The Farwalker’s Quest by Joni Sensel

If you like your heroines tough but still realistically young and conflicted, you will enjoy Ariel in the first book of Joni Sensel’s fantasy trilogy. She’s 12 and approaching the Namingfest, when all the 12 year-olds in the village receive their calling, and the new last name that comes with it. Her best friend Zeke’s name will be Tree-Singer, due to his talent at communication with trees. Ariel’s will be Healtouch…or it would be, if she could pass her healing test! Problem is, Ariel’s destiny seems to lie in a region more dangerous and adventurous than a sickroom.

When a mysterious brass dart, bearing an undecipherable message, appears in Zeke’s tree, ominous strangers are drawn to Ariel’s village, and her world is turned upside down. Soon Ariel finds herself on a quest in which enemies cannot be distinguished from friends, and the adventure she felt herself longing for seems more than she can bear. But she does, because she’s tough…and funny. My kind of heroine. I look forward to reading Book 2, The Timekeeper’s Moon.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

In no particular order, here are five reasons to love this book:

1. A sympathetically geeky-but-sweet, Napoleon Dynamite-ish protagonist, Colin Singleton, who’s a prodigy, not a genius–NOT the same thing!

2. His best (and only, for most of his life) friend, Hassan (“I-am-not-a-terrorist!”), who’s sensitive about his man-boobs and trying really hard–ok, not so hard–to be a good Muslim, while effortlessly being a wonderful friend

3. The author’s footnotes. I adore these; they make me feel like I’m someone special the author is passing secret little notes to as I read his book.

4. Fantastic sentences, like … oops, I just realized I’ve returned my copy of the book to the library! So I can’t do a direct quote. You’ll just have to trust me on the sentences.

5. An honest-to-goodness, downright MORAL OF THE STORY. Actually, more like three morals. You have to read the book to the end to find out what they are, and then you can write and tell me what you think. They are all powerful, though.