Read This: Some Good Young Adult Books
Vintage by Steve Berman. I wasn’t sure about this book, though I’d seen it recommended on a couple of different sites. Mostly because I wasn’t sure I could accommodate all of the following in my head at once: Teen Goths, Emo Boys, Ghost From The Past, Gay Runaway Kid Who Never Has Had A Boyfriend. However, the way Steve Berman writes it, all of those things went together spectacularly. I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy the swoon involved in two boys getting together, but I completely did. It was total excellence. A good book to read in autumn. I think I’ll get my own copy and read it on Halloween. (Also, Berman pulls off the same stunt that Jeanette Winterson does in Written On The Body with the main character. Which isn’t easy to do. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’ll just have to read Written On The Body, won’t you?)
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I am partial to stories that feature the following: pranks, drunken parties, summer camps, demeaning teenaged Mcjobs, and boarding schools. Prep only encompasses a couple of these, but the last thing especially. What Prep does really well is give us a character who doesn’t know herself, internally or externally. Lee’s not sure where she belongs in any social circumstance, and that sounds pat, but it’s true and rendered well. And her lose-the-old-V-card scene is a Hall of Famer. So heart-breakingly true.
The Boy Book by E. Lockhart. Is this an issues book? No. Is this a book about difficulties with friendships and liking boys and your weird parents and dealing with fears and being yourself and not getting over broken relationships? Yes. Ruby Oliver is just so damn rad. I can’t wait to read the other books that feature her. Also, she lives on a houseboat. How cool is that? Very cool. Cooler than you or me.
Stay by Deb Caletti. This cover doesn’t really fit what’s going on inside this book, but don’t let that dissuade you. It’s an amazing book about how relationships can go from intense to dangerous. Clara is running from one such relationship and in the process learns some difficult truths about her parents’ relationship as well. This description could really take a dull turn in the wrong hands, but Caletti executes it very well. It’s clear she’s read her Gavin De Becker, but not in that she has Clara follow all of The Gift of Fear’s recommendations to the letter when it comes to the obsessed Christian. I liked seeing how Clara tried on different roles, exploring who she was, which rang so damn true to me. (You know how certain people can make you believe things about yourself that aren’t necessarily true, but you don’t realize that until you play that role and find out how wrong it is for you? No? Okay, then. Just me? Okay…REALLY?) Anyway, the story takes place in the Pacific Northwest and so there was sailing and shipwreck ghost stories and a boy named Finn and a weird old poet lady who makes seaweed salad and there’s a reflective voice from an adult – the narrator writing about herself as a younger woman – which you also see in Sittenfeld’s Prep, which makes the story sweeter. At least for me, since I’m also an adult. I think I’m an adult, at least. When I want to buy liquor or do anything prurient, I’m totally an adult.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. So, Meg Cabot doesn’t need any more money or press, but I can’t help mentioning this, though I’m late to the party. But damn! The hype about this series isn’t wrong. At least the first book, which I adored. ADORED. The main thing is that Mia is allowed to be funny. And while I know Christopher Hitchens doesn’t think women are funny and that most men don’t value witty women (because why? because men want to be witty ones, with the women clapping and laughing? Which is just…a total head-scratcher. Who doesn’t want to be around a funny person in the sack? Or in general?), I value this in a book because if I think you are funny I trust you more as a human and a character. I’m excited to see the other books in this series, as there are approximately one million of them and I love that feeling, when you like a series and know that a whole fleet of unread books await you.
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. Okay, if you can figure out how to write a story with a boy narrator who falls in love with a girl who is really a boy and make it swoony and compelling and uncomfortable and sad and realistic and cringe-worthy, then fucking go for it, man. Because that shit isn’t easy. And Brian Katcher’s done it so well. This was such a cool book. Loved Logan, our narrator, even though as he made the wrong moves and said the wrong things and had the world’s most messed-up head due to his consuming attraction to Sage, the boy who wants to be a girl.
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer. Due to it being about werewolves, I liked this book and am excited for the follow-up book. The world-building’s tremendous and complicated and makes Nightshade one of those books where you get all giddy about the series to come just to see what else lurks beneath the complicated structure. I like Calla, our main heroine girl – she’s very kickass and Girl Power and constantly being tempted sexually, which, hello, is very realistic, at least for me. The only issue I had was that the romance aspect hit some wrong notes for me, and since this is a love triangle book, that was hard to overlook. There were a lot of fingers trailing down cheeks and hands cupping faces and while I don’t need to see fluids exchanged or anything, when the two guys in a love triangle are both doing the same moves on the same girl, it’s hard to pick a side. Change that shit up! (Not that it matters, because I’ve already picked a side, actually. I’m totally waving the big foam finger for Ren, which I feel shy about, because it seems too obvious and one-sided and probably says a lot about me, since Ren’s the Main Alpha Wolf Pack Badass guy. But I just can’t help it; he’s well-developed beyond the description I’ve given there. Also, isn’t Ren the guy in Footloose played by Kevin Bacon? Who is also fabulous – this cannot be a coincidence, amirite?) But the other choice, Shay, does too much poetry-quoting. (I know. It’s a thing of mine. Like men wearing sandals, one must tread carefully with the poetry-quoting where I’m concerned.) But maybe this will all change? Also, another reason I enjoyed this book was that there was some pretty cool feminist stuff going on in terms of the Wolf Pack New Order that I have a feeling Calla will challenge, as well as some bigoted assumptions on part of the Keepers on the issue of queer relationships. That’s very promising for future books, so I can get past a few quivering fingertips on blouse buttons and all. I really like how Cremer deals with that age-old problem of What Does A Werewolf Do With All His/Her Blown-Out Clothes Whenever There’s a Form Change, Just Walk Around Naked Or Stash Clothes In The Woods Or What? She sort of blows past all the ham-handed awkwardness of the problem entirely in a way that is highly brilliant.