I’ve noticed that since I joined the YA book club with Goodreads that I have not been reading as many middle-grade books. There will still be those I’m sure that I want to read, but I am much more interested in the YA categories. My Kindle has been packed with many choices. Here are my favorite YA books of late(in no particular order):
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
This is the story of a young man named Will who witnesses his brother being gunned down by a rival gang member. He is torn with what to do. His neighborhood has 3 rules: Don’t cry, Don’t snitch and get revenge. It’s the story of how he decides to handle his business in the 60 seconds it takes him to ride down the elevator. Jason Reynolds is clever is the way he delivers his message. Each verse, each chapter is one floor of the elevator. One of the things I love most about this story is how accessible it is for all readers. The end leaves much to talk about.
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate You Give is a story about deciding who you are going to be. Starr is basically caught between her school life(predominately white) and her neighborhood life(predominately African American). Her family runs the gamut of how they see things. Her father wants to stay in the neighborhood and give back, and her mother wants to move out.
One evening coming home from a party she and a childhood friend are confronted by police. The situation escalates and her friend is shot. This sets off a chain reaction of events that lead Starr to decide just how exactly she is going to live her life and what she stands for. It’s a very poignant tale about the effects of racism and trying to fit in when you don’t really know where you belong.
Noggin by John Corey Waley
This story reads like realistic fiction, but the premise is really science fiction. In the story, the main character Travis is about to die from cancer, leaving behind his parents, his best friend, and a girlfriend. Before he passes away, he agrees to an untested medical procedure. This procedure removes and preserves his head in the hopes that someday, they will be able to reattach it.
Fast forward five years and Travis’ head has been reattached successfully. It is a miracle, and it also sucks because everyone has moved on. His best friend is in college now. The girl that he can’t get out of his head has a new boyfriend. Travis’ character is both hysterically funny and profoundly sad because he just wants his life to go back to the way it was, but it never will.
I loved this story because even though the premise was a little bit out there, it really spoke to me about how love endures and how even though we can’t always get what we want, we can still find a new way to happiness.
Batman Nightwalker by Marie Lu
This story is the story of Bruce as a teen before he was Batman. There are still things that say Batman; the mansion, the business, Alfred. But I like this version of Bruce because he seems more typical for a teen, he’s got a yearning to get the bad guys. He pulls a stunt that causes some damage and makes him have to do community service at Arkham Asylum. There he meets a young girl who has ties to the Nightwalkers but who is dangerous. This is a super fun take on a young Batman.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
This is the story of Sunny, who was born in America but who now lives in Nigeria, where her parents are from. She doesn’t exactly fit in. She is albino and she learns that she’s what’s known as a free agent–someone who magic talents. Her parents would never allow her to learn any magic from a teacher so she meets with a small group of friends in secret to learn what she can. Then she and her group are tasked with a very dangerous mission: Find and stop the Black Hat Killer. I loved the setting on this one and the different take on how magic works.
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Prodigies-humans blessed with supernatural gifts are the stars of this story. Some prodigies are considered good(Renegades), while some are considered bad(Anarchists). The Renegades live to serve the people and keep them safe. Everyone loves them, except the Anarchists. Most Anarchists have gone into hiding, but they are trying to take back the power that was stolen from them. Nova is one such Anarchist. She ends up tasked with becoming a spy at Renegade Headquarters to learn everything she can and to get back her Uncle’s Ace’s helmet which gives him his powers. What she finds out though is that the Renegades, are really not that much different from herself, especially Adrian, whom she comes to know very well.
I loved this very unique take on prodigies-people with supernatural powers. They were very interesting. One could turn into butterflies, one could draw anything and have it appear, one was made out of an impermeable substance. And one could suck everyone’s prodigy power for themselves. While Nova wanted to avenge the death of her parents, she could still see what was wrong with the whole set up.
Unwind by Neil Schusterman
Unwind is a story of three unique kids living in society, where parents can decide to salvage their unruly or unwanted teens for body parts. This process is called “unwinding”. The three kids, Connor, Risa and Lev couldn’t be more different from one another but they end up together to fight the system that wants to bring them to their end. They just need to stay hidden and safe until their 18th birthday.
While Connor may be a troublemaker, he is also right about stopping this world that’s gone crazy. He is a believable hero and you really want him to keep fighting for what’s right. While the story will astound you with its description of the unwinding process, it’s mostly about the human element. No one should be expendable in this way. And that’s why I love it so much.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Maddy has grown up all her 17 years believing she is allergic to pretty much everything. She doesn’t go outside, or go to school or hang out with other people her age. She’s only got her mom and her nurse, Carla, to spend time with. Her mom is a doctor so she knows what she’s talking about.
When Olly moves in next door and captures her interest, Maddy begins to think about her life differently and through phone contact, she realizes she wants to experience the real world, even if it’s deadly. This story was amazing for its portrayal of a serious illness and the twist at the end is insane. You need to read this book!
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Sixteen-year-old Aza is trying to function despite her mental health issues. She also doesn’t have a ton of money so when she gets a chance to earn a potential reward to find out what happened to a billionaire she and her friend Daisy take on the challenge. Aza actually meets the billionaire’s son Davis.
Interestingly she learns that while she and Davis have vastly different backgrounds and lives, they are not so different when it comes to being human beings in the world. I really liked this book for the portrayal of how mental health issues can really impact a person’s life, even when they are trying desperately not to. It also speaks to how resilient kids can be.
Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Junior is in a tough spot. Rez life is tough already and he is the head geek. He accepts his flaws, but he’s not happy about his lot in life. He tells his parents he wants to start attending Reardon High School which is off the rez, which they agree to and this sets up a whole series of events that will forever change him. His best friend is furious that he’s left and takes every opportunity to bring him down. His new school doesn’t really know what to do with him, yet Junior keeps plugging away.
I have read this book multiple times with one or two students and each time, I laugh and cry at the same parts. Sherman Alexie is a master of telling a story with humor and truth and reality that is hard to put down.
Well, that’s my list for you. I hope you are able to enjoy one or two. What are some of your favorite YA reads?