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Viewing Blog: Too Many Books!, Most Recent at Top
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The young adult fiction market is exploding and there are simply too many books to read them all, which is why I’m devoting this blog to the young adult books I think will most appeal to the adult reader. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did…
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1. CHASING LINCOLN'S KILLER by James L. Swanson

This YA non-fiction title is an adaptation of Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by the same author. It is the true account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by the actor John Wilkes Booth and the subsequent chase to find and arrest him. The book was suprisingly fast-paced, a thrilling read with engrossing details of Booth's assination plot, the description of the last hours of Lincoln's life and Booth's attempt at escape. An easy read, this is a great choice for teen boys who don't enjoy fiction.

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2. WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED by Judy Blundell

What I Saw and How I Lied is the story of Evie, her mother and stepfather's impulsive roadtrip from Queens, NY to Palm Beach, FL in the years immediately following WWII. This novel is part mystery, part suspense and part coming-of-age. While in Palm Beach, the family encounters a glamorous wealthy couple and a handsome young ex- soldier and together the characters are brilliantly entwined in a scheme of bribery, adultery, and murder. The underlying theme of anti-semitism in post war America and the affects of the Holocaust combine for an excellent read. I highly recommend this YA novel.

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3. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

The Newberry commitee got it right this year. The Graveyard Book was by far my favorite book of 2008. Neil Gaiman is a great storyteller (no suprise his Coraline has been adapted into a movie being released in February) and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Nobody Owens had the run of the graveyard, protected by ghosts and guardians, but now at age 15 he must face down the demons that killed his family. Fanstasy/Ghost story

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4. THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie

The book got so much buzz in 2007 I intially refused to read it. I was stupid; it's really a great book. It more than lived up to the hype. I believe it even won the National Book Award for Young Peoples literature and deservedly so. It's the semi-autobiographical novel of Alexie (Smoke Signals) growing up on an Indian reservation near Spokane, WA. It chronicles his childhood attempt to break away from the inevitability of life as a stereotypical native-american with both comedy and compassion. I always try to push multi-cultural literature but really this is our American history and culture, albeit a part we should be ashamed of... It's different, try it you might like it.

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5. TWEAK by Nic Sheff

Oprah had Nic's dad David Sheff on her show last year and many people read his book Beautiful Boy. If you haven't read it, skip it and read Tweak (or at least read Tweak first). It's the memoir of a teen boy growing up in a dysfunctional California home who becomes addicted to methamphetamines and heroine. His struggle is gritty and real and agonizing.

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6. How NOT to be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler

I expected this book to be the stereotypical teen novel. It suprised me in a good way. Maggie Dempsey is not your stereotypical teen. Her parents are former hippies who named their daughter sugar magnolia dempsey. They haven't lived in one place for more than 8 months and at the start of the book are en route to their new home in Austin, TX. At 17, Maggie is sick of starting new schools and meeting new people. She knows she's good at making friends and fitting in but this time she plans to do the opposite. While trying NOT to make friends or hang with the popular crowd, she finds out a lot about herself and others. The teen girls loved this novel and so did I.

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7. UNWIND by Neal Shusterman

This YA science fiction novel really intrigues teens and should intrigue parents too... The story revolves around the government policy which allows parents to choose to "unwind" their child between the ages of 13 and 18. To unwind means to donate your child to the scientific cause of organ donation and selective preservation of life. The novel opens with 3 teens each chosen for a different reason by their parents to be unwound and follows them as they attempt to escape their fate. This is a well written, thought-provoking novel that would be great for a book group discussion.

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8. THE LUXE and RUMORS by Anna Godberson

I rarely read sequels, for example, I read Twilight when it was first published in 2005 but never had an interest in reading New Moon much less the rest of the series (I realize this may discredit me among many readers...) but I enjoyed The Luxe so much I picked up Rumors as soon as it was published and I will probably continue to read the series. Godberson's books are definite 'guilty pleasures', something akin to a Victiorian Gossip Girl series - upper east side New York, extravagant lifesytles, complicated romances, snobbery, backstabbing and catty gossip sessions - I love it!

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9. GIRLS FOR BREAKFAST by David Yoo

Girls for Breakfast made me laugh out loud. In this irreverant YA novel, Nick Park, a Korean-American high school senior, on the eve of his graduation, takes a looks back on his life since elementary school. His flashbacks include often humiliating vignettes of Nick's attempts to make friends, get the girl, and become a young adult from a very typical boy's perspective. It covers issues of gender, masculinity, sexuality, you name it... This is one of those books written for teens but that only adults looking back with some time and perspective can truly enjoy. Think ~ American Pie.

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10. WITCH of PORTOBELLO by Paulo Coelho

When I picked this book up I had absolutely no idea what it was about ~ I read it because I loved The Alchemist. Now I love this book too... and Paul Coelho is now one of my favorite authors. The Witch of Portobello is the story of a mysterious dead woman named Athena whose life story is pieced together by first person accounts of the people who knew her (or thought they did). This is not a YA novel; it is a complex novel about a woman searching for her own truth and explores a lot of new ageisms, something I don't typically enjoy but this novel really worked for me.

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11. ACCEPTANCE by Susan Coll

I thoroughly enjoyed Acceptance. This is not a YA book but it is about the culture of high school overachievers and the lengths they will go to to be accepted to a 'top tier' college. The book is set in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and follows 3 teens and 2 parents in their individual quests for college acceptance. At times I found it difficult to differentiate comedy from reality in this social satire. Probably a result of observing the behavior of AP kids in library for the past 5 years.

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12. IN THE NAME OF GOD by Paula Jolin

This is another multicultural title I have difficulty getting teens to read. It is a great story and I learned a lot from it including "In the Name of God" is the phrase that opens every chapter in the Koran. The book is set in Syria and the characters are authentic muslim teens with the same angst, family problems, and growing pains as western teens. The cultural differences are profound and the point of view of a muslim teen growing up in the Arab world is a great start in an attempt to understand the way muslims view Americans.

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13. CLIMBING STAIRS by Padma Venkatraman

Climbing Stairs is an historical novel set in India during WWII. It's the story of 15 year-old Vidya whose life changes drastically when her father, a doctor, is killed during a freedom protest in the streets of Bombay. This book provides a great introduction to Ghandi's non-violent movement, British Imperialism, and Indian culture and Hinduism ~ but best of all it is a great story with realistic characters. Unfortunately, I find it really hard to get teens to read multi-cultural literature (much less historical fiction) but the ones who've read this really liked it.

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14. INCANTATION by Alice Hoffman

An increasing number of best-selling adult authors are writing YA novels. Many of them are not good. Alice Hoffman's Incantation is an exeption ~ in fact it is exceptionally good. I like books that teach me something about history, culture, religion and that are well-written stories. This one does it all. Incantation takes place during the Spanish Inquisition and is the story of a Spanish Jewish family who have to hide their heritage and pass as Catholics in order to survive. The protagonist, Estrella is unaware her family is secretly Jewish until her best friend betrays her and the brutality of the Inquisition reaches close to home.

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15. SOLD by Patricia McCormick

Novels written in poetic verse instead of prose are a big trend in YA literature. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonja Sones was the first I read. It was cute and the young girls really enjoy it. Sold takes this writing style to a whole new level. Patricia McCormick's novel about the adolescent sex slave trade in India is told through the eyes of 13 year-old Lakshmi. Lakshmi, who comes from a poor family in the hills of Nepal thinks she is being sent to the city to become a maid and help her family financially. McCormick's free verse style of writing brilliantly reveals the horrors of slave trade and prostitution as Lakshmi experiences them. Sold was a National Book Award finalist in 2006.

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