Wintergirls – Laurie Halse Anderson

9780142415573I’ve been in a Young Adult phase, but there are so many good books in this genre it’s hard to go back to staid Adult Lit. One of the better authors is Laurie Halse Anderson. She scores with Wintergirls, which is older, but excellent nonetheless. Lia and Cassie are best friends, competing to be thin. Lia is haunted by Cassie after she dies and wracked with guilt for not being there for her at the end. Although she is in “recovery,” Lia begins to backslide. Divorced parents don’t help. High expectations don’t either. Lia’s father is a professor and author; her mother a cardiac surgeon. Each is so busy, neither notices at first when Lia starts restricting food and cutting. This sounds like a depressing book about a subject that’s been well covered. It’s sad, but the writing is so immediate, it’s hard to put the book down. Lia is a real character who leaps off the page; one you root for to conquer her devastating illness.

The Impostor Queen – Sarah Fine

the-imposter-queen-203x300This is a better than average addition to the pantheon of YA fantasy featuring young women with extraordinary ability. Born with the mark of those capable of wielding powerful magic, Elli is chosen by the Elders as the next Queen. Raised in luxury, a prophesy predicts she will be the most powerful ruler yet. But when the current queen dies defending the kingdom from invasion, Elli’s magic fails to manifest. Vilified, she flees, saved from certain death by a handsome outlander who possesses illegal magic of his own. It’s with his secretive people that she begins to question the known world and her role in it. This book captured my interest from page one despite too much unnecessary running around.  I would also have preferred it to stand alone, and not be part of the ubiquitous three-novel trilogy, but it’s still a decent read.  If you enjoyed Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas or Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, you’ll like this one, too.

 

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

speakThis author is the queen of the dark, issue-driven YA novel. In this one, Melinda Sordino, high school freshman, is having the worst year imaginable. She called 911 at an end-of-the-year summer party, and is now a pariah in school. She has no friends, can’t respond to the boy who might like her, is frightened a good bit of the time, and clearly depressed.  Added to her misery are neglectful parents with a lousy marriage. Although the story started slow for me, I thought about the book when I wasn’t reading-always a good sign-and it came to a satisfying conclusion. I wouldn’t have handled the situation as Melinda did, but people are different so the story line is plausible. Anderson’s book The Impossible Knife of Memory, about a girl whose father has frightening PTSD, is equally good. I look forward to reading more of this author’s back list. Speak was made into a movie starring Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame.

The Hired Girl – Laura Amy Schlitz

Glow – Amy Kathleen Ryan

glowMany of the Young Adult dystopian novels that came out after The Hunger Games were disappointing to say the least, but this book explores the theme of totalitarianism better than most. In outer space, two ships are on the way to populate a distant planet after Earth’s collapse, except onboard the New Horizon the women are all sterile. Desperate to procreate, the crew mount an attack on their sister ship, Empyrean, killing all the adults and kidnapping the female children. Held captive, fifteen-year-old Waverly wages careful resistance. Onboard the Empyrean, her captain-in-training boyfriend, Kieran, fights to get her back with nothing more than a crew of boys to man the ship. Can Kieran, who uses to religion to maintain strict control, fend off the brilliant Seth who is of a much more liberal mindset? Which boy will Waverly prefer if rescued? There’s a depth to this book not present in most YA novels. The author masterfully weaves in themes of religion, good versus evil, and reproductive rights, while still managing to provide a thrilling, technically proficient Sci-Fi adventure.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pants-book-coverFour girls, best friends, are about to spend their first summer apart in this charming Young Adult novel. Just before they separate, they find a magical pair of jeans which unbelievably fits each of them perfectly. The jeans are passed back and forth all summer as the girls deal with their issues. Shy, beautiful Lena travels to Greece to visit her grandparents and learns to assert herself when she falls in love with a boy despite a family feud. Bridget, the athlete, goes to soccer camp where she pursues one of her coaches romantically, trying to find love in the wake of her mother’s death. Cynical Tibby, left at home, develops an unlikely friendship with a younger girl with leukemia who teaches her life might not be so bad. Carmen visits her father only to discover he is about to remarry a women with two teenagers very different from her and her Puerto Rican mom. Carmen’s journey is about self-acceptance. This heart-warming tale was made into a movie, launching careers for all the actresses.

Those Girls – Lauren Saft

18249315This Young Adult novel is highly inappropriate. It doesn’t have much of a plot and at times you want to smack the characters for being so stupid. Yet, these same characters manage to stay with you long after you finish the book. The author deftly taps into the zeitgeist of the time and the three popular girls who are the heroines. Privileged high school juniors, Alex, Mollie and Veronica are “those girls,” best friends who rule the school. But how well do they know themselves as well as each other? Rocker chic Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door but can’t seem to tell him. Mollie is desperate to keep her A-List boyfriend even though he’s cruel; and Veronica just wants to be loved, literally and figuratively, by anyone. At times hysterical, always honest, the author manages to get into the minds of all three girls and depict how thin the line is between love and hate even among the best of friends. (Not recommended for the faint of heart.)

The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

519HKX9M69LAnne Frank is a typical teenager living in Amsterdam in 1942, except she’s Jewish, and anti-Semitic laws make life increasingly hard. To avoid a concentration camp, the Franks go into hiding with another family and an acquaintance in a secret annex above Mr. Frank’s office stockpiled with food and supplies. Anne continues her diary while in hiding. She includes war details, but more often writes about loneliness and isolation. She details her crush on the teenage boy sharing the annex which ebbs given her father’s disapproval. She also describes feeling solidarity with Jews being persecuted, but resents it and wants to be seen as an individual. For two years, she details confinement and deprivation, but the diary ends abruptly in 1944 when the family is betrayed to the Nazis and arrested. Anne’s father, the family’s sole survivor, gets her diary back from Miep, a young woman who helped them, and publishes it to fulfill Anne’s wishes. It is both a condemnation of the horror of the Holocaust, and one of the few accounts from a young person’s perspective.   

Me, Earl and The Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

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This irreverent young adult novel provides a fresh spin on a familiar story. Social misfit Greg is a senior in high school who panders to every clique, but joins none. Earl, a kid from a broken family, is his only real pal. They spend their time making films they don’t let anyone see. One day, Greg’s mother insists he visit a childhood buddy, Rachel, who’s been diagnosed with leukemia. Greg only liked Rachel to get to her better looking friends, but awkwardly they get reacquainted. Greg resents the time he spends with her, and is furious when a more sympathetic Earl, offers to show her their films. He’s mollified when Rachel loves them, but resists calling her a true friend.  Greg starts to fail his classes as he struggles to cope with Rachel’s devastating illness. The author of this book has a unique voice, sometime over the top, but always funny.  He finds a new way to explore a familiar situation with characters who aren’t always likable, but who are always real.