Check out this post to see our top 10 YA Books that we think you should drop everything to read, including Nic Stone's Dear Martin, Emily X. R. Pan's The Astonishing Color of After, Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give, and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.
Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park - In preparing for an episode of Unabridged focused on Rainbow Rowell (look for it this month!), I decided to re-familiarize myself with Eleanor and Park, which I hadn't read since 2013. I downloaded it on Scribd, planning to listen enough to remember secondary characters and plots and to get a sense of it overall. And I was swept away. I still think Fangirl is my favorite Rainbow Rowell, but oh my goodness, Eleanor and Park is just so, so good. The couple is sweet, and the development of their romance is perfect: the simple joys of holding hands, of looking forward to seeing the other person, of hardly being able to bear the slightest separation, beautiful captures the innocent sweetness of first love. There's so much more to this book: considerations of poverty, of abuse, of interracial relationships, of bullying . . . again, SO much more. I'm so grateful to be able to appreciate this joy of a novel all over again. (Jen)
Adib Khorram's Darius the Great Is Not Okay - I could not love this book more. Or have cried more. (My son said at one point that I looked like I was getting a cold. It was because my face was so swollen from crying.) Darius is a brilliant protagonist who is funny and sad and realistic. Diagnosed with depression at a young age, he struggles with (1) the high expectations of his father (who also suffers from depression); (2) bullying at school; (3) feeling like an outcast, partially because of his Iranian heritage; (4) jealousy of his sister, who he loves dearly but who he feels was meant to be a replacement for him, and (5) his weight. When Darius and his family travel to his mother's home in Iran to meet Darius's grandfather before his death, Darius begins to understand where he may belong, where he fits in his family, and what a true friend really means. Khorram's treatment of Darius's depression reminds me of John Green's Turtles All the Way Down and Emily X. R. Pan's The Astonishing Color of After in considering mental illness as something one must live with. (Jen)
Tahereh Mafi's A Very Large Expanse of Sea - This book would not let go. I picked it up at 10:00 one night, realizing suddenly that it was due ASAP at the library. I stayed up 'til after midnight and finally made myself go to bed because I had to work the next day. I almost finished it before school but had to wait to devour the last 20 pages after school. Tahereh Mafi, whose Shatter Me series I ended up really enjoying, crafted a masterpiece here. In 2002, Shirin, the Muslim daughter of Iranian immigrants, enters her umpteenth new school already having given up on the human race and, in particular, all fellow high schoolers. She has been dealing with the discrimination of post-9/11 America in moments large and small that dominate every day. Because Shirin chooses to wear a hijab, her visible differences make her a target in a way that her older brother Navid is not. Shirin goes through life with her head down, just aiming to survive the next three years of high school. Her outlook starts to change, however, with the addition of two factors: Ocean, a wh
ite boy in her biology class who continues to show polite and friendly interest in her, and breakdancing, which becomes her first extracurricular activity when her brother forms a crew. Watching Shirin contend with her own reaction to others' prejudice is heartwrenching, and reading her attempts to be vulnerable and open made me giddy. Beautiful book! (Jen)
John Green's The Fault in Our Stars Jandy Nelson's I’ll Give You the Sun Emily X. R. Pan's The Astonishing Color of After Nic Stone's Dear Martin Raina Telgemeier's Drama Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give