Among Asheville’s vibrant community of young adult and middle grade authors, 2015 was a banner year. It was an honor to see my own middle grade novel, Tales of a Fifth-Grade Knight, released alongside these stellar titles:
• Sound by Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow Books). Fellow local author Stephanie Perkins praised Duncan’s brand of “kickass, brilliant, feminist science fiction” in Salvage, and in Sound, Duncan continues to mine this vein. “This adventure novel will appeal to readers looking for science fiction with strong female heroines and abundant diversity,” said School Library Journal. (Readers looking for strong, complex female leads may also want to consider Invincible, by Seattle transplant Amy Reed, which won praise from Booklist for a “compelling first-person narrative” of a girl saved from terminal cancer who descends into risk-taking and addiction.)
• Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty (Disney/Hyperion). The Goodreads pick for No. 1 Middle Grade Novel of 2015, this best-seller set at The Biltmore Estate has been described by School Library Journal as “a creepy, suspenseful read that’s not quite as dark as the works of Neil Gaiman or Adam Gidwitz.” (Readers seeking locally set fantasy may also want to check out Laurie McKay’s Villain Keeper, which features a boy from a magical kingdom who finds himself transported to modern-day Asheville.)
• The Cage by Megan Shepherd (Balzer + Bray). Having concluded her Victorian gothic Madman’s Daughter trilogy, Shepherd has moved on to a science fiction thriller about teens abducted from Earth and placed in an alien zoo. Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe series, called The Cage “a brilliant, exciting tale of what it’s like to be human, even when all hope is lost.”
• The Dragon Lantern by Alan Gratz (Starscape). The second book in Gratz’s steampunk League of Seven series, Lantern continues the adventures of Archie Dent and his band of extraordinary youths as they prepare for the onslaught of the Mangleborn. As Publisher’s Weekly puts it, “Gratz has created an imaginative world with appeal far beyond its immediate middle-grade market.”
• Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars by Constance Lombardo (Katherine Tegen Books). Lombardo wrote and illustrated this funny and affecting story of a young cat seeking his fortune in Hollywood. “Emotions run high and dramatic moments are many, but Mr. Puffball’s positive attitude and growing understanding that good friends are what matter most light up the pages,” says Publisher’s Weekly.