YSN Reads 2: 2015 summer reading list

  • July 24, 2015

The Catholic Register’s Youth Speak News team has put together a list of faith-based youth titles we recommend for your summer reading.

To read the first installment of YSN Reads, click here.


Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman (Bethany House, 368 pages, softcover $12.99)

By Bianca Reátegui

Set in medieval England, Dauntless tells the story of 17-year-old Merry Ellison, a noblewoman who became an outlaw after her father’s failed assassination attempt on the king. As punishment for his treason, Merry’s village is razed, leaving her and more than a dozen children orphaned. She takes the youth underneath her wing and forms them into a band of rogues known as the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest. But the Ghosts are put into more danger as their exploits garner them attention in the public eye.

Like many Young Adult novels, Dauntless features a romantic subplot. Merry is thrust into a love triangle early in the novel. Author Dina L. Sleiman readily acknowledges the spiritual side to romantic love — described as a union of souls — although there is no shortage of physical attraction between the novel’s leads.

Christian themes permeate the novel. Prayer is featured throughout, with psalms and aspirations being said in moments of adversity. Merry has lost her faith after the death of her family members, and she struggles to reconcile the tragic events with the vision of a loving God.

The somewhat antiquated English that Sleiman chose for Dauntless fits the story well, but it gets wordy and clunky at times. Though it is sometimes slowed down with its somewhat melodramatic romantic subplot, Dauntless provides some insight on personal understanding of faith (although it gives nothing new or ground-breaking in that respect).



Have the Courage to Be Happy by Marco Pappalardo (Novalis, 80 pages, $9.95)

By Augustine Ng

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to receive a text message from Pope Francis? If the answer is yes then you’re in luck. Have the Courage to Be Happy is a compilation of quotations, reflection questions, prayers and suggested actions that are meant to guide youth in our day-to-day lives.

What I found most interesting about this book is how each section is arranged. Each mini-chapter is laid out in the same way: there is a title which gives a theme then a “My Status” which expands on the title in a short social media-style post.

Then there’s the “Text from Pope Francis” where the Pope replies to your status and explains it further, using text from his many homilies and speeches leading up to and during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

“Notes” which are short questions that help you reflect on the message. “My Text to God” which is a short prayer related to the theme. “Add to My Calendar” which is a commitment that will help us to live better.

I think this book is a great daily reader for young Catholics who want a contemporary and personal analysis of themes surrounding our faith. The “Text from Pope Francis” is one of my favourite parts because it makes it seem as if the Pope is actually texting you.

I recommend this book for social media-savvy readers who are looking for a daily devotional that’s thought-provoking, but also fun. Readers will get a lot of likes and retweets from quoting this book.



The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner (Revell, 272 pages, $14.99)

By Meredith Gillis

When you don’t even have time to read a book about making time for you, maybe it’s a hint that you’ve got too much on your plate.

The Fringe Hours by well-known Christian mom blogger, Jessica N. Turner, is a book for women, but especially for women who spend a lot of time doing things for other people (which from what I gathered in the book, is most of us.)

It’s about allowing yourself to make time to do things that you enjoy just for the sake of doing them. It’s about trying to let go of the guilt of not doing something else you “should” be doing and recognizing that not only is it okay to spend time on yourself and your hobbies, but you really need to find some time in your day for those things.

A big part of it is priorities. Saying no to other people and organizations from time to time, but also recognizing what the big distractions are in your life that keep you from using your time efficiently. Social media. Cellphones. Computer games. Everyone has something which doesn’t add anything and subtracts time from things which would be adding something, like prayer.

Even if you read The Fringe Hours two pages at a time like I did, it’s worth making time for. It’ll give you something to think on and has great little spots for writing down your reflections on what you think of as you’re reading it. Maybe when you get to the end, you’ll have found a few fringe hours in your own life to share with yourself and with God.



A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 432 pages, $15.99)

By James Mangaliman

Fantasy stories hold a special place for readers that like to be whisked away into another world — a world of special powers, warriors, wizards and adventure. Patrick W. Carr fashions a new universe in A Cast of Stones, the first book in The Staff and the Sword series.

The story sees an unsuspecting drunkard named Errol Stone rise above his past as he is forced into a series of adventures and battles that turn him into one of the Church’s most valuable assets: a “Reader” and warrior fighting to keep the kingdom alive.

This story is unmistakably laden with Christian references to the Church and the Holy Trinity, providing a fresh perspective to questions of faith and Church politics. The book’s religious references, juggled with sudden inclusion of terms and ideas unique to this universe, can be confusing at times.

What A Cast of Stones does bring to the plate, however, is a hero with unique abilities who paves the way for grand adventures. As a Reader, Errol Stone is privy to endless knowledge which he obtains by asking specific questions and casting lots to determine their answers. As Errol learns to use his abilities and become a more independent hero, protagonists and antagonists  alike seek him out to use his powers for their personal or political gain.

While Carr’s universe is hardly original (although an original fantasy world is almost impossible to create on one’s own), he does bring some elements that flavour his own story.



How Far Can We Go?: A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating by Leah Perreault and Brett Salkeld (Novalis, 112 pages, $9.95)

By Kathleen Kennedy

I sincerely wish I knew of this book when I was in high school. The authors try to answer the common question that we have all asked ourselves at least once in our lives: How far can we go with our significant other?

I think the title can be misleading. The book doesn’t really provide a magic solution for young people to avoid making mistakes. I think this book gives us something better than guidelines to follow: it tells us real stories we can relate to, and along the way, understand the significance of the words on the pages.

An important clarification the authors make is that sex is not looked down upon in the Catholic Church. Sex is a good thing.

So then why the big fuss over sex? Because it has to be done once you are married. Marriage is a pivotal aspect the book speaks volumes about. By this joining of hearts, two people give themselves as gifts to one another, just like Jesus gave us His life, by offering His body on the cross.

The book was written not to help us find loopholes to enhance relationships, but to aid in our journey in discovering and understanding ourselves and our values. As a 21-year-old student, I can tell you I have yet to understand my values and piece them all together. This will definitely not happen overnight. It can take years to understand ourselves and figure out where our principles lie. Do not lose hope! Keep reading books of encouragement (like this one!) and praying, and the answers will surface.

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