I did a LOT of travelling in 2012, and amongst my reading came across a few young adult authors who I haven’t encountered before. Some were good, some not so good. Here were my best of 2012, and I have passed these on to my teenagers!
I was reading a “Top 100 Young Adult Novels” list, and the name John Green kept popping up – six times in all. I hadn’t read any of his books, so remedied that with the poignant Looking for Alaska; the quirky An Abundance of Katherines with its mathematical formulae for determining how long a relationship will last; Paper Towns – unrequited love and the weird but riveting Will Grayson, Will Grayson which he co-wrote with David Levithan. Will Grayson, Will Grayson has two very dissimilar characters who share the same name and who meet under unusual circumstances. All of these novels share a theme of growing and changing and dealing with circumstances both within and without the characters’ control. They are very well-written and I liked that the characters seemed quite warts and all and real – they didn’t always make the right choices, they weren’t beautiful, or successful, or perfect by any means. I was very pleased to be able to pass all of these on to my teenagers. His characters tend to be slightly older – perhaps 16 to 18 – and his themes more adult, so better for older teenagers. John Green lead me to:
I started with the aforementioned Will Grayson, Will Grayson and from there went on to Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (which they’ve made a movie of) and my favourite Every Day. Naomi and Ely are not especially likeable people, but the rest of the novel is peopled with extraordinary secondary characters, and their story is riveting. Nick and Norah are very likeable, and again has great secondary characters who I wanted to spend more time with. Both of these are co-written with Rachel Cohn. Every Day is a wonderful love story, albeit a slightly unusual one. I passed this one on to my fourteen year old son first, and he read and enjoyed it, but said “it’s a bit weird”. The girls are reading it now and enjoying it. I’ll keep reading Levithan’s books. A note here is that he writes a lot about homosexuality. He presents it as something totally normal, and although it brings its own problems, they are treated as just another adolescent problem and nothing more. This is excellent for all teenagers to read. I look forward to reading more of Levithan’s books. His characters are 16+ and although there is nothing sexually explicit in these books, they are probably more suitable for slightly older readers.
Skin Deep is Laura Jarratt’s first novel and is another one which I bought on my e-reader and will now be buying a paper copy of. It’s a romance, a coming of age story, a murder mystery, a breaking of the parental bonds story and overriding all this, the story of a fourteen year old girl who has been badly scarred in a traumatic car accident. and how she learns to deal with this. It’s fantastic – gritty, yet innocent; realistic yet gentle and at times utterly uncompromising. My fourteen year old son really enjoyed this one and was keen to keep reading it. This would be good for younger teenagers (13 or 14) upwards.
It’s fabulous to find such a strong community of Young Adult work still happening, and of all of these, really only Every Day is fantastical. The rest are firmly set in the real world, and discuss drugs, alcohol and sex with frankness and compassion. I highly recommend having a look at these if you have teenagers.