Book List, Indie Next

Holiday Gift Giving: Middle Grades & Young Adult

It’s time for our annual holiday gift giving recommendations! Check out all of the picks on display in the front corner of the store across from the wine bar!

Middle Grades

The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson

Two indigenous children in the foster system in Canada stumble into an icy world from their attic. They find a community of talking animals who are starving; they’re world ruined by the last selfish human who came into their realm. The children must go on a journey to fix what the last human destroyed. Along the way, they’ll learn the importance of community and family heritage.

Becky

Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle-grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

I fell in love with HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE after watching the Studio Ghibli movie (as I am sure most people have). When I realized it was based off a book I had to pick it up and I was not disappointed. This book is so whimsical and funny. It carries the same magical feel as the movie while adding a slightly more complex and better explained story line. A great book for kids and adults!

Athena

This entrancing classic fantasy novel is filled with surprises at every turn. An international bestseller, this much-loved book is the source for the Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature.

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle.

To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl’s castle?

All fans of classic fantasy books deserve the pleasure of reading those by Diana Wynne Jones, whose acclaim included the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. As Neil Gaiman stated, she was “quite simply the best writer for children of her generation.”

Arrow by Samantha M. Clark

I don’t think it is possible to explain how truly amazing this story is. It’s like How to Train Your Dragon, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and Princess Mononoke all wrapped up in one. Arrow is an incredible character and you will love getting to know him within these pages. While the story does deal with issues of pollution and rainforest destruction, at its core this is a story about friendship, family, and risking everything to save all those you love. ARROW is a prime example of how awesome middle grade co-fiction can be, and is absolute joy to read.

Marielle

From the author of The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast comes a “richly imagined fable” (Susan Fletcher, author of Journey of the Pale Bear, a Golden Kite Honor Book) about a boy who’s grown up as the only human in an enchanted rainforest and what happens when people from the outside world discover his home.

For the first twelve years of Arrow’s life, he grew up as the only human in a lush, magical rainforest that’s closed off from the rest of the world. He was raised by the Guardian Tree, the protector of the forest, which uses the earth’s magic to keep it hidden from those who have sought to exploit and kill it. But now the magic veil is deteriorating, the forest is dying, and Arrow may be the only one who can save it.

Arrow never saw another human until one day, a man in a small airplane crash-lands in the forest. Then, a group of children finds their way in, escaping from their brutal, arid world where the rich live in luxurious, walled-off cities and the poor struggle for survival.

The Guardian Tree urges Arrow to convince the trespassers to leave by any means necessary. Arrow is curious about these newcomers, but their arrival sets off a chain of events that leave him with a devastating choice: be accepted by his own kind or fight to save the forest that is his home.

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

THE TROUBLED GIRLS OF DRAGOMIR ACADEMY is a fantastic, gorgeous, adventure that is all too easy to get lost in. Beautiful writing ensnares you right from the start, transporting you into the world of Illyria, and into Marya’s heart as we follow her on her journey. A true feminist fantasy for middle grade, wrapped up in a coming-of-age story full of magic and mystery, this tale is one you’ll never want to put down!

Marielle

From the acclaimed author of The Real Boy and The Lost Girl comes a wondrous and provocative fantasy about a kingdom beset by monsters, a mysterious school, and a girl caught in between them.

If no one notices Marya Lupu, is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city of Illyria, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in in the kingdom holds the potential for the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread. 

For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy—a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself—things that threaten the precarious balance upon which Illyria is built.

The Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson

This book is a favorite from my childhood. Anderson made spooky content appropriate for a child without sacrificing the thrill of a good spine shivering story. May Bird is perfect for readers looking for inspiration to be brave in a non-traditional fantasy setting.

Asma

Quiet, quirky May Bird discovers a ghostly dimension in this otherworldly adventure from New York Times bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson.

Meet May Bird: a very shy, very precocious young girl who wants nothing more than to live in a world where she’s accepted and loved. One day while walking in the woods she finds that world—or falls into it, really. Through a pond, May enters the Ever After, a world of ghosts.

Here, towns glow blue beneath zipping stars and the people—are they really people?—walk through walls. Here, the Book of the Dead holds the answers to everything in the universe. And here, if May is discovered, the horrifyingly evil Bo Cleevil will turn her into nothing. May Bird must get out. Fast.

As May journeys through fantastic lands, she gathers an unusual group of new friends who join together to overcome Bo Cleevil and find the way back home.

[The Ever After was originally published as May Bird and the Ever After and now features an updated cover and title.]

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

What I love most about Anne Shirley is her optimism and imagination. Anne turns everyday tasks into adventures that should be celebrated. I loved watching Anne grow with every new experience and with every mistake she made. The first book of this series covers Anne from the ages of 11 to 16 and is a great book for readers of all ages. If you want a feel good book, this is perfect!

Athena

The cherished favorite featuring everyone’s favorite red-headed orphan, now in a deluxe hardcover edition with beautiful cover illustrations by Anna Bond, the artist behind world-renowned stationery brand Rifle Paper Co.

The classic Anne of Green Gables; inspiration for the Netflix original series Anne With an E

Anne, an eleven-year-old orphan, is sent by mistake to live with a lonely, middle-aged brother and sister on a Prince Edward Island farm and proceeds to make an indelible impression on everyone around her.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

If you’re like me and completely and utterly obsessed with all things Harry Potter, this is for you. The complete retelling of the classic story, but with beautifully added illustrations that any collector or lover of the series needs to have on their shelf. An amazing gift for the Harry Potter lover in your life, or an even better gift for yourself; these illustrated editions are not to be missed.

Jaclyn

The beloved first book of the Harry Potter series, now fully illustrated by award-winning artist Jim Kay.

For the first time, J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter books will be presented in lavishly illustrated full-color editions. Award-winning artist Jim Kay has created over 100 stunning illustrations, making this deluxe format a perfect gift for a child being introduced to the series and for dedicated fans.

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley – a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry – and anyone who reads about him – will find unforgettable.

Young Adult

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

What I love most about this book is the duel perspectives. This story follows twins Jude and Noah, but at different times of their life (Noah at 13 and Jude at 16) surrounding a large event that shapes their relationship. This book is a great example of how character POV influences our opinions when reading. I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is beautiful and has an absolutely stunning utilization of imagery, especially when discussion emotions.

Athena

At first, Jude and her twin brother are NoahandJude; inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them.

Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor.

The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

From the acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere, this exhilarating novel will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

Legend by Marie Lu

This is one of my favorite dystopian books of all time. I know a lot of the time with YA dystopian it can feel like the plot is very recycled, but that isn’t the case with LEGEND. This story is based in a futuristic America where the country is now split in two and rising oceans have changed borders. June and Day have such and interesting dynamic and it made it so hard to put the book down!

Athena

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

We are Inevitable by Gayle Forman

As heartbreaking as it is heartwarming, this is one of those books you want to hug close to your chest and never let go. Aaron is such a strong voiced excellent narrator, each one of his words leading you deeper into the story. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, and you’ll love right along with him through all the painful and triumphant moments. A story for book people of all ages, WE ARE INEVITABLE will leave you with a feeling of hope and a smile on your face.

Marielle

A poignant and uplifting novel about the power of community, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of If I Stay.

Aaron Stein used to think books were miracles. But not anymore. Even though he spends his days working in his family’s secondhand bookstore, the only book Aaron can bear to read is one about the demise of the dinosaurs. It’s a predicament he understands all too well, now that his brother and mom are gone and his friends have deserted him, leaving Aaron and his shambolic father alone in a moldering bookstore in a crusty mountain town where no one seems to read anymore.

So when Aaron sees the opportunity to sell the store, he jumps at it, thinking this is the only way out. But he doesn’t account for Chad, a “best life” bro with a wheelchair and way too much optimism, or the town’s out-of-work lumberjacks taking on the failing shop as their pet project. And he certainly doesn’t anticipate meeting Hannah, a beautiful, brave musician who might possibly be the kind of inevitable he’s been waiting for.

All of them will help Aaron to come to terms with what he’s lost, what he’s found, who he is, and who he wants to be, and show him that destruction doesn’t inevitably lead to extinction; sometimes it leads to the creation of something entirely new.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Inspired by ancient Rome, the Martial Empire is cruel and controlling to anyone who isn’t a Martial. Laia is a lowly scholar healer. When her brother is taken as a prisoner, Laia must find a way to rescue him. She begins spying by becoming a slave to the cruel Commandant. She meets the soldier Elias who is looking for a way to leave his brutal culture. Deadly alliances must be made. This fantasy series is incredible!

Becky

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. 

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

Who doesn’t love a solid YA fantasy? Brigid does a fantastic job of bringing together everything I love about this genre. There’s twists and turns, strong and witty characters, and of course a little romance. Defy the Night follows an apothecary, Tessa, on her mission to uncover the truth behind a cruel monarch, where things might not be quite what they seem. I honestly couldn’t put it down!

Jaclyn

From New York Times bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer comes a blockbuster fantasy series, perfect for fans of Holly Black and Victoria Aveyard, about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

Apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her people die. King Harristan and his cruel brother, Prince Corrick, ignore the suffering of their people and react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion, even as a sickness ravages the land. That’s why she and her best friend Wes risk their lives each night to steal the petals of the delicate Moonflower, the only known cure. But it’s not enough to keep everyone she loves safe—or alive.

When Prince Corrick commits an act of unspeakable cruelty, Tessa becomes desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds there makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix their world without destroying it first.

Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without . . . and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

A fresh take on the Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s China follows two rival gangs as a mysterious sickness plagues the city. And something ancient and evil is lurking in the Huangpu River, making the citizens go mad. Chloe Gong is an author to watch out for, as this (her debut novel) blew me away and is a must-read!

Rachele

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Serpent & Dove, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent

A dark, edgy, and feminist reimaging of Little Red Riding Hood, RED WOLF pulls you in and won’t let go. Adele is a strong, beautiful, monstrous, wonderful character and I loved every single second of her story. Action, adventure, and romance combine into an epic dark fantasy that’ll make your fingers itch to turn the pages faster all the way to the end.

Marielle

Powerful and compelling, this high-stakes, feminist reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood is perfect for fans of Stephanie Garber and Meagan Spooner.

For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember, the village of Oakvale has been surrounded by the dark wood—a forest filled with terrible monsters. A forest that light itself cannot penetrate.

Unlike her fellow villagers, Adele cannot avoid the dark wood.

Adele is one of a long line of guardians: women who secretly take on the form of a wolf, in order to protect their village.

But when accepting her fate means giving up the boy she loves, abandoning the future she imagined for herself, and breaking her own moral code, she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Just Ella is one of my all-time favorite fairy tale retellings. This Cinderella retelling stars after the ball, after the prince has proposed to Ella, and focuses on whether “happily ever after” is really all that happy after all. The prince is boring and Ella’s spunk and wit will not be contained by a stuffy palace full of protocol. Enter Jed, her tutor, and life for Ella gets a lot more interesting.

Sarah

The Cinderella legend gets a realistic twist in this enchantingly believable adventure from New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix that Booklist calls “provocative and entertaining.”

Ella dreams of going to the royal ball and marrying Prince Charming, just like every commoner in the kingdom of Fridesia. But after she is chosen to marry the prince—no magic involved—life with the royal family is not the happily ever after that Ella imagined. Pitiless and cold, the royals try to mold her into their vision of a princess. Ella’s life becomes a meaningless schedule of protocol, which she fears she will never grasp. And Prince Charming’s beautiful face hides a vacant soul.

Even as her life turns to misery, stories persist that Ella’s fairy godmother sent her to the ball: How else could the poor girl wear a beautiful gown, arrive in a coach, and dance in those glass slippers? But Ella got herself into the castle on her own—and that’s the only way she’s going to get out.

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