This is technically in the juvenile fic for the 9-12 year old reading level, got it from the library's take away pile for a cousin in that age group but I'm incapable of passing on a book without reading it and I've read the manga, which followed this first in a series novel rather closely.
Darren Shan (it's put for as a 'true' story) is a young elementary school student who spends most of his time hanging out with his best friends, Alan, Tommy and Steve Leonard, whom everyone calls Leopard. Mostly this is Darren and Steve's story told from Darren's point of view. Darren loves soccer and spiders, not necessarily in that order. Steve loves horror legends and war flicks. While Darren has a loving family and a younger sister, Steve is being raised by a single mom.
They get tickets to the Cirque du Freak, an illicit freak show held in an abandoned theatre. Entranced by the freaks - all of whom are real - the boys manage to get themselves into true trouble with Mr. Crepsley who does an act with a deadly spider Darren naturally wants that spider but Steven believes Crepsley to be a vampire and he wants to be the same. Nothing quite goes as planned, the boys do some seriously stupid things (which are believable coming from boys their age) and things take a bad turn. Actually, a seriously bad turn. This doesn't have a happy ending to the point I'm not sure I want to read the next one (that and this is so very very much for boys, there's little to hold the interest of a female reader). It's not a bad story. It certainly shows there are consequences for our actions but I'm not entirely sure I liked it.
Sakura Taisen #2 by Ikku Masa, Kosuke Fujishima, Ohji Hiroi
This manga is an adaptation of a popular anime/video game set in turn of the century Japan in a steampunk alternative history. Ensign Ogami wants to resign his commission believing the strategist Yoneda that he's been sent to serve under is now nothing but a drunk, wasting his time with a theatre and a host of performing women. Japan is under threat by 'demon suits,' and he is eager to save his country. Dressed down by Maria, the boyish leader of the group, Ogami finds himself thrust into the girls' real world: they drive and fight in Koubu, demon suits, themselves (sort of steampunk mecha).
The main bulk of the battle is all about Ogami's first battle, which he and the girls barely win. Kohran is introduced since every team needs a brainiac fix-it character and Kohran is it. She lets slip that she's shocked Ogami can drive a suit at all since they seemed to be controlled or powered (or something) by a type of spiritual energy and that energy is mostly found in young women. The villains are introduced in this as well. I'm not a huge fan of mecha (steampunk didn't seem to help). This is an older manga and the art style is very late 80's early 90's. (The volume I have in hand dates to 2003). It's not bad and if you like seeing fighting girls there certainly is that here. The lone guy is the odd man out instead of the usual 5 guys and one girl set up we usually see.