Top Ten Tuesdays – Recommendations for People Who Have Never Tried YA

Today’s TTT prompt is books you’d recommend to people who’ve never read blah, since I’m such a huge fan of the young adult genre, that’s my topic of choice. Taking a page from the girls of the Broke and Bookish, I’ve separated the list into reading styles. There’s this misconception by people that haven’t read YA that all the books are the same. That’s like saying that all books written for Adults are exactly the same. No one would ever say that. YA writing is the same. The author writes for a genre style, just within a specific age bracket. Not all YA books are good. And not everyone will like every style. I would never recommend a dark, gritty, depressing book for someone who likes happy, light hearted romances or a straight forward coming of age story to someone who only reads hard sci-fi. It has nothing to do with YA writing; it’s about finding your genre.

Here’s my list:

For people who like their books reality based and a little dark:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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This is the story of a boy who receives a package containing 13 cassette tapes – yes, cassette tapes they make a point that this is strange and he has to find a way to play them – containing 13 reasons why one of his classmates has killed herself. Each tape is about a specific person and their role in her decision. The tapes are moving from person to person so that they know their part. As the story unfolds, Hannah’s reasons begin to come together. I will never agree with her decision, but the book is amazingly well crafted. There’s a rape scene (not hers) in the book that makes my heart hurt.

Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert

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This book is painful to read, because it’s so well written you can fall right into the story. It might resonate more with me because I was that age at that time and understand the pop culture influences of that time. It was easy to put myself back in that mindset. These kids are messing up their lives, and enjoying every moment of it. The drugs run more than rampant. There’s sex, drugs, music, depression, death. This is the dark side of being a teen. Sure, they get themselves into these situations, but sometimes, at that age, all you can do is find a place to fit and hold on.

 

For people who like LGBTQ coming of age stories:

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

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I wrote a review of this one over here. It’s got a good mystery. It’s got the intrigue. It represents bisexuality in a way other books haven’t.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

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The story of two boys, with the same name, growing up near each other, with no awareness that the other exists. Each one is struggling with figuring out who they are. They accidentally meet in an incredibly entertaining way and blossom into fully developed characters. It’s not the strongest representation of the genre, but it has such a unique voice that it’s worth a recommendation.

 

For people who like historical fiction:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

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I’m not a fan of historical fiction. I’ve tried many times, but I’m rarely able to become immersed in the story. I get easily distracted and my thoughts drift while I’m reading. This one was different. It’s the right characters in the right story at the right time. Also, I do find WWII stories more interesting than most historic fiction. My full review is posted here.

The Sweetness of the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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Totally different from the last suggestion. This one is a girl detective in the 1950s style story. It’s charming and delightful and makes fun of the genre without being disrespectful or silly. Flavia is one hell of a girl. It’s the first in a series with clever, entertaining titles. Give it a shot if you want something totally outside the mainstream.

 

For people who like quirky, tongue in cheek stories:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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I did not want to read this story. A story about beauty queens who get stranded on a deserted island. Could this story be anything more than a ‘learning there’s more to life than looks’ rant? Well, yes. Yes, it can be. I finally caved because I needed an audiobook to get through the workday and this was the only one easily available. It won me over almost immediately. It is hilarious. Like actually exceptionally funny. And a complete barrage against consumerism and capitalism. The author’s footnotes are charming as hell. I really think this book is one that should be consumed in the audio format.

 

For people who like ghost stories with a romantic subplot:

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

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A ghost who’s been haunting an English classroom realizes a boy in the class can see her. She’s able to possess one of girls and realizes the boy is being possessed by another ghost. They’ve both been suffering from loneliness and pain for so long that they instantly bond. Together, they’re finally able to do more than just watch people grow up. There’s a subplot about the families their bodies belong to that actually adds to the story. Typical ghost love stories are lame, but this one is totally different.

 

For people who like political commentaries and dystopian fiction:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

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A pretty obvious suggestion, I know. It’s popular. People are always recommending it. But I’m making it to the people who are still all ‘why would I want to read a book about kids killing kids’. That’s the story on the surface, but these books are super political. It’s a condemnation against a society obsessed with image and celebrity – a message that has gotten lost in the hype and fandom of the books and movies. But at its heart, this book is against exactly what it has become. A society so obsessed with the next shocking form of entertainment and control that they’ve started routing for kids killing each other.

 

For people who like science fiction:

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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Set in the not too distant future, kids are sent off to schools to learn to become soldiers to help protect Earth from another invasion. Ender is exceptional. He supersedes all expectations and quickly advances through the ranks. This is a science fiction book. It involves many of the tropes of the genre, but it is also coming of age story. It includes no romance. It is all about growing up and contributing to the greater good, whatever the cost. One of my top five favourite books.

 

What books would you recommend? Genre choices? What do you think more people should be reading?

Free-For-All-Friday – Books by Letter

I had exactly nothing planned for today’s post. Normally, I’m really good at pre-planning my Monday through Thursday posts (even if I write them the day of), but I am bad at the Friday posts. There’s this part of my brain that says ‘You can write about anything. It’ll be easy.’ Then Friday rolls around and I realize I’ve got nothing to write about.

To trigger an idea, I turned to that good old time sucker Facebook and perused my notes section. Remember a few years ago when we were all doing those questionnaires and stuff? Like 50 things you don’t know about me, the first fifteen songs on my ipod, etc, etc, etc. Yeah, I have a lot of these. I was often really bored at my old job and used these things to pass the time. They’re a virtual treasure trove of possible future postings for days where I don’t have the time/inclination to come up with something else.

The one I decided to use for today is the Alphabet Challenge – it’s pretty easy – name a book you’ve read from every letter of the alphabet.

These aren’t necessarily the best books, but they’re all good ones. Except for the J. This is the only J book I’ve read and it’s terrible. Someone please suggest something to replace this piece of garbage! Please.

 A – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

B – Ballads of Suburbia – Stephanie Kuehnert

C – The Cuckoo’s Calling – Rogert Galbraith

D – The Diviners – Libba Bray

E – The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde

F – Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

G – The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

H – Halfhead – Stuart McBride

I – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – Mindy Kaling

J – January First – Michael Schofield

K – Keeper of Lost Causes – Jussi Alder-Olsen

L – Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist

M – Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

N – Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

O – OCD, the Dude, and Me – Lauren Roedy Vaughn

P – The Program – Suzanne Young

Q –

R – Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

S – Son of a Witch – Gregory Maguire

T – Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

U – The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green – Joshua Braff

V –

W – Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green & David Levithan

X – Xenocide – Orson Scott Card

Y – Year of the Black Rainbow – Claudio Sanchez

Z –

Have any suggestions for Q, V, or Z? How do I have an X but nothing for those three? Feel free to post your lists in the comments or on your own writing platform of choice.

Happy Friday!

The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff (@joshuabraff )

A couple months ago, John Green put out a list of book recommendations in one of his vlogs. I’ve tried 3-4 of the books from the list, but haven’t finished any of them. They just didn’t grab my attention. But, I’d had my library order Joshua Braff’s (yes, that family of Braffs) The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green for their collection, so I felt like I should give it the old college try. I read it in its entirety in one sitting. It’s a very fast read. It’s not easy content, but it is fast. Based on the vlog, I was sure this book was a comedy. And parts of it are extremely funny, but other parts are heartbreakingly sad.

 

The funny is easy. Jacob is a young Jewish boy growing up in the late 70s- early 80s, starting when he’s ten and going until he’s fifteen. He’s at the height of his sexual awakening in an era when all things sexual weren’t available with the press of a few keys. He’s getting his knowledge from his older brother, Asher, the family boarder, Megan, and his school friend, Jonny. We experience a London’s Blitz of slang terms for genitalia. It’s funny. It should be crude, but Braff’s skilled writing turns it into innocent discovery. The bar mitzvah thank you letters, the letters to Megan, and the family rules are a great vehicle to glimpse into Jacob’s thoughts without a lot of exposition or forced dialogue. Entertaining and informative.

 

Jacob’s relationship is Megan is far from innocent, except that it’s not. For him, it’s an attraction to an older girl. It’s a crush that he’s allowed to act on in seemingly innocent ways. He gives her back massages. They lay together while watching tv and movies. They hang out together. She gives him emotional support. But she’s not a teen. He’s thirteen when this is happening. She’s in a nursing program and at least somewhere in her 20s. Her questionable behaviour starts by going braless during massages and eventually leads to letting him grind against her until he blows his first precious load against her back. We should hate her. Rightfully, we should. If this was the opposite way and older man with a younger girl, we would. It’s such a double standard. I know that. And I have such mixed feelings about her character. She allows these things to happen, even encourages them, but she’s the only one really looking after the emotional needs of this kid. And when she disappears from his life without even a goodbye, she becomes the place he takes out his anger.

 

This is where the heartbreaking stuff comes in. Jacob’s family is messed up! His mother is clearly embarrassed by her husband. His brother is an artistic hard rocker straying as far from Jewish tradition as possible. The younger two children are too young to know what to do or which side to take when the family starts to disintegrate. But the worst part is Jacob’s father, Abram. The Green patron is a terror. He terrorizes his family with niceness. At first he seems like nothing more than a slightly overbearing father, but it quickly becomes clear that he’s a monster – using his family to overcome his shortcomings.

 

The terrorizing reaches a peak when Jacob getting so angry he punches a mat so hard he breaks his wrist. His father picks him up to go to the hospital and while his son is sitting in the passenger seat, cradling his broken arm, in pain, and covered in vomit, Abram becomes furious when Jacob isn’t excited about having a movie night. He barely seems to register that his son is hurt. He’s so caught up in his own mania; he can’t see how he’s hurting the people around him. He is the epitome of keeping up with the Jones’ or Bittermans – as the case may be. The movie night comes to a head in the kitchen when Abram loses his shit trying to rip Asher’s pants apart. There are a lot of examples before and after this scene, but for me, this is the moment that was the most painful to read. It’s clear that the Green patron has some type of mental disorder or chemical imbalance that isn’t being treated. I’m not saying mental disorders make people into terrors – I am definitely not saying that. But this is a prime example of what can happen when said disorders/imbalances are not treated (whether through medication or therapy or whatever).

 

This entire family suffers for years and eventually crumbles under the weight of Abram’s manic swings. Had this story taken place in a different time when his actions may have been recognized, a lot of broken people could have been saved, but it wasn’t. Instead we see how a family that appears perfectly normal on the outside is destroying itself on the inside. It’s a heavy story, but Braff couches it in coming of age humour that allows the reader to get through it without feeling like their drowning in the sorrow. It is absolutely worth reading.

It’s Not Easy Being Green – or is it… (@hankgreen @realjohngreen)

My lovely friend, Stephanie rarely steers me wrong (convincing me Game of Thrones was worth my time, getting me to watch The West Wing several decades too late, explaining complicated political procedures with ridiculous names) and today is no exception. She took me by the virtual hand and walked me over to the vlogbrothers channel on YouTube.

I’ve seen some of John Green’s videos before (it took me far too long to realize this was the same John Green as the author) but I’ve never went looking for Hank Green’s videos. But, she knows me and my OCD and sent me Hank Green’s rant about books and he’s basically my new favourite person.

Why can publishers not make it easier for readers to recognize a series!!! Yes, this is a three exclamation mark issue. Why do I have to scour the book to find the chronology? Or worse! Have to go on the internet. Just put it on the book. It’s not hard. Tiny little number on the side. It can be done. Like Gail Carriger did with The Parasol Protectorate. See.
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Sidenote: if you’re a fan of steampunk/urban fiction, this is an excellent series – read it (there are five books plus a secondary YA series. I had to scrounge this image off the internet since I’m not at home to take a picture of my own copies).

And if a book IS part of a series, for the love of reading, make all the books the same! I want them all to look the same – homogeneity is good in this case. They need to look pretty on my bookshelf. I want to be able to run my fingers along the spines of a series and absorb the love. If they’re all different sizes and colours and whatnot, it doesn’t feel the same. It just doesn’t. They might as well be different books. A book spine can compel me to pick something up almost as much as the cover. Get it right!

There are so many more things that are wrong with the way books hit the shelves, but back to the Green brothers. They’re rad. They’re smart. They’re witty. They’re geeky. I want to be friends with them. They are the one and only YouTube channel I’ve ever subscribed to. And yes, I know I’m late to this bus, but you’d be surprised how often that ends up being the case. If you love books, passion, and self-confidence, check them out.