I’m going to start this post with a grain (or two) of salt. I am not a parent. And while I dream of being one in the future, it’s impossible for me to put myself in any parent’s shoes. All I can think about, for the time being, is how I will raise my children when the time comes. For me, I want reading to be a big part of my kid’s lives. So, if you’re looking to pull your teen away from video games and offer them an alternative (dare I say healthier?) way to spend their downtime, consider these three historical fiction books for teens.
The Outlaws of Sherwood
The Outlaws of Sherwood is written by New York Times bestselling author Robin McKinley. In this 368-page book, McKinley dives into the classic story of Robin Hood, but she puts her own contemporary spin on the events that we all came to know and love as kids. One of the major areas she explores comes in the form of Maid Marian playing a more prominent role as one of Robin’s best archers.
One of the surprises of this book is that Robin Hood himself doesn’t actually play a prominent role. While you may have deciphered that from the title alone, rest assured that Robin is still the centerpiece of this tale and the figure upon which many of the relationships are built. McKinley, however, does an amazing job moving away from the storybook heroism that underlines so many of the Robin Hood adventures we grew up with. Instead, she presents a much grittier, truer-to-life version of some of the most infamous deeds of The Outlaws of Sherwood.
Troy is written by Adéle Geras. While so many of us are familiar with the tale of Troy and its downfall, so much of that history (or dramatization of it) has been shaped by the famous Hollywood movie in which Brad Pitt plays the leading role of Achilles. Although I do love that movie, the degree to which you might call it “historically accurate” is certainly debatable.
In this 358-page book, Geras writes from the perspective of the women of Troy. She pulls from Greek mythology to weave the tale of two sisters who are sent by Aphrodite to put an end to the 10-year Siege of Troy, of which the goddess has tired. The women of Troy are weary of tending the wounded, the men are tired of fighting, and the gods find their usual way of stirring things up. The sisters follow a bloody path to a gut-wrenching truth: “In the fury of war, love strikes the deadliest blows.”
Old Magic is written by Marianne Curley. It is a 317-page novel that features two main characters: Jarrod Thornton and Kate Warren. Kate can’t figure out why she’s so attracted to the new guy. His entrance into this novel is quickly proceeded by the revealing of his supernatural powers. The struggle is, however, that only Kate believes that his powers exist.
But as they grow, Jarrod begins to take Kate’s suggestions more seriously and, at the same time, they’re relationship grows closer. Together, they set out on a journey that tests their connection and unveils secrets about Jarrod’s past; events that have haunted his family for generations.
The teens have to stick together to battle unimaginable forces in an effort to change the past and, ultimately, shape their futures. Curley also weaves time travel into this epic, and magical, story. But fair warning: if you don’t believe, it’ll be hard for you to follow Kate and Jarrod on their mysterious journey.
Why History Is Important
Who says magic isn’t real? Who says that the women of Troy didn’t play the pivotal role in finally ending the war? Who says Marian wasn’t the absolute best archer in Robin Hood’s merry band of outlaws? The authors of these books offer these ideas and many others. But they also back them up with some important pieces of our human history.
History teaches us where we’ve been so that we can forge a better path forward. For our young generations, understanding the mistakes of the past is critical if we are to avoid making them again in the future. I know that I had trouble concentrating on history in school. Memorizing dates and events was monotonous and required more memory power than I wanted to give.
But having history presented to us in the form of a fictional story is a different thing altogether. It allows us to enter a narrative and, often, we don’t even realize how much we’ve picked up about significant historical events. Understanding the events of history will help us build a better, brighter future. And so, books like these three are vital to our healthy progress.
Now it’s your opportunity to read and digest The Outlaws of Sherwood, Troy, and/or Old Magic for yourself! While I hope you’ve enjoyed the brief reviews of each, I hope you know that they are by no means full summaries of the events and characters contained within each. If you’ve read any of these selections already, I’d love to know your thoughts, feelings, and what you took away from them.
Also, I’d love to hear what other types of books you’d like to see me review on this site. I’m always looking for new books to read and review. My only regret is that my reading list tends to grow much faster than I’m able to check items off of it, so if you do leave me a suggestion, I appreciate your patience as I dive into the many books on my shelves!
Please leave a comment below if you are inspired, perplexed, saddened, or angered by any of the ideas presented above. I welcome any and all comments and will do my best to respond hastily. I’d also encourage you to share this with others if you found it particularly insightful or helpful. Be sure to tag @ballisterwriting on Facebook or Instagram if you do!