Taking Tea in the Kasbah

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.

I counted.”

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…

27 thoughts on “My Seven Favorite Young Adult Novels

  1. on ,
    livrancourt said:

    Awesome list, Tami! I’ve got Beauty Queens on my kindle, and have been fondling Daughter of Smoke & Bone every time I go to a bookstore. Hmm…

    • Thanks, Liv. Daughter of Smoke and Bone needs to make its way home with you the next time you’re in a bookstore. I think you’d like it.

  2. I’ve not read very much YA as an adult. A while back I read The Five Ancestors series because of its Chinese setting and enjoyed it a lot. After finishing what I’m currently reading, I’ve been thinking about reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I’ve only read the first three books, and that was so long ago that I don’t really remember them…nor do I remember the movies that well. I’m interested in finally reading the whole series, and figure I might as well start over from the beginning.

    • Harry Potter is a great way to slip into the YA genre. While the writing isn’t always as clean as it could be, the story certainly more than makes up for it. I’m in my third run through of the series now as I’m reading them to my youngest.

  3. Three of the books you listed are on my all-time YA faves list too. Your other four are ones I haven’t read yet. But given how similar our tastes seeem to be, I’m going to check them out for sure.

  4. Of the books in your list, I’ve only read THE BOOK THIEF. Many of the others have floated in and out of my radar and have just been bumped higher on my TBR list.

    Two absolutely lovely YA books I read in 2011 were THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater (modern day Celtic waterhorses) and ICEFALL (set in Norse times) by Matthew Kirby. I highly recommend them both. Absolutely captivating.

    Thank you for the award!

    • Glad to hear I’ve bumped a few up on your list. Thanks for the recommendations. Will be checking those out. And you’re welcome for the award! 🙂

  5. Tami, gracias on two levels: 1) I appreciate deeply your inclusion of my blog, Walking on Sunshine, in your list! You know you have captivated my soul with your Benedict Cumberbatch letters! I missed the last one or two only because I’ve been chained and gagged and made to sit in a cave with cultivated mushrooms and drunken mice while I finished my manuscript (second novel in the Silki series)! Deed done as of yesterday! On our road trip tomorrow, guess what I’ll be catching up on? Yeah, baby…more Benedict ala Tami Clayton, please! So, your mentioning my blog makes me punch drunk! Thank you!! 2) I love MG/YA! Could that be why I choose to write it? Hmm…must check into that. So I deeply appreciate your list. I would like to recommend Cynthia Kadohata, Newberry Medal Winner for her MG “Kira-Kira.” She floats effortlessly into YA with her “Outside Beauty,” a totally different story of four Japanese sisters with four different fathers! It’s witty, engaging and totally unique. So…Miss Tami, thanks again!!

    • You are most welcome, Jodi! So happy for you on finishing you manuscript. Congrats!

      I haven’t read Kira-Kira but it’s on my shelf and I plan to read it sooner now that you’ve recommended it. I’ll check out her YA book as well. Thanks for the suggestions and it’s good to see you back in the kasbah after your long, self-imposed exile with drunken mice. 😉

  6. Tami. We are two peas in a pod. John Green’s books on your list are definitely my favorites this year. I lent my copy of The Fault in Our Stars to my niece the other day, and I can’t wait for her feedback.I also enjoyed Beauty Queens, Smoke and Bone, and The Book Thief. I’ve never even heard of Jellicoe Road, so you know I’ll be checking that one out. Thanks for listing me in your prestigious group. I’ll be sure to respond on my blog!

    • You’re welcome, Brinda! John Green is such a great writer. I recommended Fault in Our Stars to my two officemates – one is reading it right now and the other got the audio book to listen to on a road trip. Can’t wait for them to finish so we can chat about it.

      Jellicoe Road (and the other contemporary YA books by Melina Marchetta) is one of those books that met me at the right time in my life. I think that’s one of the reasons why it was so deeply moving for me. That, and the protagonist in my WIP has a lot in common with Taylor.

  7. I haven’t read any of those, but nice to see some Aussie authors on there!! (We Australians like being noticed in the USA – makes us feel like we’ve ‘made it’.) The Book Thief is one that’s been recommended to me several times, and I really must get around to it some day soon! Would love to read the others too… gee it’s hard to prioritise! Wish I was a faster reader!

    • I knew Melina Marchetta is an Aussie but had forgotten Markus Zusak is, too. Yay for awesome Aussie authors!

      I know what you mean about being a faster reader. I’ve been diligently working through my TBR pile and still have over 30 books on it because I continuely add to it. Oh, the life of a book enthusiast and writer! I need a reading vacation with a hammock, a warm beach, and a steady supply of coffee and tea (and other beverages).

  8. I’ve been struck with a YA idea recently, which means I really should read more YA, so this post is perfectly timed. Thanks for the suggestions!

    • You’re welcome! Yes, immerse yourself in as many YA books as you can. There are so many great ones out there. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  9. on ,
    Kim Griffin said:

    Thanks for including me, Tami! That’s so nice 🙂

    ..and I love your list of YA books ~ I can’t wait to add them to my reading list!

    I’m reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the 2nd time, so I would add those to the list as well.

    Thanks again! ~ Great post, as usual ~

    • You’re welcome, Kim! Hunger Games is such a great trilogy. Katniss is near the top of my list of favorite protagonists.

  10. Ha! Halfway thru the first paragraph I was thinking, Hmmm. 7 favourite books. What a great idea for a blog post, I think I shall steal it.

    Thanks for the nomination, Tami!

    My favourite YAs would be a toss up between Summer to Die by Lois Lowry and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

    • You’re welcome, Sherry! Lois Lowry is a wonderful author. Haven’t read Summer to Die but now I feel I must. And To Kill a Mockingbird is a superb addition to the list that keeps growing…

    • Libba is one of my favorite YA authors. I’m so looking forward to her new book coming out in September!

  11. on ,
    marcia said:

    Tami, Thanks for turning me on to The Fault In Our Stars! It was a great CD “read” on my long road trip through that remote stretch between Reno and Vegas! Now I want to read The Book Thief!

    • I’m thrilled that you liked TFiOS! Such a great book. And I think you’ll really love The Book Thief. If you listen to the audio book, the guy who reads it (as Death, the narrator) has a rich, deep voice like James Earl Jones. It is a perfect fit, in my opinion.

  12. Pingback: 7 favorite books of 2012 | Rabia Gale

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