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Read This: Some Good Young Adult Books Vol. II

Abandon by Meg Cabot.  This is a version of Persephone and Hades, a love story set in Florida, with a girl named Pierce being the object of affection of our dark broody ruler of the Underworld. This sounds incredibly ridiculous, but it’s MEG EFFING CABOT, so of course, it’s totally excellent. And it’s a planned trilogy, so yay. Bonus Factor: hot guy character is named John. I love the name John.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. This is a take-down of the beauty industry and the television industry and many other corporate industries, vis a vis a planecrash full of Miss Teen USA pageant contestants on what appears to be a deserted island (but isn’t – ooh, political intrigue!) Full of young feminist excellence. Plus there is a scene where a boy pressures a girl not to use a condom and it’s so true I could jump up and fist-pump for how heart-breakingly difficult such things are. And you’ll never think about the phrase ‘I’m saving myself’ the same way again.
Bonus Factor: PIRATES.

Shine by Lauren Myracle. This book had the good fortune to be named by Megan Cox Gurdon’s scold piece in the WSJ (I’m not linking to it, Rupert Murdoch has made enough money already) about how ‘dark’ (wah!) young adult lit is these days. Of course, seeing it in that ridiculous article made me go out and read it, of course. I hope Ms. Myracle is reaping the financial benefits of book-banning; I can only hope this happens to me. Anyhoodle, the story is about a Cat, a girl whose best friend Patrick is gay, and it opens with him being found beaten near death with a gas pump shoved down his throat in an apparent gay-bashing. Cat plays the unconventional detective and goes about her small Southern town trying to figure out who did this to Patrick. She uncovers all sorts of awful stuff about meth and abuse which apparently teenagers should not know about until they are legal adults.
Bonus Factor: a YA tale that’s also a mystery – nice fusion.
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.  I dunno if this is technically YA, because I don’t think you’d find it the YA section, but because much of the story is carried by young Irish students at a prep school, I think it qualifies. I kind of avoid YA books that have death in them (of young people, at least – dead parents are kinda unavoidable) and as the title promises, our hero does indeed die. Topples over in a donut shop, to be exact, in the first few pages. But how? Of course, that the crux of the matter: how Skippy dies. A lot of times writers poorly execute flashbacks and backstory, but this is not the case with Paul Murray. His book is beautiful and tense and very, very funny. I would give anything to be a fly on the wall of a boys’ boarding school (which sounds lecherous, and given that the school is run by priests, not the least of the boys’ problems) and so hearing them give each other shit, as well as reading about one of their teachers, who pretty much hates his job, was delicious.
Bonus Factor: Donuts. Bonus Bonus Factor: Irish/Brit slang.Divergent by Veronica Roth.  This was a fast-paced dystopia with a girl heroine named Tris who does some awesome brave shit. Under the tutelage of an awesome brave teacher named Four, Tris has chosen to leave the faction of her birth (Abnegation, where everyone is saintly and wears grey and has no fun) for life in the Dauntless faction, where people drink and jump trains and get tattoos and generally fuck shit up. It’s kind of like Ender’s Game, except for a) there’s no little boy butt jokes b) I didn’t hate it. Bonus Factor: Tattoos – Four has a bunch of them. All over his chest. *sigh*

Ten Things We Did (But Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski. This is one of those fantasy concepts where two teenage girls manage to live on their own with no parents for a year, which is insane, but Mlynowski pulls it off. It’s a book told in sections (the ten things) and is full of hijinks and drinking and sex and inanity that was highly funny to read. Plus there were no Ham-Handed Lessons about drinking or sex or inanity (though I was proud of Vi and April for their bold-hearted trip to Planned Parenthood to get screened for STI’s and set up with birth control) so I didn’t feel like the No Parents Fantasy Behavior was being punished (that much – obviously this fantasy is not sustainable, but still.)
Bonus Factor: Teenage Boy Drag Competition.

Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt. So Courtney and Jordan planned a road trip together to Boston College, where they are going to be freshmen in the fall.  The only problem is, Jordan broke up with Courtney just before the trip, claiming to have an Internet girlfriend. And now they still have to go together (long story). So these two exes take a hellacious and tense cross-country drive together, flashing back and alternately telling the story of their romance as well as break-up. Here’s the thing. I am partial to boy narrators and Jordan completely DELIVERS. But Courtney, though she plays the uptight, type-A uber-organized good girl to Jordan’s sleazy, hook-up machine prone to wearing cargo shorts and Abercrombie, is also quite funny in her side of things. Usually that particular girl character makes me want to break things, but Barnholdt doesn’t make Courtney a complete tight-ass and so the narrative has a good balance. I especially like how they make out and then do math homework (and then make out some more. If that’s how I did math in high school, I’d probably be a particle physicist right now instead of someone who can barely add in her add.) The book is swoony and funny and the road trip takes us out of high school locker-side drama which is always fun.  Bonus Factor: Jordan has a drunken best friend named…wait for it…B.J.!

 

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