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

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Escape from the Everglades

Eddie Jones Why did I love 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.

By Tim Shoemaker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Escape from the Everglades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Escape from the Everglades is the first book in the High Water series and blends contemporary mystery and suspense, dramatic situations, and high adventure that both boys and girls will love.

A park ranger’s son hates the Everglades, and he thinks he’ll just die if he doesn't escape Southern Florida soon . . . and he’s right. After Parker Buckman is mauled and nearly killed by an alligator, he sees the glades as a place of death. All he wants to do is get out of the area, and he’s convinced he won’t truly be okay until he does. But…


Book cover of Code of Silence

Eddie Jones Why did I love 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 Tim Shoemaker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Code of Silence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Like many a crackerjack thriller, this one boasts a breakneck beginning...Rarely are kids in thrillers portrayed this realistically...Deliberate, plausible, and gritty whodunit."

-Booklist Starred Review

Telling the Truth Could Get Them Killed. Remaining Silent Could Be Worse.

When Cooper, Hiro, and Gordy witness a robbery that leaves a man in a coma, they find themselves tangled in a web of mystery and deceit that threatens their lives. After being seen by the criminals-who may also be cops-Cooper makes everyone promise never to reveal what they have seen. Telling the truth could kill them. But remaining silent means an innocent man…


Book cover of Flush

Eddie Jones Why did I love 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?).

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flush as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

A hilarious, high-stakes adventure involving crooked casino boats, floating fish, toxic beaches, and one kid determined to get justice. This is Carl Hiaasen's Florida—where the creatures are wild and the people are wilder! 

You know it's going to be a rough summer when you spend Father's Day visiting your dad in the local lockup.

Noah's dad is sure that the owner of the Coral Queen casino boat is flushing raw sewage into the harbor–which has made taking a dip at the local beach like swimming in a toilet. He can't prove it though, and so he decides that sinking the…


Book cover of Peter and the Shadow Thieves

Eddie Jones Why did I love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Peter and the Shadow Thieves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

A ship draws near Mollusk Island, bringing an eerie passenger - a cloaked stranger who makes even the desperate pirate crew shake in fear. Lord Ombra is coming for Peter and the Lost Boys...Peter and Tinker Bell must travel to the mean streets of Victorian London on a mission to save the world from the forces of darkness - but can they survive the sinister Shadow Thieves? A must for Peter Pan fans - young or old - this action-packed magical adventure reveals even more of the boy-who-never-grew-up's past!


Book cover of The Diaries of Adam and Eve

Eddie Jones Why did I love 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! 

By Mark Twain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Diaries of Adam and Eve as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most complete edition of Twain's two stories, it uses Mark Twain's preferred text and includes passages not previously included--and not available in any other version. The editor's afterword tells how Twain came to write the "Diaries," which are recognized today as his most personal works of fiction.

"Funny? Yes. And you expect that from Twain. But this is also a love story... " --Birmingham Weekly, May 1999

"The sort of book that makes for deeply satisfying reading... one of the great love stories of all time." --The Mark Twain Forum, January 1999


You might also like...

The Truth About Unringing Phones

By Lara Lillibridge,

Book cover of The Truth About Unringing Phones

Lara Lillibridge

New book alert!

What is my book about?

When Lara was four years old, her father moved from Rochester, New York, to Anchorage, Alaska, a distance of over 4,000 miles. She spent her childhood chasing after him, flying a quarter of the way around the world to tug at the hem of his jacket.

Now that he is in his eighties, she contemplates her obligation to an absentee father. The Truth About Unringing Phones is an exploration of responsibility and culpability told in experimental and fragmented essays.

The Truth About Unringing Phones

By Lara Lillibridge,

What is this book about?

When Lara was four years old, her father moved from Rochester, New York, to Anchorage, Alaska, a distance of over 4,000 miles. She spent her childhood chasing after him, flying a quarter of the way around the world to tug at the hem of his jacket. Now that he is in his eighties, she contemplates her obligation to an absentee father.




The Truth About Unringing Phones: Essays on Yearning is an exploration of responsibility and culpability told in experimental and fragmented essays.


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