Staff picks for the Winter Reading Challenge (for ages 13 to 18)

How are you going with the Winter Reading Challenge? We have highlighted some of the fab books picked by teens, now here are some staff picks to help you tick off some challenges:

The first book in a series

Truly Devious Maureen Johnson
Unsolved mysteries, kidnapping, murder, and super smart teenagers at an isolated boarding school in Vermont. Alina

The Raven Boys Maggie Stiefvater
The story of Blue, the only non-psychic in her family of fantastic women, and the Raven Boys – four boys from a private school on a quest for a dead Welsh King. Full of humour, teen angst, almost-kisses and magic. (Also available as an audiobook.) Alina

Chaos Walking trilogy Patrick Ness
Todd Hewitt is the last man on the planet. All the females are gone, you can read everyone’s thoughts, and nothing is quite as it seems. A brilliant series, fantastic as an audiobook, and coming out as a movie in 2019. Kate

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A book that was made into a movie

The Hate U Give Angie Thomas
When Starr witnesses the death of her childhood friend at the hands of a police officer, she struggles to decide what to do — speak up against injustice, or keep her family safe? (Read it before the movie comes out in October!) Alina

Everything Everything Nicola Yoon
What do you do when you literally can’t leave the house, and the thing you want most in the world is just outside the front door? Kate

Every Day David Levithan (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

The Book Thief Markus Zuzak (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

The Maze Runner James Dashner

The Fifth Wave Rick Yancey

Ready Player One Ernest Cline

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A book with non-human characters

Year of the Griffin Diana Wynne Jones
When Elda, the griffin daughter of the great Wizard Derk, arrives for schooling at the Wizards’ University, she encounters new friends, pirates, assassins, worry, sabotage, bloodshed, and magic misused. Alina

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A graphic novel/comic book

Nimona Noelle Stevenson
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Alina

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Ryan North
She’s part squirrel, part girl – she’s Squirrel Girl! Lots of fun, lots of laughs. Kate

One punch man

Spill Zone Scott Westerfeld

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A love story

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You Lily Anderson
A loose retelling of Much Ado About Nothing featuring fandom, extra-smart teens and a lot of snark. Alina

Autoboyography Christina Lauren
It can be hard enough being a gay teenager when you live somewhere liberal and progressive. It’s even harder in the middle of Mormon Utah. Kate

Eleanor & Park Rainbow Rowell (picked by Kim)

Emergency Contact Mary H.K. Choi (picked by Alina)

Pieces of You Eileen Merriman (picked by Rachel from Scorpio Books) [NEW ZEALAND]

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Listen to a podcast or audiobook

Nation Terry Pratchett
Finding himself alone on a desert island when everything and everyone he knows and loved has been washed away in a huge storm, Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s also completely alone – or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. Narrated by Tony Robinson (don’t worry, he doesn’t sound like Baldrick from Blackadder in this). Alina

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Saenz
Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before. Superbly narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Alina

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A book about identity

Lies We Tell Ourselves Robin Talley
In 1959 Virginia, Sarah, a black student who is one of the first to attend a newly integrated school, forces Linda, a white integration opponent’s daughter, to confront harsh truths when they work together on a school project. Alina

I am Thunder Muhammad Khan
Muzna is a regular British teenager, so how does she end up involved with Islamic radicals? Kate

A quiet kind of thunder Sarah Barnard
Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager with anxiety is even harder. And being a teenager with anxiety who doesn’t speak is even harder again… especially when love’s involved. Kate

Girl mans up M-E. Girard
Pen doesn’t want to be a boy – she just wants to look like one, and that confuses people. This is her look at frenemies, love, and teen pregnancy. An awesome read – I wish it had been written when I was a teenager! Kate

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index Julie Israel (picked by Rachel from Scorpio Books)

Girl Missing Sophie McKenzie (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

You’re welcome, universe Whitney Gardner

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda Becky Albertalli

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A dystopian novel

Chaos Walking trilogy Patrick Ness
Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run. (First in a series and also available as an audiobook.) Alina

Little Brother Cory Doctorow
A standalone cyber-thriller packed full of teen hackers, revolution, terrorism, a police state, and an awesome romance. Alina

The Giver Lois Lowry (picked by Julianne)

Replica Lauren Oliver

Flawed Cecelia Ahern

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Inspirational biographies

Hope in a Ballet Shoe Michaela DePrince
Adopted in the United States, a young girl from Sierra Leone dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer. A great read, even if you’re not a dancer. Kate

In the sea there are crocodiles: The story of Enaiatollah Akbar Fabio Geda
Based on the true story of 10-year-old Enaiatollah’s escape from Afghanistan, and his journey across the mountains and seas to safety in Italy. Kate

In order to live Yeonmi Park (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

Being Jazz Jazz Jennings

Never fall down Patricia McCormick (a work of fiction based on the true story of a Cambodian child soldier).

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More recommendations

Personal recommended reads from librarians – from classics to new publications!

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Rachel from Scorpio Books recommended these books for teens:

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Saskia from Cashmere High’s library recommendeds the following good reads:

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More reading ideas

Enter the Winter Read Challenge and win prizes!

“Lymond is back!”

Cover of The Game of KingsI come bearing glad tidings, for the Lymond Chronicles have finally been republished and the library now has a complete set available to borrow.

This means I can finally recommend them with a clear conscience, starting with The Game of Kings — first in a series featuring the sneaky and erudite 15th century Scottish Francis Crawford of Lymond and lots of humour, sheep-stealing, and a bunch of historical references I’m too uneducated to understand.

During the course of the series the reader is taken to England, France, Malta, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, Dunnett’s writing and incredible depth of research transporting you with ease to each location. Her characters, too, are well-drawn and sympathetic, particularly my favourites Kate Somerville and her pragmatic daughter Philippa: 

“There are twenty thousand men, women and children in the bagnios of Algiers alone. I am not going to make it twenty thousand and one because your mother didn’t allow you to keep rabbits, or whatever is at the root of your unshakable fixation.”

“I had weasels instead,” said Philippa shortly.

“Good God,” said Lymond, looking at her. “That explains a lot.”

Lymond himself has been compared to other clever/ridiculous heroes such as Peter Wimsey and Athos, and I’d add Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle to that list. He has influenced writers from Marie Brennan, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ellen Kushner and Max Gladstone to Kim Stanley Robinson — all, now that I think about it, either fantasy or science fiction writers. Perhaps it’s the detailed sense of history and place that Dunnett evokes that makes it resonate with creators of other worlds.

Much as I love this series, its writing takes no prisoners and often leaves first-time readers baffled and confused within the first hundred pages. They’re not light reads by any means, although they are often fun, and going in you just have to accept that there is a lot going on that you won’t understand — unless you speak five languages and are deeply familiar with the literature and politics of the time period, in which case I salute you. (Or if you can’t but still want to understand, grab a copy of The Dorothy Dunnett Companion which attempts to explain the myriad references that the author drops carelessly every second paragraph.)

But if you do persevere (which I recommend you do), you’ll have six  ridiculous, funny, clever, heartbreaking books to read ahead of you. I mean, it has lines like this:

“And the English army, wheeling, started south at a gallop over the hill pass into Ettrick, followed by twenty men and eight hundred sheep in steel helmets.”

Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Cover of Queens' PlayCover of Disorderly KnightsCover of Pawn in FrankincenseCover of The Ringed CastleCover of Checkmate