I’m switching things up this week by participating in the weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I’m not going meme-crazy this week, so I’ll probably skip Waiting on Wednesday tomorrow since I’m doing this today. I do have reviews to write…
ANYWAY, I saw the topic for this one–Underrated Books–and felt the need to participate. I love paranormal YA just as much as the next YA reader, but realistic fiction simply doesn’t get enough attention. This post is all about my top ten realistic fiction picks that deserve more press, readers, attention, etc.
My Top 10 List of The Most Underrated (Contemporary/Realistic) YA Titles
(In no particular order)
1. Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell (Goodreads): This was released a few years ago, but I just found it a few weeks ago. It’s full of wit, humor, and heart. It deals with issues like self-esteem, fitting in, self-identity, etc. It’s a book that’s hard to put down and one you won’t easily forget. I can’t wait to introduce my students to this awesome novel.
2. Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (Goodreads): I’m just about finished with this 2011 debut and I can’t understand why I haven’t read more reviews for this book. I know quite a few YA bloggers are adults, myself included, but if they’re reading and loving YA books, why haven’t they read and reviewed Like Mandarin?! I know we can’t read them all, but this is a stellar YA title. If you are ever wondering what book you should recommend to a freshmen/sophomore girl, please hand them this book. I see girls like Grace EVERY DAY at school. The girls who just want to fit in. The girls who are incredibly gifted, but are afraid to show it. The girls who want to break out of their shell. I need to save some of this for my review, but to make it simple, I’m going to talk this book up like crazy when the school year starts. This book definitely needs more attention.
3. Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman (Goodreads): I think I’ve read one review for this book. ONE. Shawn Goodman works in juvenile detention centers which is where his inspiration for this book came from. I decided to read Something Like Hope when I came home from work and found it in my mailbox. The only reason I put it down was because I simply had to sleep so I could function at work the next day. My first couple of classes the next day had SSR longer than normal because I couldn’t stop reading Shavonne’s story. I cried at the end, and thankfully I finished reading it during my prep. Twitter was on fire this summer over the dark YA controversy. This book is written for those teens. It’s also written for the teens who want to understand their troubled peers. I can’t wait to read another book by Shawn Goodman because he knows exactly how to tell the stories of teens who often fall to the wayside.
4. Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads): Honestly, this book might get more attention than I think it does, but I still feel like it should be on this list so it gets more attention. Geoff Herbach hit the nail on the head when he wrote Stupid Fast. It’s the PERFECT book for teen guys who like sports, but it’s also the perfect book for teen guys who are awkward and feel out of place. I love the writing and Felton’s asides as he’s narrating. The humor is fantastic–I laughed constantly. Seriously, this is a gem of a book that deserves more attention.
5. Party by Tom Leveen (Goodreads): I read this 2010 debut last summer and really enjoyed it. There’s an end-of-school party and each of the characters in the book gets a chapter devoted to them from their perspective. This ended up being one of the more popular additions to my classroom library last school year. I think it’s because of the switching in perspective. Since we’re experiencing the story through so many different characters, it gives us the opportunity to see the whole picture. It also gives readers the chance to see that parties and people aren’t always what they seem.
6. Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn (Goodreads): I read this one the summer after I graduated from college, which was really fortunate because I had it for my classroom library (it was so small then!) when I was hired at Clio. Unfortunately, women often become the victims of domestic abuse; it’s even sadder when teenage girls are abused by their boyfriends. There are books like Dreamland by Sarah Dessen and But I Love Him by Amanda Grace that deal with this issue from the girl’s perspective. Alex Flinn wrote the story of an abusive relationship from the guy’s point of view. We see the story from present day forward, and also from when Nick and Caitlin started dating up until the present via Nick’s journals. I teach this book in my Young Adult Lit course and it’s always interesting to hear what my students have to say. Some of them end up with conflicting feelings for Nick. Some start questioning their own relationships. It recently received a new cover, so maybe it will get a little more attention.
7. Sold by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads): Not only is this book beautifully written in vignettes, a first for Patricia McCormick, it tells a very important story about a girl from Nepal sold into prostitution. I read this in one sitting. What Lakshmi goes through is horrifying. McCormick wrote this story in such a way that you certainly know what’s happening to Lakshmi, but it’s not overly detailed. It’s a powerful story of survival and hope.
8. Right Behind You by Gail Giles (Goodreads): This is a book that I read during my first year of teaching and quickly discovered that it’s a home run book for many of my reluctant male readers. The story will grab you within the first couple pages when Kip tells you that he set another boy on fire. The book follows Kip’s life from that moment on–when he’s at a juvenile detention center and as he’s trying to start his life over. One of my boys even admitted to crying when he read this one.
9. OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy (Goodreads): This is a spring 2011 debut and it’s utterly fantastic. Ellie Taylor is a girl who knows where she stands and speaks up for herself. She loves public speaking and wants to attend a prestigious high school that will broaden her horizons. To help improve her chances of getting into the school, she goes to a Christian camp where she’ll compete in a public speaking competition. The prize is a scholarship to this school. The problem Ellie faces is that she’s Jewish, and she comes to suspect that the scholarship benefactor may not be okay with this. I was so impressed by Amy Fellner Dominy’s writing. This is a wonderful, character-driven story dealing with tough issues gracefully. Without a doubt, I’ll be reading more of her books.
10. Paper Towns by John Green (Goodreads): I know John Green is a very popular author, and deservedly so, but I don’t know if Paper Towns really gets the attention it deserves. It’s full of Green’s usual fantastic wit and humor. I love the sense of adventure in this book. Quentin is kind of nerdy, but so very awesome. And while I love Looking for Alaska, I think I like that Margo isn’t really present in most of the book. It gives us a chance to really get to know Quentin. In LfA, Alaska has a real influence on Pudge and how he acts. This isn’t a bad thing, but it was nice getting to know Quentin without the direct influence of Margo.