggles to deal with his own shock, his mother's grief, his girlfriend's reluctance to let him go, his attraction to his boss's wife and the small town's reaction to his father's crime make up the plot of a book which is quietly compelling.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.