Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations for people who want to get into YA

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  The topics are officially back, and this week is all about book recommendations.  The actual theme is ten book recommendations for _____, and I decided to go with ten book recommendations for people who want to get into YA.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why adults read YA.  For me, it’s an escape from the everyday realities of my adult life – work, bills, conflict – but the genre has also evolved from when I was within the target demographic.  For the most part, the genre has grown out of its former boy drama stereotype and branched out into much more varied stories.

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If you follow YA at all, you’ve probably seen a lot of hype surrounding Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  It’s a poetically written, character-driven story about two polar opposites who become friends and grow into better people.

Similarly, Morgan Matson’s books always get a fair bit of hype, and with good reason.  She crafts realistic characters who face real-world problems in an age-appropriate way – something that used to be almost unheard of in YA.  In Since You’ve Been Gone, Emily’s best friend has disappeared without a trace, leaving her only a list of thirteen tasks to complete before summer ends.

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An author that (almost) always does the genre justice is Libba Bray.  I’ve been a huge fan of hers for over a decade now, and I continue to read everything that she publishes.

In Beauty Queens, Bray delivers a story focused on a group of teenage beauty pageant contestants that have been stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash.  The diverse cast uses their combined talents to survive while simultaneously dismantling the patriarchy.

Changing styles completely, Bray’s Lair of Dreams follows a psychic flapper and her oddball group of friends through 1920′s New York City as they solve mysteries and fight stereotypes.  This spooky series is ongoing, with the third book publishing later this year.

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The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr, a young girl who witnesses police shooting (and killing) her unarmed friend, and the fallout from friends, family, and the media.  In addition to police brutality, it discusses the demonization of victims and the realities of being a young POC in the United States.  Somehow, Thomas does this without ever once sounding preachy.

By now, Red Rising is a few years old, and you’ve probably either read it or decided that you’re over the hype.  On the off chance that you haven’t, let me tell you about this wonderful story.  This intricately built world features a number of castes and a protagonist who attempts to dismantle the system from within. It’s rare for dystopian YA to feel new, but Pierce Brown has created an incredible world.

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David Levithan is a pretty ubiquitous YA author, and his books rarely disappoint.  The best in recent memory is his collaboration with Nina LaCour, You Know Me Well. Stepping aside from the typical romance plot, Levithan and LaCour build a beautiful friendship between two strangers struggling with their own problems.

With a host of taboo topics, The Death of Bees easily steps away from what you might expect from YA.  This is a dark, twisted, creepy story about the powerful relationship between two sisters, and everything that the older sister would do to keep the younger one safe.  Tackling topics such as drug abuse, dead parents, and prostitution, it’s not for the squeamish, but it’s so worth it if you’re willing to take a chance.

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Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On is unlike anything I’ve ever read.  It’s based on the world of Simon Snow, a Harry Potter-esque character from Rowell’s Fangirl, and Simon’s rival-slash-love interest, Baz.  Simon and Baz put their differences aside to fight some evil monsters, and somehow, at the same time, fall in love.

My Lady Jane is based on the true story of Lady Jane Grey.  The authors take a lot of creative liberties with Jane’s life, involving shapeshifters and a bunch of Monty Python-style references, to create a hilarious retelling of the events that led to England’s Nine Day Queen.

Book review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Goodreads  Amazon

Real friends are the ones you can count on no matter what.  The ones who go into the forest to find you and bring you home.  And real friends never have to tell you that they’re your friends.

I’ll admit it.  I’m a sucker for a pretty cover.  And, to be perfectly honest with you, the cover is the only reason that I picked this book up.  Sure, I’d heard good things about Morgan Matson.  Yes, the book does have a pretty high average on Goodreads.  And sure, the plot sounded interesting enough.  But the cover was the only reason I got it.  I’m shallow like that sometimes.

Sometimes you can’t judge a book by its cover.  But in this case, you definitely can.  It just looks like a cute, summery read, and it absolutely is.

Sloane and Emily are the kind of best friends that are joined at the hip.  The kind of friends that aren’t really Sloane and Emily, two separate people, but more like sloaneandemily, a joint entity.  Emily almost feels like, if Sloane disappeared, she might cease existing as well.  And honestly, Emily’s okay with that, because Sloane brings out the best in her.  When Sloane’s around, Emily doesn’t have to worry about whether she’s being weird.  About whether people are judging her.  She doesn’t have to rack her brain for appropriate things to say, they just pop out when Sloane’s with her.  And for someone like Emily, who has always lived firmly inside her comfort zone, surrounded by her protective shell, being friends with someone like Sloan is freeing.

Sloane and Emily were supposed to have the most epic summer of their lives.  They’d planned everything out down to the last detail.  And then Sloane disappears.  Vanishes without a trace.  Her house is empty.  She doesn’t answer her phone.  Nobody knows where she went.  It’s almost like she never existed in the first place.  But then Emily receives a list from Sloane.  Thirteen dares designed to pull Emily out of her shell.  And, Emily thinks, maybe by finishing the list, she can find out where Sloane is hiding.

Some of the items on the list are pretty straightforward, like “dance until dawn.”  Others require a little more detective work, like “55 S. Ave. Ask for Mona.”  And some, for sheltered, introverted Emily, are just plain terrifying.  Like “go skinny-dipping.”  But Emily dutifully works all summer long to complete this list, finding help in the form of the cute class president, his wacky friend, and a pizza delivery girl that Emily just met.

Of course, romance ensues along the way, and it turns out to be one of the absolute cutest romances I read in the entirety of 2016.  But the romance isn’t really the focus of the book.  No, the focus of the book is Emily coming to terms with herself without the best friend that she always defined herself by.  And no, Emily doesn’t learn that it’s pointless to be shy and that, in order to live her best life, she must suddenly become extroverted.  (This isn’t another teen movie.)  Emily does learn, though, how to push her boundaries and gain the courage to do the things she’s always wanted to do.

I absolutely adored this book, and it really cemented Morgan Matson as one of my new favorite authors.  Excuse me while I read the rest of her catalog.

Final rating: ★★★★★

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2016

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  It’s already the last one of 2016!  Today’s theme is the best of 2016.  I read a lot of great books this year, so rather than agonize over which ones to include, I’m using this as a general overview of my favorites.  In early 2017, I’ll have a more detailed list available for you, broken down by genre.

Below are Goodreads links for all titles included in the graphics:

[since you’ve been gone] [koreatown] [are you there god? it’s me margaret]
[what we saw] [the unexpected everything] [lured in] [you know me well]
[me before you] [some kind of perfect] [made you up]

What were your favorites of 2016?