The Trend-O-Matic was a groundbreaking machine that decrypted Nazi messages during World War 2. It contributed to the sinking of countless German submarines and helped the Allies overcome the forces of evil. Now all it does is spit out Young Adult book recommendations. It sits in the back of Tallaght Library, delivered there by mistake after Dell mixed up our order for a new PC.
History is full of cannibals, shipwrecks, killings, kidnappings and queens, but you wouldn’t know it from the bedraggled, tweed-jacketed men and women teaching it in schools (no offence to bedraggled, tweed-jacketed men or women who teach in schools.) History can often seem like a dusty collection of dates and treaties and politics, but really it’s about people, about all the wonderful, horrible and odd things people have done to each other since we crawled out of the primordial soup.
In 1808, two men fought in hot-air balloons over Paris for the love of a beautiful woman. They took turns shooting at each other’s balloons with blunderbusses. A wedding waited for the winner. A funeral for the loser. What kind of love triangle leads to a gunfight 200 feet in the air? In the 17th Century, Ivan the Terrible had his architects build him St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, a building so vast and beautiful he blinded his architects after they’d finished their work, so they could never build anything more impressive. What kind of beauty is worth blinding someone to protect?
These are the stories that make history worth exploring, and below are five of the best YA historical novels, novels set in strange, interesting times featuring strange, interesting people. Anything you think should be on this list? Any books you’d recommend? Please comment, or better yet, send us a review and we’ll post it on the blog!
‘WITCH CHILD’ by CELIA REES
Mary’s grandmother is a witch, or so everyone says. When she’s executed, Mary must go into hiding, fleeing to the English countryside where it’s safe. Well guess what? Safe isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and soon Mary must sleep with one eye open in case rumour and superstition tighten a noose around her own neck…
‘THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING’ by MT ANDERSON
Octavian is a well-fed, well-dressed, classically-educated experiment. He’s the guinea pig in an experiment to determine the intelligence of Africans. The older Octavian gets, the more he suspects the word ‘experiment’ might mean the same thing as ‘captive’ or ‘slave’….
‘WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED’ by JUDY BLUNDELL
The story of love, jealousy and betrayal set in post-WWII America, ‘What I Saw and How I Lied’ will have you breathless, sleepless and broke with library fines. Not long after moving to Palm Beach, Flordia, 15 year-old Evie meets Peter, a charming army-veteran. Before she knows it she’s in love, and it’s love of the dangerous kind, the kind that ruins families…
‘NEWES FROM THE DEAD’ by MARY HOOPER
England 1650, and a woman has just been hanged. Anne Green is taken from the gallows, her body sent to be dissected when all of a sudden her eyes flicker impossibly open. ‘Newes From the Dead’ is the gruesome story of a woman who died, then came back…
‘THE LUXE’ by ANNA GODBERSEN
Manhattan 1899. Elizabeth and Diana Holland are rich, gorgeous and in danger. After their carriage overturns near the East River, one sister vanishes into the raging waters. The other is left to discover a dark heart beating under the glitz and glamour of New York…