This week's "So You Want to Read YA?" guest post comes from the person who inspired me to want to start blogging three years ago. I met Janssen in library school, and we've talked YA books ever since.
Janssen is a former elementary school librarian and now stays at home reading pictures books to her daughter and as many YA books as she can squeeze in during naps. She blogs at Everyday Reading and loves Twitter more than she ought to. You can follow her @EverydayReading.
As a reader, sometimes I want a recommendation for a really good book. And sometimes I want a recommendation for an author with a great backlist that I can spend months working my way through.
And so, if you are the same kind of reader and you want to dip your toes into the YA world, here are seven books I'd recommend, if you'd like a single reading experience, and seven authors whose works I return to again and again.
- Melina Marchetta: She is one versatile writer. Her realistic fiction is amazing (Jellicoe Road being my favorite), but her ventures into fantasy, with Finnikin of the Rock, won me over even though I don't really love fantasy.
- Sarah Dessen: She is one of my favorite authors; her books are realistic and rich. This is a woman who remembers what it's like to be a teenage girl.Her books tend to be similar, but not in a bad way.
- Shannon Hale: The Goose Girl was one of my first forays into the world of reading YA as an adult and her books have remained my favorites. I don't tend to really go for fantasy or fairy-tale type stories, but her books are so fantastic, I'm happy to make an exception. Not only does she write great stories, but the writing itself is just beautiful. My husband has listened to the audio versions of nearly all her books and also loved them.
- Jordan Sonnenblick: This man can write. You'll be hard pressed at the end of his books to know if you laughed or cried more. I would give his books to absolutely anyone. His male leads are funny, self-deprecating, and so nice you wish they were your brother or your son or your boyfriend. Sonnenblick takes the real tragedies of life (ailing grandparents, childhood cancer, etc) and addresses them in a way that never feels trite or preachy.
- E. Lockhart: Not only has she written one of my favorite books of all time, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, her Ruby Oliver series delighted me to no end. She writes smart and likeable heroines who are either dealing with very normal situations or deal with bizarre ones in ways that seem entirely realistic.
- Ellen Emerson White: She is likely the very dark horse on this list. Her books are fairly old (from the eighties) and many of them are out of print, although one of her series (The President's Daughter) has just been recently republished. Her books are a little edgy, smart, and just a pleasure to read. If you can find her stuff, it's worth a read.
- Louise Rennison: These are books for when you just want to laugh your little head off and also fly through book in about ninety minutes. Her diary-style books about a British teenager obsessed with boys are both silly and full of memorable quotes.
- Sara Zarr: I'm impressed when I read a book that I can't predict how things will work out and yet I'm struck at the end by how right and real it seems. Doing this in multiple books? That's a real trick. And Sara Zarr is a master at it.
- The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt: This is my favorite book of all-time. Set during the Vietnam War, this is historical fiction the way it should be written. If I could choose any book to have written, this is the one I would choose.
- Split by Swati Avasthi: I read this book over a year ago and I still think about it frequently. This is a hard read, focusing on a teen boy running away from his abusive father to find his older brother who ran off years earlier, but it's so amazingly written, it'd be foolish to miss it.
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman: I am not a crier, usually, and this one had me sobbing in the airport (and that was the second time I read it). About a girl who is in a terrible carcrash with her entire family, this book explores the decision of a teenager girl whether to go on with her life after tragedy or let herself go.
- Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs: Sports and poetry might be an unlikely combination, but it works here even better than you can imagine. Kevin is working through the death of his mother and his girlfriend issues through poetry (at the suggestion of his writer-dad). This is one where the form is as important (and works as well) as the story itself. A perfect blend.
- Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: I am not a tech-y, so I knew this book was good when I found myself riveted by the descriptions of computer technology. It is just deeply satisfying to watch a bunch of San Francisco teenagers take on a Big Brother-ish government after a terrorist attack. And do it not only effectively but with such pizazz.
- Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson: I grew up on Little House on the Prarie, but I'd thought I'd outgrown settler/pioneer stories until I read this one. The pacing is just right on this book about a teenage girl who goes to Montana by herself in an attempt to "prove-up" a homestead.
- Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin: Amnesia is one of those plotlines that pretty much guarantees I'll read a book. And this one, about a high school senior who forgets everything since her freshman year, is clever and thought-provoking.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: This one's already been mentioned and for good reason. It is magnificently written historical fiction about a foster family hiding a Jew during WWII. Narrated by Death, it's inventive, funny, clever, and heartbreaking.