Wow, so I didn’t realize that I’ve read 15 YA books in the last month and a half… Some of them were really great and some of them were just plain awful. As I look ahead to the next book I’m planning on writing, I’m actively trying to read more books with a female protagonist. There are also some authors who I’ve grown attached too over the past few months, so I’ve been trying to read more of their work too.
Here’s my thoughts on what I’ve been reading:
Shine – Lauren Myracle – This book is about a hate crime in rural America. A young gay man is attacked at a gas station and his former BFF tries to piece together who did it because she feels the cops aren’t doing enough. It’s one of several books I’ve read recently where the female protagonist is a survivor of physical assault. I’m always interested to read how other girls (even fictional ones) deal with that. The book spans only a couple weeks. I like condensed time lines like that – I feel it offers a sense of urgency to solve the crime. This was a good book and I’m glad I finally read it. (I had checked it out of the library once before but had returned it before even cracking it open.)
Out of the Pocket – Bill Konigsberg – I wanted to read this book for months and I finally tracked down a copy! I’ve read one of Konigsberg’s other books (Openly Straight) and liked it a lot, but was desperate to read this one because it dealt with a gay high school football player. While I’m not a fan of football, I was eager to read this since my book is also about a gay high school sports player (baseball, though) and I thought this book would be educational to read. I like Konigsberg’s writing style and thought the story was engaging.
The Boy on the Bridge – Natalie Standiford – I was so disappointed while I was reading this book. I read Standiford’s How to Say Goodbye in Robot and LOVED it, but this book was the complete opposite of that… I hated it. And wished I could unread it or at least get those couple hours of my life back. The most disappointing aspect of the story was how the female protagonist was basically throwing away her education and her time in Russia for some boy she really didn’t know that well. What they had did not come across as love and it was frustrating as a reader to read page after page of this girl making a string of stupid and irresponsible decisions. I would put this female protagonist right up there with Bella Swan as terrible literary characters that little girls should never aspire to be.
Break – Hannah Moskowitz – I’ve read a few other books by Moskowitz, but I think this was her debut novel. It was about a boy who was determined to break every bone in his body so that they would grow back stronger. He had a really troubled home life (in that his younger brother was pretty much allergic to everything, and there was a crying baby around all the time, and his parents weren’t all that with it all the time) and his friend was an enabler with him wanting to break himself. It was really disturbing to read the thought process of this kid, because you just wanted to reach through the page and demand that he stop hurting himself.
Ask the Passengers – A.S. King – This book was about a high school girl coming to terms with her sexuality. (She was in a relationship with a girl she worked with at a catering company.) There was definitely more to the story than just that, but what I took away from this was how I really enjoy King’s writing. I’ve read a few of her books by now and they are good reads.
Boyfriends with Girlfriends – Alex Sanchez – This was another book I wish I could unread. I don’t get how people praise Sanchez’s writing because I feel he writes down to his intended audience and the end result is immature, silly and insulting. I get that this book was trying to open up people’s eyes about bisexuality and gender fluidity, but I could not get over how awful the dialogue was and how immature the descriptions of sex were. Also, his characters giggled a lot. Like, “tee hee” was written across more than several pages. The thing is, Sanchez is very well published within the LGBTQ YA genre. This was the second book of his that I’ve read. And while I thought The God Box was okay, I thought this was just plain bad. And I hate to write that because I fear someone will someday say that about my book… but I honestly was wondering how he justified writing the book the way he did. High school kids don’t talk like that. They just don’t.
Marly’s Ghost – David Levithan – This was my palette cleanser after the Sanchez fiasco. A modern retelling of A Christmas Carol, Marly’s Ghost is about a young man mourning the death of his girlfriend. Her ghost comes to visit him around Valentine’s Day and says that he’ll be visited by three ghosts. The boy overcomes his Bah Humbug feelings about the holiday that’s meant to celebrate love and finds that he can and will love again. It wasn’t a real head-scratcher, nor was it on par with some of his other books, but I enjoyed it. This was a very quick read.
The Sky is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson – A high school girl’s older sister died and she and her extended family that she lives with are in mourning. During this time, she gets closer to her dead sister’s boyfriend, as well as the new boy in town who just started up at her school. It’s easy to see why both guys are attractive – one helps her remember her sister, while the other is a new distraction from it all. There was a lot of poetry in this book (as the protagonist was prone to writing prose on anything she could get her hands on), but I thought it added rather than detracted from the main focus of the book.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz – A.S. King – A high school girl’s former BFF died and she’s the only person who knows the truth about his death, though she doesn’t tell anyone for a long while. She lives with her dad (as her young mother ditched them when Vera turned 12) and they don’t relate super well with each other (although they do love each other). Vera gets a bit self-destructive at times, but she eventually comes clean about everything. Again, I just really dig King’s writing style.
You are Here – Jennifer E. Smith – I LOVED THIS BOOK. I just really wish the cover reflected the characters better. (The cover has two obscenely attractive high school students sitting on/leaning on a car, whereas the kids in the book are much more normal/dorky than that. I’m sorry, but if the book describes the boy as bespectacled and with a bad haircut, don’t put some glasses-less Abercrombie looking dude on the front cover. I almost didn’t pick this book up because I thought it was about attractive teen runaways.) I forget the characters’ names, but the main girl finds out that she had a twin brother who died days after they were born, so she decides she’s going to steal her older brother’s car and drive from NY to NC to see her dead brother’s grave. When the car breaks down, she calls the quiet neighbor boy (Patrick! I think…) and he runs away from home to go with her on her journey. His stipulation for going is that they stop at some historical landmarks along the way. The two teens were friendly with each other, but were never really friends. During their trip, they find out a lot about each other and themselves. I thought this book was really well written and I cared dearly for these characters (especially the boy) as they made their way to NC. I would gladly read this again someday.
Being Friends With Boys – Terra Elan McVoy – I was intrigued because this book was about a high school girl who managed her guy friends’ band, but then it turned into a drama-fest about, well, being friends with boys. I liked that the protagonist was depicted as an average girl (like, she wasn’t super skinny or flawlessly beautiful), but I did not like how the book went on and on about her feelings for a couple guys, but then in the last couple chapters it’s all “hold the phone, I’m madly in love with this guy who I haven’t really talked about since the first third of the book.” It was an okay read, but I’m not racing out to read anything else by this author.
Dying to Know You – Aidan Chambers – Another book that I loved, but the cover (and title) was completely misleading. The cover had two goldfish on it… which really had not much to do with the book being about an 18-year-old plumber befriending an elderly writer and how their friendship grew while the writer was trying to help the plumber write about himself to appease his girlfriend. The book was charming and the main character was the writer – which was a little odd for a YA book, but I dug it nonetheless.
Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust – Leanne Liberman – This book had been staring me in the face every time I go to the library and peruse the Ls for more David Levithan books. I am fascinated by the Holocaust, so I bit. It wasn’t a bad book. It was about a Jewish girl who basically was sick of hearing about the Holocaust and decided to renounce her Jewish-ness. However, she found she was unable to do that when a group of guys from her school (including her crush) were joking around and pretending they were Nazis. The overarching themes of cultural respect and self-acceptance were good.
Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson – Taking place over the course of a school year, the protagonist continues to close in on herself as her peers continue to blame her for calling the cops at a party. The truth is something terrible happened to her at said party, but no one else knows. She finally finds her voice (through words and art) and gets the confidence to stand up for herself. This book was really powerful on a personal level because of the subject matter. While i did not experience the same kind of assault as the protagonist, we were the same age when it happened. I wanted her to speak up so badly, but at the same time I understand why she didn’t. This was a good read and I’m looking forward to reading more books from the same author.
This is What Happiness Looks Like – Jennifer E. Smith – I liked the premise of this book. A teenage movie star accidentally emails a teenage girl about his pet pig (because he misspelled the email address he was actually trying to reach). They befriend each other online and email back and forth for awhile when he decides to shoot his next movie in her town and meet her in person. Drama and teenage feels ensue, but it wasn’t cheesy (even though it easily could have been). I liked Smith’s other book better, but I’m definitely keeping my eye out for more of her stuff. She’s really great at writing description and it makes me jealous.
So, yeah… that’s what I’ve been reading. Most of it was good. Some of it was not.
I’m still working on my book! I finished a major round of edits yesterday. I will be looking into literary agents in the coming weeks to try and get that process rolling. Some days I’m really confident in what I wrote. Others I am not. Of the friends who I sent the first draft, four of them gave me some really useful notes, which I did take into consideration as I edited. I know the book still needs some help, but it is coming along.
(I also went to a few theater shows in the past few weeks, but I’ll write that up in another post a little later.)
If you have any book recommendations, let me know!! I’m always reading 🙂