Here are my four star young adult picks. I really liked these a lot, but they did not DEMAND me to drop everything and read them. I highly recommend them, you might find yourself powerless in their sway.
The Diviners by Libba Bray – Finally the perfect combination of snappy BEAUTY QUEENS dialogue and deep supernatural GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY characterization! I love that Libba Bray. This one, set in New York in the 20s, is a little scarier than I usually go for, but it is snappily written and has great period detail. Almost too much period detail, frankly. Sometimes a little distracting. That being said, I can’t WAIT for the sequel.
Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin – These two are my four star champs this year! The also wrote Tessa Masterson [see below] which I enjoyed very much. Their stories are fun and they focus in a really interesting way on friendship. Jenna & Jonah are the stars of one of those cable series that my kids [thankfully] were a little too old for. They fake a romance for the show but they can’t stand each other. Or can they? Ooh, can you guess if they really end up caring for each other? I bet you can!
My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend – This is pretty close to a five star, but I found the ending a little weak, Lexi is gorgeous until an accident that makes her not gorgeous. And almost as damaging is the betrayal of a friend. I really loved the character of Lexi and I cared what happened to her.
Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon – This is a creepy little story. It was described in School Library Journal as a teen Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and there are some similarities between Noa, the heroine and Lisbeth Salander – they are both loners and hackers, but Noa’s journey isn’t as brutal as Lisbeth’s. Another lead character, Peter, distills the impact of Noa’s story in a way that kept me from giving this five stars, but it is a terrific read!
Radiate by Marley Gibson – Maybe it is the fact that Gibson wrote this as a fictional version of her experience as a teenager with cancer, but it has a strong feeling of realism. The story itself follows a fairly predictable line, but it had me in tears at least three times! Gibson is a terrific writer and only a little drag in the middle kept this from being a five star.
The Girl is Murder by Katheryn Miller Haines – Okay, finally an actual four star book that I don’t feel I have to apologize for not giving it five! This is a great combination of VERONICA MARS and Francine Pascal’s Hanging Out With Cici. Iris is the daughter of a 1940s private dick who insists on her keeping out of his business. But she doesn’t. The characters are not very deep, but the story is fast moving and a whole lot of fun.
Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin– Oh these two again! This one is lovely – a story of a boy who discovers he might be in love with his best friend just as she is discovering that she prefers girls in the love department. I am always a little sad when I read about these anti-gay Midwestern towns, and I hope that they are exaggerated. . I love the Midwest! But I know I am lucky work in a high school where gay is almost a non-issue. This book is a reminder that there are all kinds of different coming out experiences, and also a story of how to be a friend.
Slide by Jill Hathaway – This is an interesting murder mystery with a bit of a supernatural twist. Vee is narcoleptic-ish. She falls “asleep” all the time. But what is actually happening is that she is sliding into the bodies of other people. Imagine her surprise when she finds herself sliding into the body of the person who is currently murdering her sister’s best friend. If there had been a mirror in the room, this would have been a very short book! As it is, the story is killer [sorry…] but the writing is just okay.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake – No wait, THIS was the creepiest thing I read this year! Gee, looking back, I read a lot more scary stuff than I usually do. This was terrific, but again, scarier than I usually like. Cas is a ghost hunter. Like, he hunts ghosts and then kills them. He is looking for Anna Dressed in Blood, a legendary bloodthirsty ghost so that he can put her out of her misery. But instead they become friends. But there is plenty of grisly stuff going on, never you fear.
Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl – Remember Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle? This is quite similar- a regency love-or-maybe-just-marriage story. Althea must marry well and she is on the job. But there are the usual charming impediments. This is rather slight, but exquisitely done!
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King – Astrid isn’t a manic-pixie-dream-girl, but she is pretty close. She sends love up to the passengers in the planes that fly over her back yard. I adore A.S. King’s writing and the impact of the sent-up-love on these passengers is one of the many treats in this story. Astrid is working as kind of a beard for her gay best friend and is kind of seeing a girl, but she doesn’t want to label herself. I guess I kind of find this annoying. I label my self all the time. I am like George Bailey’s mythical suitcase. This book is rich and full and just because I was kind of irritated by Astrid herself is probably a credit to her being such a realistic character. Okay, dammit, it should be a five star, but I just didn’t love it the way I should. It is me, Passengers, not you…
Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis – This was a supernatural riddle that was fun to read but actually got less comprehensible as it went on. Marshall and Elyse wake up together both with amnesia. It is a great start to this puzzle about what the heck is up with their weirdly perfect town. But it gets convoluted at the end.
Every Day by David Levithan – I ADORED this book, but I am punishing David Levithan by hacking off one of his stars. This is the story of A who wakes up in a different body every day. A falls in love with Rhiannon and tries to start a relationship with her despite being a DIFFERENT FREAKING PERSON EVERY DAY! A is sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl. A has been a junkie, a jerk, a suicidal teen. And A feels love and sympathy for all the souls that move over a bit to make a place in their bodies for A. The ONLY non-sympathetic character? The only person so horrific that A can’t even muster up a glimmer of sympathy? A fatty, of course. Because fattys deserve no love or acceptance. David Levithan, I am going to forgive you for this because of all the beauty you have brought to the world. But damn, you disappoint. Other than those 3 or 4 pages, this book is damn near perfect.
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson – These two wacky kids are driving cross country trying to get over a deceased parent [Amy] and an abruptly ended relationshop [Roger]. Obviously, Amy wins the who-is-suffering-more contest. They are both likeable and lovely, and there are cute little graphics at the beginning of each chapter. Completely charming.
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber – These two wacky kids are spending an evening in New York City and I am pretty sure that one of them is a contract killer. Or a spy or something. It was funny, but obviously doesn’t stick in the mind!
A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – Very neat premise, Rose’s absolutely wretched [and extremely wealthy] parents put her in stasis when they decided that they need to escape the shackles of parenthood. Well, she gets lost in the basement in her tube and is found 50 or so years after a global catastrophe that has completely changed everything. She needs to come to terms with this, obviously! A cracking good read.
The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading by Charity Tahmeseb and Darcy Vance – I saw Charity Tahmeseb speak at the BETSY-TACY convention and she was charming and funny. I had started this way back and liked it, but just never finished. I read it all the way through this year and was impressed with the clever story of a smart girl and her best friend who decide to defy expectations and become cheerleaders.
My Family For the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve – This was an excellent novel about a girl who was part of the kindertransport during WWII and the impact it had on her.
Varient by Robison Wells – Boarding school? Check. Slightly rebellious boy? Check. Cute girl? Check. Dead bodies? Wait, what? This is a sinister adventure tale about Benson’s unfortunate time at Maxfield Academy, where things, and people, are rarely what they seem.