A Lengthy List of Book Recs

As an English major, I’ve heard a lot about Real Literature™. But frankly…I don’t really care. I love Young Adult literature because I feel like it’s the only place where characters are free to grow into whatever they want to be. Why wouldn’t you want to read more of those books? Why would you want to be stuck trying to figure out if the color the narrator keeps talking about has any meaning? Don’t you want to go on an adventure? If you do, maybe you should check out some of these books. (There are two non-YA suggestions at the bottom)

A Monster Calls
It’s seven minutes past midnight and the monster that Conor has been dreaming about every night since his mother started chemo is standing right outside his window. But the monster isn’t dangerous: it just wants to tell a bunch of stories that don’t make sense. At least not yet. Not until Conor tells his story. And that is something Conor never wants to do.
Why’d I like it?
I love books about grief and this is certainly one of them. It’s not quite the story you think it’ll be, but it seriously might break you. If you pick this up, you have to read the version with the illustrations. And if you have time, watch the movie! It’s great!! One of my favorite movies of 2017.

 

 

Blackbird
When a teenage girl wakes up on the subway tracks in Los Angeles, she’s not sure who she is. All she knows is she has black hair, is being framed for a crime, and there’s a blackbird tattooed on her wrist with the numbers FNV02198. She’s pretty sure people are trying to kill her, but can she find them before they catch her?

Why’d I like it?
Listen, it’s hard to do second person right, but Anna Carey rocks it. It takes a bit to get used to it, but if you’ve ever read Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” you’ll recognize its similarities. Fun, fast-paced, and thrilling.

 

 

 

Essential Maps for the Lost
Mads wants to forget about the body she found floating in the water under the Aurora bridge in Seattle, but she can’t. Instead she tracks down the lady’s son, Billy, who has a few secrets of his own.Their lives converge and though neither wants to tell the other what they know, they both need to be found.

Why’d I like it?
Set in Seattle? Yes please. Deb Caletti lives in Seattle and it’s just super cool to read about places you know. The writing is weird, more prose than typical writing, but it’s beautiful. My copy is littered with underlines and I just loved the whole ride. If you want to read something totally new, check this out!

 

 

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
Andrew Brawley is trying to escape Death, literally. He sees him in the hospital cafeteria every day and hopes that if he blends in, Death won’t snatch him up. After all, he was supposed to die with the rest of his family, but now he’s hiding out in the hospital. One day Rusty wheels in, half burned alive, and Drew knows Death is after him too. Can the truth set them all free?

Why’d I like it?
Again guys, I’m a sucker for stories about grief. This book is part graphic novel, and 100% awesome. It might make you sob (I ugly cried), but it’s totally worth it. Hutchinson details a life of shame and fear in such a realistic way. It’s great.

 

 

Goodbye Days
Carver Briggs has hopes of being a famous writer someday. It’s why he goes to Nashville Arts Academy with his best friends: Blake, Eli, and Mars. But his fame comes much sooner than he imagined. His magunum opus? Seven words: “Where are you guys? Text me back.” One text sends his three best friends hurtling into a stopped semi, killing them instantly. And it might be Carver’s fault. At least that’s what the courts think when they decide to open an investigation.

Why’d I like it?
Maybe I should stop suggesting so many books about grief. But this one. Oh my lord. I cried over a cereal bowl, guys. A CEREAL BOWL. But you will not be able to put this one down. Zentner writes so many great lines and you walk through Carver’s grief and guilt as he starts his senior year of high school. It’s touching and terrifying and you might want to read it alone so you can weep in private.

 

 

The Hate U Give
Starr Carter her friend Khalil are pulled over after a par ty. Khalil complies with the officer’s request to step out of the vehicle, but when he leans in to check on Starr, BAM, Khalil is dead and the officer is holding the smoking gun. Starr’s life gets crazy quick. She wants justice for Khalil, but is telling the truth really going to help?

Why’d I like it?
Well…this is interesting. It’s like the hottest book in YA right now, but I have a lot of hangups. It’s not a happy ending in the slightest way, but it seems realistic. It was fascinating to be inside a completely different culture and mindset. Starr struggles with her identity: is she is really _________ (black? smart? poor? broken? good? truthful?) enough? If you’re at all interested in BLM or any of the events occurring around the country right now, pick up this book.

 

 

99 Days
Molly Barlow is back after a year of boarding school. Why’d she leave? Well…she did cheat on her boyfriend…with his older brother…and then her mom wrote a book about it…and yeah.The town’s not too happy about it. Now she’s back and has 99 days (the length of one summer) to make everything right again.

Why’d I like it?
Happily ever afters aren’t realistic, but this book is. Katie Cotugno writes a character we’re not sure if we’re supposed to root for, but we’re intrigued to watch anyway. It’s a real depiction of small town gossip and forces readers to identify their own double-standards.

 

 

 

Once and For All
Louna has no interest in falling in love over the summer or anytime ever. Maybe it’s the fact that her father left when she was three and died before he could ever come back. Maybe it’s that her mother left her hippy lifestyle and now is in the wedding planning business. Maybe it’s because she’s not sure she believes in love after all, not when he heart has already been shredded. But when Ambrose comes along and bets her to date her way through the summer, she realizes maybe love is worth fighting for.

Why’d I like it?
Listen, if you give me a book with Sarah Dessen’s name on it, I will read it, no questions asked. She is the Queen of Teen, I’m convinced. But I loved this one a lot because it reminded me of my favorite (This Lullaby). However, unlike the darkness of Dessen’s other books, this one hit a little close to home. You’ll probably figure it out early on, but it’s still haunting all the way through.

 

 

The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Mikey is not the Chosen One. He just wants to graduate and maybe finally ask out the girl he’s been crushing on for years before his high school blows up…again. But when you live in the midst of the chaos, a small PNW town where blue lights are killing people and deranged wildlife are mucking about, things aren’t so easy.

Why’d I like it?
People often talk about “breaking the fourth wall” and this book does it in such a hilarious way. Front and center you have Mikey and his band of merry friends who are trying to survive what’s going on in the background: a crazy dystopian novel. Pick one, any one, doesn’t matter, but it probably features two high school students trying to save the world from an otherworldly danger. This is the story of what happens to the people who aren’t center to the dystopian novel, but have to live with the consequences. It’s funny. self-aware, and focuses on the side characters.

 

 

 

 

The Start of Me and You
Paige Hancock is determined to get over it. So she has a list: join a club, do some daring, adventurous things, and get her old crush to date her. But when she ends up in Quiz Bowl with her crush’s dorky cousin, things take a different turn.

Why’d I like it?
Emery Lord tweeted me after I finished reading. Win. Plus I’ve read this twice and both times in one sitting. It’s a feel-good novel with a happy ending. If you want escapism, this is your bet.

 

 

 

Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle
How do you punish a god who’s pissed Zeus off one too many times? You turn him into a human, of course. Enter Lester Papadopoulos, or as you might know him: Apollo.This isn’t the first time Apollo has been human, but this is the first time he’s been 100% human, blood and all. And now he has to find his way back into Zeus’ favor.

Why’d I like it?
First off, I love Percy Jackson and will probably ready anything Rick Riordan writes. But I have a special love for Apollo. He reminds me a lot of Tony Stark: he is arrogant and it is hysterical. It gets a bit dark in some parts, but Apollo reaches out to some Percy Jackson faves and makes for quite the adventure.

 

 

We Were Liars
The Sinclairs are hiding a nasty secret that has the potential to implode the whole family. Everyone knows except for Cadence, whose accident a few years ago has left her reeling. Still, she’s determined to seek the truth. With help from her cousins, she navigates family drama, that is until she learns what really happened.

Why’d I like it?
This book is a straight up trip.There are so many twists; couple that with an unreliable narrator, and it makes for an epic read. Plus, it’s a summer novel that takes place on Cape Cod. What more could you ask for than a haunting, thrilling read?

 

 

Not YA Recommendations: 

Born A Crime
Trevor Noah, comedian and host of The Daily Show, was born under South Africa’s Apartheid to a white father and black mother. Extreme measures were taken to ensure his safety from the government who could take him away at any moment. But when Apartheid ends Noah has to become his own man, separate from the identity he grew up with.

Why’d I like it?
I listened to the audiobook and sometimes it’s just nice to read nonfiction. Of course Noah discusses racism and moving to America, but for the most part, it’s an honest and moving account of transitioning from boyhood to adulthood.Worth the read. Plus his accent is incredible.

 

 

The Wet Engine
Brian Doyle and his wife just had twin boys, Joseph and Liam. Joseph is dark, Liam is light. Joseph is healthy, Liam is not. Liam’s heart is missing a valve, requiring two major surgeries before age three. Doyle, of course, turns to researching, hoping that if he knows everything there is to know about the heart, then he can finally take a breath.

Why’d I like it?
Brian Doyle is my all-time favorite essayists. He writes so beautifully about such ugly and hard things. He recently passed away from brain cancer, but his writing is still alive. A book of essays is perfect for summer because you read one, take a few days, and come back. It’s short, sweet, and stunning.

 

(photo credit)

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