Reading Riot: Irish themed books

Posted by Aaron on

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and all things green, now’s a good time to take a look at books with an Irish theme. No mischievous leprechauns or pots of gold in these young adult novels. Like mournful Irish ballads, they seem to reflect Ireland’s sad past but definitely make for captivating reading.

Aerial view of Ireland island

An intense story about the power of music, The Carnival at Bray follows 16-year-old Maggie as she is uprooted from her home in Chicago when her mother remarries and moves the family to Ireland. While trying to fit in and adjust to life in a windswept town on the Irish Sea, Maggie, a huge fan of grunge rock, undertakes a journey to see the band Nirvana. Stellar writing, quirky characters and beautiful Irish scenery – it’s no wonder this debut novel by Jessie Ann Foley was a 2015 Printz Honor book. Edgy and mature content makes it suited to older teens.


Human rights activist and writer, Siobhan Dowd wrote several young adult novels set in Ireland before her life was cut short by cancer. One of my favorites, Solace of the Road, is about a teenager who runs away from her foster home in London, trying to get back to Ireland and find her mother. This gritty story of a street-smart girl facing hardships, surviving on the road and coming to terms with a painful childhood will break your heart. But lucky for Holly, there were guardian angels along the way that gave her solace and helped her grow up.

Another book by Dowd, Bog Child takes place in 1981 at the height of Ireland’s “Troubles.” 18-year-old Fergus is distracted from his upcoming A-level exams by his imprisoned brother’s hunger strike, the stress of being a courier for Sinn Fein, and dreams of a murdered girl whose body he discovered in a bog.

Read on for more books set in Ireland.

Running with the Reservoir Pups by Colin Bateman

When his parents divorce and his mother moves with him to Belfast, Northern Ireland, 12-year-old Eddie contends with the Reservoir Pups, a gang of children who rule his neighborhood.

Airman by Eoin Colfer

In the late nineteenth century, when Conor Broekhart discovers a conspiracy to overthrow the king, he is branded a traitor, imprisoned, and forced to mine for diamonds under brutal conditions.  He plans a daring escape from Little Saltee prison by way of a flying machine that he must design, build, and, hardest of all, trust to carry him to safety.

Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale by Donna Jo Napoli

Fifteen-year-old Melkorka, an Irish princess, is kidnapped by Russian slave traders and not only learns how to survive, but to challenge some of the brutality of her captors, who are fascinated by her apparent muteness and the possibility that she is enchanted.

Creature of the Night by Kate Thompson

Bobby’s mother, concerned at the reckless life he leads in Dublin, moves the family to the country, but Bobby suspects their cottage might not be as quaint as it seems.

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson

Irish teenager JJ Liddy discovers that time is leaking from his world into Tír na n’Óg, the land of the fairies, and when he attempts to stop the leak he finds out a lot about his family history, the music that he loves and a crime his great-grandfather may or may not have committed.

Wild blood by Kate Thompson

Shortly before she turns fifteen and loses the power to “Switch,” Tess spends time with her cousins in the Irish countryside trying out different animal forms. When her cousins disappear in the woods she must face her fears to save them.

Ann McDuffie, Youth Services, Bealeton branch library

For book lists, program highlights and staff suggestions for young adult readers published prior to January 2015, visit Reading Riot, our blog about the best books, events and websites for teen.

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