Thursday, January 21, 2010

Best YA Books You Haven't Read

Kelly over at wanted some of us bloggers who also LibraryThing to blog about some of our favorite YA books that just don't get a lot of notice. So here's my list of some of my favorite under-the-radar teen reads:
  • Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings
    When a few boys play a "harmless" prank that turns deadly, thirteen-year-old Brady has to decide if he's going to stay silent or have the courage to tell the truth. This is a great recommendation for boys looking for a fairly short and fast-paced story, which also has enough meat to it for a book group or school assignment.
  • Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell
    Farsala is in danger of attack. High Commander Merahb sends his daughter Soraya into hiding when the priests tell him that only his daughter's sacrifice will save their country. Jiaan, the commander's peasant-born son and Soraya's half-brother, thirsts to prove himself. And Kavi, peasant and thief, just wants to get by when he's roped into service he never asked for. Interspersed between the points of view of Soraya, Jiaan, and Kavi are mysterious writings about Sorahb, apparently a brilliant leader who aided his country in a time of need. A wonderful retelling of a Persian myth with adventure and magic and thoughts on how legends are made, if you like this you'll want to read the rest of the story in Rise of a Hero and Forging the Sword.
  • Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor
    Do you like fantasy, but want something different than the same-old? Look no further than the Dreamdark series - of which Blackbringer is the first - featuring faeries and crows. Magpie Windwitch is not a sweet faerie - she's a hunter finding demons that stupid humans let out of their bottles thinking they'd get three wishes. Then she comes across one that doesn't leave death and destruction in its wake. It leaves...nothing, which is completely unsettling. Can Magpie and her band of crow brothers defeat the "snag" that has been let loose?
  • Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova
    Christie and her friends go to a manga and anime convention, hoping to get exposure for a work she's co-created with a friend, as well as meet some of the authors and illustrators that have inspired them. This is Christie's first con, and she's unprepared for the wild ride - especially when a really cute but standoffish guy turns up. This was my first introduction to manga, and it might be a good one for folks that are interested but intimidated by trying to read right-to-left, as this was originally English (the author lives in Canada) and reads left-to-right.
  • The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable
    In the world of Tremaris, people work magic by singing "chantments" - iron workers sing low, ice workers in a high pitch, for example. Most people only have ability in one, sometimes two. Calwyn in an ice chanter, and she lives with the women who reinforce a wall of ice every year. Then Darrow shows up, on the run from a mysterious man who wants to master every chantment and become the Singer of All Songs. I love Calwyn and Darrow's characters, and had fun discovering the world and fantasy Constable creates. The Waterless Sea and The Tenth Power round off the trilogy.
  • The Hollow Kingdom by Clare Dunkle
    If you're looking for an original fantasy that doesn't have the same old magic and vampires and quasi-Middle Ages feel, look no further than The Hollow Kingdom. In Victorian England, Kate and her sister Emily move to Hollow Hill, a place that has a bit of a sinister history of women disappearing. Marak, the goblin king, shows up and tells Kate that she must become his bride. Though part of a trilogy, each story stands separately. This is Kate and Marak's story, while Close Kin focuses on Emily and In the Coils of the Snake takes place a generation later.
  • Born to Rock by Gordon Korman
    Leo Caraway is as strait-laced as they come: senior, Young Republicans member, straight-A student and Harvard bound, he figures his life is set. Then he meets his biological father, King Maggot, a rock star and about as anti-Leo as you can get. Add one hilarious summer road trip with father and son, and you've got a rocking good read.
  • Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock
    She had me at the first sentence: "Having for many decades been forced to endure ever more ridiculous tales of the circumstances surrounding my coming of age, holding my tongue through each long-winded narrative for fear that my cautious interjections would only prolong the blather, I now in the solitude of my dotage at last permit myself the indulgence of correcting the erroneous legends and embroidered falsehoods that to this day expand, heady as yeast, across the land." Princess Benevolence has lost her parents, become heir to the throne, and is going to be forced into a marriage she doesn't want, but she's not going to take it lying down. I absolutely loved her as a main character and narrator.
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
    As the winner of the 2009 Printz Award, it's a shame that Jellicoe Road isn't better known. Taylor Markham is the school leader in the "territory wars" between the school, the Townies, and the Cadets. Taylor's present-tense narration is interspersed with writings of events that happened about 20 years before, a story that seems completely unrelated but slowly begins to reveal more information about people Taylor knows, as well as the history of the territory wars. Taylor has a lot more than the war to worry about however, when Hannah, her foster mother for the last six years, suddenly disappears. Holding two story lines straight is complicated for both author and reader, but if you're willing to press on, it's worth it to see everything come together. This is one of those teen books that might only appeal to some teens, but that I could easily recommend to adults who think that "YA" means "simple." The story line is intricate, and left me thinking about the characters long after I finished the book.
If you're looking for more recommendations, be sure to check out Kelly's list and her round-up of all the "best books" highlighted by LibraryThing YA readers and bloggers.


Lenore said...

I so need to read DREAMDARK. I feel in love with Laini's writing in LIPS TOUCH.

Anonymous said...

Thumbs up for Born to Rock...actually, pretty much anything by Gordon Korman is great!

The Brain Lair (KB) said...

Hey, we have similar taste! I loved Born to Rock - especially the audio version. I cried during The Red Kayak and use that every year for a realistic fiction unit.

I just got the ARC to Dreamdark. Must read it now!

Kelly said...

I just adore Jellicoe Road. Have you read Saving Francesca? It's by the same author. It's such a good book too.

Great list! Can't wait to start making my way thru some of these books. :)

Mary said...

Lenore, it's good to hear that Lips Touch is good too, I have yet to read it but might grab it when I go in to work today.

theothererin and The Brain Lair, I actually read Born to Rock for a YA Literature class but have not read anything else by Korman - thanks for the reminder to keep him in mind!

Kelly, I haven't read Saving Francesca, but your review of it convinced me to try it sooner rather than later. Thanks!

Patti said...

I loved The Hollow Kingdom. What a great book. I bet it didn't get enough attention because of that awful cover. I put it on display after display and hand talk it and still can't get people to check it out. What a shame!!! I'll have to look for a paperback version, maybe they've changed the cover.

Mary said...

I agree, Patti, The Hollow Kingdom could have had a better cover. Good luck finding a paperback with something different - perhaps it will get better circulation!

Anastasia said...

The only one I've read was Princess Ben, which I (mostly) enjoyed. I think the middle drags a bit, but I liked Ben as a character. :D

Melissa Walker said...

Great list--I haven't read ANY! Must remedy that.

Anonymous said...

I loved Princess Ben. It surprises me that more people haven't read it. I have Red Kayak in my library, but haven't read it myself. I plan to rectify that soon! Thanks for the introduction to these original fantasies!

Mary said...

Anastasia, I have to admit it's been awhile since I read Princess Ben so I don't remember the flow of the plot too well...but I loved her as a character, too.

Melissa, hope you enjoy reading some of my selections!

Cazzy, I'll have to thank the teen librarian at my library for recommending The Red Kayak - she has used it for book group more than once and loves recommending it to teens looking for a good read.