Certain young adult (which is to say, teen) books are often popular among, um, old adults such as myself, but I tend to only note that they sound interesting rather than actually getting around to reading them. Recently I decided to catch up on a few of the YA books that have been much talked about in the past couple of years:
→ The protagonist of FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell writes fanfiction. Cath is really good at it, she's internet-famous for it, and it makes her happier than anything else -- particularly when anything else involves interacting with strangers, negotiating unfamiliar places, or encountering new situations. Unfortunately, Cath's twin sister has insisted that the two of them go off to college, and she's refused to be Cath's roommate, so Cath is in for a lot of terrifying newness.
I loved this novel. It's clever, emotional, funny, and populated by a wonderful cast of characters. I've long been fascinated by fanfiction, and I was impressed by how thoughtfully Cath's passion is used as an element of the story, as well as how both the fanfic and the (fictional) source material are presented throughout the book. The novel is about much more than writing fic, including family, romance, and mental health, and the various plotlines work well together. Even the parts of the story that cover standard YA territory are handled unconventionally. The plot kept me guessing, and I was never disappointed by the way the story played out.
I'm so glad this book lived up to the substantial amount of praise I'd heard before reading it. I'm eager to read everything else Rowell has written, which includes books aimed at adults as well as teens.
→ I'd heard the description of EVERY DAY by David Levithan and been intrigued numerous times before I was finally convinced to pick it up. I'm glad I was encouraged to read it, because it does a great job of delivering on the unusual premise: Every day, the main character wakes up inside the body of a different person. This has been A's life for sixteen years, since birth, but on the day the book starts, A falls in love. It seems impossible to pursue a relationship when A will be someone else tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, so the story is all about the attempt to solve this problem.
I was impressed by how well the idea is explored and how the plot unfolds. The story doesn't get bogged down by the question of why this strange phenomenon is happening, but it answered most of my questions about the logistics and addressed many complications in a smart way. The writing is strong, A's voice is wonderful, and the story moves along quickly. Definitely recommended if you're similarly intrigued.
→ THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green is a love story about teens who meet at a cancer support group, so you kind of know what you're in for. It's a sad story in which tragic, unfair things happen. It's also a funny, sweet story about characters who are more than their cancer.
The book is narrated by Hazel, an excellent character whose sense of humor is the type I enjoy finding in both real and fictional people. Her cancer is terminal, and everyone has been expecting her to die for years, which is a strange way to go through adolescence. Augustus is a survivor who lost his leg to cancer but is now healthy. The two of them begin to fall for each other, but Hazel is reluctant to let Augustus get too close, because the situation will be tragic and unfair. And then it is.
I liked this book pretty well, but I think I would have been much more into it when I was a teen myself. I went through a phase of reading books about sick kids, and many of those were probably far less interesting and well-written than this story. I'll be curious to see THE FAULT IN OUR STARS movie this summer (based on the trailer, it looks like a faithful adaptation), and I'll be seeking out more of Green's books.
For even more YA recommendations, check out the recent Bookrageous episode on the topic. Any more suggestions of teen reads I definitely shouldn't miss?
Good Stuff Out There:
→ David Bezmozgis writes for the New Yorker Page-Turner about his problems working on a novel set in present-day Crimea: "Any writer whose aim is to write about the present cultural and political moment must contend not only with the usual creative obstacles but also with the insistent ticking of the clock."