Confession: I read children's books. For fun. Like, all the time. Did you get hooked on Harry Potter? Torn apart by Twilight? Did you hunger for more of The Hunger Games? Did you think, well, I'll only do it this one time, because they're making the series into movies and everybody's reading them? Well, that's nothing.
When I'm on a YA bender -- and, hello world, I'm on one now! -- I read at least one teen title a week.
For me, reading YA is like having a candy bar in the middle of my lifelong diet. Filled with nougaty goodness, it's easy to digest and damn satisfying. And, when I'm done, I don't have to discuss it with my book club.
Reading YA is like temporarily leaving your grown-up, responsible day job to cut class and hang out in the food court at the mall with your new BFF.
It's, like, totally ahmayzing.
So, without further ado, here are some of my top picks for grown-ups who sometimes wish they could recapture their teen years or who just like reading about adolescence. Maybe you have an adolescent in your house and you can share titles. Maybe you don't. It doesn't matter to me either way. I'm a book pusher and this is just good stuff.
For Fans of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, remember how, after Twilight, everyone got into vampires? No matter where we turned, books and television series were bearing their fangs in hopes of getting rich on the trend. Well, the success of The Hunger Games has sparked a boatload of other YA authors to embrace post-apocalyptic and/or utopian and/or dystopian worlds. No doubt about it: Dystopia is the new vampire. Here are some of the best new titles from the genre:
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
In a near-distant future, love is considered a disease that makes people, well, delirious. A vaccine/cure is given to all 18-year-olds so that they will not be misled by this crazy illness, and then they are to be paired off with a suitable life companion. 95 days before her scheduled cure-date, Lena Haloway meets Alex, and a romance blossoms, throwing everything Lena believed about her tightly-controlled world and its government into chaos. First in a series.
Matched by Allie Condie
If you ask me, this book over-borrowed several elements from The Giver by Lois Lowry (a classic of the genre and still my fave), but I liked it anyway. Again, we are dealing with a controlled society and a girl of the brink of adulthood who has lived a sheltered life with a limited understanding of the world beyond what her government wants her to know. She is "matched" with a boy that seems perfect for her, except that, when she sees another boy's face on her match screen, doubts begins to form. First in a series.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
This one seems great, but I have not read it because there is only so much dystopia and post-apocalypse a girl can take before wanting to read something else. But I couldn't leave it off the list because of the major reviews on Amazon. Read it and tell me what you think.
For Fans of Realistic Fiction
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Don't hate me when you are crying and laughing and snot is bubbling out of your nose over this book. It's sad. But, like, good sad. And bad sad. And angry sad, and funny sad. It's typical John Green in its sheer awesomeness and use of teen-speak (read Looking for Alaska, too, please). This is a story about a 16-year-old girl with terminal cancer who falls in love. It's important.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Before writing Delirium, Oliver wrote this, which is one of my new favorite books ever. It's narrated by Samantha Kingston, a high school senior who is part of a clique that rules the school. The day is Cupid Day, when roses are handed out and popularity is reinforced. Samantha has big plans that night with her jock boyfriend -- it's no spoiler to say she is supposed to lose her virginity -- but, instead, a series of seemingly random events leads to a car accident and disastrous results. Only, when Samantha wakes up after the crash, it's Cupid Day again. Mean Girls meets Groundhog's Day in this gripping tale of teens in a wealthy suburb. Samantha narrates from a place between life and death, making Before I Fall part of the sub-genre of Almost Dead or Already Dead Teen literature. (There's a bunch! Read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and If I Stay by Gayle Forman, for starters.)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This book has a bit of a cult following and is now officially "old," having come out in 1999, which is when I read it. But now that a movie based on the novel will be released later this year (starring Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Paul Rudd, and written and directed by Chbosky himself), there is renewed interest in this moving tale of a boy on the fringe of all that is awful and wonderful about high school. One of my all-time faves, too; I just recommended it to my tenth grade babysitter and her friend at the nail salon.
For Fantasy and Action Lovers
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
I don't even know how to explain this book, so I'm going to cheat and have Amazon do it for me: "Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious 'errands'; she speaks many languages -- not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out." It's like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo meets Narnia or something. I loved it.
For Fans of Graphic Novels (and Grown-Up, Wimpy Kids)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This book is also not new, having won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, but I've got to list it because it's deep and moving and funny and political and life changing. I'm quoting Amazon again, because I'm lazy: the novel is "based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character's art, [this novel] chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live."
Enjoy these titles, and feel free to share others below. And have fun at The Hunger Games movie, which opens (as you probably already know) on Friday, March 23rd.