It’s no use denying it any longer…we’ve hit YA territory. I honestly didn’t see this coming. I thought Stage Four Chapter Books would wrap things up nicely, to be honest. But then Roy turned 11 and he read Every Hidden Thing. And then he turned 12. And Geordie read Eleanor and Park. So here we are.
My very first trip to the YA section of the bookstore was a rude awakening: what’s up with all the vampires?! What’s up with all the romance?! Yikes — this is going to be the most challenging group to curate of them all…
Roy’s first foray into YA was actually The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which I’d purchased for a later date but he picked it up when he was somewhere between 10 and 11. Soon after that, he read Green’s An Abundance of Katherines. It was only about a month ago that things really picked up; here are his recommendations thus far, including Green’s two aforementioned titles:
Every Hidden Thing, Kenneth Oppel (romance between competing teen archaeologists; a couple of very tasteful and brief sex scenes)
Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman (main character slips into schizophrenia)
The Bunker Diary, Kevin Brooks (Roy said it was like The Hunger Games but more darker and more believable…yikes…)
Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell (massive hit, smart, funny, sad romance)
The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier (classic!)
We Are All Made of Molecules, Susin Nielsen (another big hit and critical darling, with good reason — funny and moving)
Dorothy Must Die, Danielle Page (he gobbled up the first one in a single sitting, and immediately demanded the rest of the series from the library…now, Mum! These books touch on important major themes, like: does power corrupt? is it better to exact revenge or mercy? I love anything that questions the nature of a simplistic good guy vs bad guy plot, and these books certainly do.)
This one Geordie has read, but not Roy:
Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley (I’m so grateful for this book, which not only shines a light on the civil rights era, but also on marginalized sexualities, by featuring a gentle love story between a black girl and a white girl in 1959 Virginia). We also recommend her book What We Left Behind, which tells the story of Toni and Gretchen, who, despite being an “out” teenaged gay couple, are widely admired and respected. They are deeply in love, but when they leave for different universities, things begin to shift as Toni moves towards a new gender identity and Gretchen grapples with who she is and what she wants as an individual.
Canadian author Eric Walters is almost an institution, he’s got so many books out. This one, called Just Deserts is about a teenaged boy whose reckless behaviour finally pushes his dad to make a desperate move: drop the kid in the Sahara Desert with three other teens so he can try and make his way out.
There’s so much distopian YA fiction out there, but Scythe, by Neal Shusterman, rises above the pack not only with its premise but with the questions it asks about what we, as a society, might be willing to sacrifice for a world without hunger, disease, and war. What happens when we figure out how to cure death? How does a population manage itself? Two protagonists here, one girl and one boy, are apprenticed to become scythes — the people responsible for carrying out this population control.
Both Roy and Geordie loved The Art of Picking Up Girls (and other dangerous things) by Eric Walters, in which a boy who is unlucky in love starts playing wing man to a popular ladies man. Luckily, he meets someone who reminds him that there are better ways to meet girls.