Check It Out: Teens, YA literary adventures await you

May 10, 2012|By Mara Cota

Young Adult literature is full of great stories, including good old-fashioned adventures with protagonists willing to take on any challenge. Below are a few series-starting page-turners for the adventure lover:

For teens of any age, "Airborn," by Kenneth Oppel, grabs the reader from the first line: "Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest."

At the highest height of the hydrium-filled dirigible, we meet Matt Cruse (Mr. Cruse to his captain and shipmates), a young man born to sail the skies. After helping to rescue an injured balloonist, Matt later meets the man's granddaughter, Kate de Vries.


Kate has the mind of a great scientist and the disposition of a true adventurer. She and Matt quickly become friends and partners in the quest to locate a rare creature said to have been spied at high altitudes.

Most of the action takes place aboard the airship (there may even be pirates ahead!). There's a hint of romance between the two main characters but more special is their friendship of equals.

The focus of "Airborn" is truly on the adventure as Matt and Kate make their mark on an alternate 19th century world full of floating airships, spinning ornithopters, winged creatures, and obtuse adults (who seem to be the same in any version of history). "Airborn" is followed by "Skybreaker" and "Starclimber."


Mixing intrigue with action, and also suitable for teens of any age, is Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series. Set during the early events of World War I, Westerfeld's books imagine a world where scientific ingenuity has created new beasts both mechanical and biological.

Once the Archduke is assassinated in Sarajevo, the war is on between the 'Clankers (the Austro-Hungarian Empire and allies)' and the 'Darwinists (the British and their allies).' The war is the backdrop for the adventures of two inexperienced but intrepid young people: Alek, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and Deryn Sharp, a midshipman on the airship Leviathan who's hiding a secret that could endanger the dream of serving in the British Air Service.

The Leviathan is actually an enormous, genetically-engineered whale that contains its own ecosystem. Affixed to the beast is a gondola, with engines, for carrying passengers and cargo. Though technically enemies, Alek and Deryn forge a strong bond.Their journeys take them high over Europe, into bear-inhabited Russian mountains, to the streets of Istanbul, and even to the blazing metropolis of New York.

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