Crash Course in YA

I have this wonderful friend that I've come to know better in the past year and it's slightly baffling how similar our tastes in books are. It all started with a surprise discovery of our shared devotion for Kate Daniels, Mercy Thompson, all things Jennifer Crusie and Jane Austen which then spurred a back and forth lending of various books we thought the other had missed out on (a little October Daye here, some vintage Lisa Kleypas there).

But then I recently went to her house and discovered the woman had never really read any young adult novels to speak of (aside from a ill-fated brush with Twilight and a near miss with Hush, Hush -- one I responded to with: "No. Just say no, my dear."). She then proceeded to oh so casually ask me which YA books I recommended. Shut the front door. Well. You can surely imagine my sheer giddiness at being offered such a open invitation and I cavalierly said I'd make a list of my top favorites. Walking away I began thinking how fun this was going to be until I realized I was going to have to put together a list of my favorite YA books. Oh. Crap. A favorite YA books list. And I was supposed to do this how?

After much agonizing deliberating over which would be the perfect introduction to one of my favorite genres, these are the books I've come up with.

Fire (or Graceling, Bitterblue) by Kristin Cashore Fire is a comfort read to me. It's the book I have to reread about every six months because it is just that good. And every time I'm surprised. Fire's determination to be something other than her father is something to behold.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater This one is all about place for me. Although the feisty Puck and steadfast Sean may have something to do with it as well. Also, killer horses from the sea. (I was gonna say 'killer sea horses' but I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea)

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein Because I'm still thinking about this story of two best friends facing all kinds of hurt during WWII. Nothing is what it seems and you will want BOXES of tissue.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Another WWII book about a young German orphan girl but I've never encountered another story like it. This man’s prose will change the way you think. Seriously. He’s that good. I'll never forget some images from this book.

Beauty by Robin McKinley THE Beauty and the Beast retelling which sparked my love affair with this story so long ago. McKinley's imagination and lovely writing do all sorts of good things for this book.

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan This whole series is somewhat mind-blowing but this one, with its' focus on two very different brothers, caught me from the very first sentence.

Melina Marchetta -- Looking for Alibrandi, Jellicoe RoadSaving Francesca, The Piper's Son This is totally cheating but I love everything this woman has ever written. She's an Aussie writer with serious chops and her contemporaries and fantasies alike are jam-packed with such real people that I can't recommend them enough.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier I could (and have) go on and on about this retelling of the seven swans story but really, Marillier does it so much better, so I'll just leave it to her then.

The Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner A uniquely drawn fantasy full of political intrigue and EMOTIONS and one spectacular thief. Full stop.

Going too Far by Jennifer Echols Let's start with the classic bad girl meets good boy story and then turn it on its head with characters who totally rock and are so much more than they seem. Add in a dash of snarky banter and you're golden.

Bonus pick: The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White Sadly out of print, this book about a nurse during the Vietnam war broke my heart in all kinds of good ways. Rebecca is easily one of the most brilliant characters I've ever encountered.

So those are my picks -- but please tell me, for all that is holy, where would you have a novice YA reader start?


Liviania said...

Great list! Given that I love basically every book you mentioned your friend loving, I think she'll enjoy that YA selection.

Anonymous said...

See, this is why I know we are good friends, I've read and loved (or at the very least enjoyed) all of the books in your list except for The Book Thief. Which I'm planning to read soon! I've had my copy since 2007 but I still haven't gotten around to it. Hmm I've always thought of the Sevenwaters as adult historical fantasy instead of YA though. Other titles I'd add to the list: Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, A countess Below Stairs or The Reluctant Heiress or anything else by Eva Ibbotson, and Saving June by Hannah Harrington.

Angiegirl said...

I, um.

I think you kind of killed it.

That is one gooooood list.

Heidi said...

Yup, what Angie said! I'll admit a list from me would look incredibly similar...I mean maybe I'd add in Laini Taylor? Really at a loss to come up with anyone else you haven't already included.

YA Anonymous said...

Dear Michelle,

I think we're going to get along very, very well. :) The only thing I would add to this fantastic list is something (everything!) by Cath Crowley. I loved Graffiti Moon and A Little Wanting Song, which led me to track down the Gracie Faltrain series, and more love.

I have a copy of The Road Home that I bought from AbeBooks and I'll read that johnafter my current reads. :)