1 of 7

A surprising retelling of a classic novel and a couple of excellent historical fiction offerings are among a number of compelling new books for middle and young adult readers.

"JANE," by April Lindner, Poppy, $17.99 (young adult)

Fans of Charlotte Bronte's gothic novel "Jane Eyre" will most likely pick up April Lindner's "Jane" with great anticipation.

The cover is perfect, haunting and lonely. And the idea, a modern retelling of Bronte's classic, intriguing. It's unfortunate, however, that "Jane" does not live up to expectations.

When Jane Moore's parents suddenly die, Jane is forced to drop out of Sarah Lawrence College. Hoping to one day earn enough money to return to school, she takes a nannying job at Thornfield Park.

Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback, is the proprietor of the estate, and it's his daughter, Maddy, who's left in Jane's care.

Jane is practical and plain and vows to remain unaffected by the glamorous and worldly people who now surround her. But even Jane can't resist her brooding employer and soon finds herself drawn to his every word and action.

A romance between the two blossoms only to be ripped apart by an agonizing secret from Nico's past. Faced with life-altering circumstances, Jane must decide who she is and what she wants out of life.

From the first pages, readers will want to like this book, and they probably will — mostly. Lindner captures the ambiance of "Jane Eyre" perfectly. The mood and pacing are spot on.

Jane has the right amount of timidity and Nico (Mr. Rochester to Bronte fans) is arrogant and compelling.

But Lindner's characters are flawed, and this is where the story goes awry.

In Bronte's version, Jane is pure and holds fast to her morals. Her relationship with Mr. Rochester remains chaste. In Lindner's novel, Jane sleeps with Nico before he even proposes. Though tastefully told, there's more to this scene than necessary. The innocence that makes "Jane Eyre" a classic is lost, and that's disappointing.

The language in "Jane" is also jarring. The use of the f-word and other profanity feels out of place and slows the reader, rather than pulling them in.

There are so many positives in "Jane" that one wants to like it. And for those less sensitive to language or not as worried about staying true to source material, "Jane" will be an enjoyable read. But for many, the negatives will outweigh the positives.

"THE FENCES BETWEEN US," by Kirby Larson and "A JOURNEY TO THE NEW WORLD," by Kathryn Lasky, Scholastic, $12.99 (ages 9-12)

Part of Scholastic's Dear America series, these books tell the fictionalized stories of young women through their journals.

In "The Fences Between Us," readers are introduced to Piper, a young girl living in Seattle in 1941. After Pearl Harbor is attacked by Japanese bombers, Piper begins recording everything around her.

Piper's father is the pastor for a Japanese Baptist church, and when its members are taken away to Minidoka, Idaho, to be interned, Piper's family follows them to Idaho.

Piper is miserable, but as her friendship with Betty, a Japanese-American girl interned in the camp, grows, Piper discovers she too can make a difference.

"A Journey to the New World" brings 12-year-old Remember Patience Whipple ("Mem" for short) and her parents to the New World after 65 days on the Mayflower.

Though the conditions in their new home are anything but pleasant, Mem is fearless, even when it comes to Native Americans. It will take a lot of hard work and help from new friends if Mem and her family are going to survive their first year in a strange new world.

These books, and others from the Dear America series, offer a look at history from a youth's point of view. They are charming and challenging and offer a different entry point into America's past.

Other books that might pique young readers' interest:

"YOU ARE NOT HERE," by Samantha Schutz, Push, $17.99 (young adult)

Annaleah and Brian share something special — life is different when they're together, somehow better. Sure, their relationship is secret, but that doesn't matter. They have each other. But when Brian suddenly dies, Annaleah is left bitterly alone. She's on the outside, unacknowledged as someone who has lost something, too. Written in poem rather than traditional novel format, this is a unique look at loss and the recovery process that stands out in its honesty from start to finish.

"THE INVISIBLE ORDER, Book One: Rise of the Darklings," by Paul Crilley, Egmont, 16.99 (ages 9-12)

Emily Snow is 12 years old and supporting herself and her younger brother on the streets of Victorian England by selling watercress. One early winter morning on her way to buy supplies, she encounters a piskie — a small, sarcastic fey creature that has been cornered by a group from an opposing clan. She rescues him and unknowingly becomes involved in a war between the Seelie and the Unseelie, two opposing factions of fairies that have been battling each other throughout the long centuries of human history, with London — and England itself — as the ultimate prize.

"HALT'S PERIL," by John Flanagan, Philomel, $17.99 (ages 9-12)

In this ninth installment of the Ranger's Apprentice series, Rangers Halt and Will and the young warrior Horace, are in pursuit of the men who killed Halt's only brother. The Outsiders have done an effective job of dividing the kingdom into factions and are looking to overtake Araluen. It will take every bit of skill and cunning for the Rangers to survive.

"CROSSING OVER," by Anna Kendall, Viking, $17.99 (young adult)

Roger Kilbourne has the ability to "cross over" into the land of the dead and speak with its residents. It is a startling gift, and not pleasant. Roger manages to escape his brutal uncle who has exploited his talents for years. After he gets a job in the palace laundry, he thinks he will be safe. Instead, there are worse dangers and soon Roger is using his gift as a way to get the life he dreams of — even if it means bringing the dead back to the land of the living.

e-mail: jharrison@desnews.com