The best fun, fast “clean” reads for reluctant YA readers

Eddie Jones Author Of The End of Calico Jack
By Eddie Jones

Who am I?

Fer over ten years I skippered a small book publishing company. During them years I inspected countless book proposals, most which got tossed overboard. I kin quickly gauge whether a manuscript be ripe fer publication. I bring that same skill ter reading YA and middle grade fiction. Ter be honest, it be a good deal easier ter judge the work of others than write great ficiton. But since “voice” be the reflection of the author’s soul, it helps ter know that those who be crafting the tales ‘ave thar moral compass aligned ter true north. These four authors be stand up in my book.

I wrote...

The End of Calico Jack

By Eddie Jones,

Book cover of The End of Calico Jack

What is my book about?

In this YA pirate tale, award-winning author Eddie Jones blends action, adventure, and humor into a fictional retelling of the pirate exploits of Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read.

The End of Calico Jack is a fictional retelling of the pirate escapades of Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read. The story is based on historical research of the life of "Calico Jack" John Rackham. Some liberties have been taken in the telling of the story, but many of the events reflect what historians believed happened to Jack, Mary, and Anne. Also, in real life, those who suffer absence seizures may appear to be in a trance but cannot recall what happens during their episode. The book includes a Pirate Map of Calico Jack's sailing routes and the ports he visited.

The books I picked & why

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Escape from the Everglades

By Tim Shoemaker,

Book cover of Escape from the Everglades

Why this book?

This book takes readers into the swamps of Florida where wild things eat people. I’m a huge fan of Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, and John D. McDonald, all of whom write (or wrote in the case of McDonald) about south Florida. So it’s great to find a YA book for boys set in the Everglades. Like with most of Tim’s books, the characters push the boundaries of what they know to be right, but do not cross the line. Boys take chances. Or at least the boys I grew up with did. We explore the outdoors, go it alone, test things, break things, and often get trapped in situations of our own making. Escape from the Everglades allows me to enjoy being a kid again without, you know, getting gobbled by a gator.

Code of Silence: Living a Lie Comes with a Price

By Tim Shoemaker,

Book cover of Code of Silence: Living a Lie Comes with a Price

Why this book?

I read this book years ago after a writer's conference and it stuck with me. The three characters have to choose between doing what’s right, which will put them in danger, or keeping quiet, which may save their lives. It’s a gritty theme for early YA readers but one I think that’s more important today than ever before. Normally I wouldn’t recommend two titles by the same author but it’s hard to find contemporary YA boy books that treat young men with respect. Tim’s books present an accurate portrait of how the boys I know roll. Tempted and sometimes fallen, but always stepping up to do the right thing. The boys in Tim’s book serve as good role models… eventually.


By Carl Hiaasen,

Book cover of Flush

Why this book?

I love Hiaasen’s humor and down-to-earth boy characters. In Flush, Noah is the adult in the father-son relationship. Normally I wouldn’t go for this in a story: Dads should lead by example, even in fiction. But I recognize that in real life that’s not always the case. Hiaasen’s YA novels are clean adventures that often include strong female characters, a solid moral (in this case preserving our environment), and make me want to read them again and again. I know some want to know how readers “feel” when they read a book. Not me. I’m more interested in the adventure and solving the puzzle (who is the bad guy and will he get caught?).

Peter and the Shadow Thieves

By Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Greg Call (illustrator)

Book cover of Peter and the Shadow Thieves

Why this book?

So I got this book recommendation from an alert reader, Samantha Zlobotnik, with the alarming news that pirates are now stealing ebooks and selling them on the web. I swear I am not making this up. My policy with alarming news that arrives unsolicited in my email is the same as my policy with updated privacy policy alerts. I trash them. But in this case, I bought the book recommended by Samantha Zlobotnik because it was, after all, a Dave Barry novel and written for YA boys. (Maybe also for YA girls, though I cannot confirm this.) It's funny, features pirates, includes bumbling pirates (if you're down to one good leg and a peg you're going to bumble and stumble about), and in my opinion way too long. Still, I can't stop re-reading it. Humor, pirates, ships, treasure, Peter Pan... Samantha Zlobotnik had me at "Aaarrrr! you still reading pirate books, Eddie?" I was. I bought the book. Then I trashed the email.

The Diaries of Adam and Eve

By Mark Twain,

Book cover of The Diaries of Adam and Eve

Why this book?

Okay, I get it. This book was first published in 1904 and it’s about two people who were… not exactly born but created, like, a gazzilion years ago. Point is, it’s an old story. But it’s funny as all get out! (By the way, “Funny as all get out!” is a really old saying.) I bought a used copy of this book when I was a teen and still pull it out today and read parts of the story. This I often do when trying to understand my wife, boys, etc. Mark Twain’s humorous take on the Creation story and its interaction between Adam and Eve should be required reading for any young male seeking to understand the opposite sex. Here is my advice for teen boys trying to understand the opposite sex.
First, stop trying. Men much smarter than us have attempted to crack the code numerous times and all failed. Second, if you read The Diaries of Adam and Eve you may come to accept that we’re all humorous characters in a slap-stick comedy and learn to laugh at yourself. Third, you will learn why a dog is man’s best friend, though not always his best bed buddy. Enjoy! 

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