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By James R. Hannibal

61PD3LzXZxL._SX391_BO1204203200_Thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles has synesthesia, a condition in which the senses are hyperobservant and sometimes confused. Especially in a crowd, noises have always "hit him from every side -- flashes of color that obstructed his vision." Jack's condition sometimes makes ordinary life difficult. What he's about to discover is that it may also give him strengths that will help him survive an unexpected mission.

Jack and his mother and sister are in London after Jack's father's strange disappearance, searching for any remaining traces of him. After Jack's sister, Sadie, thinks she sees their father on the street and takes off after him, the children wind up at the Lost Property Office, a mysterious and magical organization where Jack is taken in hand by Gwen, a 12-year-old apprentice clerk.

Before he knows it, Jack and Gwen are on a wild chase across the city, pursuing a man who claims to be holding Jack's father, but is asking a deadly ransom. Read More >
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By Leslie Connor

511PsKsm9QL._SX347_BO1204203200_Eleven-year-old Perry thinks life is pretty good. True, he's lived all his life at the Blue River Co-Ed Correctional Facility, the minimum-security prison where his mother, Jessica, is incarcerated. He knows that it hasn't been easy for his mother, and he eagerly looks forward to the day she gets parole. But Perry himself is able to go to school off the premises. And when he's home, he's content with his surroundings and the ragtag bunch of inmates who have helped care for him since he was a baby.

But not everyone agrees with Perry's assessment. When word of his living situation reaches an overzealous new district attorney, Thomas VanLeer, Perry is yanked out of Blue River and made to live with VanLeer and his family. His time with his mother and the other inmates he cares about is now severely limited. Worse, his mother's parole may be in danger. It's up to Perry to find a way to advocate for himself and his mother and their dream of one day having their own home.
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By Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

My_Lady_Jane(Note: This review contains spoilers.)

Figuring out how to describe "My Lady Jane" is something of a feat. It's been compared to Monty Python and to "The Princess Bride." It's a historical tragedy turned into a romantic adventure-fantasy-comedy. It's history with magical and modern twists. Or maybe it's best just to go with the book jacket, which explains that the authors -- who refer to themselves collectively as the Lady Janies -- are "fixing history one sad story at a time."

The sad story in question is that of Lady Jane Grey, the "Nine Days Queen," whom her Protestant cousin Edward VI named his heir to prevent his Catholic sister Mary from inheriting the English crown. But Mary had enough supporters to strike back, and Jane was soon deposed and executed, along with her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley. So ended her story in real life.

In "My Lady Jane," things go in a different direction entirely. The authors keep the 16th-century setting, but update the language and many of the ideas and customs. But that's not the half of it. They also add plenty of magic. Specifically, they create a world split between people who can turn into animals (Edians) and people who can't (Verities). Read More >

By Jason Reynolds

Ghost"'So then, who trained you? Somebody had to train you to be so fast.'

"'Nobody. I just know how to run.'"

Castle Crenshaw, or "Ghost," as he prefers to call himself, has always known how to run -- ever since the night he and his mother had to run for their lives, while his drunk father shot at them. But Ghost has never been particularly interested in developing his talent. Not until the day that a track coach spots Ghost testing his speed against one of the track team's members, and approaches him for a talk. Read More >
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By Trenton Lee Stewart

The_Secret_KeepersEleven-year-old Reuben spends his days hiding. It isn't that he has anyone or anything in particular to hide from. Although his city, New Umbra, is ruled by a terrible man called The Smoke who has minions everywhere, it's not likely that someone as small and insignificant as Reuben would be of any interest to him. Nevertheless, Reuben just loves to hide. On summer days when his mother is at work, he roams the city finding new ways to vanish from sight.

On one of these excursions, while climbing a wall in an alley, Reuben finds a treasure: a very old, very beautiful watch tucked away into a crevice. He hopes to be able to sell it to help his mother pay the rent, or maybe even find a better place to live. But after he takes it to a watchmaker called Mrs. Genevieve to determine its value, Reuben discovers that the watch is even more extraordinary than he had realized: It has the power to grant invisibility for 15 minutes at a time. Read More >
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Books to Buy for Your Teens and Preteens

ThinkstockPhotos-sb10069478bh-001If you have teens or preteens to buy books for this Christmas, we're here to help! I've compiled a list of all the best-reviewed books on the Youth Reads page over the past two years, with direct links to Amazon or the Colson Center store. (Note: Where series are mentioned, I've linked instead to the original Youth Reads review, which contains links to all the books in that series.)
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By Jay Asher

51di00R9aXL._SX330_BO1204203200_[Note: This review contains major spoilers.]

Don't be surprised if you find Jay Asher's newest YA novel on your teenager's Christmas wish list this year. Asher's first novel, "Thirteen Reasons Why," is still a bestseller as it approaches its 10th anniversary. His new book, "What Light," is also proving highly popular, although it represents a major tonal shift from his dark debut book. Though it touches on some tough issues as well, "What Light" is more in the vein of a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

Our protagonist, Sierra, lives most of the year in Oregon, where her parents own a Christmas tree farm. She and her family spend every December selling the trees at their own lot in California. Sierra loves working at the lot, and is worried that her family might not be able to keep it going for another year, as financial troubles mean that they might have to resort to selling only to supermarkets and other people's tree lots. But that's not her only worry.
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By Kate Messner

[Note: This review contains some spoilers.]

51YFk8Hy66L._SX329_BO1204203200_Twelve-year-old Charlie, just like most of us, has read all the stories about foolish people who discovered a way to make wishes come true, only to squander the opportunity. So when she finds -- of all things -- a fish that grants wishes, she's determined not to be like those people. What she doesn't expect is that sometimes, even the most unselfish, carefully planned wishes can go awry. And that some situations are so dangerous and complicated that even wishing can't help.

Kate Messner's "The Seventh Wish" deals with some pretty heavy themes, but in wise and age-appropriate ways. Charlie is a likable narrator, whose days are taken up with school, Irish dancing, and ice fishing (that last to help raise money for the dress she needs for dancing). Her life is often stressful -- and she's sometimes resentful of her older sister, Abby, who seems to take priority over her -- but it's a good life on the whole. And when she finds the wishing fish, she's convinced it's going to get even better, if she can just figure out how to get her wishes to go right. Read More >
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By Shonna Slayton

51Yd7-zx29L._SX331_BO1204203200_Briar Rose considers herself just a normal spinner girl, like so many others working in the cotton mills in her small Vermont town. Her biggest concern is earning enough to care for her orphaned younger siblings and keep the family together.

But with a name like Briar Rose -- and with a friend called Henry Prince! -- she shouldn't be surprised when she finds herself surrounded by a real-life fairy tale. Unfortunately, Briar quickly discovers that living in a fairy tale is, well, no fairy tale.

"Spindle" by Shonna Slayton portrays what might happen if the fairy's curse from "Sleeping Beauty," rather than being destroyed, somehow survived for hundreds of years, attached to a magical spindle that finds its way to a young Irish-American girl in the early 20th century. When Briar accepts the spindle as a gift from a peddler, in order to help fix a broken frame in the mill, she unwittingly sets the curse in motion again. In Slayton's imaginative tale, Briar, her family, and her friends must work together to defeat a powerful and relentless evil that threatens not just Briar, but their whole community.
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By Tricia Springstubb

61oXNvj5CL._SX357_BO1204203200_"Just because you did one right thing, did it mean you were good?

"And if that was true, did doing one wrong thing mean you were bad?"

Twelve-year-old Nella Sabatini suddenly finds herself grappling with these and other hard questions in Tricia Springstubb's "Every Single Second."

Change is happening all around Nella, far too fast. Her Catholic school -- the school she's attended her entire life -- is closing. Nella and her former "secret sister," Angela, don't talk to each other anymore. And that's only the beginning. Nella is about to face a series of events and revelations that may shake her faith in everything she knows, loves, and believes in. Read More >
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By Iain Lawrence

41Qni1J65L._SX329_BO1204203200_(Review contains some spoilers.)

Twelve-year-old Chris never expected much more than a little family bonding time when his uncle Jack invited him for a sail along the Alaskan coast. Having lost his father the year before, he appreciates the chance to spend some time with his father's brother. He didn't expect Frank, an older boy sailing with them, who hates him on sight. And he never dreamed that an accident would strand him and Frank on a deserted shore with no way to call for help.

"The Skeleton Tree" by Iain Lawrence is an exciting adventure story for middle-schoolers, with two interesting young protagonists. As you'd expect, Chris and Frank have to learn to get along, at least to some extent, to find a way to survive. Read More >
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By Lauren Wolk

61UonXDCtXL._SX333_BO1204203200_(Note: This review contains some spoilers.)

"The year I turned twelve," Annabelle, the narrator of "Wolf Hollow," tells us, "I learned that what I said and what I did mattered."

Living in rural Pennsylvania in 1943, with the world at war, Annabelle is facing troubles of her own on the homefront. A new girl, Betty, has begun attending school with her, and it quickly becomes clear that she's a girl with serious problems. Her attacks on Annabelle, her brothers, and others aren't just silly pranks, they're dangerous.

And things get really bad when Betty and her boyfriend, Andy, blame a homeless veteran named Toby for throwing a rock that seriously injures one of their schoolmates. Annabelle and her family consider Toby a friend, and she's determined to find a way to clear his name. But the responsibility may just be too much for a 12-year-old girl to handle.
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