Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 4: Silent Pains and History Truths

When  Entertainment Weekly  made their announcement about an upcoming showdown of the best young adult books, I scowled. EW’s history with these bracket contest usually boils down to  which fandom is the craziest.  They are less about the actual best of anything.

This almost guarantees a Twilight  or John Green book victory. 

Young adult books remain one of my favorite genres.  Their affects have decreased since I have reached adulthood. However,  a good book is a good book no matter what genre it falls.  

After EW’s contest announcement, a friend asked me what books would I place as the best. 

After pondering this question, I constructed my own list of the books that are my favorite young adult books.  

Here is my list (May Contain Spoilers. Read with caution.) 

2. Noughts and Crosses by Marlorie Blackman

noughts_and_crosses_by_malorie_blackman

I go back and forth on which of the final two books I love more. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson or Noughts and Crosses by Malorie BlackmanBy an inch, Speak wins the battle today. But Noughts and Crosses could win tomorrow.  They really are my top two favorites, it just depends on the mood of the day.

Blackman not only creates a universe that’s destructive and lonely but one more terrifying than other dark universes, because it’s our world in reverse.

Noughts and Crosses is about Callum and Sephy growing up in a world where they’re taught to be enemies. This society basically suppresses whites and gives black people all the power. Callum is white and Sephy is black.

The most haunting scene is after Sephy and Callum have sex for the first (and only) time. Sephy cries after it, not because Callum hurt her but because in that moment she gets it. The entire book she has been the most hopeful of the two. The one fighting for change. But in that moment, Sephy realizes they’ll never be together.

The scene is made even more tragic when Callum’s brother enters and figures out what happened; he freaks out. He tells Callum that what he did was stupid. They’ll claim he raped Sephy and he’ll die. What makes this scene more tragic is it’s in that moment that you know Callum’s fate.

The final scene is even more heartbreaking. As sad as the book is, it’s one of the most realistic portrayals, in a modern YA book, of the struggles of being a minority growing up in a racist society.

Unlike the other books mentioned, Noughts and Crosses was so perfect in its solitude that I didn’t want a sequel. Later, I found out there were many sequels. I’m scared to read them because I loved the original so much that I don’t want the story to be corrupted by the sequels (which often is the case). But I also have faith in Blackwell’s storytelling abilities to know  that one day I will journey back into the world of Noughts and Crosses. 

1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

speak-laurie-halse-anderson

Why I put Speak as my number 1 is because it contains all the elements that made me love the previous nine books. It’s dark. It balances comedy and tragedy.  It has 3-Dimensional characters. It discusses a serious teen issue. Finally, it made me view the world differently.

Speak was the first book that made me want to become a YA writer. I’ve wanted to be a writer since second grade. However, reading this novel made me realize how important YA books can be in helping lost teens.

Sometimes teens need books to heal them. For me, Speak  allowed me to see the importance of finding one’s voice, of speaking up through the pain.

I related to Melinda in I feared being noticed and heard. I feared being judged but also being ignored.  And not loved for speaking my truth. Thankfully, I never went through something as painful as Melinda. But like all teens, I had my own demons.

The powerful thing about all good young adult novels is it teaches teens and young people  how to cope with their own personal struggles. Even if they don’t relate to the ones exactly expressed in the novel, they see a universe truth in it.

I love YA novels because they helped shaped my identity. For that, I owe them great admiration and respect.

Other Parts

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 1: Ghosts, Sloppy Firsts and Traveling Pants

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 2:  The Perks of the 13 Reasons Why Rats Saw God

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 3:  The Dark-Times of Young Adult Novels

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 3: The Dark-Times of Young Adult Novel

When  Entertainment Weekly  made their announcement about an upcoming showdown of the best young adult books, I scowled. EW’s history with these bracket contest usually boils down to  which fandom is craziest.  They are less about the actual best of anything.

This almost guarantees a Twilight  or John Green book victory. 

Young adult books remain one of my favorite genres.  Their effects have decreased since I have reached adulthood. However,  a good book is a good book no matter what genre it falls.  

After EW’s contest announcement, a friend asked me what books would I place as the best. 

After pondering this question, I constructed my own list of the books that are my favorite Young Adult books.  

Here is my list (May Contain Spoilers. Read with caution.) 

4.  The Torn Skirt by Rebecca Godfrey

The Torn Skirt

The Torn Skirt, in many ways, is a tribute to Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. I read these books right after one another. So the similarities glared at me. However, Sara’s journey to find out more about Justine created a grittier story. It almost becomes a crime drama by the end of it. This makes The Torn Skirt the most unusual young adult novel I’ve read, but also more memorable than many other ones.

Many social, emotional and global issues were addressed in this short book. Everything from date rape to drug addiction to parental neglect.  So much was in it that it really needs multiple readings to unpack all of it.

The Torn Skirt has an “interesting” ending. After my first reading of it,  I was disappointed.  However, the ending is one of those things you appreciate more with age.

The novel remains one of the few books that I think could have been better with a couple sequels. So many things were left open ended.  The Torn Skirt could have even developed into a whole series on street life.

Sometimes being a young adult means dealing with dark, soul-crushing situations. And sometimes people need to read them to truly understand broken souls. The Torn Skirt gets that.

3. Crooked by Laura Mcneal and Tom Mcneal

crooked'

Amos and Clara probably rank really high on a list of my ultimate favorite fictional couples.  They were so cute! They also represented teen insecurities at their most meditative. Neither character signified the ideal teenager. Amos was dumb at times, typical young boy . And Clara was just weird.

Like 13 Reasons Why and The Torn Skirt, this is a darker teen novel. By the end of Crooked, it almost becomes a horror/suspense story.  You’re scared for Amos and Clara. But you also have faith in these characters growth to save themselves.   

Also, once again like The Torn Skirt,  Crooked is one of the few books I would love a sequel. I don’t know how a sequel would work, but I want more Clara and Amos stories.

Other Parts

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 1: Ghosts, Sloppy Firsts and Traveling Pants

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 2:  The Perks of the 13 Reasons Why Rats Saw God

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 4: Silent Pains and Rewritten History

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 2: The Perks of the 13 Reasons Why Rats Saw God

When  Entertainment Weekly  made their announcement about an upcoming showdown of the best Young Adult books, I scowled. EW’s history with these bracket contest usually boils down to  which fandom is craziest.  They are less about the actual best of anything.

This almost guarantees a Twilight  or John Green book victory. 

Young Adult books remain one of my favorite genres.  Their effects have decreased since I have reached adulthood. However,  a good book is a good book no matter what genre it falls.  

After EW’s contest announcement, a friend asked me what books would I place as the best. 

After pondering this question, I constructed my own list of the books that are my favorite young adult books.  

Here is my list (May Contain Spoilers. Read with caution.) 

7. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

ThirteenReasonsWhy

13 Reasons Why is one of the few books on this list that I’ve read in the last couple years.

What made me admire this book was how it captures the hopelessness that many teens experience. So much so that they take their own lives.

Besides that, what really drew me in was how different it was from most Young Adult novels. The novel creates this mystery surrounding the death of  Hannah Baker. And with every new tape, you anxiously wait to see how and why it all happened. What you come to realize is that what’s most tragic about this story is how easily it could happen. The novel makes readers question how they treat themselves and others. It makes them see how any little incident can have a bigger effect on someone’s life. 13 Reasons Why haunts readers long after they are done.

For that, it creates an unforgettable experience uncommon in many YA books.

6.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Perksofbeingwallflower1

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the second book on this list that has been read in the last couple years. My enjoyment of this book both ranks with nostalgia and technique.

Perks reminded me a lot of my teen years. Not exactly the events but more like the emotions I felt being somewhat of an outsider, a wallflower.  Charlie is me as a freshman. A bit lost, hurt and hopeful about the possibilities of this new beginning.

The technical aspects of The Perks of Being a Wallflower that impressed me most were the creation of interesting minor characters. Most YA novels focus solely on the main character and the minor ones feel like an after-thought. If anything, Wallflower’s minor characters were almost more interesting than the main one. This really helped establish the idea of being a wallflower. Charlie’s storyline revolves around how he sees the world and the people in it. Therefore, they are more the stars of his story than him.

You also grow attached to Sam and Patrick as much as Charlie.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower creates characters you want to know, and grow to love.

5. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

RatsSaw9781442459762

Rats Saw God is the last book on the list that I read very recently. It quickly zoomed up to one of my favorites.  Personally, this book reminded me most of Looking for Alaska by John Green. But I enjoyed it a lot moreMainly because the problem with LFA, for me, was the characters. They didn’t quite feel real. Rats Saw God created situations and characters that were believable.

Another way it differed and improved on the concepts in Looking for Alaska is the issue of depression. Rats Saw God captures how depressing high school life can become. The novel also manages to remain hopeful by showing that slow recovery of depression is possible.

This theme came across with subtle cleverness.

Other Parts

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 1: Ghosts, Sloppy Firsts and Traveling Pants

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 3:  The Dark-Times of Young Adult Novels

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 4: Silent Pains and Rewritten History

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 1: Ghosts, Sloppy Firsts and Traveling Pants

When  Entertainment Weekly  made their announcement about an upcoming showdown of the best young adult books, I scowled. EW’s history with these bracket contest usually boils down to  which fandom is craziest.  They are less about the actual best of anything.

This almost guarantees a Twilight  or John Green book victory. 

Young adult books remain one of my favorite genres.  Their effects have decreased since I have reached adulthood. However,  a good book is a good book no matter what genre it falls.  

After EW’s contest announcement, a friend asked me what books would I place as the best. 

After pondering this question, I constructed my own list of the books that are my favorite young adult books.  

Here is my list (May Contain Spoilers. Read with caution.) 

10. Haunted (Mediator #6) by Meg Cabot

Haunted by Meg Cabot

As a preteen and teen, Meg Cabot was my queen. Any and every book she published, I needed to own. Despite my worshipping of Cabot, I  discovered later in life that she wrote in various pseudonyms, and wrote more book series than I could ever read.

Possibly my discovering of Cabot’s literary history came after I read Haunted. Upon beginning Haunted, I realized this was one in a book series. When I bought the book I thought it was a stand alone one.

Though I remain curious about the rest of the books in the series, Haunted is the only one I read. Why? Not quite sure. Possibly because she hasn’t written one after this book yet. It could also be because Haunted was so perfect that I don’t need to know more. JK. The real reason is because I outgrew Cabot’s YA series even before I left my teens.

So I have never felt the need to read the entire series. However, recently Cabot announced she was working on the next book in it. I cannot deny a spark of curiosity grew.  It developed because of all the Meg Cabot books I’ve read as a teen, Haunted created the most fascinating characters.

In particularly, Paul grabbed me and made me want to know more about him. He was a darker character than I was used to with Cabot, but also a lot more intriguing one than previous male figures. He walked the fence of hero and villain. Haunted became the first book where I rooted for the ‘bad guy.’

Now as a writer and fiction fan, I’m more drawn to characters like Paul. Part of me believes this character helped shaped that perspective. So for that, Paul and Haunted always has a special place in my heart.

9. The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants (Book 1) by Ann Brashares

Sisterhood1Book

I own every Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants  book in the series, but the first one. This is the one I want to own the most. I own every hardcover 1st-print edition. Therefore, I refuse to buy the first book until I find that copy.  A task not easy to accomplish.

As you can tell, after I read the first one, I became addicted to these books. I pre-ordered each of them and read them within a couple days. However, none of them matched the first Sisterhood book. The first one worked so well because it created varying degrees of woman.

None of them were better than the other. They were just different. Every girl could find one they related to. It was also rare for me to find a YA book more about the bonds of these girls than anything else. They underwent their own adventures but in the end, it was about how their friendship kept them whole.  A strong message that more books need to teach, to empower the bonds of sisterhood.

8. Sloppy First and Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

51z43pKFiILSecond-Helpings

Freshman year of high school, I read Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings right after one another. What sold me on this book was Jessica Darling and Marcus Flute.  Their love story just captivated me. It felt genuine and honest. What made their love story work better than other young adult novel ones is that readers read them falling in love.

Many YA novels start with one of the people already madly in love. Then the other one later revealing that they felt the same. With this one, both Marcus and Jessica grew to love one another. It was a complicated, selfless love.  Truly a love story better than Twilight.

The book series went on to include three other books. I have yet to read the other three. Not because I want to preserve the magic of the first two. But more so, I want to relive it. I refuse to read the other books until I am able to read the first two again. Then I will continue the Marcus and Jessica journey.

A challenging journey of first love.

Other Parts

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 2:  The Perks of the 13 Reasons Why Rats Saw God

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 3:  The Dark-Times of Young Adult Novels

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 4: Silent Pains and Rewritten History

Book Review: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas- AntiThesis

Rats Saw God, by Rob Thomas, captures the timeless struggle of adolescence. Unlike similar modern novels, this one creates 3D teen characters. None of them feel like caricatures of teenage behavior and attitudes. Their raw and realness matches those of your friends, family and neighbors. Rats Saw God’s authenticity transcends age limits.

RatsSaw9781442459762

Steve York’s senior year consists of smoking pot and barely passing classes. To graduate, he must write a 100-page essay.  His essay letters unfolds the funny and heartbreaking adventures of his former group G.O.D (Grace Order of Dadaists), and his relationship with former girlfriend Dub. Steve’s essayistic journey reawakens the part of himself that enjoys life.  And he begins to live again. Overall, Rats Saw God is one of the best young-adult novels out there. It effortlessly portrays many of the struggles of growing up, but it keeps the balance between being  funny and tragic.

The only negative element of Rats Saw God is its predictability. The biggest turn of events in the novel can be predicted even by the most distracted readers. However, this flaw doesn’t detract from the many glaring assets of Rats Saw God.

The theme of fantasy vs. reality expresses an important truth about teenagers. As extremist, teens often see the world as a polarizing place. It’s either a complete hellhole or heaven on earth.

Steve experiences both degrees of these extremes. In his life in Houston, Texas, he’s naïve and hopeful. The world offers him so much. So when he discovers life is not perfect, he crumbles. The too pessimistic California version of Steve shuts everyone out. He views the world as too painful and people as too damaging to care for. It’s only through looking at his old life does he realize the negative effects of this attitude.

In the book, the reveal of Kurt Cobain’s death also impacts this theme. As a worshipped figure by teens, they idolize his life and him. Nevertheless, Cobain committed suicide, which by definition implies he was unhappy with certain parts of his life. The fantasies teens have about Cobain’s life most likely did not match his reality.

Apathy is another important subject of Rats Saw God.  Leader of G.O.D, Doug, feels indifferent towards the high school experience. Only because of a bet with his father does he create G.O.D. However, the group forces him and the other members to care about each other, high school and G.O.D.

Steve’s mirroring his father’s apathetic behavior also establishes this important theme. Steve judges his astronaut father for lack of real emotions, for never being the man Steve felt he should be. But when Steve’s sister, Sarah, accuses him of doing the same thing, Steve’s reflects on his father and himself. He realizes that the man he spent years hating is the same man he’s becoming. He must change.

Young Adult novels have been a favorite of mine all my life. However, the last couple of years, I find myself struggling to enjoy them. As a teen, I could relate to these characters more: they were me. But as an adult, many of these books don’t translate well to my new life perspective. Also, unfortunately, being an English major in college has made me a slight book snob. If a novel doesn’t inspire or challenge me, I do not connect with it.

Nevertheless, Rats Saw God is one of those rare novels that made me reflect on my teen days. There have only been a couple other YA novels that I’ve read recently to do this. Rats Saw God has been the most successful of these novels. Not necessarily for being a flawless literary work, but for feeling honest in its depiction of youth. The lens on Steve shows him as someone just as screwed up as the other characters in the novel.

Another of the many things I enjoyed about Rats Saw God was showing how self-centered most teens can be, but without necessarily making that a bad thing. It’s more of a fact that shapes their perception of the world. Steve took awhile to look pass what Dub did to him, and look at what he did to Dub, and what Dub’s issues were that led to their breakup.

Thomas did a respectable job by not making Dub the monster. This is a problem too many male novelist face. They create an unbelievable female lead or an unforgivable one. Dub felt just as human as Steve, if not more.

Rats Saw God captures the struggle of being too young to realize pain often defines our lives. While also being too young to realize pain’s temporary status. Rats Saw God  deserves ranking in the canon of great Young Adult novels. It needs more recognition for its quiet brilliance. 7.7/10

Nice by Jen Sacks Review–Women Are Too Nice

Nice by Jen Sacks tells the story of the romance between two serial killers named Grace and Sam. Sam kills professionally. Grace does it to avoid confrontations. Together they find the balance between being unsympathetic towards human emotions and possessing some themselves. Their love story is fascinating, dangerous and enlightening.

Nice by Jen Sacks 2

Nice starts off quite comic. It keeps this light tone throughout the novel, despite the serious subject matter. However,  Nice has lots of depth and insight into the human psyche. In particular the fear of  being vulnerable in love.  One of the serious issues discussed in Nice is women’s rights in terms of facing misogynist behavior from men. Because it is against social norms for women to aggressively fight back against unwanted sexual advances (usually verbally) from men, they are suppressed into passively taking it. Though the novel at the surface is a love story between two serial killers, one of the underling messages is about taking control of life and not seeking easy solutions to major problems.

Once Nice reaches its peak of Sam and Grace meeting, the pace of the novel slows.  It conforms to a more traditional tale of boy meets girl. Instead of its original sleuth/mystery/thriller style. Despite the novel’s mood shift, Grace and Sam’s love story is realistic and romantic enough to keep readers interested.   Nevertheless, during the second half of Nice, the story does deteriorate some.  However there is enough intrigue with the will-they-won’t they kill each other to keep some of the thriller aspects to it.  By the conclusion of Nice, it becomes pretty predictable, which kills some of the quality of the book. A more surprising ending could have heightened the appeal of the story.

To conclude, Nice’s underlining messages are intriguing, but the novel’s transition from thriller to boy meets girl tale downgrades the interesting aspects of the book. It’s worth a one time read, but not a book that readers will repeatedly visit.

Grade: 5.6/10