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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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