Young adult fiction!!

August 2, 2012

My sister over at Miles and Laurel tipped me off to NPR’s huge gigantic list of best young adult fiction novels, at which you can vote for your favorite top ten. There were some I had read, loved, and disliked, a ton I hadn’t read at all, and of course a ton that I was enraged were absent from the list. My top ten is thus:

J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caufield, while possibly whiny and an addict to the word “phony,” reminds me of a lot of my male peers in my life. Also, I love how boys can act toward little sisters, and Holden’s relationship with his sister Phoebe always gets me.

Judy Blume’s Forever…: I read a piece about Blume speaking on why she wrote Forever… (she just wanted to feed her addiction to ellipses, I think), but basically it was because her daughter wanted to read a book where a teenage boy and girl have a sexual relationship and neither of them dies or gets pregnant. I appreciate that about this book, but I also appreciate that the couple in the book has that relationship, it is great, but then things get a little sour and it ends. Just like a lot of relationships do when you’re 18 and you commit to forever! I would have liked Michael and Kath (the couple) a lot more if they hadn’t had to stick the damn word “forever” in there when they first said they loved each other. Other than that, it’s a great book about hormonal adolescents with common sense.

Lois Lowry’s The Giver: This was referred to as a series in the list because of its “companion” books Gathering Blue and The Messenger (Beck, they’re good ones). The Giver’s been the only futuristic-y science fiction book I’ve been able to like because it’s a little quieter than most books, in that it doesn’t make up a whole gigantic world and language and complicated things. See Harry Potter for my one exception to this.

Anonymous, Go Ask Alice: The cover of this book is terrifying. It’s kind of the adolescent-girl form of Requiem for a Dream. I’ve always been a little enchanted with the 1970s and 1980s scene of the United States, and this book is a reminder to not get too enchanted…

Interlude: Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted wasn’t on the big gigantic list. Way to keep down the female empowerment version of Cinderella, NPR.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series: I got hooked on these when I was 11 and expecting my Hogwarts letter. As I said, I dislike a lot of huge series that make up a whole new world, language, etc. – I always liked to stay in realistic fiction. But HP does that and still manages to be understandable and beautifully written. I was reading some bad writing the other day and caught myself thinking, J.K. would have written that a lot better. I don’t know when she became my status quo, but there you go.

Ann Brashares’ Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Get your scoffing out of the way. These are upper teenage ladies learning about real things and it’s expressed not annoyingly, however annoying the characters do manage to get sometimes with their character flaws. Brashares tackles the topic of sex a whole lot differently from Judy Blume, though – when Bridget loses her virginity to a coach as a 15-year-old, I was reading it at about the same age and I don’t know if if I actually knew what had happened. I got it, but I didn’t get it. “The intimacy between them had been unfathomable”…??? If you’re going to go for that topic, the author has to go for it a little more I think.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak: As a quiet person myself, I enjoy novels that get into the heads of people who have a hard time communicating their thoughts/feelings orally. This is a sad one, but really affecting. And a tidbit, Kristen Stewart apparently was the main actress in a movie remake, which serves her penchant for lip-chewing quite well.

Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl: Remember to be an individual human being, and it might suck when idiots make fun of you, but you’ll generally be a happier and more successful person in the long run.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: Nailed it. The part I remember most is the man who drinks Coke in a paper bag so people think he’s drunk, and won’t question him when he acts crazy (read: not racist). I guess he understand Stargirl’s lesson partly, but just…pretends to be a drunk.

Lastly, Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting: I had never read this until last year, while I was in Rwanda and missing Minnesota. Her way of writing is super visceral, and the descriptions of the hottest, deep summer week of August before it turns to that crisp air of fall precisely got my emotion button.

 

I concur with those that express incredulous disbelief that Twilight had to be on the big list. “Best-ever” or “popular for having sexy love-struck vampires”?

Anyway, I love reading, and it’s been one the best parts of my growing-up life. Right now, I feel like I’m constantly concerned with what I’m going to do next, which makes it hard for me to invest energy and attention in what I’m doing at that very moment. Maybe it’s a side effect of being on Twitter and Facebook more, and constantly scrolling through a news feed, but I miss just holing up with one story for hours and hours and being glad that it’s hundreds of pages, because that means I won’t get to the end too fast. Reading like that feels like a nourishing, delicious meal, and I think a lot of my reading lately has felt like random smatterings of junk. YA fiction is the equivalent of comfort food to me, I probably need to try some wacky new Ethiopian-food book or something.

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