Teen Fiction eBooks

"The Loop,” by Ben Oliver

After spending two years imprisoned in the Loop, Luka Kane, 16, is desperate for any change of routine or sign of hope. Though he can stay his execution by opting to participate in dangerous experiments that benefit the elite, he fully expects to die in prison, another victim of his dystopian society, which favors the privileged, technology-enhanced Alts (the Altered) over the so-called Regulars. Everything changes after Luka and his fellow convicts are subjected to a mysterious treatment that kills some and drives others mad. The survivors must now somehow escape the Loop, but outside, the weather spirals out of control, and people, now feral, slaughter one another. To survive, Luka and his dwindling band of allies must evade capture and confront those behind the recent happenings. In this harrowing debut, Oliver deftly conjures an unsettling surveillance state hallmarked by class warfare and a nightmarish penal system that harvests its victims’ energy as punishment. Events take on an ambiguous tone as the story progresses, making it difficult to tell what is real, but an emphasis on the importance of human connection strengthens this cinematic series opener. Ages 14-17

— Publishers Weekly

“River,’ by Shira Nayman

Time travel underlies this excellent YA/adult crossover novel, with 14-year-old Emily returning to previous eras to visit her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother—all at her age—as she sojourns in 1974 Australia, 1943 South Africa, and 1905 Lithuania, then continues on to ancient Babylon for deeper spiritual understanding. Along the way, she experiences the horrors of religious persecution, racial hatred, and poverty as well as the joys of family gatherings and the giddiness of falling in love. Each encounter is an act of self-discovery, of reclaiming her soul, even as Emily learns more about her Jewish heritage and comes to appreciate fully the meaning of home. Together, these encounters shape her into the young woman who emerges at the end of this tremendous adventure. Ages 13-17

— School Library Journal

“They Went Left,” by Monica Hesse

Well-researched historical fiction about what happened after the Holocaust ended.

So many books tackle experiences in the camps or the resistance movements, but what happened to the people liberated at the end of the war? Jewish Zofia, liberated from Gross-Rosen and then hospitalized, has trouble remembering things, like the last time she saw her younger brother, Abek, but she knows he is all she has left and that she needs to find him. Her journey takes her from Poland to Foehrenwald, a refugee camp in Germany. In Foehrenwald, Zofia begins to rediscover that life holds joy and opportunity. There, she connects with other people who have lost everything and yet have found purpose, including Zionists preparing for kibbutz life. She also meets Josef, to whom she is immediately attracted, and continues to follow leads to find Abek even as her patchy memory circles uncertainly around memories that hide something. Despite the well-researched setting and some genuinely touching emotional beats, the novel never really gels due to absences: intriguing side plots trail off, Zofia has little identity beyond her search for Abek, and the romantic subplot is needlessly convoluted. Judaism plays a minimal role in the Jewish characters' lives.

Notable for exploring an oft-forgotten moment but ultimately succeeds mostly as a history lesson. Ages 13-18

— Kirkus Reviews

"Salty, Bitter, Sweet,” by Mayra Cuevas

Cuban-French Isabella Fields, 17, is the only American among 15 students chosen for a three-week apprenticeship at La Table de Lyon, a Michelin three-star restaurant in the world’s gastronomic capital. One graduate will be selected to stay on for a year, and the competition is intense. For Isabella, the apprenticeship is a chance to press “a reset button to erase everything that’s happened in the last year.” Her beloved Cuban abuela, Lala, died, and Isabella emigrated from Chicago to France with her father and new, pregnant stepmother Margo; she’s avoiding “the why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom conversation,” as well as her overwhelming grief. But the high-pressure environment of Chef Troissant’s kitchen is a far cry from the love-filled cooking on Lala’s Kansas farm. When Margo’s smoldering stepson Diego moves in with them, Isabella finds her attention growing divided. Though Diego and Isabella’s eventual partnering is never in question and character development is slight, Cuevas effectively touches on the complexities of female ambition in a male-dominated field and multiracial identity (“Never Cuban enough, or French enough, or American enough — that’s me, a dissonant three-course meal”), making this an engaging, multilayered read for aspiring chefs. Ages 13-18

— Publishers Weekly