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184: Find New YA Books with Our Latest Young Adult Lit Recommendations

Episode graphic: teenage girl reading a book with text YA Lit Recommendations, Episode 184

In this Unabridged episode, Ashley, Jen, and Sara share about one of our favorite topics—young adult lit books that we want to recommend! We're all passionate about YA literature (both for use in the classroom and in our own reading lives!), and we love sharing some of our favorite YA lit novels with you. This time, we're sharing three of our most recent favorites with Nicola Yoon’s Instructions for Dancing, Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys, and Laekan Zea Kemp’s Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet.

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Jenny Lawson’s Broken (In the Best Possible Way) (Amazon |

Jen - Brina Starler’s Anne of Manhattan (Amazon |

Sara - Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare (Amazon |

Our Young Adult Lit Recommendations

Ashley - Nicola Yoon’s Instructions for Dancing (Amazon |

Jen - Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys (Amazon |

Sara - Laekan Zea Kemp’s Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet (Amazon |

Mentioned in Episode

Beth O’Leary’s The Switch (Amazon |

Kate J. Baer’s What Kind of Woman (Amazon |

L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (Amazon |

Aiden Thomas’s Lost in the Never Woods (Amazon |

Laura Taylor Namey’s A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow (Amazon |

Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High (Amazon |

Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything (Amazon |

Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is also a Star (Amazon |

Give Me One - Villain You Love to Hate (or Just Love!)

Listen in to hear our picks, and share your favorite villain with us on social media with our Give Me One post on Monday!

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

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Bookish Check-in

Book cover of Beth O'Leary's The Flatshare

Sara said, "A few episodes ago, Ashley talked about starting The Flatshare (Amazon | by Beth O'Leary, and when she was talking, I was thinking, Oh, I bought that on audio as well when it was on sale. As soon as I remembered that, I was like the next thing I'm gonna start on audio is The Flatshare. So I did start it, and I'm almost... I'm so close to being finished with it. I love it. I have become a huge Beth O'Leary fan, especially the audio books, which are similar in that they they always have the alternating perspectives, and they all they have different narrators for the alternating perspectives, and I just really love that. They do a really good job: like they make phone calls sound like phone calls, and I just think the audio is great. I noticed that that was similar to The Switch (Amazon | because The Switch had that as well, so I just really liked that. This is a story of Tiffy. She is coming out of a horrible relationship, and she had been living with her boyfriend. She's trying to find a place to live in London, and she doesn't make very much money, so her options are not great. She finds this ad for a flat share, but basically it's a bed share because the person who has posted, he works on nights, and so Tiffy works days. The arrangement will be that she gets the apartment from like 6pm til 8am, and then he gets the apartment from 8am to 6pm. So they are literally sharing one side of the bed: they each have their own side of the bed, and they share that part of the apartment. She decided to take him up on it because it's really reasonably priced, and she can save some money. It works out for both of them, and they don't meet for a really long time. It's just a great story. It's funny: I think that Beth O'Leary does a great job of just adding tons of humor into her stories, and it's just a really compelling, sweet story about two people who are getting to know each other, but not really seeing each other. There's other things that are involved too that I really like; there are some minor characters who also have some story to them, and I really like it. It's been a joy to read. I can't wait to finish up but like I said, I'm almost done. . . . So that is Beth O'Leary's The Flatshare."

Book cover of Brina Starler's Anne of Manhattan

Jen said, "So I am reading Brina Starler's Anne of Manhattan (Amazon |, and the premise is—you probably hear the hesitation in my voice—the premise is a little strange. So this is a retelling of Anne of Green Gables (Amazon | So, shoutout to the Unabridged Pod Reading Challenge. This would be a great pick: it is a romance novel that is a retelling of Anne of Green Gables. So I did not have this terminology when last I read Anne of Green Gables, but this is an enemies-to-lovers story. So anyone who loves Anne of Green Gables knows that it is the story of Anne Shirley, who meets Gilbert Blythe when they are very, very young, and they absolutely hate each other, and then they end up together. So Starler takes this story and begins it when they are adults. They're in their early 20s, and they are meeting again, and they have this instant tension and connection. Then it flashes back to tell the story of their childhood, when they first met. It is set in contemporary times. So this removes Anne of Green Gables from its time period and moves it to modern day New York when they are both in college, and they're getting ready to finish their senior year. It's really interesting! It's really well done. My hesitation is just the it is super steamy, and so parts of me are thinking back . . . so the Anne of Green Gables of my childhood, which is a romance, but it's a very sweet and innocent romance, and I would not use those words to describe this: it is very steamy, but it's really good, and I think it makes great use of that enemies-to-lovers trope, while also paying tribute to Marilla and Matthew and the other characters who are so vivid in Anne of Green Gables. (Her best friend Diana is a part of it.) So, yeah, it's I think it's really clever. It's really well done. You just have to be comfortable with seeing Anne and Gilbert in a steamy romance. So that is Brina Starler's Anne of Manhattan."

Book cover of Jenny Lawson's Broken (In the Best Possible Way)

Ashley said, "Speaking of books that we've recommended to each other and enjoyed, Jen shared about Jenny Lawson's Broken (In the Best Possible Way) (Amazon |, and she shared about that one in her Bookish Check-in a while ago, and I knew I really wanted to listen to it. Jenny Lawson reads it on audio, and it was part of's ALC releases. I was excited to get to that one, and I started it this week. I think what I love about it that we've shared many times about the power of audio books to hear the author's voice, and so this one is great for that. It's so fun to hear her read of her own experiences, but the other thing that I find really striking about it is the way that she can put on the page a lot of the inner thoughts that many of us have, but never articulate. I think she does that really well, and so just things like the way that she shows her relationship with her life partner is hilarious, and, again, I think typical of people who live together and have lived together for a very long time. Often we're reluctant to admit those things to other people, so I love that. I think that she really demeans herself in a lot of ways, but it's hilarious and also humbling. So I think just seeing her frank thoughts about her life experiences, her struggles with mental health, her memories, the way that her mind works. . . . There's a whole section toward the beginning where she talks a lot about the loss of memories that a lot of us experience over time. . . . She talks about how [she and her husband] watched something, and then she'll rewatch it, and then she'll say to her life partner, 'No, I've never seen this before,' and he's like, 'Yes, you did, and also, we have had this conversation before when you watched it, and don't remember rewatching it. So not only have you seen it, but you've seen it again, we've argued about you not seeing it and then now here you are, again, watching it.' And I related to all of that, because I am often, as I admit on here readily, I am often trying hard to pack in all the things and multitask, and even when I am watching the screen, sometimes it's only about 10% of my brain that is focusing on that, and then I just don't hold on to it, and then I will adamantly vow that I have not seen the thing. Then there'll be some revelation an hour and a half in that suddenly the light bulb comes on, and I'm like, 'Oh, yes.' Unfortunately, I do that with travel and stuff too, where I'm like, 'No, I have not been to that place. I was not there.' And then there'll be a photo or something, and I'm like, 'Oh, I was.' So it was just funny and comforting to see that other people have that experience too, and that it's both tragic and funny and that that's just how our minds work. So there's a lot of that of just analysis of herself and exploration of what that means. The tone is very different, but it reminds me in a lot of ways of Kate J. Baer who is a poet, she now has a book out called What Kind of Woman (Amazon | and has received a lot of well-deserved acclaim for that, so I think she's a lot better known now, but she also is willing to say on the page what being a mother looks like what having a relationship looks like and how hard that can be. She says it in a very frank way as well. So even though the tone is quite different, I think that I absolutely love Kate J. Bear's work, and as I am listening to this one, I see a lot of connections to the exploration of the inner self, particularly of being a woman, and what that means. So I'm loving it. So again, that's Jenny Lawson's Broken (In the Best Possible Way)."

Main Segment - Young Adult Lit Recommendations

Here's a small excerpt of what each of us has to say about the book we're recommending:

Book cover of Aiden Thomas's Cemetery Boys

Jen chose Aiden Thomas's Cemetery Boys (Amazon | "Cemetery Boys was my first five-star read of 2021. I absolutely loved this book, and I think it does so many things really well. It's not super long, but there is a lot packed into this book. So the book focuses on Yadriel who is part of a Latinx community of brujas and brujos whose destiny is determined by gender. So if they are women, then they have one role and they do this one thing in the community, and if they're men, then they do this other thing. Well, Yadriel is a trans boy, and so that becomes very, very complicated. He has faced a lot of resistance from his father who is very uncomfortable with the fact that he is not fulfilling his destiny as a bruja and instead wants to do what the brujos do in the family. So at the very beginning of the book, his cousin goes missing, and this has been one of a string of young teenagers going missing. . . . Yadriel decides that he is going to prove that he is worthy of being a brujo, and that he is going to go out on his own with his other cousin Maritza, and they are going to find his cousin. So there's a mystery element to it. Clearly there is this magical plot within it. . . ."

Book cover of Laekan Zea Kemp's Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Sara chose Laekan Zea Kemp's Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet (Amazon | "This one is told in alternating perspectives. So the first perspective is Penelope Prado, and for short Pen, and she has always dreamed of opening her own bakery next to her father's restaurant, and her father has this restaurant called Nacho's Tacos. That is basically this haven for the community that they live in. He hires undocumented people, and he hires people who are down on their luck and provides them employment. He provides them a way to make a living, and it's just this hub in their community. He is such a kind and generous person, and he has created this found family in his restaurant, and Pen is a part of that. But he wants something else for her: He wants her to go to college and become, you know, a doctor or a lawyer. He doesn't want the restaurant life for her, and all she wants is to be in the restaurant. So there's this dynamic of her wanting to obey her parents and what they have sacrificed to give her but also her this pull to to be who she wants to be and where she feels she is being pulled to be. . . . The other perspective is Xander. He lives with his his abuelo, and he doesn't really know his father: his father left when he was young and then left his mom and him, and then his mom sent him to live with his abuelo, so he is undocumented. What Kemp really explores here is the impact of being undocumented in America and having brown skin and he has to navigate, you know, being pulled over by police officers for doing nothing and having to answer questions when he has done nothing wrong, and I really liked that exploration. . . ."

Book cover of Nicola Yoon's Instructions for Dancing

Ashley chose Nicola Yoon's Instructions for Dancing (Amazon | "I love Nicola Yoon's work, and I think she hits just the right spot for me with romance because she knows how to capture the sweetness of young love and new love, and yet she also explores how complicated life is, and she does that really well in all of her books. So I loved Everything, Everything (Amazon | I loved The Sun Is Also a Star (Amazon |, and I was excited to read this one. In this story, we have Evie, who in the beginning, . . . she's getting rid of all of her romance books, and she's decided she's going to donate them to a local little free library because her heart is broken, and she doesn't want to see them anymore, essentially. So she is breaking up with her love of romance books, and it's because her dad and mom are getting a divorce. They had been her idols as far as what a relationship could look like, and so she just could not recover from that. I loved that as the premise that it wasn't her own heartbreak, or something that had happened, but instead, it's what happened in our family. I think that that's kind of a different angle on sometimes what we see with young adult lit as far as a premise of why people have turned away from love. She actually realized that her dad was cheating on her mom, and her sister does not know that, and that's like right at the beginning that it's apparent that she's struggling because it also has caused this conflict with her sister: she knows this thing that she feels like she can't tell that her sister, and yet because of that she's so angry at her father, and her sister is not, so she's really alone in what she's experiencing. Her mom is working hard to move forward and move on, and she feels like she's stuck in this grief for loss of what they had and can't recover her. She just can't heal. . . ."

Give Me One - Villain You Love to Hate (or Just Love!)


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