I was recently nominated by fellow blogging friend, Ellen Gregory, for the Very Inspiring Blog Award in a post in which she shared her seven favorite fantasy novels (go check it out here). I am always humbled and so thankful to receive such awards, so many thanks to you, Ellen, for the nomination!
As part of accepting the award, I am to thank the person who nominated me (done), nominate a gaggle of bloggers whom I find inspiring (you’ll find the list down below), and list seven things about myself which, in following Ellen’s footsteps, are my current seven favorite YA novels.
Since the mega sensation that is Harry Potter hit the middle grade/YA scene over a decade ago, there has been an explosion of MG/YA fiction books hitting the shelves and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. YA books have historically received a bad rap as being a watered down version of adult fiction books, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the YA genre is incredibly diverse (encompassing nearly all subgenres as adult fiction), isn’t afraid to delve into deeply profound and controversial topics, and has some of the best writing talent out there today.
So, in no particular order, here are my current seven favorite YA novels:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
From Amazon: Hazel is sixteen, with terminal cancer, when she meets Augustus at her kids-with-cancer support group. The two are kindred spirits, sharing an irreverent sense of humor and immense charm, and watching them fall in love even as they face universal questions of the human condition–How will I be remembered? Does my life, and will my death, have meaning?–has a raw honesty that is deeply moving.
I know, it sounds like a heavy read and I won’t sugar coat it – you’ll need to keep the tissues close at hand. AND, AND, AND… don’t let that deter you for even one second. John Green is a MASTER at weaving the topic of cancer with two of the most interesting, intelligent, and well-conceived characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. I listened to the audio book version and am planning to buy a hard copy because there are so many poignant and beautifully written lines in it that I just have to have a paper copy. It’s that good.
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
“My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die.
Such powerful opening lines in the story of Taylor Markham, a 17 year-old girl who was abandoned at the age of 11 by her mother on the side of the road in the Australian countryside. She is taken in by a woman named Hannah who becomes a surrogate mother figure to Taylor and enrolls her at the boarding school where she works. We meet Taylor as she reluctantly takes on a leadership role at the Jellicoe School, a job she’s not sure she can do, especially when Jonah Griggs, a boy whom she met several years before while running away to find her mother, appears again and complicates matters. Then, when Hannah suddenly disappears, Taylor’s world is turned upside down as she not only searches for clues to Hannah’s whereabouts, but also as Taylor begins to uncover her own troubled past with her mother.
Melina Marchetta is so skillful at creating deeply wounded and flawed yet amazingly likeable characters that you can’t help but fall in love with them as you’re swept up into their stories. Highly recommend.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
I know I’ve mentioned this book before (which you can read more about here to get the scoop on what the book is about and my thoughts on it), but I’ll mention it again in my top seven YA books. The exception I make with this book is that I beseech you to get the audio book version because Libba Bray does a phenomenal job reading it as she gives all of her characters distinctly different voices. Also, there are hilarious “commercials” as well as footnotes denoted by a ‘ding’ and a friendly sounding female announcer voice all theatrically done by the author. A must read for anyone interested in a witty, satirical take on our beauty obsessed culture.
Shine by Lauren Myracle
From Amazon: When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.
Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.
This is one of those books that stays with you not only for its subject matter, but also because of its beautiful prose. I couldn’t put it down and have thought about it a lot since reading it last December.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
From Amazon: Karou is a seventeen-year-old art student with a most unusual family. From his desk in a dusty, otherworldly shop, her mysterious, monstrous father sends her on errands across the globe, collecting teeth for a shadowy purpose. On one such errand, Karou encounters an angel, and soon the mysteries of her life and her family are unraveled–with consequences both beautiful and dreadful.
Set in the enchanting city of Prague, Laini Taylor’s lyrical prose blends mythology, magic and mystery in a way that believably blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. If you enjoy a good fantasy, this would be a great YA book to read.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
From Amazon: Set during World War II in Germany, this is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
One thing I really admire about this book is the risk the author took in choosing Death as the omniscient narrator. Death is portrayed as a witty, sardonic and humorous guy who describes himself in the first chapter (titled “Death and Chocolate”) as thus: “I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.” Dark and hopeful, tragic and inspiring, The Book Thief is a must-read book.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
From Amazon: One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, Will Grayson crosses paths with . . . Will Grayson. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, and culminating in epic turns-of-heart and the most fabulous musical ever to grace the high school stage. Told in alternating voices from two YA superstars, this collaborative novel features a double helping of the heart and humor that have won them both legions of fans.
I will confess that I have a major author crush on John Green and find his writing (as well as his vlogs) so thoroughly enjoyable. So yes, two of his books have made it into my list. Crush or not, this is one fantastic book. I listened to the audio book version of this and, like Beauty Queens, I implore you to enjoy it this way. Each chapter alternates between the voices of the two very different Will Graysons – one written by John Green and one written by David Levithan. The audio book isn’t read by the authors, though it is superbly done. Plus, some of the songs from the musical that the secondary character, Tiny Cooper, writes are sung in the audio book and they are HYSTERICAL. I laughed out loud so many times when listening to this story. In between the funny quips, campy songs, and witty dialogue, there are some lovely, tender moments that are so real and so raw that it moved me to tears.
There are so many others I could have added to this list that I may have to do another post to include them. If you’re someone who doesn’t normally read YA fiction, I encourage you to check out some of these amazing authors and their books and give ’em a try.
Now, for the bold task of nominating other bloggers for this award. So many fabulous bloggers have already been nominated so if you find your name on the list and you’ve already had this award bestowed upon you, just know that I find you and your blog inspiring. I invite you to share seven of your favorite things – books, songs, movies, or whatever you come up with in your brilliant mind.
Take a moment to check out these fine blogs:
Rabia Gale – Writer at Play
Kim Griffin – Forever, For Now
Sherry Isaac – Psychological Sizzle
Brinda Berry – YA Fiction – Hang on for a Wild Ride
Sharon Clare – Paranormal Romance
Jodi Lea Stewart – Walking on Sunshine
Gloria Richard – An Author’s Blog
How about you, lovely readers? Anyone else enjoy reading YA books? If so, what are some of your favorites? Have you read any of the ones I listed above? What did you think of them? If you’re not usually drawn to YA, did any of the books on my list entice you to pick one up? Sit, have some tea, and let’s chat awhile…