Book reviews & writing tips from a wannabe YA writer
Update: Less than 24 hours since this post went live, we have 47 Unsung YA Heroes lists. Wow.
We’re extending the time to post your own list through Sunday. So read on, make your list, and come back here to link it up!
After the kid lit award announcements on Monday, I daydreamed about how those authors’ lives will never be the same. Their winning books will forever more sport a shiny badge, reserving them a spot on crowded bookstore shelves. And other books the authors write? “By Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead” certainly won’t hurt sales.
But the flip side of all this is that many wonderful books get published every year without registering a ripple, let alone a splash. And in the YA world specifically, the vast majority of great books don’t approach anywhere NEAR the fervor of Twil—er, The-Series-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. The Cybils help spread the love a little. As does the Nerds Heart YA tourney.
Even so, this is the fate of most great YA books:
It’s a damn shame, and we’re here to fix it.
I teamed up with about 40 other bloggers to pick our favorite unsung YA heroes. These are YA books we love and think deserve more attention from the world of YA readers.
But how are we achieving this?
7. The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson
I know what you’re thinking. My first pick is by a super-popular author like MJ? Before you run off to tweet about what a sham Unsung YA Heroes is, give me a sec.
This is the least-known of her 6 published titles, but it happens to be my favorite of hers. And I fear that most of her fans turn their noses up at this one when they find out it takes place after the main characters’ father has a heart attack. Who wants to read a downer like that? But MJ’s humor is the perfect counterbalance to the heavy topic, and you come away feeling like you ate a hearty spinach lasagna, rather than a bag of Skittles.
6. Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
This debut novel connected with me on a deep level because I could see myself in the perfectionist main character. Parker has just made a mistake—a big one—and she’s not coping well. I’ve heard some people say they didn’t like her hard edges, but Parker made complete sense to me. Because us perfectionist people, we don’t so much like to make mistakes. It means we’re not perfect. And if you make us realize we’re not perfect, we will be mean. Just ask my husband.
5. How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
In the city of New Avalon, most people have a fairy that helps them with something, like finding loose change or great clothes at bargain prices. Now, don’t you want to read it solely to get ideas for what kind of fairy you’d like to have? Cutesy fairy stories aren’t usually my thing, but this book has substance to back up the cuteness. And as a word geek, I loved the fresh use of language. If your brain hurt after Liar, this title will make it sigh out of pure delight.
4. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Marchetta won the Printz last year for Jellicoe Road. I loved it, but I know that it didn’t connect with some readers. My advice? Try this earlier novel by Marchetta. It’s more accessible but still has all the charm and wit that makes me want to read this woman’s writing every day of my life.
3. Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
I am a little bit weird. I like to dip fries in ice cream. I twirl my hair while I’m thinking, then set the twirled strand between my lips while I type. I never know which side to put my head when hugging a friend/acquaintance, so more than once it has ended up looking like I’m going for their lips.
Okay, I will grant you that I’m a lot weird. But this collection of short stories is just the right amount of weird. These stories come in many flavors—funny, thought-provoking, creepy—and sometimes all three at once. The best part about a short story collection is that if you try one story and realize my weird barometer is out of whack, you can always stop and move onto the next book.
2. Jack Tumor by Anthony McGowan
Speaking of weird, how about a talking brain tumor? I know. I almost didn’t read this one when I got it home from the library and realized the premise, and we just established that I have a high tolerance for weird. Turns out this book is hi-freakin’-larious. I don’t often laugh out loud while reading. Jaded, I guess. I’m more of a smirker. But Hector and his talking tumor tickled some actual laughs out of me. Quite a few. This book will grow on you, trust me. And it could sure use the attention. Out of all of my picks, it’s the least well-known.
1. Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine
This is the kind of book I want to write. Not that I think it’s possible for me to do that or even that it’s close to my personal brand of style that I like to call “melodious crap,” but that’s a topic for another day. I think about this book at least once a week. If I’m at home when it happens, I wander over to the bookshelf and crack it open to reread whatever part I was remembering.
Rowan is a girl dealing with grief and a depressed mother when a mysterious boy comes into her life. But she isn’t huddled in a corner, sobbing til dehydration sets in. She’s getting on with her life. And it makes for a damn good read.
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If You’re on LibraryThing
If You’re Not
If you use Goodreads or some other book-tracking site, they probably have an export feature. So use that, then create a free account on LibraryThing, import your information, and follow the instructions above.
If you’re not in the book-tracking habit, haven’t you realized by now all the fun that can be had by joining a site like LibraryThing? I’m sure you will discover an awesome feature or two that you can exploit in your book-related endeavors.
But if you’re really not in the mood to join, you’ll have to search titles one-by-one:
This post is already approaching the realm of novella, but I know you might be wondering a few things.
Why LibraryThing? Why not Goodreads, Shelfari, etc?
LibraryThing makes it easy to see the “other members” stat right from your catalog. Goodreads has a “num ratings” stat, but it shows just the number of ratings for a specific edition of a title. The LibraryThing member count includes every edition of the title. I’m not familiar with Shelfari or any other sites, and in the interest of time I went with what I know.
Why 500 or less members?
Completely arbitrary, but we needed some sort of cutoff to use as a guideline. Some of us even included titles with a few more members, so it really was just a guideline. For comparison, the first book of the Twilight series has 25,974 members and The Hunger Games has 3,929 members.
Go check out those other lists. Demonstrate your YA studliness by pointing out how many of the titles you’ve already read. Laugh right in your TBR list’s face as you throw a slew of new titles at it. Disagree with our picks.
Better yet, make picks of your own!