If you’re a YA fan more than K-Pop purist, you’re going to love Katie M. Stout’s Hello, I Love You. If you’ve enjoyed the occasional romance or EXO music video, you’re definitely going to root for Grace and Jason’s East Vs. West romance. She’s the black sheep of her musical family and he’s Korea’s newest pop superstar, but at the heart of the story are very mature themes of familial duty and responsibilities, which sets this YA romance apart from the many faceless offerings of the genre.
Did Stout handle Korean culture appropriately? No. But did she craft a really good YA romance that’s full of fun and lively side characters? Yes, definitely. It’s a cute story with an exotic setting that’s told in broad, emotive strokes along with finer details of spicy foods and city life in Seoul.
If you’ve ever fallen in love with one of the leads from one of many of the fabulous Korean dramas out there, you’ll definitely feel for Grace Wilde’s heartfelt trials.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Wednesday, June 24th, 2015||No Comments »|
Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a quick but thrilling read in the world of Young Adult literature. You don’t have to be 14 to love this book, and though it may not be filled with the literary depth of J.R.R. Tolkien or Donna Tartt, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time.
The first half (actually, a little more than that) of the book is actually a collection of documents that range from emails and hand-written notes to faxes and official reports. Through all these pieces, a story is formed revolving around the character Bernadette Fox, a McArthur Genius Grant winning architect turned mom turned unsocial Seattle transplant. Where’d You Go, Bernadette climaxes with the disappearance of Bernadette, and the remainder of the story turns to a first person narrative of her daughter, Bee, to find her.
|Recommended by Chelsey Grasso||Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015||No Comments »|
Hi, my name is J and…I’m a fangirl. An out and out fangirl who’s decorated shirts for midnight premieres, been to book signings, wrote a couple (dozen) sneaky fanfictions, and Netflix binged fandoms harder than a coke addict. So Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, a story of a girl attempting to find her identity post-fandom, really jived with me. I could relate to Cath, the silly inner monologues wondering how her favorite characters would react to the happenings of her life and the social anxiety at trying to explain the obsession to other people.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Friday, June 19th, 2015||3 Comments »|
A Book of Spirits and Thieves shouldn’t have worked. Come on, a Canadian girl gets sucked into the magical world of a book and it’s all possibly linked to an ultra-secret literary cult? This was a Mary Sue, Neverending Story mashup that should have been completely hokey, but Morgan Rhodes, author of the Falling Kingdoms series, totally pulled it together, marrying a modern day mystery with the world of Mytica and creating an enchanting page-turner of a story.
Rhodes’ works are marketed as YA, which usually means a formulaic story to adult readers, but A Book of Spirits and Thieves will keep you guessing before it completely throws you. Also, the shifting narrations of the three main characters is really well written. While Rhodes is often cited as doing a teen version of Game of Thrones, I think Rhodes actually pulls off the multiple perspectives better than Martin. Each character has a distinct rhythm and personality.
If this is your first introduction to the world of Falling Kingdoms and Mytica, like it was mine, then I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Tuesday, June 16th, 2015||No Comments »|
I’ve mentioned John Green and The Fault in Our Stars before in passing. While I think Green’s YA novels are perhaps overrated, I loved TFiOS and like what it’s done for the YA genre. Hazel Grace Lancaster is no Bella Swan. Cancer isn’t just used as the dramatic backdrop of their teen romance, it was a way to focus on the existentialist dilemma we all face: that we don’t necessarily matter to the rest of the world, but what makes life, however long it is, worth living is at least mattering to each other. And for all the critique the book and movie have gotten regarding the myopia of sick-lit, I think it’s important that there’s a novel out there accessible to teens that confronts the issue that the terminally ill are still complete people rather than broken, false starts of a life.
While I adored Shailene Woodley in the movie adaption, I think Kate Rudd’s reading added a beautiful sensitivity to the already poignant story. She gives Hazel a sly humor, laced with chronic teenaged fragility and gives Augustus the slow drawl of a cocky teen nevertheless choosing his words very carefully to impress his crush.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Wednesday, May 27th, 2015||No Comments »|
In a sec you’ll hear a thunk. At your front door, the one nobody uses.
And so begins Daniel Handler’s young adult novel, Why We Broke Up. Okay, before you roll your eyes at yet another YA breakup book, let me defend this work of fiction by Handler.
The structure of this story is as unique as its masterful illustrations by the always talented Maira Kalman, unfolding in ways that will keep you riveted and engaged with the protagonist and her narrative. This a breakup story told through a collection of items… yes, that’s that “thunk” at the front door. A pack of matches, a rubber band, a roll of color film, and the list goes on and on.
Only a talented author can make a box of junk signify so much, and Handler does that and then some. While the plot will have you hanging on the page, the story’s form will have you wanting to reread every word. Filled with lucrative wordplay and an unraveling of emotions, this novel has more layers than your average YA read.
|Recommended by Chelsey Grasso||Thursday, April 23rd, 2015||No Comments »|
I’ve got nothing against the legions of Nerdfighters and fans behind John Green. Personally, I think The Fault in Our Stars is a way better introduction to existentialism than the semester long unit of Camus I had in high school that caused me to spiral into a mid-life crisis at sixteen. My problem with John Green is that even though he’s professed to find adults boring and prefers the discoveries one makes as a teenager, all of his teenaged protagonists basically spout his well-developed and worldly philosophies.
In comparison, I believe Neal Shusterman authentically captures the teenaged voice and then effectively applies it to complex issues while still being sensitive to the foibles of adolescents. Bruiser is about pain and addiction, but rather than being a teenaged version of Breaking Bad, it deals with the subtler allures of emotional relief from divorcing parents and the pitfalls of high school relationships. In the end, even though Bruiser is revealed to have an amazing ability and the characters resolve to change for the better, everything doesn’t wrap up tidily. Some things don’t get fixed, because a part of growing up is realizing that life, in many ways, is pain.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Tuesday, March 31st, 2015||No Comments »|