2013: Young Adult Round Up

         One of the things that happened when I was in the hospital is that I briefly lost my ability to focus on anything longer than a trashy magazine article (in fact, two of my dear friends saved my life by showing up with rafts of magazines for me to read and I am eternally grateful to both).  When I came home, I just couldn't focus on anything long enough to start a new book.  Bad enough to have colon cancer - was I never going to read again?  

         Never fear! My wonderful sister came to the rescue! She mailed me a box of young adult books to read - the perfect solution to ease me back into the world of books! The books were well written and enjoyable, but short and non-taxing enough that I bring myself to pick one up in my distracted state.  And she did an awesome job picking books out:

An Abundance of Katherines, John Green

I'd read and loved this before, but didn't own it, so I was extremely pleased to get a copy of my own.  John Green is great - I love how he takes on the "manic pixie dream girl" idea and knocks it on its head, as his male characters have to learn that girls aren't just something you fixate on - but are actual, human, people. Plus, it's funny.

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell

Oh, man, this book is so, so, so good.  It's a love story between two outcasts (well, one outcast and one person who has heretofore been good at keeping his head down and blending in).  It's just so real about how horrible high school can be - but how wonderful it can be too, as our two characters find love.  Rainbow Rowell (I know with the name, but if she keeps writing books like this she can be called whatever she wants), creates such real vivid characters in both Eleanor and Park, and breaks your heart even as you convinces you in the redemptive power of love.  And oh, my gosh, it doesn't hurt that I JUST had a little girl with the exact same name, but I wanted to kidnap Eleanor and bring her home and just put her in a home where she could get the parental love she deserves.  Read this one guys - it's great.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Emily Danforth

Another great read.  Cameron Post lives in a small Montana town.  The same day that she comes to realize that she is a lesbian (not that she uses that word, yet - its just that she kisses a girl for the first time and realizes that that is what she wants), her parents are killed in a tragic accident. She has to grow up in this small town with her aunt, a born again Christian, and negotiate her life without her parents and with her secret.  She feels guilty, she wants to be true to herself.  This is a tremendous book because Cameron is so real - and there is a turn of events half way through that I just thought made the book so, so interesting (but am loathe to discuss here because it wasn't on the book flap and I didn't expect it until it happened, and I don't want to spoil you).   Even though I've never been a young girl figuring out her sexuality in a small conservative Montana town, I felt like I was living that life while reading about Cameron's struggles.  Loved it.

If I Ever Get Out of Here, Eric Gansworth

If I Ever Get Out of Here is the story of a young man, Lewis, who lives on an Indian Reservation, and attends school with white kids.  Because he's bright, he's put in classes where he is the only Indian, and has to deal with his classmates (and teacher's) prejudices.  This is, of course, very similar to the plot of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but not exactly the same (for one thing, this is set in the 1970s).  If you are only going to read one book about a young man growing up on a reservation and trying to negotiate between two worlds, I'm afraid I'm going to have to recommend Alexie - but only because that book is so, so great - not a knock on Gansworth.  Gansworth isn't as good of a writer as Alexie, and the book can be a little clunky, but he has created a great character in Lewis, and Lewis's life both on and off the reservation is fascinating to read about.  

Conjured, Sarah Beth Durst

It wouldn't be a YA round up if there wasn't one fantasy/magic book, now would it? Conjured is the story of Eve, who wakes up with a new face, a new name, and no memories of her past.  All she knows is that she is in danger - and that she is has magical powers that she can barely handle… I can't say more because the whole point of books like this is to figure out what's going on.  I will say that what is going on is totally crazy (in a fun, over the top way), and I enjoyed the ride immensely.  This isn't great literature, by any stretch, but the solution is nutsy enough and the action fun enough that I'm glad I read it.  Probably the most enjoyably mindless of all the books here in terms of "you just want to read something to escape for a while."

The Loud Silence of Francine Green,  Karen Cushman


This last book is really more kid lit than true YA - it definitely reads younger than the others and seems more message-y.  Its about Francine Green, a young girl living in LA right after the Second World War.  A new girl comes to her Catholic school and starts trying to stand up for things like free speech, and being against the red scare and such, and Francine needs to decide whether she is going to stand up for what's right, or continue to hide in the shadows.  It's a nice message about right and wrong and being brave enough to have a conscience, but I found it a little heavy handed.  Seemed more education than enjoyable.

But all in all, what a great collection of books! My sister is the BEST, and after I tore through these I returned to the world of adult literature ready to go!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017