Thursday, October 31, 2013

4 YA Books Everyone Should Read

Over the past year, I’ve read a bunch of young adult (YA) novels including the four listed below. The YA novels of today are a far cry from the Babysitters Club of the past with current novelists capturing the best and worst of adolescence, including the typical topics of first love and bullying, but also tougher subjects such as suicide and sexuality. The fact that more and more adults are reading YA novels speaks to both the quality of writing as well as the many overarching themes addressed in these books which apply to young and old alike, including love, loss and our own mortality.

I loved each of these books for different reasons, and while each story couldn’t be more different from the next with subjects as diverse as cancer, sexual identity, rape, and bullying; the common underlying thread in each is courage; for each protagonist has their own journey to undertake and demons to face, but each does so with courage – not in the absence of fear and doubt – but in spite of it; an inspiration to all of us, no matter what age.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green. Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. OMG…get your Kleenex out for this can’t miss book. An absolutely beautiful and poignant tale of star-crossed lovers that will easily replace Romeo & Juliet as the ultimate tragic love story.

Wonder, R.J. Palacio. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse. August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. A captivating story which reminds us of the pain of not fitting in, our need for acceptance and the power of friendship.

Luna, Julie Anne Peters. Regan's brother Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister's clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam's family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen's struggle for self-identity and acceptance. A provocative tale which is as much about family and the redeeming power of love, as it is about a teen’s struggle with his/her sexual identity.

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson. The first ten lies they tell you in high school. "Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. This is my second favorite after "The Fault in Our Stars"; a powerful novel, written in the form of journal entries, narrated by an authentic, brave and at times ironically funny heroine.

The books listed above and the protagonists in them prove that age doesn’t determine wisdom. Each of the memorable and compelling characters in these books impart their own hard-earned truths and in turn offer the reader lessons on love, compassion, and hope.