I haven’t posted any YA or MG recommendations in a while, so here are some books I really enjoyed recently.
Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why: A teen boy receives a box of tapes in the mail from a classmate who had recently committed suicide. On each side of a tape, the girl tells a piece of what led her to end her life.
Not only does it have a good voice, it has two good voices – the main character’s and the girl on the tapes. This book was so gripping despite the dark subject matter. I skipped my one workout a week to finish this book while sitting in my car outside my son’s preschool. And it reminds us how fragile the teen psyche can be.
Gaile Parkin’s Baking Cakes in Kigali: I am a huge fan of the #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, and I spent time in Rwanda. So I had to read this book. I expected to hate it, honestly. I expected either the author to get it wrong or for it to be too similar to my own work-in-progress. Neither was the case. This story was very funny and touching and I could hear the voices of my African friends in the characters.
Although not YA, there is no reason a teenager couldn’t like this book. A Tanzanian cake maker living in Rwanda with her university professor husband and their grandchildren gets involved in the lives of everyone around her, locals and ex-pats, young and old.
Nova Ren Suma’s Dani Noir: A tween girl drowns her sorrows over her parents’ divorce at the local movie theater, watching her favorite femme fatale, Rita Hayworth, and by getting overly involved in a love triangle. Usually I’m all about plot, but in this book I didn’t want the story to end because I loved Dani’s voice. Just the right amount of heart and snark for her age without alienating the reader.
Libba Bray’s Going Bovine: The 2010 Printz Award winner delivers the best teen boy voice I have ever read in fiction. The main character, suffering from mad cow disease, takes the reader on an unforgettable journey that includes a happiness cult, spring break in Daytona, “the happiest place on earth”, a yard gnome, a hypochondriac little person and a pink-haired, fishnet-wearing angel. A crazy combination? Maybe. But it all works, because everything is connected.