Karen Russell

Book Cover Image. Title: A High Wind in Jamaica (New York Review of Books Classics Series), Author: Richard Hughes

A High Wind in Jamaica (New York Review of Books Classics Series)

Richard HughesFrancine Prose

I'm a sucker for sibling stories, and this one is set on a pirate ship on the high seas -- an ideal way to pitch children into the turbulence of adult greed and desire. In Hughes' darkly comic book, the Thornton children -- John, Emily, Edward, Rachel, and Laura -- are raised on a nineteenth-century Jamaican plantation. When a hurricane destroys their island home, their parents put them on a ship back to England, which gets taken over by Captain Jonsen. It's a funny and savage and genuinely devastating ride. Buy Now

Book Cover Image. Title: Cruddy:  An Illustrated Novel, Author: Lynda Barry

Cruddy

Lynda Barry

This book has got to be one of the truest depictions of the nausea, terror, giddiness, powerlessness and freedom of childhood ever written. Sixteen-year-old Roberta tells the story of her hellish passage through early adolescence in her diary, "Once upon a cruddy time on a cruddy street on the side of a cruddy hill in the cruddiest part of a crudded-out town in a cruddy state, country, world, solar system, universe..." Picture Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz on psychedelics, wandering the desert with a knife named Little Debbie for a companion instead of little Toto, and that will give you some clue as to the over-the-rainbow abandonment you're about to experience first-hand, zipped into Roberta's itchy skin. She is one of my all-time favorite first-person narrators, an "I" whose child's eye view of violence and ugliness makes her story incredibly affecting, and scary. Buy Now

Book Cover Image. Title: The Round House, Author: Louise Erdrich

The Round House

Louise Erdrich

Don't put off reading this one another half second. Winner of the National Book Award, it's as superb as you've heard. Joe's mother is assaulted and raped near the sacred round house on their North Dakota reservation, and the thirteen-year-old boy undertakes to find her attacker and bring him to justice. It's a crime story unlike any other, told in Joe's tone-perfect first-person voice, which flavors the fresh shock of that summer as experienced by Joe's adolescent self with the hard-won wisdom and humor of a retrospective adult narrator. Buy Now

Book Cover Image. Title: The Uses of Enchantment, Author: Heidi Julavits

The Uses of Enchantment

Heidi Julavits

Sixteen-year old Mary Veal engineers her own abduction after a field hockey practice; later, in her therapy sessions with a renowned psychologist, she again wields her sexuality and intellect to hijack the conversation. Readers will find that they, too, get taken hostage by Mary V. and her hypnotic, thrillingly unstable story.Buy Now

Book Cover Image. Title: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Author: Stephen King

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Stephen King

A simple, primal tale that silkscreens a Grimm's fairytale onto the Appalachian landscape. This novella-length epic stars one of the bravest kids in literature, nine-year-old Trisha McFarland. After falling behind her family on a six-mile hike, Trisha takes one wrong turn and then another, until she is lost in the deepening blue of the wilderness at dusk. Her spirit guide on her quest is Tom Gordon, her favorite Red Sox player -- she listens to Sox games on her Walkman, and I can still remember the terror and sadness I felt alongside her as her radio reception begins to crackle and fade, plunging Trisha into an even deeper solitude. She is a wonderful character, strong enough at age nine to save herself and to carry the narrative. Equally memorable: King's nightmare-made-manifest, the wasp-faced "God of the Lost," who is right on Trisha's heels. Buy Now