Young Adult Books, Part 2
Check out part 1 here!
As the school year creeps to a close, it’s easy for our YA-aged dancers (somewhere in the 13 to 18-year-old range) to feel bogged down all their school work. So why not give them something to read for fun instead? We’ve gathered together five (very different) YA books by Irish authors, set in Ireland, perfect for the YA Irish dancer in your life!
1. Perfectly Preventable Deaths, Deidre Sullivan
In the first part of this two-book series, readers are introduced to 16-year-old twins Catlin and Madeline as they move into a castle located in a small, isolated Irish town called Ballyfran. Even as the girls begin to grow apart—Madeline discovering her skill at witchcraft, and Catlin falling in love—they begin to realize that Ballyfran isn’t all that it seems. The seemingly sleepy town holds many a dark secret (and more than a few even darker inhabitants,) including the fact that for the past 60 years, teenage girls have mysteriously gone missing from the town. When Catlin finds herself in trouble, Madeline must really look at who she is—and who she’s willing to become—to help her sister. Eerie and haunting, but beautifully wrought, Sullivan’s book is full of twists and turns as if the reader is traversing the darkling wood alongside the twins as readers reflect on family and sacrifice.
2. Hope Against Hope, Sheena Wilkinson
Wilkinson, a five-time winner of the Children’s Books Ireland award (among other accolades,) tackles one of the most turbulent times in Irish history in this emotive and moving novel. Polly is a 15-year-old girl in 1921, living in the fictional town of Mullankeen near the border that’s been recently drawn between Ireland and Northern Ireland. When Polly’s difficult home life becomes too much, she takes off to even more turbulent Belfast where she finds solace and a new home at Helen’s Hope—a feminist and non-sectarian hostel for young women. Set against a richly described backdrop of a gritty and violent Belfast, Wilkinson balances the historical details against a character-driven plot that tells us more of the time than history books alone. This book is technically the third in a loosely connected series depicting important events through a young, female protagonist—readers can also check out Name Upon Name, set in 1916 during the Easter Rising, as well as Star Upon Star, which depicts the General Election of 1918, when woman first had the right to vote in Ireland.
3. The Carnival at Bray, Jessie Ann Foley
In this award-winning (and heavily nominated) book, Foley tells the story of 16-year-old Maggie Lynch as she’s made to move from Chicago to a small town on the Irish Sea with her mother and her mother’s latest boyfriend. The year is 1993, and Maggie misses the music scene of the big city and her grunge-rocker, 20-something Uncle Kevin, finding it just as hard to fit in in Ireland as she did in America. However, the small town begins to open a new world to her and through her friendships with the locals—a 99-year-old man, a bookish girl, and sweet boy she may just be falling in love with—Maggie finds pockets of security in amidst familial turmoil. With the twin formative experiences of death and first love happening in tandem, this powerful and transformative story anchors itself in the evocative and deeply felt world of music. Make sure to check out more of Foley’s work as well—the Irish-American streak runs strong!
4. The Bull Raid, Carlo Gébler
On an original and very different note, Gébler’s adapted a famous, epic Irish poem, “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” for YA readers, melding ancient myth with modern telling. Presented as a story within a story, almost lost to time, the narrative follows the half-human, half-god Cuchulainn. Since childhood, Cuchulainn has shown himself to have supernatural powers, including escaping from the curse that plagues the rest of the men of Ulster. The curse saps the strength of the men during the winter, leaving the covetable Brown Bull of Ulster vulnerable to attack by the renowned Queen Maeve of Connacht–which leaves Cuchulainn to take on an army all on his own. Gébler takes an old tale and breathes new life into it, creating real characters out of legend—including a teenage boy with too many responsibilities on his plate—in this beautifully told, if sometimes brutal, saga.
5. Into the Grey, Celine Kiernan
Kiernan’s novel brings us a rarity in typical YA fiction: a male protagonist. Well, two! Twin brothers Patrick and Dominic are devastated when their family home burns down and they’re forced to move into a summer seaside cottage in mid-winter. This eerie, fog-drenched, Irish setting sounds like the setup of a ghost story—because that’s exactly what it is. Pat and Dom are beset by nightmares soon after they move in, but slowly discover that these nightmares aren’t just their imaginations, but something more sinister from the past. Set in the early 1970s, Kiernan combines family and local history into a story about love, loyalty, and what we’ll do to protect those we care about in this deft combination of historical and supernatural fiction. Poetic, touching, and occasionally scary, this energetic story is punctuated by Irish diction that helps you sink into the world of the story.
Want a few more options? Check out this great list of YA by Irish authors!
This post is part of a series. Read modern Ireland post, all about DCU, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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