Junior Teens: (ages 11-14)
The Little White Horse
By Elizabeth Goudge
Thirteen year-old orphan, Maria Merryweather, leaves the London home of her late father, and travels with her governess, Miss Heliotrope, to Moonacre Manor. The manor is the home of Maria’s guardian, Sir Benjamin Merryweather, a jolly, middle-aged, quick-tempered man, and Maria loves him. As Maria settles into her new life, she discovers that Moonacre is full of secrets, both old and new. Maria befriends the mysterious and beautiful Loveday Minette, explores the Manor with Loveday’s handsome son Robin, and is challenged by the kindly Old Parson to honour God and think more of others than herself. Maria loves everything about Moonacre: her tower room, the animals, the food, her clothing, and most importantly, the people. But all is not as it seems. With a band of black riders from the dark forest threatening the manor-house and village, and tensions escalating between the people she loves, Maria leaves on a quest to save her beloved Moonacre. Maria’s task is made even more difficult since what she fights against is not just dark magic, or even villains holding tight to an ancient grievance, but anger, stubborn pride, and an unwillingness to forgive. And these are present not just in the dark forest, but at Moonacre itself. The Little White Horse is magical and beautifully written, effective in inspiring a desire to love God, and full of delightful animals, breathtaking descriptions, realistic and thoughtful characters, and winsome settings.
By James Preller
Eric, his little brother, and his mom have just moved to Long Island, NY, for a “new start” as his mom puts it. Eric isn’t sure about the whole “new start” business, but he does know that, as the new kid in seventh grade, making friends is going to be tough. Then, unexpectedly, the charismatic Griffin welcomes Eric into the ‘cool’ gang at school. As the school year progresses, Eric discovers that Griffin is more than he seems: he is violent, dishonest, cruel, and yet alluringly charming. While he never participates in any of the more radical pranking and teasing, Eric is finally forced to admit: Griffin is a bully. And with that acknowledgment, Eric has a choice to make… will he stand up for what he knows is right, or will he continue to be a bystander? Tensions at school and at home build. Griffin’s threats become distressing, a past victim turns into a dangerous enemy, and councilors and police are involved. Meanwhile, Eric must come to terms with his mentally ill father still in Ohio, and provide support for his friend Mary, who is struggling with her friends’ social media harassment. While sometimes violent, and often unsettling, this story brings to light the very real problem of bullying in today’s schools, and asks the challenging question: will you be a bystander, or will you stand up for what is right?
Senior Teens: (ages 15-19)
By Rachel Coker
Scarlett is afraid her family is falling apart: her parents do not have enough money, her gorgeous older sister is becoming a hippie, and her grandfather is losing more of his sanity very day, obsessing over peanut butter and his red tie. The only constant thing in her life is her little brother Cliff. Cliff is special, but no one seems to understand him except Scarlett. Not even their parents see the beauty in his wonderfully quirky sense of humour, his interest in Spanish, or his incredibly organized mind. Scarlett, busy and stressed with the responsibility of running the family, still manages to spend as much possible time with Cliff, and when he asks for a rocket ship to Jupiter, she beings the project. With the help of their thoughtful friend Frank, Scarlett and Cliff raise money for their adventure by selling Scarlett’s pies, no matter that it is 1969 and a trip to Jupiter (especially for a 10-year-old-boy) is impossible. The pies sell well, but as the rest of her life spirals out of control, Scarlett struggles to keep the family together and to see God through it all. And then there is an accident that changes everything. With the help of Frank, her parents, and the pastor’s wife, Scarlett must learn to forgive, to stop blaming herself, and most importantly, to trust that God is good and has a reason for doing everything. Filled with unique and funny characters, hard lessons, and delicate reminders of God’s character, this is a lovely story of a girl’s discovery of family, love, and forgiveness.
Things Not Seen
By Andrew Clements
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be totally invisible? For Bobby Phillips, that question becomes a reality when one morning he wakes up and can’t see himself. It turns out, no one can. Life is suddenly upended for Bobby, and he struggles to adjust to this new way of living, while his scientist parents fight off the authorities and desperately search for a way to solve the problem. Meanwhile, because he is invisible, Bobby can’t go to high school and can only leave the house in two states: totally naked, which is kind of cold, not to mention awkward, or covered from head to toe (including scarves, hats, gloves, and dark glasses) which draws a lot of attention most of the year. He struggles with fear and anxiety, but also discovers that there are good things about his condition. For example, when visiting the library one day, he meets a blind girl named Alicia, and they begin a wonderful and surprising friendship. Through this time, Bobby learns more about fear, family, and friendship, and discovers that, like faith, it is the things that are not seen that are hardest to believe in, but provide the most hope.
Things Hoped For
By Andrew Clements
In the second book in Andrew Clements “Things” series, seventeen-year-old Gwen prepares to audition to some of the best music schools in New York City while living with her grandfather. Her focus is shattered though, when her elderly and beloved grandfather mysteriously disappears and requests her not to tell anyone. Though she tries very hard not to panic, she struggles to balance school, relationships, and music while searching for her grandfather and keeping his disappearance secret. In the midst of this crisis, she meets a kind trumpet-player named Robert who is also auditioning to music schools, and suddenly she is not so alone. His calmness, maturity, and sense of humour help her through the stressful days, and with his unabashed love of music, he teaches her to let go of self-consciousness and just listen to what the music says. But one day at the mall, Gwen and Robert see a moving shadow without a body, and things become even more complicated. As audition time nears, Gwen’s great uncle becomes more aggressive, a dangerous criminal stalks Gwen and Robert, and they make a horrifying discovery. Police are involved, Gwen’s father arrives, and all of Gwen’s dreams seem futile. But there is always hope, hope unseen, and through this, Gwen learns the significance of true sacrifice and love.