Refugees, hurricanes and murders: 2017 in WNC kidlit

Joanne O'Sullivan's novel about a young woman navigating the aftermath of Katrina releases in April.

Western North Carolina’s community of middle-grade and young adult writers has begun to garner the sort of national attention usually only given to local restaurants. Last year, two Asheville writers — Megan Shepherd and Robert Beatty — found themselves on the New York Times Children’s Chapter Books bestseller lists, and many more received honors and starred reviews. This year’s crop of YA and middle-grade books of local interest promises to be just as exciting. Here’s a partial list:


  • City of Saints and Thieves, by Natalie Anderson
    (Putnam Books for Young Readers) Anderson, a Sylva native who lives in Switzerland, drew on her experience working with refugees in Africa to write this techno-thriller about Tina, a refugee from the Congo, who sets out to avenge her mother’s murder.


  • Vampires on the Run (A Quinnie Boyd Mystery), by C.M. Surrisi
    (Carolrhoda Books) In this sequel to last year’s Maypop Kidnapping, two black-clad horror writers who claim to get their stories from a real-life, Count Dracula-style vampire, have arrived in Maiden Rock, and there’s something not quite right about them. After a series of strange events around town, Quinnie Boyd decides to investigate.
  • Realm Breaker, by Laurie McKay
    (HarperCollins Children’s Books) Realm Breaker is the third book of The Last Dragon Charmer series, a trilogy of fantasy adventures set in Asheville. As the series concludes, Prince Caden must prevent his foes from completing a spell that will break the barrier between our world and the world he was born in. He will do anything to protect his homeland and his family, but can he succeed?
  • Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf
    (Candlewick) Wolf, a long-time Asheville favorite, based this novel on a true and terrible crime that occurred when he was in high school. Through multiple points of view (including that of the 15-year-old killer), Goodman explores the perpetual question: How could a thing like this happen?


  • Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code, by Amy Cherrix
    (Houghton Mifflin Books for Young Readers) This non-fiction book details how NASA scientists are using drones to investigate and forecast hurricanes and uses their story to explore the science behind hurricanes — the challenges of studying them and the latest discoveries.
  • Between Two Skies, by Joanne O’Sullivan
    (Candlewick) This debut novel by a local freelance writer and contributor to the Asheville Citizen-Times explores the ways the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina alters the life of Evangeline, a Cajun girl brought up on the Louisiana coast. Kirkus Reviews gave Skies a starred review, noting that “what separates Evangeline’s story from the myriad others that have come and gone in the wake of one of the nation’s worst natural disasters is O’Sullivan’s deft lyricism.”


  • The Gauntlet, by Megan Shepherd
    (Balzer + Bray) In the final book of this best-selling science fiction series about teens abducted from Earth by extraterrestrials, Cora and her companions have escaped from captivity and must now prepare to win the Gauntlet, a competition that will secure the abductees’ freedom by proving human intelligence.
  • Rebel Rising, by Beth Revis
    (Disney-Lucasfilm Press) Disney and Lucasfilm have tapped Beth Revis, one of the leading lights of YA science fiction, to tell the story of the early years of Jyn Erso. This novel will tell how the hero of the recently released Rogue One grew from a young fugitive into a warrior and covert operative.


  • Serafina and the Splintered Heart, By Robert Beatty
    (Disney/Hyperion) Beatty’s shape-shifting hero returns in the next installment of the best-selling series set in and around Biltmore Estate. In Splintered Heart, Serafina must confront her darkest threat yet, just as a sinister force tears her from her friend and companion Braeden Vanderbilt.


  • Blight, by Alexandra Duncan
    (Greenwillow) Corporations have taken over what was once the United States in this stand-alone action/adventure novel by the author of Salvage and Sound. Tempest Torres works on the farm where she grew up as a security team member for AgraStar, but when an accident releases a deadly disease that kills every living thing it touches, Torres must race against time to find a cure.


  • There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins
    (Dutton) Perkins’ first full-length work of fiction in several years takes her away from the series of romances that began with Anna and the French Kiss and into the realm of horror. In House, students from Osborne High are dying in a series of murders committed with grotesque flair. Before they can identify the killer, however, the students must confront the dark secrets among them.


  • Ban This Book, by Alan Gratz
    (Tor/Starscape) In this contemporary novel by the author of Prisoner B-3087, a crusading parent has begun challenging and banning books in a local school library. When things get out of hand and the school removes Amy Anne’s favorite book, she chooses to fight back by running a secret library of banned books out of her locker. Also coming in October: Gratz’s Refugee (Scholastic). This multi-protagonist novel tells the story of three different refugees — a Jewish boy fleeing to Cuba from Nazi Germany in 1939, a Cuban girl escaping by boat from Cuba to the United States in 1994, and a Syrian boy departing his home for Germany in the present day. Gratz will donate a portion of his royalties to UNICEF.

Do you know about any other books aimed at middle-grade or teen readers coming out by a local author this year? If so, please add it in the comment field.



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About Doug Gibson
I live in West Asheville. I do a lot of reading. Follow me on Twitter: @dougibson

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