Young Adult Fiction: The Good Stuff

In light of my scathing assessment of the young adult genre last week, I feel like I should really pay homage to some of the good ones. There’s nothing I enjoy more than recommending books.  So without further ado, may I present (in no particular order) Kate’s List of Worthwhile Young Adult Books . . .

Peeps by Scott Westerfield (2005)

10. Peeps

A very different vampire story.  Vampirism is an STD, carried by a  parasite that causes insanity and cannibalism in its hosts.

As a carrier of the disease, Cal is recruited by the Night Watch to help contain the spread of the parasite and track down out of control parasite-positives (or Peeps) in New York.  Starting with his ex-girlfriends.

 “As a bio major, I figured ‘free will’ meant chemicals in your brain telling you what to do, the molecules bouncing around in a way that felt like choosing but was actually the dance of little gears–neurons and hormones bubbling up into decisions like clockwork. You don’t use your body; it uses you.”

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar (2010)

9. The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

From the author of Holes we get another clever and quirky young adult novel.  Seventeen year old Alton Richards is recruited to be his blind great-uncle’s cardturner.  As Alton’s relationship with his uncle develops, he begins to uncover mysteries within the family history.

I never thought I would get so much enjoyment from a novel about bridge.

“The impossible is more believable than the highly improbable.”

Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty (2009)

8. Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty

Jaclyn Morirty is a great Aussie author who never fails to surprise me.  You think she’s heading down a generic line – then suddenly she throws in a crazy twist.  She’s so very clever.

This story is told through the Gothic ‘memoirs’ of  a group of Year 12 students writing during a fictional ‘English Ext 3’ HSC exam.

“It was the first day of Year 12. . . I did not, in all honesty, see a crow, a raven or any other black bird on the way to school that day.  And yet! I was trepadacious. I chatted with my friends, Lydia and Cassie.

‘There is a deep foreboding within me,’ I said (or words like that, not exactly that), ‘that my new shampoo doesn’t actually bring out the honey highlights in my hair like it says it does!'”

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James (2010)

7. Beautiful Malice

A gripping psychological thriller from another Australia author. Eighteen year old Katherine relocates to Sydney in order to escape the press spotlight after her 14 year old sister was raped and murdered at a party they were both attending. At her new school, she’s befriended by a charismatic but manipulative girl called Alice who knows more about Katherine’s past than she lets on.

“‘Truth or dare?’ she asks.

I hesitate. ‘Truth,’ I say finally, ‘I can imagine one of your dares and I don’t fancy running down Oxford Street naked tonight.’

‘Okay.’ And the she looks at me curiously.  ‘So. Were you glad, deep down? Were you glad to be rid of her? Your perfect sister?”

Tithe by Holly Black (2002)

6. Tithe by Holly Black

Sixteen year old Kaye lives a nomadic life with her mother.  After her mother’s boyfriend attempts to murder her, they return to Kaye’s grandmother’s house in New Jersey. where Kaye discovers the ‘imaginary friends’ she knew as a child are still there.

This is a very grungy, urban fairy tale. It’s dark and gory and delightful.

“A man was sprawled in the mud only a few steps from her, clutching a curved sword in one hand.  It shone like a sliver of moonlight in the hazy dark.  Long pewter hair, plastered wetly to his neck, framed a face that was long and full of sharp angles.”

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2006)

5. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Taylor Markham has grown up in a rural boarding school on Jellicoe Road after being abandoned by her mother as a child. In her final year, as school captain, she juggles the responsibility of coordinating the Jellicoe boarders in the annual territory wars with the Townies and the Cadets and dealing with the disappearance of her mentor, Hannah.

Taylor’s story runs parallel to excerpts from an unfinished manuscript detailing the lives of five kids living in Jellicoe in the 1980s, whose connection to Taylor’s past is gradually revealed.

This is a very difficult read but incredibly rewarding if you persevere. Actually – it’s  heart-breathtakingly sad but in a good way.

“It’s funny how you can forget everything except people loving you. Maybe that’s why humans find it so hard getting over love affairs. It’s not the pain they’re getting over, it’s the love.”

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (2000)

4. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

I’ve always had a major soft spot for Cabot’s chic lit.  While she uses a lot of the high school, teen angst clichés you definitely laugh with her – not at her.  The Princess Diaries is a series that follows the antics of Mia Thermopolis, an awkward New York teenager who discovers that she is the Crown Princess of a small European principality.

The series is just a lot of good fun. Mia is hilariously neurotic but with a grandmother like that – I think I would be too.

“Needless to say, the fact that he actually spoke to me at all practically caused me to pass out. And then the fact that he was actually saying something that sounded like it might be a prelude to asking me out – well, I nearly threw up. I mean it. I felt really sick, but in a good way.”

Stolen by Lucy Chistopher (2009)

3. Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Sixteen year old Gemma is abducted  from Bangkok Airport while on a family holiday.  Her captor, a young Australian man called Ty, takes her to a remote cabin in the outback.  The novel is written from Gemma’s perspective as a letter to him.

This is complex and frightening story about Stockholm Syndrome.

 “You took me away from everything – my parents, my friends, my life. You took me to the sand and the heat, the dirt and isolation. And you expected me to love you. And that’s the hardest bit. Because I did, or at least, I loved something out there.
But I hated you too. I can’t forget that.”

Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce (1983)

2. The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

One of my ultimate favourites from my early teens. Set in a fantasy world of Tortall, a feisty young girl called Alanna leaves her family home to train as a knight – disguised a boy.

You really get attached to Pierce’s characters and the world they inhabit. There series has got humour, drama, adventure, romance . . . First published in the 80s and its still popular.

“‘He would have killed you, but you didn’t kill him.’

‘So? He was stupid. If I killed everyone who was stupid, I wouldn’t have time to sleep.'”

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.k. Rowling (1997)

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Unless you have been living under a a rock for the last 10 years, this book needs no introduction.

If you haven’t read it yet, it’s not too late.  You’re not too old.  This series is famous for a very good reason.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

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