Recommended YA Reads
By Georgia Clark
Having to select your favorite books is like having to select your favourite cake: impossible! They’re all so good! But I bit the bullet and tried to whittle them down. Best enjoyed over a slice of salted caramel something…
For when you’re feeling… brave
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Vicious and beautiful, thrilling and quiet, The Scorpio Races is my favourite of the faves. On the windswept island of Thisby, locals risk their lives riding the capaill uisce (CAP-ul ISH-kuh); flesh-eating water horses borne from mythology and spun into snorting, stomping real life. Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick both have pressing reasons to win the annual race: the stakes are as high as the race is dangerous, satisfyingly claiming victims in the lead-up to race day. While life-threatening games are not a new idea (retold once again in Lauren Oliver’s Panic), everything else about this novel feels unique and extraordinary, thanks to Maggie’s master plotting and lovely lyrical style. I could feel the horses breathing on my neck, I was riding bareback with Sean, I loved Thisby as much as Puck did, even while I felt its limitations. Oh, and the ending is PERFECT. You better believe I was weeping; not just tearing up: bawling. Great stuff. And best of all, they’re making it into a MOVIE!!
For when you’re feeling…. arty
Notes from the Teenage Underground, by Simmone Howell
‘Me, Lo and Mira were like the good things that come in threes: wishes, kings, backup singers.’ Great coming-of-age contemporary by a fellow Aussie. Narrator Gem (named after Germaine Greer) and her best friends Lo and Mira decide to spend their summer making an underground film. Over the course of learning about Andy Warhol and weird underground happenings, they also learn about (shock!) themselves. What kicks this up the coming-of-age totem pole is Simone’s writing style and Gem’s world. This is sharp, alternative, clever YA that feels real and cool. I can relate to this so much more than tales of pretty blondes with bubblegum walks – excuse me while I break into the Australian anthem…
For when you’re feeling… old school
The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
This series fanned the flame of my love for fantasy and adventure. I still remember inhaling these books when I was 12, 13, 14… I grew up without the internet or TV, so books were my everything. When I finished the fifth book in the series, I immediately started re-reading it again. Set in Cornwall, England, in the 1950s (when it was first published) this is a story about a group of plucky young kids, Barney, Simon, and Jane, who embark an ancient quest in an underworld that exists alongside out own. It’s ambitious, exciting, and original, I was riveted the entire time. Think Narnia meets Harry Potter. Yes, that good.
For when you’re feeling… imaginative
Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, by Laini Taylor
When it comes to contemporary fantasy adventure, I’m Team Laini. While I’ll always root for Katniss, I prefer my heroines with some spunk, so naturally, I fell in love with the artistic blue-haired Karou (I also went through a blue-haired phase BTW, but unfortunately it was not wish-induced). From the opening lines, you know you’re in for a treat: Laini wields a pen much like Akiva wields his sword. “The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.” That’s right: this book whisks you away to Prague with the breathless excitement of whirlwind romance. Angels and demons, mysterious portals and high stakes battles, this is more literary than City of Bones, more exotic than Fallen. Fantastic world-building, great details, sprawling, epic and all round lustrous. HASHTAG SIGH!!
For when you’re feeling… queer
Boy Meets Boy David Leviathan
Hard to pick a fave David Leviathan tome, but I’ll go with Boy Meets Boy. Why? I believe in the power of utopias to change realities. In Boy Meets Boy cheerleaders ride Harleys and the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback). It’s a big ol’ gay paradise, and while the world isn’t like that right now; it could be. These books are like handbooks of how to react and embrace difference. As a queer girl myself I want more well-written gay love stories that don’t end in tragedy. More gay rom-coms! More David Leviathan!
Honorable Mentions (We’ve All Already Read)
The Hunger Games, by Susan Cooper: My handbook for dystopic action-adventure. Sometimes I’d read a small section before working on the action sequences in Parched to remind myself how the master does it.
Eleanor & Park/Fan Girl, by Rainbow Rowell: Lovely, closely observed realism that does for quiet girls what Pippi Longstocking did for redheads.
Shiver series, by Maggie Stiefvater: I know I’ve already raved about Maggie, but I can’t help it: I’m in love with a werewolf and I’m not afraid to say it! Soooo romantic and lovely, and so refreshing to have a real love story between two people who admire and respect each other. Sam and Grace are so well-drawn I feel like I know them.
And Matched and Delirium and Seven Reasons Why and Cinder, and, and, and….