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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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By Billy Taylor

51Y1IWD0ytL._SX329_BO1204203200_In a lot of ways, Cam Smith is a model kid. He's putting himself through prep school, working hard, and getting excellent grades. His goal of getting into Princeton is so close he can taste it.

He also happens to be on the lam from his criminal family.

Cam's real name is Skip O'Rourke, and the only reason he made it to prep school is that he secretly took some money promised to him by his late grandfather -- money the rest of his family was convinced was rightfully theirs -- ran away from them, and cut all ties. Or tried to. Soon after the story begins, Skip's uncle and his mother catch up with him again, and they're determined to pull him right back into the life he left behind. Unless he can figure out how to use their own tactics against him, it's goodbye to Princeton, goodbye to his girlfriend, Claire, and goodbye to any hope of living a normal, crime-free life.
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By Jack Thorne, based on a story by Jack Thorne, John Tiffany, & J. K. Rowling

51bY71UBtaL._SX329_BO1204203200_Last weekend's frenzy over the new Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," was much the same as previous Harry Potter frenzies. But the book itself is not exactly the same. For one thing, Harry Potter and his friends are all grown up now, with children of their own, and those children often take center stage. Literally. That's another major difference: This book is actually the script of a play that is currently running in London's West End.

The story centers on the difficult relationship between Harry and his son Albus, who feels uneasy and uncomfortable having the world's best-known wizard for a dad. The two can't seem to communicate, and things only get worse after Albus goes off to his parents' old school. At Hogwarts, Albus strikes up a friendship with Scorpius, the son of Harry's old antagonist Draco Malfoy. But this isn't enough to keep Albus from feeling increasingly out of place at school. When he decides he has to travel into the past to set right what he sees as one of Harry's mistakes, he and Scorpius accidentally set off an explosive chain of events that puts everyone they know and love in danger.
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By Lauren Gibaldi

51n2j4iOhlL._SX324_BO1204203200_Maude's photography teacher has given the class an assignment on "family," leaving Maude confused and flustered. Maude was adopted as a baby, and though the adoption was "semi-open," she'll never be able to meet her biological mother, who died giving birth to her. At an age (17) when she's trying to figure out exactly who she is and who she wants to become, Maude isn't sure what family really means for her.

But the project gives her an idea: She'll go visit her best friend, Treena, at Florida State University, the same school her birth mother, Claire, attended. Maude is looking forward to catching up with Treena and learning more about Claire. But neither goes as she expected -- Treena has already started to change during her short time at college, and the things that Maude learns about Claire paint a very different picture from the one she had imagined. Read More >
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