Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Young Adult Fiction Keeps on Keeping On

Every year, YALSA (The Young Adult Library Services Association) puts together an itinerary of YA-themed events to celebrate their initiative, Teen Read Week--a Teen Reading Tweet-a-thon (tomorrow!), eBook giveaways, book drives, scavenger hunts, a Twitter #WhyIWrite extravaganza, and many other events at libraries around the country. And with the children's and YA lit revenues hitting the roof lately (up 41% from last year, according to the AAP), they're sure to be packed with readers.

Beginning in October 1998, Teen Read Week has occurred annually ever third week of October to "dare [teens] to read for the fun of it [...] and encourage teens to take advantage of reading in all its forms —books and magazines, e-books, audiobooks and more — and become regular library users."

I wished I had known about this great initiative back in '98 when I frequented the library, carrying home stacks of books that I could barely balance. Now, the problem isn't so much carrying a massive number of hardcovers, paperbacks, and mass markets, but housing them in the limited space proffered by a New York City apartment. Yet, despite the storage issue, I have found time to purchase and read a number of excellent YA novels this year. Heck, even in the past month alone I've read these great additions to the world's YA arsenal:

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Description: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Quick Thoughts: This novel, the first in its series, puts a new twist on the dystopian YA trend with its "chosen faction" premise. With powerful depth of character and breathless action, it's a surprisingly fun and fast read. But I'll admit, I did shed a tear or two at times so be ready.

Dark Eyes by William Richter

Description: Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets.

Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and she's just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She'll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko - her darkeyed father - finds her. Because Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally's mother stole from him long ago. Even if that means murdering his own blood. But Wally's had her own killer training, and she's hungry for justice.

Quick Thoughts: Complex and fast-paced, Richter's debut thriller will entertain you well into the night as you keep flipping the pages with reckless abandon, somewhat like its bold heroine herself.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Description: This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Quick Thoughts:  As this novel's quirky hero writes intense and sometimes heart-wrenching letters to an anonymous recipient, your emotions will be pulled every which way. A striking story about acceptance, belonging, and growing up, this one is a must-read. 

Hidden by Sophie Jordan

Description: Jacinda was supposed to bond with Cassian, the "prince" of their pride. But she resisted long before she fell in love with Will—a human and, worse, a hunter. When she ran away with Will, it ended in disaster, with Cassian's sister, Miram, captured. Weighed down by guilt, Jacinda knows she must rescue her to set things right. Yet to do so she will have to venture deep into the heart of enemy territory.

The only way Jacinda can reach Miram is by posing as a prisoner herself, though once she assumes that disguise, things quickly spiral out of her control. As she learns more about her captors, she realizes that even if Will and Cassian can carry out their part of the plan, there's no guarantee they'll all make it out alive. But what Jacinda never could have foreseen is that escaping would be only the beginning....

Quick Thoughts: The third book in Jordan's "Firelight" series packs an even bigger punch than the first two, though new readers might be a tad lost. With twists and turns that will keep you on your toes and a love story both sad and hopeful, you'll be glad you took a peek. 

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