Summer vacation is for travel and relaxation, but it is also a time to get caught up on new books and plan for the coming school year. Contributing writer Barbara Hiron, a former children’s librarian in Canada, prepared this list of new fiction for young adults to help high school teachers get started. She deemed these the best of the many recent novels she’s read.
JOYRIDE, by Gretchen Olson. (Boyds Mills Press, $14.95.) Jeff celebrates the end of the school year with a late-night joyride in his truck right through farmer Hampton’s bean field. As restitution, he must work as a field hand on Mr. Hampton’s berry farm, scuttling his plans to play tennis all summer. Gradually Jeff learns to appreciate the long hours put in by the Hamptons and their Mexican farm workers. And before he knows it, he’s helping defend the farm against racism and vandalism.
SUNSHINE RIDER: The First Vegetarian Western, by Ric Lynden Hardman. (Delacorte Press, $15.95.) Like most Texas boys in the late 19th century, Wylie, 17, hankers to ride on a cattle drive. When he finally gets his wish and lands a job as an assistant cook, a friend asks him to take along Roselle, a cross between a longhorn and a buffalo called a cattlelo. But the beast causes a stampede, and Wylie is so mortified that he runs away from the drive and into a whirlwind of adventure that includes encounters with a medicine man, a salesman of electric belts purported to have healing powers, and a notorious thief and killer. It’s a hoot. Recipes that only a cowboy could love head each chapter.
PARZIVAL, retold by Katherine Paterson. (Lodestar Books, $15.99.) Raised in the wilderness, Parzival realizes his dream of becoming one of King Arthur’s knights. But while visiting a king in a distant, mystical land, the young man fails to inquire about the nature of his host’s mortal wounds. Cursed and dishonored for this slight, he sets out on a quest to find the Holy Grail and restore his good name. Award-winner Paterson has transformed a 13th-century poem into elegant prose, producing a medieval tale brimming with action, intrigue, and a mystery to boot.
LIVES OF OUR OWN, by Lorri Hewett. (Dutton, $15.99.) After her parents divorce, Shawna moves with her father from Denver to his hometown in Georgia. Shawna, who is African American, writes a scathing article in her school newspaper denouncing the “Old South Ball,” a revered tradition for white students only. Racism and violence flare as a result, but the controversy leads Shawna and a white girl named Kari to a secret from the past: Shawna’s father and Kari’s mother were close friends years before in high school. After further investigation, the girls make a discovery that helps them understand the roots of their own prejudices.
IN THE STONE CIRCLE, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. (Scholastic Press, $15.95.) Cristyn reluctantly accompanies her professor father to Wales, where he is to spend the summer researching a medival Welsh hero. They share an ancient stone cottage with another professor and her children, and the three youngsters soon encounter strange moving objects, a hidden staircase, and ghosts from the past. This exciting mystery novel offers a fascinating glimpse into Welsh history.
WHIRLIGIG, by Paul Fleischman. (Henry Holt, $16.95.) Brent, a 16-year-old prep school student, has his own car, designer clothes, and an uncontrollable temper. When he is humiliated at a party, he speeds away, causing an accident that kills a young girl. Aching with guilt, Brent seeks punishment from the girl’s mother, who orders him to build four toy whirligigs, each with a painting of her daughter’s face, and set them up in Washington, California, Florida, and Maine—the four corners of the United States. Traveling by bus across the country and camping out along the way, he learns to build the toys, meets some memorable people, and slowly begins to turn his life around.
I AM MORDRED: A Tale From Camelot, by Nancy Springer. (Philomel Books, $16.99.) Mordred, the illegitimate son of King Arthur and his half-sister, Morgause, has been rejected by his mother, scorned by his stepbrothers, and shunned by those who have heard the prophecy that he will kill his father. Although he becomes one of Arthur’s knights, Mordred yearns for the king to accept him as a son and sets off on a quest to alter his fate. This is an unusual but sympathetic view of Mordred, beautifully written with magical images and characters from the Arthurian legend.
IN A DARK WOOD, by Michael Cadnum. (Orchard Books, $17.95.) This intriguing retelling of the Robin Hood story focuses less on the elusive bandit than on his nemesis, Geoffrey, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Cadnum portrays Geoffrey not as a villain but as a man plagued by his own demons. He is already weighed down by his duties and personal problems—he cheats on his wife yet craves her love—when he receives the order to capture Robin Hood. The game of hide and seek ensues, but when the outlaw rescues the sheriff and briefly kidnaps him, Geoffrey realizes the time has come to re-evaluate his life. It is an imaginative tale, stylishly told with rich detail about a period of English history both brutal and compelling.