Isabel Allende's first novel for young adults, CITY OF THE BEASTS (4), is a triumph of magical realism that's part coming-of-age story, part eco-thriller and part magical journey. Alexander, 15, is in the Amazon with his eccentric grandmother. A writer for International Geographic, she is on assignment to track down a South American yeti-like creature known as the Beast. Alexander, dealing with his mother's recent cancer diagnosis, is reluctant, but has little time to complain. He meets the mysterious Nadia, who introduces him to his "spirit beast," and in a surreal turn of events the two are kidnapped by the native People of the Mist. This novel may be a little dense for reluctant readers, but it's packed with enough surprise and adventure to keep kids entranced. The characterizations are somewhat stereotypical— the gruff grandma, idealistic doctor and suspicious entrepreneur— but young readers won't mind. (Sep. '03, 406 pp., $19.99)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum