The Youth Speak News team have put together a list of faith-based youth titles that we think young booklovers might enjoy for summer reading. Graphic by David Chen

YSN Reads: 2016 Summer Reading List (Part 1)

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  • June 23, 2016

Summer is here which means the busyness of the school year is gone. It’s the perfect time to unplug from the real world and curl up with a good book. That’s why The Catholic Register and the Youth Speak News team have put together a list of faith-based youth titles that we think young booklovers might enjoy for summer reading.

Belong

Where She Belongs, by Johnnie Alexander (Revell, 368 pages, $14.99).

By Regina Contreras

This book provides a whirlwind of emotions that embody what it means to be in search of something beautiful. 

Where She Belongs tells the story from two different perspectives: Shelby Kincaid, a widow in search of a home, and A.J. Sullivan, a lonely man in search of peace after years of holding a grudge against his grandfather. With two very different struggles in life, they come together as one to grow and move on from what is keeping them stuck in the past. 

Written by Johnnie Alexander, Where She Belongs captures what it means to break free from the past and have faith in the future. The book offers a compelling insight into what it means to be freed by love. 

What sets it apart from other young adult novels is that it provides a clear vision of the hardships and trials that life may throw at you, while remaining rooted in who you are and knowing that there will always be a future full of hope. The beauty is that amid all the darkness, the light will come. 

The storyline is that of a typical love story. However, Alexander throws in a bit of a history with an interesting plot twist. 

I enjoy romance novels, especially those that get my heart super excited, so reading this was very entertaining. If you like Nicholas Sparks novels you will like this book.

I recommend this book to those in their late 20s and early 30s who love a good love story.

Dorothy Day web

Dorothy Day: Love in Action, by Patrick Jordan (Novalis, 128 pages, $14.95).

By Emma Hunter

In his pastoral visit to the United States last year, Pope Francis cited Dorothy Day as one of four great Americans who we can look to as models for sainthood. Day was controversial during her time and is not a canonized saint (at least not yet). But I think it is significant he chose her. 

If you’ve never heard of this vibrant, hard-working social activist, Patrick Jordan’s biography Dorothy Day: Love in Action is a good place to begin. Day was an American journalist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement and the Catholic Worker newspaper. Day was considered a radical at the time for being a Catholic and a communist. 

What comes across most in this biography is Day’s humanity. I feel like I came to know who she was as a person and not merely know her through her life’s accomplishments. She was a devout woman who persevered in all areas of her life, but also faced a lot of adversity.

Although she would later have a deep conversion to the Catholic faith, in her earlier life she had an abortion and attempted suicide twice. Day’s testimony and spiritual life was one of repentance, forgiveness, perseverance and above all love. 

Ultimately, Dorothy Day: Love in Action is an accessible biography of an amazing 20th-century American Catholic. Catholics around the world today can learn from Day’s dedication to social justice and serving the poor. 

The High Mountains of Portugal web

The High Mountains of Portugal, by Yann Martel (Penguin Random House, 352 pages, hardcover $27).

By Julie Hall

When tragedy strikes, grief leaves us distraught and searching for answers. When three different stories of grief are connected through intense symbolism and sudden changes in plot, you have Yann Martel’s newest novel, The High Mountains of Portugal.

The story begins with the atheist perspective of Tomàs in Lisbon who, during 1904, travels long and far to seek comeuppance for God. Next, the story develops with the agnostic perspective of Eusebio in 1938, who performs a surreal autopsy and whose late wife connects the Gospels to Agatha Christie novels. Finally, a gripping conclusion involves a Canadian senator whose story of belief includes leaving everything behind to live a simple life with a chimpanzee in Portugal.

Atheism, agnosticism and belief are all represented in what Martel himself refers to as a “literary examination of faith” for readers of all ages. 

All three protagonists in the novel seem to be searching for a way to move on from their grief. Looming at the end of the novel is perhaps a shadow of Christian salvation, in the form of a simian-shaped messiah.

With empathetic imagination, reading this novel will surely impact you and have you examining how you are living out your journey with faith. While I was reading the novel, I often found myself reflecting on how religion can impact our mental state. We all deal with grief in different ways.

Trial Run web

Trial Run, by Thomas Locke (Revell, 384 pages, $14.99).

By Francisco Uy

What seemed to be harmless visions leading to supposed success is soon realized by university student Trent Major to be a gateway to experiments of transcendence and to a web of conspiracy and control.   

Like its cast of characters, Trial Run, by award-winning author Thomas Locke (pseudonym for T. Davis Bunn), is but a small chess piece to a larger picture in the Fault Lines series. 

The story never hints at slowing down, even at the start. This left me feeling unattached to its characters, but intrigued as the story jumped around.

The story eventually hooks me to its world as the story continues and characters grow. It is Locke’s characters that are at the heart of the story. But there are times when the story lacks subtext in its narrative making some character revelations less fulfilling.

For all of Locke’s explanation and exposition of quantum mechanics and all that jargon, there lies hidden the question of fate, whether or not there is something controlling our purpose or whether we create it ourselves. 

Catholic teaching of how we are all connected in society permeates through and through. There also seems to be story parallels within a particular Bible passage but whether that was intended by the author or not is left to the reader. 

I recommend this book to those looking for a story with twists and turns and to those who are interested in ideas of human transcendence and quantum physics. 

Counted With the Stars web

Counted With the Stars, by Connilyn Cossette (Bethany House, 352 pages, $14.99).

By Maria Montemayor

If you love reading historical or biblical fiction you will highly enjoy reading this novel. Counted with the Stars is the first book in the Out From Egypt series by Connilyn Cossette. 

It is a fascinating look at the Book of Exodus told from the first-person narrative of an Egyptian woman named Kiya. In the novel, Kiya grapples with her new life as a slave and experiences the plagues inflicted on Egypt during the time of Moses.

Cossette’s writing is descriptive and compelling. Kiya has realistic thoughts, feelings and flaws. Throughout the novel, she is thrown into various periods of doubt, uncertainty and fear. Her fall from privilege, her suffering as a slave and her naive hope mould her into a resilient and strong character. Even in the midst of suffering and loss, Kiya is able to make friends, fall in love and carry on to an unknown future.

What makes the novel appealing for a Christian audience is the way that Kiya works through her doubts in the Hebrew God. She was raised believing in multiple gods, so it is a challenge for her to develop faith in Yahweh. Even though she witnesses some of God’s miracles, she has difficulty believing and accepting that Yahweh truly loves her. Those who have ever had a crisis of faith will definitely relate to her spiritual struggle. 

I would personally recommend Counted with the Stars to any of my female friends. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Comments (1)

  1. Connilyn Cossette

Thank you so much for including Counted with the Stars alongside those other wonderful books!

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